Ready for the Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate?

Slide rule-knife fight

There’s very little going on that’s worth blogging about, so we’ll talk about the upcoming debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

On the day of the event, 04 February, we intend to have a post devoted to it, where those of you who are watching the live feed can make your comments. Your Curmudgeon will not watch the thing. The debate starts at 7:00 in the evening, presumably in the Eastern time zone, so we’ll start the thread in plenty of time before the debate begins.

In preparation for the occasion, the elves in our graphics department have been very busy, and we now have a special logo ready to go, which you can see above this post. It symbolizes our advice that one should never bring a slide rule to a knife fight. Alas, Bill Nye is ignoring our advice.

There are loads of press stories about the debate, but we did find a little bit of news in one of them. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum, the site of the debate), has this story: Bill Nye The Science guy takes on Creation Museum founder. We’ll skip most of it, because by now you know what’s going on, but we’ll give you a few excerpts that seem newsworthy. The bold font was added by us:

“The topic of origins has always been (a part of) the culture wars,” said Mark Looy, vice president for Answers in Genesis, a ministry that operates the Petersburg, Ky. museum, which has credentialed 50 reporters and photographers, from CNN to Scientific American, for the event.

Aaaargh!! Here’s more:

But some scientists and secularists have criticized Nye’s participation, saying it only lends an air of legitimacy to creationism pseudo-science that distorts accepted scientific findings, including a fossil record that shows life growing progressively complex over billions of years. “Framing it as a formal debate, you’re saying there’s controversy to begin with. And there’s really no controversy in the scientific community,” said Dan Phelps, a Lexington geologist who is the head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society. “You really shouldn’t debate a creationist.

Yes, that’s what almost all of us say, but Nye is determined to proceed. Now here’s something we didn’t know before:

Looy said the debate will begin with both men giving a five-minute opening statement, followed by 30 minutes each for argument, several five-minute rebuttal periods and then a 45-minute question-and-answer period from the audience.

That sounds like a fair, even-handed arrangement, but it’s not. Because of a creationist tactic known as the Gish Gallop, equal time is woefully insufficient to rebut the gusher of misinformation a professional creationist is almost certain to spew.

Referring to a video Nye made around a year and a half ago, which you can see here, ol’ Hambo recently said:

“He doesn’t understand science,” Ham said of Nye in his own video. “You take generations of children and teach them they’re just animals” who “came from some slime. … It’s really people like Bill Nye that are damaging kids.”’

Why — why! — would anyone debate a guy like that? One last excerpt:

Officials at the museum would not discuss Answers in Genesis’ efforts to raise money for a planned new theme park featuring a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Ky. Critics have suggested the debate’s publicity may help its efforts to raise municipal bonds.

Yes, that’s another unfortunate consequence of this debate. Ah well, it’s gonna happen. Tuesday is the big day — that’s three days from now. Our logo is ready. We hope Nye is too.

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.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

27 responses to “Ready for the Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate?

  1. Ceteris Paribus

    SC says: “The debate starts at 7:00 in the evening, presumably in the Eastern time zone,”

    Is that a typo? Shouldn’t it read: “Eastern Twilight Zone”?

  2. By way of a warm-up exercise for the Real Thing, you might want to check out the article “Bill Nye Boo’d In Texas for Saying ‘The Moon Reflects the Sun’”:

    The first two comments under it (you have to click to reveal them) offer comedy gold, especially the second.

  3. SC: “Your Curmudgeon will not watch the thing.”

    Why not? This event will make history like nothing since the beginning of the anti-evolution movement. It will be the first time a “Darwinist” refuses to take the bait throughout a science-pseudoscience “debate.” Nye will calmly and tersely answer every question from Ham with: “Go ask [insert name of anti-evolution activist who disagrees with Ham], tell me what he says, then get back to me.” And he’ll answer every bogus claim from Ham with “If you really believe that, show me the convergence, neither sought nor fabricated of evidence that supports it, without relying on “weaknesses” of evolution. If you think scripture qualifies as evidence, take it up with the DI, who insists that it does not. Since you claim to be a Christian, you must know that it’s a sin to bear false witness, so put up or shut up.” Ham will have no option but to comply. 😉

  4. Stephen Kennedy

    I do not understand why Bill Nye would agree to a 45 minute question and answer session with an audience at the creation museum. Despite what AIG claims that place is going to be packed with creationists who will have nothing but hostile questions for Nye and softball questions for Hambo. Allowing Hambo to espouse his nonsense is bad enough but allowing his moron followers to participate in the debate as well is not a good thing.

