Evolution V Creation: The Big Debate

Can the Evolution vs Creation debate ever be resolved?

The event was hosted by the Creation Museum which 'brings the pages of the Bible to life'

The event was hosted by the Creation Museum which ‘brings the pages of the Bible to life’

On Tuesday the 4th of February a debate occurred on the other side of the Atlantic. Ken Ham, a devote Christian and one of the leading advocates of the creationist theory, faced off against Bill Nye, well known for his popular television series; Bill Nye the science guy. The debate was based around this simple question: is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era? So, the question that this article will attempt to answer is simple: who won?

Considering that you’re reading the science section of Nouse you may feel that you can already guess this article’s conclusion, however, do not be mislead. There are many creationist scientists who have done extraordinary work, of which Ken Ham did a great job of calling upon. One example being Raymond Damadian, who invented the MRI machine which lead to a huge leap forward in modern medicine. Many other examples show that there is no doubt that creationists can be exceptional scientists, however, this is not the point of the debate. The debate boiled down to what all science must boil down to; for a theory to be proven then it must hold up to rigorous scientific procedure. This means that there must be predictions that can be made based on the theory, and these predictions need to be proven in a way which is repeatable and can be confirmed through observation and experimentation.

The creationist viewpoint on origin as a theory, as Ken Ham stated multiple times, does not try and hide the fact that it is based on the bible. It uses Genesis as the model for how the universe came into existence, stating that the universe was created in 6 normal (24 hour) days. This theory also goes onto explain using the Great Flood as a reference that the Earth (and indeed the entire universe) is only 6000 years old.

Now, this is vastly different from the ‘outside’ view point (as Bill Nye puts it), the outside being the general scientific community. The scientific community estimates the age of the Earth to be approximately 4.5 billion years old and the age of the universe to be 13.7 billion years old. Obviously there are errors to take into account with these ages, however, the ages are many orders of magnitude higher than that stated by the creationist theory of origin. Both of these viewpoints are theories and scientific procedure can be applied to both.

Bill Nye (left) and Ken Ham (right) debate in front of an online audience of over 750000

Bill Nye (left) and Ken Ham (right) debate in front of an online audience of over 750000

As you can imagine, there is a whole host of evidence for the universe being billions of years old as opposed to thousands. This ranges from carbon dating to the distance of celestial bodies. In the debate these questions were addressed and Bill Nye gave a summarised form of the science behind these methods and explained why they can be used for dating. Ken Ham, on the other hand, reduced the argument to definitions, these being the separation of what he calls ‘historical science’ and ‘observational science’. ‘Observational science’, or what most would call ‘science’, follows the scientific procedure mentioned earlier. What amazes me, Bill Nye and probably many others, is how Ken Ham believes these two things to be separate. The beauty of science is that it is consistent; this is that the laws of Physics are invariant under a change of reference frame. Simply put, this means that the laws of nature -which we know are true today because of scientific theory- are true regardless of where they are tested. This may be ‘where’ as in space or, indeed ‘when’ as in time. In fact, the laws of nature are consistent so the ‘historical science’ and ‘observational science’ standpoint that Ken Ham argued from is inherently wrong.

The rest of the debate followed with presentations from each of the two debaters and rebuttals from either party. These rebuttals were infuriating as the main points which Bill Nye asked were dodged and Ken Ham for the most part refused to give clear, concise answers, deciding to answer the questions with, ‘there’s actually is a book out there..’. This was dealt with in a subtle way by Bill Nye; he slipped in the fact that the Bible has been translated many many times, possibly leading to a mistranslation of certain passages. This was responded to eventually by Ken Ham who took on a very classical approach to religious scripture. He decided to pick and choose certain parts as literal (or natural as he calls it) and others as poetic. As you may be able to imagine, his argument was quickly becoming unraveled, for scientific theory cannot be based on reports from a book of which some is deemed factual and some not.

All of this being said it seems clear that this author’s opinion is that Nye is the victor. This is certainly reflected in the results of many online polls, including one by Britain’s Christian Today website, which gives the victory to Nye with an overwhelming 92% (based on 45,882 votes cast). Mr Nye was, however, not the only winner of this debate, for the state of Kentucky and indeed a lot of America as a whole gained an insight into what science really is. Although the whole debate was incredibly infuriating at times it does show an open and honest contribution from both parties, with Mr Nye openly admitting that science does not hold all the answers. While equally Mr Ham did not hide his beliefs and had clearly done his homework, as shown by his wide range of knowledge on many areas of science.

As a final note, its worth taking a moment to appreciate that an almost 3 hour long YouTube video, debating origins and scientific theory has almost 1 million views. Regardless of your beliefs, open and honest debates such as this, which reach as many people as this debate did, can only be a good thing.

