Quasi-Postmortem on Nye vs. Ham Debate

The debate is over, and the contestants and their audience have all gone home. But, of course, the debate still rages on, especially on the “interwebs”. I have been reading various comments by people who watched it. There are the devoted naturalists/evolutionists who are sure that Bill Nye “won”, maybe even kicked butt. There are also the devoted (young-Earth) creationists who insist that Ken Ham wiped the floor with Nye. But, it is the more careful thinkers and observers that I think are worthy of our attention. From those, the impression I get is that neither was at the top of his game (assuming each has higher potential, of course) and both parties missed opportunities to correct and inform.

Ken Ham in black jacket

Ken Ham

Before I proceed, I’d like to refer you to “Why I Didn’t Watch the Ken Ham-Bill Nye Debate” by Pastor Matt. He expresses some of the same feelings I had and part of why I didn’t watch it, either.

“Each would preach to their proverbial choir and it would all be sound and fury signifying nothing. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet but from what I could glean from social media last night, that’s exactly what happened.”

It’s somewhat cynical, but he makes some good points. Matt also links to the recap by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute. In “The Ham-Nye Creation Debate: A Huge Missed Opportunity”, Luskin confirmed my suspicion of what would likely occur:

“Sure, Ham talked about some science here and there, but almost all of what he said focused on trying to support a young earth viewpoint…. While Ham did make a few effective points that you don’t have to accept evolution to do good science, the compelling scientific evidence for design in nature got skipped over.

…Christians (like me) who don’t feel that accepting the Bible requires you to believe in a young earth will feel that their views weren’t represented. And because Ham failed (whether due to time constraints, lack of knowledge, inadequate debate skills, or a fundamentally weak position) to offer evidence rebutting many of Nye’s arguments for an old earth, young earth creationist Christians with doubts will probably feel even more doubtful. Most notably, however, skeptics won’t budge an inch. Why? Because Ham’s main argument was “Because the Bible says so,” and skeptics don’t take the Bible as an authority. They want to see evidence….

This is really unfortunate. I know that Ken Ham means well, but it’s extremely regrettable that the powerful evidence for design in nature was hardly discussed in the Ham-Nye debate. A huge opportunity was lost.”

Furthermore,

“[Nye] knows next to nothing about the many emerging scientific challenges to the neo-Darwinian paradigm. He didn’t hardly [sic] try to defend Darwinism in the debate, and a debater who was familiar with these issues could have shown the audience that an ID-based view of life is far superior to a Darwinian one.”

Kevin Nelstead over at The GeoChristian gives a very good review of the debate, acknowledging the good points made and the blunders by both Nye and Ham: “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis”  One very important point that Kevin begins with is, “The debate was very cordial, respectful, and orderly.” (Other commentators have said as much, too.)

In “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath”, my Facebook friend Luke Nix gives his take on what happened. He summarizes the “Contention and Evidence” of each, then the “Responses and Rejoinders” of each, followed by their “Strengths and Weaknesses” and a “Final Assessment”. Well done, Luke!

Over at “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- An analysis of a lose-lose debate”, J.W. Wartick (another FB friend) gives his assessment. Taking a similar approach to Luke’s, J.W. presents (and comments on) each debater’s Opening remarks, main Presentation, Rebuttals, Counter-Rebuttals, and then a bit on the Q&A that followed, ending with an overall Analysis on each and a Conclusion. Another nice job, J.W.!

Bob Perry at “True Horizon Blog” gives a brief assessment, and I sympathize with the frustrations that he and others have — in case that wasn’t already apparent — regarding the false dichotomy presented. Bob points out some of the same stuff the others do but makes a couple additional, great observations: “Is The Creation Model Viable? — A Debate Between Ken Ham and Bill Nye”

Michael Minkoff of the political blog “Last Resistance” gives his three cents in “Thoughts on the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Creationism Debate”

“First, it wasn’t really much of a debate. Both sides had important points to emphasize and ideas to present, but there was little dialogue between the two worldviews. Questions asked by one side to the other were left unanswered, and all in all the debate afforded ample fodder for confirmation bias—and little else.”

Bill Nye in tan coat

Bill Nye

Yup. That’s one of the frustrating things about many such debates. Questions left unanswered, questionable claims left unchallenged (or inadequately so), and the focus quickly drifts from the title issue in deference to separate agendas. With a background in philosophy of science, Minkoff delves a bit into the metaphysical claims and assumptions that were made by Ham and Nye, whether they realized it or (most likely) not. An interesting read.

I would be remiss if I left out the excellent review made by HBU professor and “apolojedi” (and FB friend) Melissa Cain Travis, even if she only has the first two parts available at the time I write this. In “Evaluation of the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate PART 1”, Melissa begins by articulating “The Problem” with such an event and the aforementioned false dichotomy. She then proceeds to “cover some of the main points made by each participant,” highlighting excellent points and utter failures. Part 1 covers Ham’s opening statements, while Part 2 covers Nye’s. Very thoughtful and well written, as usual!

For some commentary on the debate by an organization of Theistic Evolutionists, check out “Ham on Nye: Our Take” at The BioLogos Forum.

As for Reasons to Believe (RTB), the old-Earth creationist organization that I support, they have not given a post-debate commentary, so far. But, prior to the debate, they posted this link on Facebook: “Questions Regarding the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate”.

All in all, no real surprises. I don’t know if any good actually came of the debate or progress in answering the posed question about creationism as a “viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era.” In the end, I just hope and pray that a) a few people had their faith in naturalistic evolution shaken and, b) as one commenter put it, that “the gospel of Jesus Christ was presented with clarity and grace.”

UPDATE: It was not intentional, but it occurred to me after posting last night that I didn’t have any links or quotes from anyone of a young-Earth persuasion. None had come across my path, as it were. But, now I’ve become aware of commentaries on the debate by a couple of well-known and respected young-Earthers — one a scientist/educator, one a theologian. Both give fair assessments from their perspective.

Dr. Jay L. Wile relates his observations in “Talking Past One Another – The Ham/Nye Debate”.

You can probably guess the focus of Dr. Al Mohler’s comments from the title of his post: “Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man -— The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate”.

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