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Posted by on Jan 5, 2014 in Creationism, Culture, Science | 6 comments

Bill Nye vs Ken Ham

This is the big one folks.  This has been rushing around the science/evolution/atheism groups for weeks now.  I think Aron Ra sums it up nicely.

This will NOT be a debate about science.  You will not see two men discussing the finer points of evidence and the conclusions based on that evidence.

On the one hand, you will see a creationist, with all the rhetorical tricks that have been refined for decades in debates like this one.  On the other hand, you will see someone who thinks that reality matters and uses evidence and says “I don’t know.”  None of which will help him in this situation.

Honestly, if Bill Nye says one word about science, then he has failed. His sole purpose in this debate is to make Ken Ham look like the moron that he is.  Bill cannot compete with Ken in an evidence-based playing field. The timeframe of debates does not allow it. The Gish Gallop is a powerful tool in debates and has been used by creationists for decades. Whenever Bill deals with Ken, the first words out of his mouth almost must be “That which is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Ken Ham has no evidence for any of his claims and everyone who can think rationally about these topics knows it. Bill must absolutely push Ken on the evidence that he doesn’t have. He must force Ken to admit that evolution does happen.

There is a good rhetorical trick that Bill can use.  If Ken Ham starts talking about the evidence for X AND at some points uses the old “science is faith” canard, then Bill can make Ken look very silly for trying to use science to support his views.

Honestly, I think that this will be an utter disaster. This absolutely will not change anyone’s mind.

We need to educate our students, not engage in pointless debates.

That being said, the die is cast. I hope Bill does very well and I hope that this isn’t the disaster that I think it will be. Bill, hopefully, has contacted the NCSE and gotten with their experts on creationism. One thing that I hope Bill focuses on is the lies promoted by creationists.

  • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

    Bill Nye has to play this very carefully indeed to have the remotest chance of coming out on top. It is not about facts. He will be in the lion’s den where the audience will conflate ‘any answer/explanation’ for the most plausible one. Possibiliter ergo probabiliter. He will need to explain this to the audience first up and spend some time on the philosophy of science. With time issues, he’s up against it.

  • bismarket 1

    Bill will be trying to explain reality to Creationists, i think he would have better luck with my cat

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

    James McGrath has a possible tact:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/01/geocentrism-is-better-than-young-earth-creationism.html

    Geocentrism is more “Biblical” than YEC.
    But Nye has made a “deal with the devil” and it isn’t likely to turn out well.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    Ken Ham has no evidence for any of his claims and everyone who can think rationally about these topics knows it.

    Not so. Here in the Bible Belt, there are many young people who could think rationally on any given topic, if only they were given the opportunity to explore both sides, but they have been carefully shielded from the wealth of information that science has to offer. I grew up with these kids, here in Oklahoma, hell, I used to be one of them. All they needed was someone to hand them a few science books and challenge them to really think about it for themselves instead of merely repeating the religious ideas they had imbibed on Sundays and Wednesdays.

    I was lucky enough to have a few science teachers who were completely unafraid to teach science straight up without apology or deference, but you can bet that average Kentuckian was not so lucky. Should we give up on them now because the schools have already failed them?

    Honestly, I think that this will be an utter disaster. This absolutely will not change anyone’s mind.

    In my experience, almost no one has their minds changed on the spot. The idea here is to go into a relatively creationist part of the country and open a few minds to the possibility that science has much more to offer than they have been told by their science teachers (who carefully skirted evolutionary issues) and their pastors (who actively put Darwin down).

    We have a mountain of evidence on our side, creationists have a quivering mass of rhetoric and agitprop. All we need to do to improve the world is persuade a few bright but ignorant people to go hit the libraries for themselves by turning this into a live controversy in their own minds.

    We need to educate our students, not engage in pointless debates.

    If the debates serve to open minds, they are not pointless, but rather serve as remedial or supplementary education.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      I agree with you in principle. But the creationists are not interested. They do not play fair. Ken has complete control over this debate. Tickets sold out 2 minutes after the opened up. I’m not sure if anyone on the opposing side got a ticket.

      Since he controls the venue, the audience, and the recording equipment, this ‘debate’, no matter how it turns out on stage, will result in a carefully orchestrated destruction of Nye.

      • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

        Started to write a reply here, but it got out of hand: http://goo.gl/W4FJ75