The End is Nye

1267825310-billnyeSo 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.


10 responses to “The End is Nye

  1. I’ve been interested in seeing the debate since it was announced. My only concern is that since it’s sponsored by Answers in Genesis, it will probably be edited for TV/Youtube in such a way that makes Nye look like he’s losing the debate.

    • You probably know and like some theistic people (probably even some Christians). You likely even love someone who isn’t an atheist. Are they so dishonest as to make you so cynical about this organization?
      I’m not defending the organization. I know very little about it and care less about it. But I have no reason to think they are nefarious or dishonest. And my personal experience with fellow Christians is that although they can be irritating or ignorant, or hypocritical (all of which is just as prevalent in the secular community); their community holds them to a standard of basic honesty. Thus, there’s no reason aside from bias to assume that they are lying or being deliberately deceptive.

      • The organisations are dishonest, consistently over a great deal of time. You need to look into it before you do stick up with them. This is not bias, this is the way AiG etc are.

  2. I think Ham shot himself in the foot. Here he wants to take on the satan that is teaching children what they neeed to know to question the church dogma. If he loses this and cannot show Nye to be wrong it is a double win for non-belief. Even if he seems to show Nye as closed minded, he wins nothing back. If Nye manages to make only one or two points where Ham stumbles the loss to AiG is two orders of magnitude greater than if he simply said something stupid on television. If there is even one sound bite of Ham looking foolish when talking to Nye then all the kids who watch it will KNOW that all of what Ham offers is fools gold.

  3. There are a few issues in this piece that should be addressed. The primary issue is the assumption that the audience would be largely dumb and ignorant. But that’s just silly. There has been absolutely no correlation between ignorance or stupidity and theists. And if you’re being honest rather than just ideological, you know that’s true. “Dumb” is found in every philosophical/theological group.
    As for Dawkins not giving credibility to theists. .. That is simple intellectual dishonesty on his part. He is neither a philosopher nor a theologian (yet he often presents himself as an authority on such things.) To say that Dawkins should not debate a theologian because he’s not qualified would be more accurate. Honest intellectuals give room and voice for disagreement. And above that they are inquisitive enough that they are willing to hearandgive earnest consideration to a given position. Dawkins is unimpressive. Hitchins is at least more consistent.
    Please read Francis Schaefer if you think theists are ignorant. Please check out Fritz Schaefer (no relation- 5 time Nobel prize nominated molecular physicist) if you think scientists and thinking people are all atheists.
    Good, bad, smart, dumb, ignorant, informed, funny, dry, rude, kind, etc are all found in both theist and atheist camps.

    • Demographically speaking the audience will, on average, be less intelligent, less educated etc than a non-believing audience or even a liberal theist audience would be. This isn’t to say individuals can’t be intelligent, but that overall – on average – this is the case.

      Philosophy and theology – especially theology – are rabbit holes. You don’t need to be either to critique the obvious flaws in religion.

      Scientists who are also religious are simply failing to be consistent.

      Theology impresses me in its applicability to the real world about as much as a degree in Klingon.

      • My friend, your claim in the first paragraph is merely an unsubstantiated claim. Inconsistency is found everywhere. It’s not more prevalent in religious scientists than irreligious ones, or more prevalent in religious grocery clerks than irreligious ones. It’s just part of the human condition. There is easily as much inconsistency (or hypocrisy if you will) in the modern humanist/subjectivist/relativist view as in any of the theistic views. Heck- a relativist can’t depend on gravity to work if they really buy into their view fully. (I jest.)

        I agree with you that one doesn’t have to be a theologian or philosopher to discuss them or engage them fully. Hell man- I’m not even an intellectual and I engage them with you and others plenty. But I also don’t remotely present myself as an expert in either field. And there is a distinction therein.

        I say this with a good deal of respect for you, your humor, and the simple fact that you engage me in honest discourse- But you being unimpressed with the application of theology to the physical world has no bearing on the facts of it. My feelings or thoughts on it don’t either.

        Thanks for engaging me man. Love the discussion. Hope you’re doing well.

      • Faith is inconsistent with the process of science, the scientific method. The inconsistency is in failing to apply the same rigorous mode of thinking they apply elsewhere – and with such positive effect – to faith. So yes, it’s more prevalent in religious scientists because 100% of them are being inconsistent while amongst irreligious scientists its <100%.

        Relativism is moral relativism. Jealous or not, it doesn't extend beyond that sphere.

        No matter what your expertise in a fiction, it doesn't make it true. A degree in theology has value only in the rigour and writing practice. Otherwise its really just a literary degree.

    • Gary, these are people that run a museum that depicts humans with dinosaurs. wearing saddles. I’m sorry, but they’re DUMB!

  4. I agree on both points: creationists need not be engaged and Bill Nye is a great choice to debate Ken Ham. Mr. Nye’s friendly “explain-like-I’m-five” approach is pretty much the best chance of getting points across to an audience who have only ever heard evolution denigrated and incorrectly described.

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