Saturday, February 15, 2014


On February 5, 2014, Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") debated Ken Ham (President of Answers in Genesis and The Creation Museum) on whether the Genesis account of creation is a viable model of origins given what science has taught us so far. Both of these guys are characters and they were very well behaved, so it's actually a reasonably entertaining debate as far as these sorts of events go. I thought that Nye could have done a better job, but he clearly did a good enough job. A poll at Christian Today - a Christian Website - had Nye winning by a land-slide. Ham was very clear and polite and he actually garnered a few laughs along the way. You've got to hand it to him for doing a great job of exposing the Christian fundamentalist/literalist mindset.

Ham repeatedly made a distinction in the debate between “observational science” and “origins or historical science”. This distinction is based upon what one can observe in the present and conclude about the present (what he calls “observational science”) and what one can observe in the present and infer about the past (what he calls “origins or historical science”). There is a difference here, to be sure, but it’s not the difference Ham needs for Creationism to be considered as science. Here’s what he says in his introductory statements explaining what is different about what he calls “origins or historical science”:

“At the Creation Museum, we make no apology about the fact that our origins or historical science actually is based upon the Biblical account of origins.”

Well, Ken, your science isn't science. Science doesn’t proceed from the bible. It proceeds from efforts to assess evidence as objectively as possible and it leads to whatever conclusions that assessment produces. If the best explanation for the evidence we find around us is that Yawheh exists and that He created the universe 4-6,000 years ago with all of the “kinds” in their present form, then that would be a scientific conclusion. But Ham starts and ends there, without providing any evidence or justification for doing so. This is textbook circular reasoning and it’s just one of the many fallacies and biases that science tries its best to avoid.

As he demonstrates in the debate, Ham is both woefully ignorant of the evidence and guilty of the most wishful of thinking in trying to conclude that the evidence around us is best explained by the creation account in Genesis. In this regard, the debate exposed the reality of the situation quite well: there is no debate. There is no controversy. The matter has been settled, and there is only ignorance and wishful thinking on the literalist creationist side.

Since Ham’s “origins or historical science” begins with the conclusion it "proves"(according to Ham, at least), it can’t possibly represent anything anybody would rightly call science. Moreover, the evidence doesn’t support that presupposition. A real scientist - any reasonable person, actually - should reject it. Accordingly, creationism, at least Ham’s version of arriving at it, while appropriate for religion classes, has no place in science class. If that is one of Ham’s goals (and surely it is), I’m afraid he has handily defeated it all by himself.


  1. Lawrence Krauss nails it:

  2. From Forbes: "Critics of evolution claim that it is just a theory for which there is no proof. It is true there is no definitive proof, and nor is there likely to be, but there is a vast amount of evidence in its favour. Whether you choose to believe it is sufficient is up to you, but it is there. By contrast, there is no scientific evidence for creationism. It may be true, but it is a matter of belief and its proper place in schools is in religious studies class. Creationism is not science, and has no place in a science class."


    If there is a case for teaching creationism in science class, I'd sure like to hear it.

  3. And here's what the NYT had to say…

  4. Hey, thanks, Anonymous. That's actually the same reference from the New Yorker that I posted above. Great minds think alike!

  5. "If a crime is committed and no one saw the criminal, does the CSI just shrug their shoulders and say “we can’t solve it”? NO! The whole point of the show is that there are many clues all over the place that allows us to reliably infer things about the past, whether a few hours after a crime, or a few million years ago. Let’s say a burglar robbed Ham’s house while he was not at home. Would he insist that the CSIs stop working the crime scene because Ham doesn’t believe in “historical science”? NO! He’d want them to use any science that would solve the crime–just like real scientists use any evidence available to solve the mysteries of nature."