13 comments

  1. Looking forward to the debate between those who think babies are made through sex (ew, as if!) and those who know that the stork done it.

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  2. “Can the Evolution vs Creation debate ever be resolved?”

    Not as long as wannabe journalists keep up the charade that the two theories have equal amounts of supporting evidence. The discussion itself is navel gazing.

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  3. 9 Feb ’14 at 6:40 pm

    Paul Nicholas Boylan

    Most creationists have never experienced the scientific view. They live in a bubble of illusion and disinformation, intellectually isolated from the world and all its wonders by leaders who exploit their ignorance for their own material and political gain.

    As flawed as the debate was, I agree with the author of this essay: more information is a good thing, if not in the short term then most definitely in the long term.

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  4. It is amazing how the creationist claim the universe is only 6 thousand years old (based on a 24 hour day). It is like looking at an oak tree with a 3 foot diameter and saying that it could have been planted yesterday.

    There are just to many discoveries and processes which make the creationist claims akin to those who believe that the world is flat.

    It is a poor reflection of the culture and education system in this country that we are even having this debate. Not that I am against debates, but I think that it is sad that so many in our country buy into the views of creationist which require a suspension of reason, a denial of a immense amount of scientific discovery and a lack of critical thinking.

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  5. This article is perpetuating a huge fallacy that there’s some sort of debate going on; there is no debate! There are people who believe the earth is round and people who believe the world is flat but *there is no debate* because the scientific community is *not* at odds over whether the earth is round or flat, they are all in agreement that the earth is round. Similarly the scientific community is in agreement with evolution; *there is no debate* among them whatsoever so please *stop* with the debate nonsense! Keep those who want to believe in flat earths and fairy tales *out* of scientific debate!

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  6. The debate it self is just silly. I believe in creation. However, I do not know the age of the earth. No one knows they agree. Carbon dating is horribly innacurate, there are many examples of man made items dated as thousands of years old, in actuality the person who made it was still alive.

    Many of the dating methods are based on the assumption that things have always ocured at the rate they currently are

    There is no definitive evidence either way.

    If you do accept that we were created by God, the distance and age is irrelevant as such a God can place them wherever he feels like.

    The Bible says 6 days. Time keeping is a human thing. Days simply means one day\night cycle. There is no way to day God had to have created the earth in 144 hours. However if you accept that an all powerful God could create us, he could probably do it as quickly as he wanted to.

    In the end, it does not affect our daily life or the future to know how it came to be.

    There simply is not enough physical evidence one way or the other, so let’s stop trying to argue and focus on making the future better.

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  7. A cornerstone of Christianity is having “faith”, to believe something to be true without proof. If all aggregate evidence was in the bible then no faith would be required and it would simply be another set of scientific facts and data. If Mr Nye is right after the end of his life the best thing for his remains will be to rot away in the soil. If Mr. Ham is correct then that would be the worst that will happen after the end of his life on Earth.

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  8. Many commenters seem to be missing the point that the debate is not a fallacy on the other side of the Atlantic: nearly half of Americans hold creationist beliefs, so there is clearly a ‘big debate’ that needs to be had between scientists and a significant portion of the population over there.

    As Bill Nye pointed out, creationists would have been accepted by the scientific community if they had proven their claims: they have not. In the face of such a damning fact, why is anyone worried that Ken Ham and his gang could gain respectability through being engaged in debate? Clearly, creationist theory completely unravels under serious scrutiny but that does not mean the debate should not be had – in fact, it necessitates it.

    The author of the piece, like Mr. Nye, has managed to keep their cool and calmly demonstrate who is victorious in this debate. Commenters could do with following that example.

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  9. 9 Feb ’14 at 7:09 pm

    Octavio Guerra

    St. Thomas Aquinas said, “the object of faith is that which is absent from our understanding.” And St. Augustine said, “We believe that which is absent, but we see that which is present.” For Luther, the right tool for understanding the world outside of the Bible is none other than Reason which for Luther denoted science, philosophy, history and empirical observation.
    Ham & Nye (it sounds as a sandwich) “match” is a discussion between deaf and blind. Their actual casualties will be precisely Religion and Science. They don’t care about these, but about their egos and their bank accounts.
    Evolutionists don’t need to be preached. Most of them are educated and their world vision is based in their education and knowledge in science.
    When Atheism try to “convince” fanatics becomes as fanatic as its opposite. Arguing with a fanatic is absurd and arguing with an ignorant and a low IQ fanatic is absolutely stupid. How are you going to convince a mass of people who don’t have the most elemental clue about biology, chemistry, geology, history, paleontology and anthropology about the evolution of life and men? The only thing they have known in their miserable life is the bible and the only way they have to connect with the community is through their gatherings around their preachers. They see with fear everything related with the development of technology and science. They see educated people and professionals as dangerous foreigners who could take their way of live away.
    The only thing that Mr. Nye is going to achieve is that fanatic Creationists would become more enemies of the science and knowledge.
    In the other hand, it is a shame that so many preachers live from the ignorance and poverty of the masses.
    Most of the civilized countries see contemptuously how the education in the most powerful country of the word could be so deficient that much of its population could follow preachers who endorse the most absurd, backward, and full of ignorance precepts.

