Bill Nye — Why He’s Debating Ken Ham

This is a three-minute video in which Bill Nye explains why, in spite of all the widely expressed opinions against debates with creationists, he’s nevertheless determined to debate with Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo). The event is scheduled for 04 February.

Listen to what he says, then let us what you think of his reasons. You already know your Curmudgeon’s opinion: Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism.

Addendum: We’re closing comments here, in order to funnel your comments into our open thread for the actual debate: Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham — Live Debate Thread.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “Bill Nye — Why He’s Debating Ken Ham

  1. Oh dear. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Nye. I’m sorry to say he’s misguided if he thinks his being “reasonable” is going to gain any traction with Hamm’s bunch. He’d be better off making a PSA or finding another venue for his message.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    The Nye/Ham show at least may be more enlightening than “Duck Dynasty” And it has the infinitely more admirable attribute of being only one episode.

  3. Oh dear. Poor Bill is stumbling in his words with a friendly interviewer. I can only wonder how badly this will come across when he’s talking to a snake oil salesman like Ham.

  4. While I think Nye’s arguments to do the debate valid – Debating Creationists is Dumber than Creationists (DCDC) doesn’t address all relevant points – I am also with P Yew. Being “reasonable” will not nearly suffice. That’s not how debates work, as all politicians can tell you. To paraphraze Macchiavelli: the point is not being reasonable, the point is pretending to be reasonable. There is quite a gap between the two.
    Plus there is the financial thing. It won’t save Ol’ Hambo’s megalomanica Ark project, but every single penny going to his enterprise is one penny too much.
    I agree that scientists shouldn’t debate creationists, for a few more reasons than DCDC provides. But I’m not a creationist. Neither is say Amon Ra.

  5. S**t. I meant to write: I’m not a scientist. Though it’s correct that I’m not a creationist.

  6. I’m afraid that eryops is probably right. I like our Curmudgeon’s description of this as Nye bringing a slide-rule to a knife fight.

  7. From day one when I first heard about this, I thought it was a terrible idea. I still think it is a terrible idea. In the very least, if you are going to do something like this, do it on neutral ground.

    He is very literally walking right into the Lion’s Den where they will eat him alive. There is no reasoning with these misguided people. I think it would actually be better for Nye to bow out, even if at the last minute. It’s not too late to come to your senses Bill!

  8. I was never a Nye fan. I thought the Goofy Scientist routine, while popular with children on TV, never the less promoted a stereotype that scientists are goofy and eccentric. Fine. It’s a comedic bit that’s been used over and over.

    Where Nye is being totally stupid, though, is his contention stated in the video above that he’s doing this to raise awareness about creationism “sneaking” or whatever into schools. That’s a totally ridiculous reason and demonstrates that Nye is just another clueless TV personality and not someone to be taken seriously.

    There are organizations in every state, and the NCSE nationally, that do this job every day, tirelessly and with little credit. Organizations like the Texas Freedom Network attend state school board meetings, monitor textbook review processes, issue press releases, educate legislators and civic groups, work with local school boards and much more. Every day. They are on the front line of actually keeping creationism from creeping into the science classroom. This relentless publicity has been the only thing keeping the Texas state school board from passing even more radical standards.

    Old Hambo isn’t the problem. Hambo the Scambo is a simple con man who’s in the creationism business. He makes a buck out of selling creationism. He’s not an educator. He’s not lobbying legislatures for pro-creationism bills. He doesn’t run a church. He’s not a pastor with a congregation. He doesn’t have a Wedge Document, a 20-year plan to overthrow “materialism” in society. Hambo is a side show.

    The real menace is the Disco Tute. If Nye was serious about science education he would go after the Disco Tute and raise awareness about that organization. Hambo loves the spotlight; Disco Tute hates it, my pressssssshhhous! If Nye was a serious person instead of a buffoon he would put together a multi-part, investigative exposé that named names blew the Disco Tute’s cover. That would be worthwhile.

    But, no, sideshow Nye is going to have dinner with sideshow Hambo. If we’re lucky there will also be the Bearded Lady and Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy!

    It’s going to be painful to watch. Check out some of Hambo’s recent videos. The guy is articulate, presents himself well, knows his subject matter, stays on message, is comfortable in front of the camera and crowds. Nye is none of that. He stumble bumbles his way through a Skype interview and Hambo is going to mop the floor with him.

  9. Maybe Nye can be wired such that Neil Degrasse Tyson can feed lines in his ear…. Except for the publicity it would give Hambo, I would love to see Tyson take him on.