    That nobody at AIG would talk about the finances of the ark encounter is somewhat revealing. If there was any possibility that AIG could take advantage of all this attention to announce that construction on the ark park will begin next month, enabling it to open as scheduled in April 2016, they would be trumpeting it. Hambo and AIG have been consumed with this project for the last four years. If they had any good news about it to share with the faithful, that is all we would be hearing about.

    I doubt that the debate will save the ark park. If you look at the bonds that have already been sold, the ones with a minimum purchase price of $5000 dollars are nearly sold out. It is the $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000 denominations that have gone unsold. These are clearly the bonds intended for institutional investors. However, no institutions purchased any bonds during the first offering and I can not think of any reason why they would have changed their minds and are buying them now. It is possible that wealthy religious fundamentalists will buy a few of these large denomination bonds but it is unlikely to add up to the millions of dollars that Hambo needs to float his ark.

    AIG frequently has articles on their website about the ark encounter but never say anything about when construction will start or when it will open. Until Hambo given a definite date for ground breaking, you can safely assume that the money needed to undertake this project is nowhere in sight.

  5. Pete Moulton

    I’m hanging onto a little hope for Nye. He’s getting one-on-one coaching from the likes of Don Prothero.

  6. @Pete That appears to be the case, but Prothero is no Hitchens. Don has been pathetically inoffensive against creationists. He takes them lightly and brushes off their arguments. Doesn’t fare well. I’ve watched Prothero and the equally ineffective and totally pathetic Michael Shermer battle softball creationists like Meyer and Sternberg and totally fail.

    That’s why you don’t debate creationists. There is no rational argument that will win the day because the opposition is irrational and the venue is always rigged.

  7. I fear that those holding out hope for Bill are, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “raising the changeling hope in the cave of black despair.”

    Nye is a TV personality with a funny tie. He won’t have the combative inclinations to cut Hambeaux off at the knees and make him look like the ignorant, dishonest knave that he is. I predict a disaster, particularly since the debate format has been crafted to give Hambeaux the edge by a mile.

    The fact that Nye assented to the format for this “debate” speaks volumes about his naiveté. All that said, I do hope that I’m completely wrong, and if I have to eat crow, will do so gladly.

  8. Nye won’t have the guts to go after Ham’s source of strength: the Bible.

    Nye had to demolish Ham’s religious foundation to demolish Ham, but he won’t because he’s a “nice guy,” an accommoditionalist and a coward. Nye will be too worried about his personal TV reputation, which is in the dumpster, by the way, to take a stand.

    Nye will be a disaster and do more to hurt science education than all the years he worked to strengthen it. What an idiot.

  9. Charles Deetz ;)

    Will Nye ask Ham is the Pope is an Athiest, since he and his church accept evolution and an old earth? And then suggest that maybe Ham might possibly have something a bit off in his interpretation of the Bible.

  10. We are raised to be polite and respect the beliefs of others. Nye was raised in that tradition. Even if he thinks Hambo is a deluded scumbag, Nye won’t be “impolite” and call him out.

    AronRa, on the other hand, would be like a Zerg Hoard and mow down Ham without mercy or consequence. It would be glorious!

  11. It’s not Evolution vs. Creationism or Religion vs. Atheism, but only Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham.

    Meanwhile, Religion has been explaining what man cannot without the help of Science understand since we acquired speech, while man with the help of Science has only known about the existence of single-celled organisms since Leeuwenhoek first saw them with the primitive microscope he built in his workshop in 1675. It’s accurate to say that we have learned more from Science about the way the universe works in the last 500 years than we have learned from Religion since, well, ever.

    This “debate” will be an interesting sideshow and nothing more. Meanwhile, in spite of Religious resistance and interference and argument and outrage, Science will continue to do its work of first discovering and then showing how the universe actually works.

    By the way, except for the few that are planets in our own solar system, the stars are actually distant suns. Not only that, but, the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around. Furthermore, contrary to the teaching of the most popular Religion here in the U.S., the sun has NEVER since the existence of human beings stood still in the sky. Not even for Joshua.

    This knowledge, too, we owe to Science.

  12. Stephen Kennedy

    I do not think Bill Nye is taking this debate all that seriously. In Nye’s mind he is debating a guy who thinks the Earth is only 6,000 years old and how seriously can you take that kind of thinking. Nye is probably seeing this as entertainment. He does not know how seriously Ham and the rest of the creationists at AIG are taking this debate. Ham sees it as a real opportunity to carry out his holy war against evolutionism and secular humanism. To Nye there is little or nothing riding on this debate. To Hambo, his crusade against evolution is at stake.

    Hambo is about to suffer a major setback with the failure of the ark encounter and that is going to put him in a mood to be as viscous as he can in this debate.

  13. Hambo is certain to trot out his ‘historical science vs. observational science’ bull-extract, which just comes down to an idiotic claim that “Since you can’t prove that laws of physics weren’t different in the past, they might have been, and that’ s sufficient blah blah blah.”

    IOW, it’s just Last Thursdayism, and there is no rational discussion to be held with advocates of such as only someone utterly deranged can hold such a view.

    Nye is nice but naive (nyeive?). The only thing this circus can do is to demonstrate the futility of ‘debating’ creationists, which is as foolish an undertaking as herding cats or shoveling fleas.

  14. docbill1351 says:

    Nye won’t have the guts to go after Ham’s source of strength: the Bible.

    I wouldn’t do that either, and it’s not because of a lack of guts — it’s a waste of time. Instead, I’d just wave it away and say: “That’s very nice, but I didn’t come here to debate the bible. It is what it is. I’m here to tell you what science is, how it works, how we know it’s reliable information, what it’s meant to our civilization, and why it’s important that we encourage science education.”

  15. Ceteris Paribus

    SC suggests Nye use the ploy: ” I’m here to tell you what science is, how it works, how we know it’s reliable information, what it’s meant to our civilization, and why it’s important that we encourage science education.

    But I bet those same words could be spoken by a Creationist teacher, just before they reach for their John Freshwater® autograph Tesla coil to burn a cross into a student’s arm.

  16. Pete Moulton

    The Good Doctor avers: “AronRa, on the other hand, would be like a Zerg Hoard and mow down Ham without mercy or consequence.”

    Which is exactly why Ham refuses to ‘debate’ Aron Ra.

  17. Ceteris Paribus says: “But I bet those same words [I’m here to tell you what science is] could be spoken by a Creationist teacher”

    Sure, and Nye’s response to that should be: “Yes, but other denominations see it differently, for example: Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. The religious attitude toward science should be debated among those denominations. I’m here to give you the scientific viewpoint.”

  18. I think Nye’s genuine nice guy persona might work in his favor in this case. Ham would like to characterize his opponent as an evil atheist scientist who is destroying the souls of american children – but it will be hard to paint Nye in those colors without coming across as a douchebag. Also, from what I’ve seen, Nye seems to be unflappable, even in the face of totally moronic statements. He’s unlikely to insult the audience, and he’s especially unlikely to say anything stupid.

    I don’t think Ham will come up with anything new that might surprise Nye – Ham seems to just recycle the same arguments he has made for years and there’s no reason to think he will not do so in the debate. Nye surely has heard them all by now.

    I was encouraged by the story realthog linked to above in his post. We might not be lucky enough to witness women screaming and running away clutching their children, but…

  19. While I continue to think no one sane should stoop to ‘debate’ a Creationist, I do think it would be entirely acceptable to challenge Creationist to a duel

    The Creationist is permitted unlimited prayer, animal sacrifice, voodoo, hexes, and all supernatural powers of Oogity-Boogity. The rational opponent is only permitted technology (lasers, firearms, bazookas, thermonuclear devices &c &c).

    Any takers?

  20. Ceteris Paribus

    Megalonyx proposes a duel where “The rational opponent is only permitted technology (lasers, firearms, bazookas, thermonuclear devices &c &c).

    Ah, I recall you are not from around here. At the location of the debate, the carrying of “[l]asers, firearms, bazookas, thermonuclear devices &c &c” on one’s person is limited to card-carrying members of the NRA. And the subset of members of the NRA who could also meet the requirement of being a “[r]ational opponent” would severely limit the number of volunteers.

  21. And the subset of members of the NRA who could also meet the requirement of being a “[r]ational opponent” would severely limit the number of volunteers.

    Stands to reason, dunnit, guv? NRA = Non-Rational Association.

  22. Ha! The NRA is too far to the *left* for some of those that will be attending the event.

  23. “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

    I’m wondering if a possible approach would be for Bill Nye to concentrate on attacking any other creation account from any other religion, and simply ignore the biblical one. Surely Mr Lie would be unable to defend the Hindu account of creation, or the account described in Norse mythology. His is not the only fantasy ever written, why should his be the only to be defended?

  24. Anyone have a good source for the live stream that doesn’t help fund Ham?

  25. Tomato Addict asks: “Anyone have a good source for the live stream that doesn’t help fund Ham?”

    It can be watched free, but signing up requires your email address. I wouldn’t give that to ol’ Hambo.

  26. I think I feel a new email address coming on: