Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Great Debate: Ham v. Nye

So I watched with great interest the live stream of the debate tonight between Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis).  I may get into more details and specific thoughts later, but I have some first impressions that I thought I would post.

The question the two gentlemen were debating was this:  "Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?"

Frankly, no debate like this has a winner or a loser - it is always a platform to try to promote your own viewpoint or your own agenda.  In that sense it was just as you might have expected.  I can report that neither Ham nor Nye had an epiphany and converted to the other side.

As my blog headings indicate, I am a Christian, and so you might guess what my rooting interest is in this debate, but in this post I'm mostly thinking about my impressions of the men themselves and how they handled the debate, rather than anything specific about their position on the topic being debated.

I was actually impressed by Bill Nye.  He has received great criticism from what he called the "mainstream science community" for even showing up for this debate, and I half expected him to be something of the vile lunatic that Richard Dawkins has been, and I was pleasantly surprised - he was affable, polite, and even respectful.  I give you full marks there, Mr. Nye.

However, it was very obvious from the start that Nye could not for an instant admit that anything "scientific" could come from a creationist viewpoint, or his entire argument would collapse.  Even when Ham offered up such trivial names as Sir Isaac Newton or Michael Faraday, or even Dr. Raymond Damadian (inventor of the MRI), Nye could not admit that anything good or useful could ever come from creationist scientists.  He kept asserting that there was nothing of a "predictive nature" that comes from creationism - that you can't take the tenets of creationism and say that "based on these things being true, that thing will happen".  Ham continued to give examples, but Nye wouldn't hear or acknowledge them.  This condescension got a little annoying after a while.

In some ways, Ken Ham was disappointing.  Even though he has been a public speaker for decades on these topics, he is not a very polished speaker.  His speech is sometimes halting, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes hard to follow.  I would have thought that with all the practice he has gotten he would have been better at this.  Nye certainly came off better in that area of the debate.  Ham made his points and got his message across, but Nye was much more polished.

I found myself wanting more details about all the points that were being made, that would have made things a whole lot clearer, especially when they were talking about radiometric dating, or about increasing complexity in organisms over time.  So all I really got was a 10,000 foot flyover on this topic, rather than anything to really sink my teeth into, and in that sense it was kind of disappointing.  I guess I wanted a more knock-down, drag-out than I got!  But as I said earlier - no debate like this is won or lost.  It's just a platform.

Finally, the moderator.  If you've ever watched a Presidential debate, the moderator is as much of a player as the debaters (see Candy Crowley), often to the detriment of one or the other side of the debate.  Tom Foreman, of CNN, was tonights moderator, and he did an excellent job of staying out of the way and letting the two principals have at it.  He injected just the right amount of lightness and humor and did a fine job.  Frankly, when I saw he was from CNN I was saying to myself "uh-oh!".  But kudos to you, too, Mr. Foreman.  You did a fine job.

No comments: