Creationism vs Evolution Celebrity Death Match

I’m worried about this Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Creation/Evolution debate on February 4. Not because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool creationist, or because I have strong objections to theistic origins of the universe, but for a number of other reasons.

Celebrity Death Match poster, much?
Celebrity Death Match poster, much?

First, I don’t think celebrities with monosyllabic surnames of less than 3-letters should debate one another. It’s just silly and wrong.  Bernie Mac versus Rin T. Tin, anyone? Well, they’re both dead. It’d be a pretty quiet debate.

Second, Bill Nye was chosen, not for his strength as a scientist but because he wasn’t  a “mocking, strident evolutionist” (I read this as “gregarious” and “verbose”) and because (as Ham’s Creation Museum website states) Nye is “a serious advocate for his beliefs, [whose] opinions carry weight in society.” These statements say one thing: Ham wanted to find somebody he can pick apart, and possibly humiliate in the course of debate, in order to bolster the Creationist viewpoint.

Third, in 1925, the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial was 89 years ago, and Nothing. Has. Changed. Debates don’t change minds. Debates bolster the opinions of people’s already-deeply-held beliefs. Don’t believe me? In 2012, Gallup Analytics wrote “Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.” Here is the link to the survey results.

My thinking is this: if Ham’s position is so strong in the first place, he wouldn’t need to resort to debates against celebrities on his home turf. Nye is a TV personality, whose voice carries some weight precisely because he’s a TV personality. A Ham victory against Nye does more than prove a point, it proves a point loudly and publicly. This is a publicity move, pure and simple.

Why would Nye do this? because he thinks he can win? Because he thinks he can affect some sort of social change? Are they offering him money? How does he feel about crucifixion because that’s what’s going to happen on February 4.

It’s also rather telling of Ham’s strategy to look at the people he didn’t choose. Adam Savage from Mythbusters. Magician Penn Jillette. Comedian Bill Maher. They’ve all come out in favor of Evolution and are hugely popular celebrities personalities. What’s more, any of those three could win the debate. What’s even more more, I don’t perceive any of these folks as introverts. None of them would tolerate being subjected to the typical tactics such as ad hominem attack, appeals to emotion, and bandwagon arguments. I’m not saying Bill Nye has no intestinal fortitude; but I wager he’d be more willing to let personal attack slide, while it eats away at him for the rest of the evening.

I dunno. I could be entirely wrong on this count, but I don’t see anyone talking over Adam Savage or Penn Jillette while he’s making a point.

February 4, I’m staying far, far away from this sham of a debate. I believe I already know the outcome, and the outcome will sadly not based on science, but rhetorical tricks and staking weight on the louder of two voices.

Note: As to the rhetorical devices that worry me so much, James Kirk Wall captures my concerns fairly succinctly in this advice post written as an open letter to Bill Nye. I don’t necessarily agree with Wall’s language, but I have seen every one of these tactics used both from the pulpit and in debate forums, to shut up and shut down opponents of various religious viewpoints. I’m betting Ken Ham will any and all verbal weapons at his disposal.


Exercise update (Skip if you wish): I ran today, maybe 10 minutes in all, during a 30 minute workout. It was  chilly but not frigid (32ºF/0ºC), and the rain/snow mix was very light, hardly even noticeable. I wasn’t so utterly winded that I needed to puke, so I must be doing something right. Tomorrow morning is supposed to be 5 degrees (with a wind chill of -15) so I wanted to get my run in today, before all this weather hits the fan.


6 thoughts on “Creationism vs Evolution Celebrity Death Match”

  1. Why does it have to be one or the other? I don’t understand why faith in the God who created the cosmos and belief in the theory that life has gone through some evolutionary changes must only be opposing ideas.

    Until I read this, I’d never heard of either Nye or Ham.

    Total effect of today’s blog on my outlook: I believe I’ll have a rye and ham sandwich for lunch.


    1. I’m on the way to the library thinking about lunch and wracking my brains for where I can find rye bread in west Tokyo when the line ‘Bill Nye the science guy’ pops in my head. That’s all I got on him though, and I’m not googling for more on either of them but I may have to for bakeries with rye bread.


  2. It seems to me that the greater point is that this debate will only inflame the audience, and will not accomplish any change at all. Any person’s choice of belief will not be altered, and will only be strengthened by this exercise in futility. Ken Ham is well spoken, and he will probably trample all over Nye, but the results of this useless debate will not effect how I already feel about the subject.
    Some things are better left alone.


  3. I think you may be a bit biased against Ken Ham on this debate. Sounds like you already feel Bill Nye won’t get a fair shake. I think Bill can probably hold his own. He may be introverted, but he isn’t a rug. I understand what you’re trying to say; I do think debates get people to talk and to think, at least for a moment, about points of an issue. For what it’s worth 🙂


    1. That’s where you’d be wrong. I’m *completely* biased against Ken Ham. Bill Nye won’t be getting a fair shake. Ham devotes 100% of his life to the study of creationism. Nye devotes 100% of his life to being a science celebrity, of which evolution… face it, in all of science how much is represented by the study of evolutional biology? The whole thing stinks of staging and promotion, and not of giving a hearing to both sides. And it’s not just the fact Ken Ham is hosting it. Richard Dawkins is a douchebag, and if he invited Famous Pastor So-and-So to a debate over atheism, he’d use the same tactics and I’d have much the same objections. I simply don’t like the inequitability of it all.


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