  10. I can’t add anything to docbill1351 concise analysis, which is absolutely spot on.

    I can only think that Nye just got suckered into this circus, which can only [1] promulgate the absurd notion that there is some sort of meaningful ‘debate’ between hard data and oogity-boogity, and [2] whips up a bit of cash for Hambo’s pockets. The only useful thing Nye could in his podium time is whip out some numbers about Ham’s financing, but even that is wide of the mark, for (as docbill1351 precisely put it):

    The real menace is the Disco Tute.

    And my only small crumb of (non-Ray) comfort in this is that the Disco’Tute have got to be feeling uneasy about this one: it does, at least, firmly identify the anti-science faction with religious con men like Ham; the DI’s strict radio silence on the event so far speaks volumes, methinks,

    I really, really, really would love to see Ham, puffed up by all this nonsense, challenge Klingy to a similar ‘debate’ — but alas, just won’t happen

  11. Ed suggests

    Except for the publicity it would give Hambo, I would love to see Tyson take him on.

    Make it Mike Tyson, and that would be a (blood) streaming event I’d sign up to watch!

  12. I’m hoping that Bill Nye does well with his “Reasonable Man” approach. I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he will do Science proud. I don’t think it is really all about winning or losing a debate. I think it is all about reason and being reasonable. People who have their brains turned on will recognize this. There isn’t much that can be done about Ham and those like him but to stand next to them to show how scary and foolish they are.

  13. Charles Deetz ;)

    I’m with @Paul Tucker on this. Getting Hambo next to someone ‘reasonable’ is a chance to measure and contrast his extreme position. Mike Huckabee looks sane on Fox News, but get him on MSNBC and he looks like a loonie.

    That said, I think it will be a cringe-worthy affair for a number of reasons.

  14. Ouch. Bill Nye doesn’t have a ferally opportunistic or a cunningly surreptitious bone in his body, nor apparently the nous to appreciate the requirement for such. That much is clear — unless of course he’s been fooling us all for more than a decade with a retiring, avuncular nerd act.

    Yup, that just ain’t believable, y’all. And that’s why Nye is not only going to get mangled and chopped and chewed like shredded pork come 4 February, he’ll quite likely exacerbate the situation by coming across as hesitant and possibly even as a vacillating bungler. If worse comes to worst, such dithering might succeed only in convincing closet fence-sitters to jump off — to the wrong side.

  15. If I understand correctly old hambo is charging for a life stream of this “debate.” If true, everyone, thousands, who thinks it’s a dumb idea and Nye was insane to do it could possibly tune in and voila Ham has more money for his ark encounter. A sly move by hambo. Who’s next. I certainly won’t be watching.

  16. Sorry but having a debate with a committed YEC like Hambo just reminds me of the old Monty Python argument sketch and it’s just as pointless:

    M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
    A: I told you once.
    M: No you haven’t.
    A: Yes I have.
    M: When?
    A: Just now.
    M: No you didn’t

    and so on but with Hambo’s retort being “Were you there?”. My only question is will there be any entertainment value in this fracas?

  17. Erik Bertel says: “My only question is will there be any entertainment value in this fracas?”

    I doubt it. Even though Hambo now says it can be watched live for free, I don’t plan to do so. But many of you probably will, so I plan to dedicate a post that day for commentary.

  18. Alex Shuffell

    pgaikin, the debate will be livestreamed for free.

    I had Nye’s reasons for this debate all wrong, I thought he was doing it to try to educate creationists. Nye said that he is doing it to teach Americans that creationism exists and that he was challenged to a duel! Is that something Americans are generally unaware off, do you know that there are some people that think the world is under 10,000 years old? Up until this video I had assumed Nye to be intelligent and that he knew what he was doing. Now I just feel sympathetic towards him, which is wrong.

  19. I’m not a fan of Dawkins, but I’m losing patience with Nye too. Notwithstanding that the debate format itself gives any pseudoscience a huge advantage, it is his constant calling creationism “a belief system” on that video that tells me that he just doesn’t get it. Modern “creationism,” including the ID scam, is a first and foremost a strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution at all costs. All the stuff about religion, God, designers, etc., despite pushing everyone’s buttons except mine, is secondary. And even most of you insist that it’s primary, it is handled very well by NCSE and judges like John E. Jones III with or without our “me too” cheerleading. What makes “creationism” truly despicable is the gross misrepresenting of evolution, deliberate censoring the fatal flaws and hopeless contradictions in its own (increasingly rare) testable claims, and its shameless promoting of an outrageously paranoid view of science in general. Yet these are still almost completely unknown to the general public.

