Archive for January, 2014
Nye-Ham Debate

I saw this a few days ago and I thought I’d say a few things about it. First some background of where I am coming from. I grew up in reading a lot from organizations like Answers in Genesis and ICR. I was encouraged to seek the intellectual side of my faith from many of the scientists and theologians from young earth creationist organizations. They are willing to stand on what they think the Bible teaches no matter how unpopular it is. So I have a lot of respect for them at that level.

Grace Baptist church takes  no official position and another of our elders is convinced of the calendar-day view that AIG espouses. I have since parted ways with the typical YEC camp and find myself more comfortable with the analogical day view espoused by people such as John Collins & Vern Poythress. I have had issues with how much emphasis they place on the age of the earth as opposed to simply giving evidence for God or pointing out problems with evolution without mentioning the number of years. When I search their site for evolution it comes up with 9,080 results. When I search for “years” it comes up with 9,380 results. It is hard to find an article that addresses the creation/evolution issue without reference to the number of years. I have also taken issue with they way they have sometimes conducted the conversation (more on that later). Suffice it to say, while I can respect them, I have also parted from them in some significant ways – ways that they would label as compromise.

I have seen many atheists (or evolutionists, or even some old earth creationists) lament this debate. Bill Nye is no friend of creationism and he is a well known figure. So many have lamented his acceptance of this debate on the grounds that it will give too much credence to this “fringe pseudo-science” group. They don’t want to give any YEC person or organization the time of day. They are the wackos. They are the intellectually backwards religious nuts. Making fun of them is acceptable. Mocking them is great. Marginalizing them is the current strategy. So Bill Nye accepting this debate is out of keeping with the prevailing mindset. To a certain extent, I think AIG has brought this on themselves. For years they would make fun of evolutionists. They would declare the end of evolution. They would joke about how stupid someone would have to be to believe in evolution. They produced comics portraying their opponents as simpletons. But now that is being returned on their head.

While many lament this debate, I for one welcome it.

There are a lot of people who really don’t know what to believe. They are genuinely confused. While some may like to simply wave their hand and shew off the YEC’ers as backwoods anti-intellectuals, it is a lot harder to actually demonstrate that they are wrong. Walt Brown set forth a hydroplate theory. I read the book. I don’t agree with him, but how many people have actually taken the time to do the equations for the heat transfer in an event like that? I’d wager not very many. Russ Humphries has proposed a gravitational time dilation theory. Is he right? It is one thing to dismiss him with a wave of the hand, but how many people have actually tried to work through the calculs necessary to disprove it? How many people have even tried to understand it? The RATE scientists have written a study on radio-isotopes that is over 400 pages long. How many people have read it? How many actually try to understand the science behind it? I expect very few.

Most of us have other jobs besides keeping current with all of the literature on this vast subject. The vast majority of people who are not young earth creationists have never read or interacted with the literature at any respectable level. Rather, the vast majority only disagree with YEC because they are following the popularity bandwagon. They have no clue how to sort through the science. They are blind followers just as much as any YECer. The difference is that the YECer is blindly following the Bible (or their understanding of it) while those who disagree are blindly following the popular vote, or their favorite scientist, or their favorite theologian. In fairness, the same can be said of many YECer. They are simply following the people in their circles. However, I can’t see how just a surface reading of the Bible will get you anything other than a calendar day position. While I do differ from the calendar day view, I did not find it to be an easy study.

So what are we to do? Most people simply cannot, and if they can they usually won’t work through the matrix calculus of gravitational time dilation. Most people will never immerse themselves in the world of the ancient Near-East. They will not read Atrahasis, the Gilgamesh Epic, the Akkadian tablets, let alone the volumes of commentaries that attempt to elucidate them. So what shall we do? This is where I find debates to be helpful. True, even debates have problems (presidential debates anyone?). But debates offer us a rare opportunity to see the positions side by side. Rather than having to search for all of the research data, assemble it together (for both sides), read the interpretations, look for possible responses to each side’s conclusions (and then any possible rejoinders to that) we can get it all in one tidy debate packet.

For that reason, I applaud Mr. Nye’s acceptance of this debate. I applaud Mr. Ham for reaching out to him. I’m sure neither participant will be persuaded. I’m sure that each side will trumpet that “their guy” won. I’m sure that excerpts will appear on Youtube with the title “Nye pwnd creationist fundie” or “Ken Ham destroys evolutionist.” For all of that, there will be thousands that aren’t of the hardcore troops from either side. These minds are the reason for the debate. It provides an opportunity for learning. So to Mr. Ham and Mr. Nye, thank you for being willing to advance this discussion. Thank you for caring about the majority of people who simply can’t devote the time to study it as it deserves. Thank you for showing respect.