RDFRS: Why Bill Nye shouldn’t debate Ken Ham

This article originally appeared on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and was later republished by Alternet.

Scientists should not debate creationists. Period. This may sound harsh but let’s start by looking at what sparked this statement. TV personality and science advocate Bill Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy) has accepted an invitation to debate Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis / The Creation Museum on February 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

This is a bad idea and here is why.

Debating creationists offer their position credibility

When you accept a debate, you are accepting there is something worth debating. Political ideologies are worth debating, religion as it pertains to things like human well-being and flourishing can be worth debating, because these kinds of ideas claim to offer solutions to problems and they are debating the best way to achieve such problems. Debates about the existence of God can be fun, they are not really that meaningful, but they are a debate about ideas and beliefs and can be worth effort.

Creationism vs. evolution however is not worth debating. Why? Simple, there is nothing to debate. Evolution is a scientific fact, backed by mountains of evidence, peer-reviewed papers you could stack to the moon and an incredible scientific community consensus.  Creationism is a debunked mythology that is based solely in faith. It has zero peer-reviewed papers to back up its claims, it has absolutely no scientific consensus and is not even considered science due to the fact it cannot be tested.

Why would a scientist debate this? Nye would do more good on his own going on TV and discussing evolution and the importance of scientific education instead of giving Ken Ham any publicity and a public forum with thousands, if not millions of viewers, to spew his dishonesty. Ham is a snake oil salesmen and Nye just offered him up an infomercial to sell his product. Ham can repeat his mantra over and over; “teach the controversy”.

Nye is not a biologist

I do not know an incredible amount about Bill Nye other than I loved his show. However, a Google search only turned up that Nye has nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in engineering and three honorary doctorate degrees. We fault Christian apologists almost daily for trying to ride their honorary degrees, it would seem only fair we hold Nye to the same standard.

So we have Nye, a very smart man with a degree in engineering, not biology, not anthropology, and he does not practice any form of research science. Nye should be credited greatly for his work in education; but as a qualified candidate to defend evolution, especially against the likes of conmen like Ken Ham, he is not.

You must fully understand your opponent

This is mere speculation but I have no reason to believe that Nye has the firm grasp on creationism that would be needed to go up against the likes of someone like Ham.

To win a debate successfully you must understand your opponent’s position better than they do, in fact, you should know it well enough that you could debate for them.

Creationists have no rules, their dishonesty stops nowhere. Nye will attempt to use proper science and reason to bring down Ham, but Ham will care little for any facts or evidence and will stick to nonsense and will feed on audience ignorance and use terms like “irreducible complexity” to confuse the watchers into thinking he has made a valid point. Key phrases like “half a wing” will fly from his lips as he openly ignores science’s amazing understanding of the evolution of things like the eye, or wings. Ham will be relying on faith and pushing the biblical teachings onto the viewers and will attempt to call out anytime science could have been wrong to tear down its credibility.

This debate is being held at the Creation Museum itself and this will ensure that the brain-dead creationist zombies come out in droves to support Ham and loudly applaud anytime he manages to string together and coherent sentence, or even more likely shouts that his grandmother was no monkey.

I honestly think it would be fantastic to see Nye destroy Ham, but will that do any good? Suddenly a little known figure outside of his circles, Ham will be thrust into the spotlight, reaching impressionable youths around the world, and as great as it would be to see him taken down, the risks of him winning are greater.

The American people are not going to dissect Nye’s credentials to accept such a debate and if he goes down, he will take down a lot of hard work in science with him. If the American people, who are already weary of science and already disown the idea of evolution as quickly as possible, see who in their minds is a top scientist lose to a creationist, we will have taken steps backwards in time.

The risk versus reward in this scenario is not worth it. Nye is putting a lot at risk and he is not the man to do so.

Creationism is a worthless and uneducated position to hold in our modern society and Nye is about to treat it as an equal, debatable “controversy”.

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  • gil

    hi dan. i have learn a lot about evolution and i dont think you right. evolution actually have a lots of problems. take this argument for example:

    a) we know that a self replicate robot that made from dna need a designer

    b) from a material prespective the ape is more complex then this kind of robot

    a+b= the ape need a designer

    the evolutionist always says that a watch need a designer because it cant self rplicat. so if we will find a self replicat watch we need to say that is made by itself . but we know that a watch, even if it self replicat and have DNA, its still an evidence for design.
    so, what you think?
    have a nice day

    • http://www.danarel.com/ Dan Arel


      Sorry to say whoever taught you about evolution did not do so honestly.

      #1. A self replicating robot? No robot is made from DNA. This argument doesnt even make sense.

      DNA shows no sign of a designer, especially with the amount of problems that can come from bad replication. Would a designer be sloppy enough to make DNA that has this many faults?

      2. Again, robots, this argument doesnt work. Yes, an ape is complex, but still you are not showing any proof of a designer.

      so a+b = you have not made any argument.

      Next, you use the word “evolutionist”. Only creationists use that word.

      So you have no studied or learned anything about evolution, you have simply learned how to form bad arguments against it.

      • gil

        hi again dan.

        you said:

        ” No robot is made from DNA. This argument doesnt even make sense.”-
        i dont think so. lets say that someone will creat such a robot. or even scientist will be find such a robot on mars. is that kind of robot will be an evidence for design?
        about my use in the word “evolutionist”, i use to say evolutionist like creationist. i dont think there is a problem here.
        by the way- english isnt my native.
        have a nice day

  • R2D3

    Atheistic evolutionists such as PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott say there is no scientific evidence against evolution.

    If any evolutionists say no such evidence exists, or indeed could exist, how then can evolution be testable?

    • http://www.danarel.com/ Dan Arel

      #1 there is no such thing as an evolutionist.

      #2 they said there is no evidence against it. they didnt say there CANNOT be evidence against it.

      If there was scientific evidence against it, we wouldn’t continue to call evolution true. However, to date, all evidence continues to confirm evolution and or further our understanding of it.

      • R2D3

        From the Free Dictionary (online):

        evolutionist (ˌiːvəˈluːʃənɪst)


        1. (Biology) a person who believes in a theory of evolution, esp Darwin’s theory of the evolution of plant and animal species

        • http://www.danarel.com/ Dan Arel

          also known as a word only creationists use.

          no scientist uses the word evolutionist. the definition also says “believes” in evolution.

          we dont believe in it. it doesnt require a belief. we understand the evidence that tells us it is true.

          you’re scientific ignorance is not proof of creationism. it is simply proof of your scientific ignorance.

          • R2D3

            Michael Ruse is a philosopher of science who specializes in the philosophy of biology. He is presently at Florida State University.

            Back in 2000 he wrote: “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion–a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint–and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it–the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”

      • R2D3

        1. How are you defining “evolution”? If you just define evolution as “change over time” then there would be no creationists! Microvariation occurs. So what.

        2. What would be an example of scientific evidence that would convince you evolution was false?

  • http://www.danarel.com/ Dan Arel