    Ham peddles just one “kind” of creationism. It may be the media’s favorite, but it’s not the majority view even among evolution-deniers. 70+% of adult Americans, including most that fall for some anti-evolution nonsense, would consider Ham a fruitcake if they knew what he claims “happened when” in the history of life. Heck, even Discoveroids consider him a fruitcake, though don’t expect them to volunteer it. Alas, I fear that that most of that 70+% will react to the debate with either “what’s the harm, let him believe” or “I’m not convinced of everything he said, but he said some things that make me think that evolution is not all it’s cracked up to be.”

    There’s still a slim chance that Nye will surprise us with a totally unexpected, refreshingly different approach, but I’m losing what little hope I ever had of that.

  20. docbill1351: “There are organizations in every state, and the NCSE nationally, that do this job [keeping ‘creationism’ out of public schools] every day, tirelessly and with little credit…Old Hambo isn’t the problem. Hambo the Scambo is a simple con man who’s in the creationism business. He makes a buck out of selling creationism. He’s not an educator. He’s not lobbying legislatures for pro-creationism bills. He doesn’t run a church. He’s not a pastor with a congregation. He doesn’t have a Wedge Document, a 20-year plan to overthrow “materialism” in society. Hambo is a side show…The real menace is the Disco Tute.”

    Thank you!! Between that and what I wrote above, I’m hoping that it starts to catch on at least among those of us who do pay close attention to anti-evolution activism. Namely that controlling the “supply,” though necessary, is not sufficient. The “demand” needs to be controlled, and yet that is almost completely ignored in all the “me too” cheerleading.

    The typical reaction that the DI is “a minor player on its way out” is baseless, and made at our own risk. Sure, almost no one can name a Discoveroid – though Medved’s radio show is changing that – but Discoveroid sound bites have been trickling down, and fooling more people than Ham could ever hope to.

  21. Stephen Kennedy

    Perhaps the best strategy for Bill Nye would be to say nothing during the debate and allow Hambo to expound on his beliefs concerning Biology, Geology, Astronomy and other natural sciences. One would hope that any reasonably intelligent person would see how ridiculous Ham’s positions are and reject creationism as foolishness.

  22. Dr. Bill writes> “I thought the Goofy Scientist routine, while popular with children on TV, never the less promoted a stereotype that scientists are goofy and eccentric.”

    Hey! Scientists have been working hard to maintain that stereotype for years. Don’t go stealing their thunder. Or mine.

    And Cardinal Erik has the wrong room. It’s going to be more like getting-hit-in-the-head lessons.

  23. The chances of anyone’s mind being changed because of this debate are slim to none. And, as my dad is so fond of saying, Slim’s out of town.

  24. Too bad Nye isn’t Mr. Oogy Boogy Man from the “Nightmare Before Christmas.” It would be rich to see old Hambo squirming like Sandy Claws in this segment!

    ” ‘Cause I’m the Oogy Boogy man and you ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

  25. I don’t think Nye is stumbling too badly in this. How much polish does he need? I’d rather he be unscripted than drone out talking point like the creationists do. Seems Nye is going to push the economic strategy, not a bad angle.
    As for Hambo, he finally sent me an email (I think I lied and said I was with a group). Hambo wants to do streaming tests on Jan 26 and Feb 2. Both Sundays perhaps to test in church? I guess a nod to Hambo, he has more sense than the company that set up the Obamacare website.

  26. I was optimistic until I saw this interview. As was pointed out above, if he only stumbled through a friendly interview that he should have had ready answers for, how is he going to come out as even presentable in a debate that requires a lot of preparation, as well as thinking on ones feet?

    My original thought was that this would be good for the third audience. The first audience is the audience that’s present for the debate, mostly creationists. The second audience are those who watch the live streamed event, which will be a mix of people.

    But the third audience — the important audience — are the young people who will see the video of the event in their churches for many years to come, who may be home-schooled or enrolled in christian schools, and whose only exposure to evolution will have been the distorted version of it that the creationists have presented to them. If Nye handles himself well, then at least some of those students will have been exposed to reality. But if he stumbles through the whole thing, those young people are going to go right on believing what their churches want them to believe.

    Until I saw this interview I was in favor of the debate. Now I’m concerned.

  27. That third audience will only see the edited DVD that Ham releases (provided as a modest fee). There’s not a chance anything useful will get through that.