Bill Nye & Ken Ham — Together Again

The infamous and ill-conceived debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) seemed like a terrible idea when we first learned of it. That’s when we wrote Ken Ham to Debate Bill Nye — Big Mistake! We’ve always opposed debates with creationists, and we explained why in Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism. Among the many reasons we gave was this:

It’s bad strategy, because the mere appearance of a respected scientist on the same platform gives creationism credibility and creates the illusion that there’s some kind of scientific controversy that’s worth debating — and that creationists are qualified to debate with knowledgeable scientists.

Many people advised Nye not to do the debate, but he was determined. As expected, Nye did well, Hambo babbled his usual creationist patter, and the debate changed no one’s mind. However, ol’ Hambo has never stopped bragging about the event. He imagines that it gave him a kind of intellectual legitimacy.

As you know, Hambo’s Ark Encounter had its grand opening last week, attended by thousands of drooling creationists — but it wasn’t a sell-out crowd or Hambo would have bragged about that. Guess who visited the next day? That’s right — Bill Nye. His appearance has generated considerable attention in the press.

Typical is this article in London’s Daily Mail — their headline is unusually long: ‘The kids are being brainwashed’: Bill Nye the Science Guy slams new Noah’s Ark attraction during a visit Friday after protests were held at its opening. It has almost 100 comments. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Science educator Bill Nye took a tour of a new Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky that he has called a danger to the nation’s science education. Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham invited Nye, best known for his 1990s science TV show, to visit the Ark Encounter on Friday. The Christian group says the ark is part of its ministry that teaches Old Testament stories as true historical events.

But merely showing up wasn’t enough for Nye. Let’s read on:

Nye toured the ark with his own film crew and the pair engaged in an unscheduled debate discussing creationism versus evolution in front of hundreds of people.

Amazing. He never seems to learn. We continue:

Nye ‘The Science Guy’ told The Washington Post that his takeaway from the visit was that the kids were being ‘brainwashed’. He added: ‘This could be just a charming piece of Americana, just something — I recently used an app called Roadtrippers that takes you to odd or unusual places…but this is much more serious than that. ‘This guy promotes so very strongly that climate change is not a serious problem, that humans are not causing it, that some deity will see to it that everything is ok.’

That’s nice, but Nye didn’t need to visit the ark in order to make that statement. Ol’ Hambo took full advantage of Nye’s appearance to promote his endeavors: We’re told:

Meanwhile Ham wrote in a Facebook post: ‘Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed. It was a clash of world views. At one point I asked Bill: “What would happen to you when you die?” He said: ‘When you die “you’re done”.’

He [Hambo] added: ‘We both agreed to video the entire discussion as we walked. Numerous children, teens, and adults swarmed around us as we passionately interacted as the audience grew.’ The president of Answers in Genesis said that those who gathered around the pair as they walked and talked later ‘prayed for Bill’. Teenagers and adults also came up and spoke with Nye, asked him questions and ‘challenged him’ according to Ham. He also said he ‘had the opportunity’ to share the gospel with Nye a number of times.

For Hambo’s drooling followers, the event was a great triumph. But Nye seems to have done the best he could do — given the impossible circumstances in which he found himself. The Daily Mail reports:

When Ham suggested that Nye speak to Answers in Genesis’s team of scientists, Nye said they were ‘all incompetent’.

Ham asked Nye if they could be friends, but Nye replied that they ‘could be acquaintances with mutual respect, but not friends.’ Ham described the two-hour encounter as ‘fruitful and exciting’ and said they ended the talk with a friendly handshake.

Yeah — “fruitful and exciting.” The newspaper has nothing else about Nye, but it says a lot more about Hambo’s ark, and it has a load of pictures. It may be worth your time to look it over.

So what can we say about Bill Nye? He’s a bright guy, but he’s terribly naïve. He doesn’t realize that Hambo won the day merely because he was foolish enough to show up.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Bill Nye & Ken Ham — Together Again

  1. Yup, this time I agree with you. The first time I argued that the benefits were larger than the costs (I still have to meet the first creacrapper who refers to the debate as evidence) but now it isn’t – it’s like Nye takes creacrap seriously.

  2. Mike Elzinga

    People like Ham should never be debated on a public stage; especially on their own territory. These characters always turn such a spectacle into a victory for themselves.

    The best strategy for dealing with this kind of garbage is for these characters to be taken down by knowledgeable nobodies coming out of nowhere and then disappearing back into nowhere. No ID/creationist/YEC should ever know when or where such take-down events are happening.

  3. Eric Lipps

    The Hamster’s Ark should be viewed exactly as it is: the Flood story as Walt Disney would have rendered it. (Noah World?) Once the curiosity seekers have gone away and the faithful have seen it once, interest in it will dry up, and so will revenues.

  4. docbill1351

    Nye has become an embarrassment. He portrays everything a True ™ Scientist avoids: deliberate nerdy, quirky look, a bit flakey, scatterbrained and just not all there.

    David Attenborough is more the image I’d like to see in public.

    As for Hambo, there’s no need to point out all the flaws to his design. It should be sufficient to point out that the entire project is a figment of Hambo’s imagination. He made everything up himself. There’s nothing in Hambo’s precious Bible that even hints about any of the nonsense Hambo “explains” away.

  5. I’m worried that Nye doesn’t get it for some reason; if he keeps schmoozing with Ham, Ken might start calling him
    “the creationist guy”…

  6. @docbill1351
    That is one of the problems with Nye, that he lets Ham get away with making claims about the Bible.

  7. I think Hambo got the better of the deal. Headlines like Nye was visiting Ark attraction he criticized (note the past tense) made it sound like he was a believer, when in fact he was rather steadfast in his opposition to the ark at every turn. It also adds to the buzz about the Ark Encounter, puts it in more and more news feeds. I also think Nye’s protest about bringing your kids here will actually end up getting some Christian parents to do just that. No one likes to be told what to do. I’ve read Nye will use this in his upcoming movie and he does get some free publicity (which don’t kid yourself he thrives on) so not a total loss for Nye. Even though it is a bit of a loss for science the whole thing amuses me none-the-less.
    The Ark will be a success, at least it will be viable long enough to pay for its construction. If Hambo’s museum can make it, the Ark Encounter will too.

  8. “Mutual respect”? What about Ham does Nye respect?

  9. For that matter, what about Nye does Ham respect?

    It will surely never happen, because Ham will never let it happen, but Ham should debate one of the dozens of vocal scientists – who happen to be Christian – that represent the thousands of working scientists – who happen to be Christian – who symbolize the tens of millions of Americans – who happen to be Christian – that accept evolution, the age of the universe, and the Bible, but reject the story of Genesis as literally true.

  10. Mark – you are exactly correct. The folks at BioLogos tried to engage the Hamster back in 2011 and 2012, but he simply dismissed folks like Falk, Giberson and even Collins as ‘compromised Christians’ – not real ones like himself. It will be interesting to see how Ham’s ‘ministry’ will carry on after he kicks the bucket.

  11. @Mark Germano
    reject the story of Genesis as literally true
    Rather, they reject a particular imaginative tale imposed on Genesis. Genesis has nothing about kids playing with dinosaurs, fossils being buried by the flood, the formation of the Grand Canyon, etc., etc.

  12. Dave Luckett

    “It will be interesting to see how Ham’s ‘ministry’ will carry on after he kicks the bucket.”

    True. For my money, Ham’s “ministry”, which consists of telling lies in public and shilling stuff on the internet, will fold up – because it’s actually a cult, that is, (second definition) an aberrant and divergent group of followers of one personality, rather than a set of beliefs or doctrines. When the leader dies, either a relict group goes on for a while but gradually dissolves, or a new leader appears (as with Mormonism, the second can be even worse) or, as with Christianity and Islam, the body of followers is large enough to make the crossing to becoming a separate religion – a collegiate clergy, a group of ritual observances, settled doctrine.

    Or else, as has happened numerous times, the leader overreaches, and following catastrophic failure, the cult breaks up under him/her.

    I believe the last-mentioned process has already started. Ham’s folly cannot possibly generate the cash flow necessary to maintain it. I’d put its actual life at five years before the gates shut. And that has to rub the nose of even Ham’s most devoted follower in the facts: Ham’s a loony whose views take no notice of reality.

  13. @TomS puts it better than I did.

  14. Richard Bond

    As the link posted by Cynic in yesterday’s piece about Engor pointed out, if Ham’s effort is seen as an experiment to test the validity of the Noah story (repeatable science, anyone?), then it effectively disproves the Bible, owing to its impossibility without all the modern technology needed to build it.

  15. @Richard Bond
    Even with modern materials (steel, concrete, plastics, electrical wiring) what anyone has been able to build (1) cannot float on its own (2) cannot accommodate large numbers of animals (3) cannot be maintained by a crew of eight for an extended period. While this does not prove that it cannot be done, what is the point of it?

  16. Thank you, TomS, and well said.
    I really wish we could get away from this idea that deep time comes from the “teaching of Darwin” when it actually comes from a veritable legion of Christian men and women who looked at the geological record and said, “Yep, no way that’s only 7000 years old.”

  17. Most of Ham’s family seems to be employed by AiG in one way or another. I suspect when Ham retires that one of his children will take over. It’s hard to believe Ken Ham would let his empire go to someone outside of the family.