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  10. @Octavio Guerra
    I sincerely doubt Nye was actually trying to convert Ham – he’s not stupid, he knows a lost cause when he sees one. This was not about evangelising non-believers to the atheist cause.

    If you’d watched the debate you would have noticed that Nye’s real agenda here was to attempt to excite young people watching about science. Every time there was a mention of an unanswered question in science, he turned to the audience and invited them to become the person who solves it.

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  11. 10 Feb ’14 at 5:40 am

    Philip Bruce Heywood

    Almost every respected foundational scientist, from Sir Francis Bacon, through Galileo, Newton, etc., including Einstein, was creationist – in the standard dictionary meaning. Few, if any, were A.I.G. “creationist”. Conclusion? Mainstream science has wandered off somewhere. Ham & co. get credibility only because of the failure of mainstream science to follow its own principles. The principles of mainstream science include: Matter can be neither created nor destroyed: every effect in physics has a rational cause: Nature can not create matter, energy, or information of its own power. This is the basis of scientific scepticism, ruling out hokums and spooks. It obviously also rules atheism out of the realm of technical rationality. Not so obviously, it rules out one species evolving into another without the necessary information being pre-programmed into Nature rather than being manufactured by Nature. No spooks. This has all been covered by people such as Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, the standard sceptic. Like all respected, science-building pioneers, he was creationist.
    1) GENESIS, the bible book, despite protestations otherwise – plus a little below-the-radar adjustment of the literal meaning by people such as Ham, Morris, Gish & co.—demands that the Earth is of extreme age, says in as good as black and white that species are an information outcome – they can exist before being physically tangible – says in black and white that plants existed before they appeared, that all complex life (animal category) was created ex nihilo but much of it did not appear until later (under a term much less momentous than ex nihilo), and gives a geologic record more accurate than the observed record. The word, signs, in GENESIS is a reference to info. tech capacity built into Nature and the whole script falls into place without a flaw once info. tech. is introduced.
    2) Species are an info. tech. phenomenon, married with life. Once a living cell is placed in the Earth, if a pre-programmed, automatic info-tech. (=signalling) system is activated, entire divisions of life can exist and effectively be alive, without being tangible. The information in the cell may be re-programmed, like a computer, and since the information already exists before it is signalled to the cell, the species which activates as an outcome of the re-programming, already exists. It merely awaits the transmission of the re-programming information, to make it become tangible.
    3) Sir Richard Owen, world leading palaeontologist, before Darwin got into print, clearly pointed to such a possibility with his archetypes, or, information driven transformers. That was before people even understood the atom! Owen of course, has been dismissed and rubbished. This rubbishing of people who see things before the technology catches up is standard fare from the pages of science history.
    4) Quantum physics, DNA, epigenetics, cloning, etc., leave no doubt that Owen was on the money. The only science sense contributed by Darwin is the obvious contribution of adaptation to environment as a factor in species. How adaptation may have happened has recently been pointed up as a possibility by epigenetics (almost Lamarckian processes?) with the info. tech. basis of the species pivotal. But species did not and can not evolve into each other. The species lock ‘tripped’ when the environment called for change (again, info. tech) and environmental information at that moment was permanently embedded as a part of transformed DNA. You won’t find the term, ‘species lock’, in the biology texts. You will find it there, in disguise, from the beginning to the end of the biology texts, dressed up in darwinspeak. A species lock means that species are indeed, special – as the Bible and observation demand and as Darwin should have demanded. He wrote a book on the origin of species – which would not exist, if his book were true! But let’s not blame Darwin. He did not ask for people to come along and attach his proposals to the train of a politico-religious movement!
    5) All this has suddenly become glaringly obvious because of the discovery of quantum physics, cloning, epigenetics, and major advances in info.tech., quantum aspects of DNA, etc.. Everything you have read is easily grasped. The outcome of all this is that the biblical science thread has leapt into focus. Climate change is looking to be the big item and the big purpose in the bible science. Regards, P.B.H.. (ex Geol. Surv. Qld, see Creationtheory dot com and Australiariseup dot com.)

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  12. How high are you?

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  13. Evolution belongs in school RE lessons as it is a belief not a fact.

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