Evolutionists Roast Ham


Thanks to the brilliant Matt Stopera, we also have a series of 22 questions evolution-believers would like to ask Ken Ham.

[If you’re just joining us, you can catch up on the details of the Ham-on-Nye debate here; some analysis here; and some of Stopera’s creationist questions here.]

As a preamble, let me remind readers that I am a “self-identified evolutionist” myself, so my comments here will be more along the lines of family disagreements than were my comments about the creationists’ questions.

I cringe the most when I see the snark inherent in some of these questions.  Worst of all, one questioner asked about the Flintstones.  This kind of question just poisons the well.  If I were a young-earth creationist reading this, it would reassure me that everything I believed about mainstream intellectual/scientific culture is correct. First, this kind of question demonstrates a determinedly hostile attitude toward creationist belief.  Second, it implies that creationists believe things they don’t really believe.  Third, it doesn’t demonstrate any knowledge about evolution or science, only a knowledge of kitschy old TV cartoons.  Finally, it proves that only creationists are willing to talk politely and civilly to those with whom they disagree.  As Ken Ham tried to prove in the debate itself, many creationists believe that evolution believers are “indoctrinated” into believing evolution by fake science that has “hijacked” the name science for its own anti-God purposes.  Closed-minded burns like this Flintstones question demonstrate first and foremost–to any intelligent creationist–that Ham was right.  Evolution, this question implies, is something we’re not even willing to talk about.  All we can do is make fun of those with whom we disagree.  A shameful repudiation of liberal civil values.

Also sad, some questioners chose to make only assertions.  One woman wrote happily, “Science rules!”  Not exactly a proud demonstration of the clear intellectual superiority of the modern evolutionary synthesis.

Happily, other evolutionists asked better questions.  The best point Nye made during the debate, IMHO, was the irrefutability of the fossil record.  Find a single exception, Nye repeated, and you’ll convince me.  The evidence is clear.  Several questioners challenged Ham to address that issue more clearly and directly.

Other evolutionists, surprisingly, focused on religious themes.  As one guy put it, “What’s with all the raping and pillaging, God?”  Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with evolution directly, but I think religious questions are the proper field of discussion here, not scientific ones.  It makes the most sense to me for evolutionists to challenge creationists–especially Ham’s brand of young-earth creationist–on the theological and logical problems with the religious attitudes at the heart of YEC.  Why should we believe in a six-day creation, in other words, and not the rest of the Old Testament?  Of course, intelligent YECs have answers to those questions, but by asking religious questions, IMHO, we keep this discussion where it properly belongs.

Stoperas HamOther questions seem less well thought out.  One person asked, for example, how one could doubt evolution, since there were entire disciplines devoted to it?  That seems like an ignorant question to me.  Why would anyone assume that something that gets studied a great deal must be true?  The history of science can give us plenty of examples of radically untrue notions that attracted lots of academic attention: quantity of angels on pins, phlogiston, phrenology…the list could go on and on.

Some smart questions demonstrated a more understandable ignorance.  One person, for instance, asked, “How can you deny microevolution?”  A good question, but one that shows a lack of knowledge about today’s young-earth creationism.  Creationist scientists these days are actually some of the most ardent advocates of the distinction between “micro-” and “macro-” evolution.  Creationists eagerly agree that microevolution occurred.  In the debate, Ham referred to this as the changing of God’s original “kinds.”

Finally, several of the questions asked about educational issues, the questions near and dear to our hearts here at ILYBYGTH.  Some were silly, such as one who said he required his textbooks to be newer than 4,000 years old.  This is not only silly in the obvious sense that creationists use lots of new textbooks, but in the deeper sense that YECs would call the Bible a “textbook” only in a unique sense.  The Bible to many YECs is indeed a storehouse of knowledge, but it is much more than that.  As Ham argued in the debate proper, the Bible has a unique status, something much more than a textbook.

Another made the great argument, “Keep religion out of my science classes!”  Even better would be if this person added, “Keep YOUR religion out of my science classes.”  This is indeed a strong point.  Whatever one may say about it, even Ken Ham agrees that YEC is a belief based in religion.  Indeed, he goes through verbal (and mental) gymnastics in his efforts to prove that evolution is also a religion.  Both sides agree, though, that science classes in public schools ought not teach religion.  And intelligent YECs admit that their evolutionary beliefs are frankly religious.

OK, nuf sed.  Three cheers for Matt Stopera.  This 22-vs-22 has been at least as illuminating as the debate itself.



