Bill Nye and Ken Ham Debate the Earth’s Origins – Do Our Origins Matter?


The Story:

On Tuesday night, Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, engaged Bill Nye “The Science Guy” in a cordial debate about evolution and the earth’s origins.

According to the bow-tied Bill Nye, creationism is not a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era. In fact, Nye predicted that if our schools were to teach creationism, the U.S. would experience a drastic economic downturn resulting from a lack of students who understand the fundamentals of science. Our country’s economic future, Nye remarked, depends on the innovations of scientists who are a product of our education system. Nye argued that creation-based science instruction will leave students deficient in biology, physics, chemistry, engineering, and other scientific fields that contribute to the advancement of technology.

Throughout the debate, Nye praised innovations that have significantly raised living standards, mentioning agricultural improvements, health care advancements, smart phones, and satellites. In a CNN blog post, Nye writes, “To allow our students to come of age without the knowledge gained through the extraordinary scientific insights and diligence of our ancestors would deprive them of understanding nature and our place in the cosmos.”

Ken Ham proposed that the Bible, not scientific insights, gives us a true understanding of nature and our place in the cosmos. After noting the dissent that exists within the scientific community about the validity of “molecules-to-man evolution,” Ham differentiated between observational science and historical science. “[Nye] and I both recognize the wonderful benefits that observational, operational science has brought us, from cell phones to space shuttles. But operational science, which builds today’s technology, is not the same as presenting beliefs about the past, which cannot be tested in the laboratory.”

Since Darwinism requires faith in an unseen and unproven theory of macroevolution, it is as much of a faith system as Christianity is. “The word evolution has been hijacked using a bait and switch,” Ham said, “to indoctrinate students to accept evolutionary belief as observational science.”

Ham noted that in science, naturalistic assumptions lead to naturalistic results. For instance, since many scientists assume the nonexistence of any spiritual, eternal being, then when they are asked what caused the big bang or who designed the universe, they have already eliminated the most reasonable answer: God.

During the question and answer session, Bill Nye was asked what caused the big bang. “It’s a mystery!” Nye exclaimed, before claiming, “That’s what science is all about.” Soon thereafter, Nye was asked how unintelligent, lifeless matter could possibly produce conscious life forms, to which Nye responded, “It’s a mystery!” After basking in the mystery of it all, Ham quipped, “You know, there’s a book that tells us where consciousness comes from.”

Unfortunately, since the specific theme of the debate was the viability of six-day creationism, rather than the existence of a supernatural designer, Nye felt he was at liberty to skirt the question about a first cause (i.e., a creator) and focus solely on the age of the earth and the low probability of a global flood. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity, since it would have been a tremendous victory to watch Bill Nye assert the likelihood of an intelligent designer. But that was not the point of the debate.

Still, Ken Ham’s goal during the debate was modest — to reveal the flimsiness of molecules-to-man evolution and persuade people to think about origins. Are human beings the result of random, natural forces, or are human beings created in the image of God? If we are all formed by directionless chemical interactions and ultimately no different from animals, then humans have no purpose and very little dignity. But if human beings were formed by an intelligent being, then we are more than mere animals. We are rational, social, creative, and free beings who have an intelligible origin and an eternal destiny. As divine image-bearers, we have dignity and responsibilities as governors of God’s creation. The question of origins, then, is no trivial matter, for it directs all subsequent thoughts and actions.

Ken Ham may not have convinced many listeners of a young earth, but he may have gotten them to think about where they came from — a loving God who remains sovereign over His creation. Although souls may not have been converted, seeds might have been planted. Even an opinion writer for the Daily Beast had to admit: “Last night, it was easy to pick out the smarter man on stage. Oddly, it was the same man who was arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old.”

Sermon Insights:

Faith is informed by science and history (Hebrews 11:3).

Hebrews 11:3 reads, “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”

Science alone will not lead us to the God of the Bible. We must have faith in order to cling to that which is unseen. But science and faith are not contradictory. For example, in theory, all time, space, and matter came into being at the big bang. Since the law of causation asserts that everything that comes into being must have a cause, the universe must have a cause. Before the big bang, there was no time, space, or matter. As a result, the creator of time, space, and matter cannot possibly be confined by them. The cause of time, space, and matter must necessarily be beyond them, i.e., eternal and immaterial (spiritual).

It is undoubtedly difficult for people to deny that what they can see is all there is. To make the leap from the seen (the physical) to the unseen (the spiritual) requires faith. But that faith is informed not only by science, but also by history. The empty tomb, early witnesses, and the rapid growth of Christianity attest to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, as God in the flesh, is our pathway to God. In Christ, that which is unseen becomes seen. Thus, our faith is grounded not in fantasy, but in reality, in history, and in science.