After the debate with Ken Ham and Bill Nye over creationism, I analyzed how well the debate went. I believe Ken Ham won the debate, fair and square. But after a few days of thought, I’m thinking that Bill Nye may be closer to God than Ken Ham.
I “flowed” the debate on a Google Spreadsheet, meaning I tracked the arguments as they were made (you can view it here). The idea of “flowing” speaks for itself: it’s a note-taking system that keeps track of the arguments. It “flows” the debate.
I’ve judged hundreds of debates over the years. Flowing allows me the ability to separate my own personal biases from the round and declare a “winner.” I only write down what the debaters say, not infer my own opinions on what they say. I save some of that for the “RFD”: the “Reason For Decision” on the ballot. This post gives you less of the RFD and more of my personal belief.
Because, frankly, I don’t know the answer to the creation debate. This may surprise you, especially if you know me and know my love for Jesus Christ. I came to this debate hoping to perhaps find some answers. It was more of a philosophical inquisition for me, and it boiled down to one of the questions asked by the moderator, “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?” (You can view the timeframe at 2:04:00).
- Bill Nye’s answer: evidence.
- Ken Ham’s answer: nothing.
Admittedly, their answers were more complex than that, but I still found Ken’s answer more bothersome than Bill’s. When asked if Ken Ham could be wrong, he should have given the answer that Bill Nye gave: Of course. The fact that Ham didn’t say this is, as Nye said several times in the debate, “a most disturbing position.”
Consider this question yourself. “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?” Whether you believe in creation or evolution, what would be your answer? Ken Ham had two minutes to answer, and here is how I flowed it:
“I’m a Christian. I can’t prove it to you, but God has shown me clearly through his word and through his son that it is true. No one will convince me that the word of God is not true. The models of what is written cannot change.”
This is a disturbing position to hold personally and scientifically, and I would also argue that it is disturbing that people like Ham think this is the proper Christian perspective. Perhaps the only perspective. Ken Ham’s answers are disturbing for three principled reasons:
1. Ken Ham’s answer is not honest; Bill Nye’s answer is.
“I do not doubt the word of God,” Ken Ham says, and in friendlier venues he’d get a resounding “A-MEN!” This is disturbing because — should I admit this? — I doubt all the time. Isn’t this what attracts people to debates like this in the first place?
I seek to reconcile my doubts (which I admit to have) and my faith (which I confess to have).
But here Ken is confessing to have no doubts. I’m with Nye: this disturbs me. Ken Ham is either being delusional or deceptive. Perhaps a bit of both. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the company of absolutists. They may interest me for a while, but the absolutism is, nonetheless, quite disturbing.
Why so disturbing? Because it isn’t honest. Philosophically speaking, we all have the Rene Descartés in us that can doubt all but the very conception of the doubt (“I think, therefore, I am”). Doubt is an essential step to seeking the truth, and truth, I’m sure, is what Ken Ham believes he’s seeking. He just doesn’t doubt that which he found, and I’m not convinced that he has the truth.
2. Ken Ham’s answer is not scientific; Bill Nye’s answer is.
So, when in conflict, Ken Ham will not doubt the literal interpretation of the bible. Again, that will get you an “amen” from a friendly audience. Nye is clearly disturbed by this, and from a scientific view (which Ken Ham is trying to include himself), I agree with Nye. This is disturbing.
Here’s why: this is a dogmatic position, and when truth is being sought, dogma frustrates the quest for answers. You have got to admit at least to the possibility of being wrong. If you don’t, there’s the door. Get out of here, you’re not being helpful to the conversation, go away.
If Nye made this point in the debate section — and if Ham likewise displayed the dogmatic stubbornness he displayed in the Q&A — my ballot would have likely gone the other way. Remember, the question of the debate was to answer, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”
Ken’s answer is, “No one will convince me that the word of God is not true.” This is unacceptable, certainly not convincing. In fact, I’d argue that it is not Christian…
3. Ken Ham’s answer is not Christian; Bill Nye’s answer is.
I suppose there is an argument to be made that Ken was “standing on the word of God” and he should be applauded.
Not so fast.
I don’t believe Ham was “standing on the word of God.” He is standing on what “God has shown me”; in other words, his interpretation of the word of God.
If you’re a creationist and a Ken Ham fan, and you’re upset that I am taking your guy to task, take a moment and press the pause button. You have got to question Ham’s position here. I considered letting this entire blog post go — I know it’ll upset some of my friends — but dog-gone-it, this is a pivotal heresy that is a fundamental problem within Christian circles. People like Ken Ham are claiming they know the mind of God, and those who disagree do not know “true” Christianity.
This fatal flaw came up a few times in the Q&A, not so much the debate. Ham referenced the bible when he made the claim that God will reveal himself to believers, which is a general theme throughout the bible (Eph. 3:3, Amos 3:7, Daniel 2:22, Jeremiah 33:3, etc.). Here’s the flaw: Ken Ham is assuming his revelation is God’s.
And we all are familiar with Ken Ham’s interpretation. The earth was created in six days. That’s what it says. Period. End of story.
If you follow this line of reasoning — that a six-day creation story is the truest interpretation of what it means to be a Christian — take a deep breath and reconsider this. The literal interpretation of the bible is not the end of the story. I’m not necessarily conceding that creation is false, I’m merely admitting that Genesis is just the beginning. There’s more to it than Ken Ham’s interpretation.
Here’s what I won’t do: I won’t claim to have The Answer. I’m not going to say that, just because I prayed to God for answers, that whatever I’ve come up with are God’s answers. To me, that’s using God’s name in my own vain, one of the big no-no’s in the bible. I just can’t pull myself to give the answer that Ken Ham gave.
This whole debate turned on this ironic dime. Could it be that Bill Nye displayed a more genuine and Christian faith than Ken Ham?
Thank about it. Pray about it. Consider:
- Nye doubts, he explores the creation, he seeks out answers to the questions he has in his heart and mind. Bill Nye is the Science Guy.
- Ham does not doubt, he explores only to validate that which he already believes to be true, and he limits all that he wonders to “Answers in Genesis.” Ken Ham is the Creation Guy.
Okay, then. Ham may have won on the flow, but I remain in doubt that his worldview is honest, scientific, or even Christian.