Some Thoughts On The Ham/Nye Debate

I have not seen every last minute of the debate, but I have seen the entire thirty minute “constructives” (to borrow language from my HS debate days) and the four rebuttals, as well as the first four crowd questions. I suspect the rest of what there is to see is simply repetition. I do believe I’ve seen enough to draw some broader conclusions and I’m actually quite surprised at what I am thinking right now.

Bill Nye, to his credit, offers a lot more wiggle room for mystery than I expected. That sense of mystery correlates into a desire to learn that is admirable. By contrast to Ham, who presents it all as a nice, neat package, I appreciated Nye’s more “wondering” approach to those things we don’t know and will probably never know about man’s origins and the formation of the world. It seems to me that the Bible’s record of not telling us everything, but only that which we need to know as Christians, doesn’t discourage this sort of allowing mysteries to be mysteries. It surprised me to see an acolyte from evolution allowing for “I don’t know”-answers in the debate. It was the hinge of the debate to be sure. I can’t imagine Richard Dawkins being very happy about Nye’s humility when it comes to those things we do not know.

Nye’s other arguments, it seems to me, are based on quite a lot of assumption and conjecture and some are patently false. The notion that creation science would put a halt to scientific discovery and innovation is patently false to the point of laughable in my mind. Ham did a great job of running some pretty black tire marks on that argument.

Ken Ham, on the other hand, did what I expected him to do. He didn’t advance many arguments he hasn’t used before. Still in the debate arena where the two models were put side-to-side, I was brought to a greater clarity on Ham’s approach as well and I am reconsidering just how much of his approach really is accurate at a Biblical level. Bill Nye may have subtly hit on a good point when he kept referring to “Ken Ham’s Creation.” I’m not sure I am completely where Ken Ham is on the Bible’s account of creation. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think the text of the Bible is always congruent with Ham’s arguments.

This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a denial of creation. This is a matter of different nuances in interpreting the Bible.

For instance, it seems to me that young earth creationists don’t all share Ken Ham’s view of the age of the earth. Ham’s view is much younger than I am comfortable with, even though I believe in a young earth. The question I would have for Ken Ham if I was debating him on Biblical interpretation, is: How does one measure the time between the creation and the Fall? It seems to me that the Bible gives few, if any, clues and if one wants to run to Adam’s age at his death, do remember that his age doesn’t even become important until there is a fall. Does that age include the time between his creation and the fall? I don’t think we can be certain of that at all.

Ergo, young earth types who run the earth’s age out to 16000 to 22000 years, (considerably farther than Ham does), are not without some warrant in their conclusions. Call it an uncertainty principle, but it’s still standing on the valid point that the Bible doesn’t really answer this question. Regardless of how old any young earth person may think the world is, it’s important to recognize the Bible’s lack of speaking on this issue. Ken Ham’s mistake here is his certainty. It’s too certain, too neat, too clean.

Ham’s theology seems to me to be fideistic. It rests on the basic assumption that God’s Word tells us everything there is to know, rather than everything we need to know. Hence, Ham doesn’t ever fall back on “I don’t know” when he should. His argument versus evolution can be basically summarized with “they don’t know” (which which I agree) but “we do know” (which is not entirely true). We know what the Bible says and that we confess in its full literal and historical truth. We do need to recognize that the Bible still leaves many questions unanswered and what is the value of faith if we have to have all those answers in one nice, neat package?

In short, if there was not a single shred of scientific evidence for creation, I would still believe it. That doesn’t bother me. Still, faith has to recognize that God’s Word is not a reference text or encyclopedia where all the data exists. Augustine supposedly wrote that there can be no faith without doubt. I think real faith doesn’t always say “I know” but is often quite happy to say the opposite. Bill Nye seemed happier to say that than Ken Ham…and that was very revealing. As I wrote above, that probably doesn’t sit well with fideistic Christians every bit as much as it doesn’t sit well with fideistic evolutionists like Dawkins.

Ken Ham also could have brought along more science than he did. I think that would have been invaluable to his point. I guess what I’m saying is that I appreciate Ken Ham the scientist more than Ken Ham the theologian. Most helpful is his correlation between logic and observational science. That’s the winner argument, if you ask me. Evolution is the side that is guilty of throwing out logic when it doesn’t fit Darwin’s purposes. Logic, I believe, is serving the creation side quite well these days and Ken Ham shouldn’t stop what he’s doing in that regard. He’s far more consistent than Bill Nye by arguing that there could not be logic at all if everything happened by random chance.

Bill Nye proved, as most evolutionists, not to be above a great deal of conjecture and assumptions in his science. Evolutionists can be quite the storytellers…these stories are about the interpretation of data and, just as young earth creationists can disagree on interpreting the Bible, so can evolutionists. The lack of a symmetrical agreement across evolutionary science on the data is the most telling problem of evolution. The ever-growing phenomenon of scientists leaving the evolution discussion to be argued by the philosophy departments of their universities is the proof that evolution simply cannot be argued as inarguable fact. It’s all about the data and data always has to be interpreted. Ergo, the church of evolution is built on faith far more than it is built on fact. (And it’s just as divided as the Church, whose divisions are created basically by different approaches to interpreting Biblical data).

Still, Ken Ham could learn something from Bill Nye. He could learn that not everything is as explainable from the Scriptures (or science) as he thinks. That should not be a problem for Christians.

In return, Bill Nye could learn that the conclusions he draws from the data he invokes is not self-evident. It’s not self-evident to creationists, to be sure, but also to many scientists regardless of their stripe. (I would cite discoveries in astronomy, microbiology, and brain research as the leading examples of this). Defending scientific evolution is defending a house divided and Ken Ham would do well to explore more those divisions and help people understand why science itself is changing. It may not be because scientists are becoming Christians, but it is a telling lesson how much evolutionary science assumes before it even considers the data.

Neither man is infallible. If science has nearly deified Darwin in the past, we Christians would do well not to deify Ken Ham in response. All these men were/are exactly that, men. Recognizing the limitations of being human helps us recognize that there will always be questions left unanswered. “I don’t know” is far more human (and faithful) than “I know it all.” I’ll take God’s Word as telling me what I need to know, not necessarily everything there is to know. I appreciate Ken Ham’s helpfulness on many things. And I am pleasantly surprised to hear an evolutionist say “I don’t know.” I think that’s a first. I appreciated both men’s efforts.

But I have to say, neither one was a debater. 🙂  I would have gone for the jugular in many places where neither man did! Sorry, this old HS debater can’t pass up the opportunity to bury an opponent!



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