Creation Debates: Why Bill Nye and Ken Ham Both Get It Wrong

David Russell Mosley

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5 February 2014
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, its taken me nearly all day, but I’ve finally finished watching the Ken Ham-Bill Nye debate over creationism (as defined by Ham) as a valid model for a scientific explanation of origins. For any of my non-American readers who don’t know who Bill Nye and Ken Ham are: Bill Nye is television personality who had a popular TV show during my childhood called Bill Nye the Science Guy (he does in fact have a Bachelor’s in Engineering). Ken Ham has a Bachelor’s in biology and is the curator of the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Ham believes the earth was created in six literal days and is around 6000 years old. Nye believes in Darwinian evolution.

There, the stage is set. I could give you a blow-by-blow of the debate and then show you all the problems on both sides, but I don’t think that will be necessary. At the end of the day there is a more fundamental issue that both gentlemen have ignored. When they talk about origins they tend to talk about two different things. Towards the end of the debate, Nye is asked where the atoms that existed in the big bang came from. His answer? It’s a mystery. Ham responds glibly, ‘There’s a book that tells us the answer to that, it’s called the Bible’ (roughly paraphrased). I suppose ultimately, I agree with Ham on that question. Namely, that the opening chapters of Genesis are concerned with giving us a story about why there is something rather than nothing (and what created beings with free will did with that something).

The problem is, Ham has bought into the notion that Science is the Queen of the Sciences. Nye certainly believes that. His constant imploring of voters and tax payers to keep science scientific and his exhortations for young people to become scientists so that America won’t get left in the dust proves that. Only, Ham shouldn’t agree. He shouldn’t, as a Christian, agree that science is the end all be all. While I don’t agree with most common dichotomies between science and theology/philosophy (religion as Nye called it), I do agree that a doctrine of creation, especially one of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), is not a scientific claim. That is, it is not a question that is subject to science, but this is because I think theology, and her handmaiden philosophy, ought to stand at the top of our disciplines. It is out of these that we seek to know and learn more (as a t-shirt I once read says: Science can teach you how to make a dinosaur; the humanities can tell you why it might be a bad idea). This is the conclusion Victor Frankenstein ultimately comes to all to late in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Neither Nye nor Ham seem capable of understanding this, however, as they talk at rather than to each other.

There a few books I would have both gentlemen read to see why their debate was ultimately pointless: First and foremost, they both ought to read Hart’s The Experience of God, so they can understand what the definition of God is before they discuss the nature of that God’s having created. Second, I would have them read Conor Cunningham’s excellent Darwin’s Pious Idea so that they can see the pitfalls creationists and ultra-darwinists fall into and what a Christian account of evolution looks like. Finally, as both men like to talk about physical and natural laws, I would have them read the section G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy entitled The Ethics of Elfland, to be given a little humility about laws and predictability.

The debate will be available online for a few days so feel free to watch it if you have two and a half hours to spare. At the end of the day, I think both men get it wrong, which is why I believe in creation and see no real contradictions between it and evolution, particularly since one concerns true origins (why is there something rather than nothing) and the other deals with development.

Have you watched the debate? Are you a Young Earth Creationist (or Old Earth), or an Atheist and I think I’m just plain wrong? Let me know.

The Debate Itself:

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Related Posts:

Is Evolution Anti-Christian? Conor Cunningham, Charles Darwin, and the God who Creates

‘Darwin’s Pious Idea’ by Conor Cunningham: Mini Book Review

‘Darwin’s Pious Idea’ by Conor Cunningham: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

12 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea. I hope you enjoy.

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This is an excellent book and a must read for any and all (Christian and atheist) who think evolution and Christianity are firmly at odds. Cunningham shows that traditional readings of Genesis (i.e. Genesis as read by Jews and early Christians) does not require a Young Earth Creationist conclusion. Nor, however, does Darwin’s theory of evolution lead purely to an Ultra-Darwinian reductive materialism. As the subtitle says, both the Creationists and Ultra-Darwinists get it wrong.

Cunningham upholds God as the creator of all things out of nothing, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is both truly God and truly man, and that life on this planet came into its current form through evolution. Full of scientific research and jargon, Cunningham painstakingly shows why fundamentalists (Christian or atheist) cannot say that evolution and Christianity are mutually exclusive.

The book is not perfect, Cunningham can, on occasion, come off as harsh toward both Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists, but it because he finds the positions so untenable. Admittedly, however, the main aporia in Cunningham’s argument comes in the final chapter where he begins to discuss the nature of sin. Cunningham cites dozens of Church Fathers and shows well that their view of the Fall is purely contingent on the Incarnation. However, when he comes to Augustine he merely notes that Augustine’s work on original sin, the Fall, etc. were in the context of polemical discussions with Donatists and Pelagians. The problem I have is that most of the early Church texts are polemical, they’re written against gnostics, Arians, Eunomians, etc. Cunningham falls short in this area.

Nevertheless, this book is well written and ought to be required reading for anyone wanting to study the interplay between science and Christianity. I highly recommend this book.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley