February 4, Answers in Genesis’ president, Ken Ham, will debate 1990s TV host Bill Nye, “The Science Guy” (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!). It will take place on the premises of the Creation Museum (which is excellently done [I’ve been there twice before, as my wife is from Cincinnati]). I’ve even read where it will be available to watch live, for free, at debatelive.org. J I want to write a post framing the debate, and then I want to write a review of the debate after it happens.
The topic is going to be, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?” I think, for various reasons, Ken Ham should never have agreed to this topic (or proposed it—I have no idea who proposed the question). First, I think the question is malformed: it either contains a redundancy (e.g., “in today’s modern scientific era”) or defines it in philosophical terms (i.e. modernism). It also can be interpreted to form a dichotomy between creation and science, and if that is the case, it’s unclear what kind of “model” the question is asking for. The most charitable interpretation of the question I can muster is this: “In light of scientific knowledge, is there a creation model that would be consistent and plausible with that knowledge?”
Now, if Ham were a philosopher, or defended what he believes in a different manner, he could very well explain that creation in general is not inconsistent with science, and that it can even be plausible if enough or certain background information were included (such as the likelihood of God’s existence, among other things). Instead, what Ham will do is emphasize the Young Earth Creation model. This is fine, but it will be difficult to defend. Why? Because the question places all of the burden on Ham. Bill Nye doesn’t have to prove a single thing. In fact, Nye doesn’t have to defend any criticisms Ham levels against Nye’s view. He can simply ignore them and poke holes in young earth creationism.
Here’s the downside: if he is successful at poking holes in Ham’s position, it will appear, rhetorically, that Bill Nye’s position is correct. No, this is not logical. But it is what will happen. People will walk away, at the very least, saying evolution was the winner. There is, however, another downside to this: Nye’s position is that Christianity is false, and that evolution at least contributes to this. That is to say, Nye is a proponent of naturalistic evolution. So, if Nye’s view is deemed correct without a single defense from Nye, then Christianity will have been deemed false without a single argument. Something seems wrong here.
The final criticism/framing of the debate I think both old earth creationists and young earth creationists can agree with me on. AiG is, unfortunately, famous for insinuating, if not outright saying, that if a literal, six-day creation six to ten thousand years or so ago is untrue, then Christianity is untrue. This causes people’s faith to hinge on science. Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that hinging your faith on scientific matters is faulty. I don’t believe it’s possible, even in principle, for science to disprove the God of Christianity. Ham may not realize it, but by espousing the above position, he is affirming that such a thing is, in principle, possible. What do we think will happen when we send off our kids to college, to face their freshman biology professor? Will we insist that their faith ought to hinge on how well they can debate her? I think that’s foolish.
Instead, why not say that there are several options in Christianity that could possibly be true (that is, their truth coupled with God’s existence is not a logical contradiction, nor does it plausibly rule out God)? Ham should emphasize, if nothing else, that even if all of his arguments fail, it doesn’t follow Christianity is untrue. He should say, “Even though YEC is correct, if it turns out that we were wrong and God used evolution or created the earth billions of years ago, why can’t he do that?” It would put a strong onus on Bill Nye to defend his naturalistic philosophy, something I suspect he is not prepared to do.
Honestly, I am afraid that if Ham frames the debate according to YEC-or-bust, and fails to establish his case, he will inadvertently cause many to stumble away from the Lord. May it never be.