Creationists Grill Nye


What did creationists want to ask Bill Nye?  In Tuesday’s big debate, we heard a series of audience questions, but there must have been many audience members who still wanted to ask more.

Journalist Matt Stopera was there, and he asked self-identified creationists what they would wanted to have asked Nye.  Whatever your analysis of the debate, these questions help us understand what creationists thought of Mr. Nye and his presentation of the evolutionary worldview.

Some of the questions demonstrate ignorance of mainstream evolutionary science.  One respondent, for example, wondered why there were still monkeys if we came from monkeys.  That’s not what evolution says.  This is the sort of simple, naïve ignorance that too many non-creationists think makes up all of creationism.  A couple of other questions asked similarly naïve questions.  How can there be a sunset without God, one asked.  Another asserted that since the world was “amazing,” there must be a God.  It doesn’t take a Bill Nye to poke scientific holes in that sort of naïve creationism.

But that’s not all there is to the intellectual fabric of American creationism.  The other questions show the diversity among creationists.  One question asked simply, “What about noetics?”  Another woman wondered how we can understand salvation if we believed in evolution.  Another challenged Nye: “Are you scared of a divine creator?”  Two people asked about the Lucy fossils.  Some asked what caused the Big Bang.  When this came up in the debate itself, Bill Nye frankly and enthusiastically responded that he did not know, but that non-knowledge and the excitement of discovery lay squarely at the heart of real science.

stopera nye

Some of the questions showed that creationists have learned science, but a very different science.  For instance, one woman wanted to know how evolution could account for an increase in genetic information.  This is a question mainstream science can answer, but it is often presented by creationist scientists as a decisive disproof of mainstream evolutionary science.  What does it matter?  It shows that some creationists are not simply unaware of mainstream science.  Rather, their knowledge about evolution has been occluded by a compelling–if not scientifically accurate–counter-knowledge.  This is different from people who just don’t know about evolution.

Several questioners wanted to ask Nye about schools.  “Are you influencing children in a positive way?” one asked.  Why not teach more than one “theory” of origins, a couple more wanted to know.

Thanks to Stopera for sharing this fascinating gallery of creationist conundrums.


Creation Debate Update: Squeezing Out the Middle

Forget the Super Bowl.  Next Tuesday, February 4th, at 7 PM New York time, we’ll all be watching the debate between young-earth creationist Ken Ham and science popularizer Bill Nye.  It looks as if Nye and Ham agree on their goals: squeezing out the middle.  Both debaters want to draw attention to young-earth creationism, and their agreement threatens to exacerbate the divide between evolution and creationism.

The debate host, Answers In Genesis’ Creation Museum, will be streaming the action live for all of us to see.

Ken Ham has suggested that the debate might be a perfect learning opportunity for teachers and students in public school science classes.  From Ham’s point of view, this debate might be a chance to reach students who might not otherwise be aware that mainstream evolutionary science is full of holes.

Bill Nye, too, has explained his reasons for engaging in this debate.  In these pages and elsewhere, evolution-education mavens have wondered if this debate only legitimizes the dead science of the young-earth creationists.  As “The Science Guy” explained, “I don’t think I’m going to win Mr. Ham over.”

So why debate?  Nye says, “I want to show people that this belief is still among us. . . . It finds its way onto school boards in the United States. . . . I’m not going in as a scientist as such . . . I’m going in as a reasonable man.”

So it seems both debaters have the same goal.  Both men want to make people aware of the claims of young-earth creationism.  From Ham’s perspective, such awareness will help keep smart young Christians from leaving the faith.  From Nye’s point of view, if people know what creationism is, they will help fight against it politically.

With such agreement, it seems likely both debaters might succeed.  This debate might elevate the profile of young-earth creationism.  One casualty, it seems, will be other visions of creationism.  Ken Ham’s brand of young-earth creationism, after all, is only one extreme form.  Many religious people believe that humans and life were created at some point by God.  But they do not believe that they must discard the findings of modern science.  The folks at BioLogos, for example, insist that fervent Biblical Christianity can go hand-in-hand with mainstream evolutionary science.  And “old-earth” creationists such as Hugh Ross agree that God did it all, but they don’t insist that he did it only 6,000 years ago.

If this debate succeeds—at least according to the goals of both Ken Ham and Bill Nye—those “other” creationist belief systems will likely get squeezed even further out of the conversation.  That’s a shame.  Too many observers already equate “creationism” with young-earth creationism.  It may make for more lively debates, but it makes for less productive and civil conversations.