So Bill Nye is ‘debating‘ Ken Ham.
Many people are decrying this as a terrible idea and quoting various people who have their reasons for not debating creationists – and these are excellent reasons. Dawkins and others have chosen not to debate creationists because the ‘debates’ are not entered into honestly by creationists and because it lends credibility to the creationists who manage to ‘bag’ a scientist. It puts them on a – perceived – equal footing.
I don’t know that this is one of those cases though.
Much as I love Bill Nye and consider him an important educator and populariser of science and critical thinking, he’s a TV scientist and not a Dawkins, a Dennett, a Krauss or a Cox. There is little in the way of kudos to be gained by getting to debate him.
I’ve watched some of Ken Ham’s talks about creationism and the style he affects is a very self-effacing, jokey, down-home-country-style approach. It puts one in mind of the folksy lawyers so often used in The Simpsons and Futurama, playing up their idiocy and humility to play on the emotions of the jury and the gallery.
Eminent scientists can misread to your average punter as arrogant. Certitude, based on a lifetime of study and ready access to the facts, is seen as somehow sneering at or demeaning the common man.
Nye is a humble man, a man of good humour and a man effective at getting quite complex ideas across to people, especially children. These seem, to me, to be perfect qualifications to get through to what will likely be a fairly ignorant, predominantly creationist audience.
I would not suggest that Bill goes into this as a debate, but rather that he uses the opportunity to lecture and to teach.
His opponent will throw a huge amount of garbage at him, all at once. The well known ‘Gish Gallop‘. If Bill tries to explain and defuse every bullshit argument thrown at him he’ll get nowhere because he’ll run out of time. Explaining why creationist arguments are wrong, unfortunately, takes a lot more time and effort than presenting them.
Rather, then, Bill should talk about:
1. The Scientific Method.
2. Why Ken’s historical/observational science split is dishonest.
3. The differences between and evidences for for BBT, abiogenesis, evolution and human evolution.