All We’ve Left Unsaid: Bill Nye and Ken Ham

bill-nye-the-science-guyLast night I tuned in with over a half million other viewers to watch the “Scopes Trial” of our generation–okay, that’s a huge overstatement.  However, it was a nostalgic experience for me.  On the one side, I was watching “The Science Guy”, a man I loved to watch on T.V. as a kid.  On the other side, I was experiencing a throwback to eighth grade earth science, especially when Ham coyly used his forever quotable statement about the flood: “Billions of dead things buried in the rock layer laid down by water all over the earth!”

I just finished reading Al Mohler’s blog post “Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man–The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate“, and it provides a good analysis of the debate and the worldviews from which the two opposing arguments spring forth.

However, there were several things that I felt were left unsaid and several things I wish were left unsaid in this discussion.  And I do mean discussion, because as far as debates go these days, this one was done with far more professionalism, respect, and order than we usually expect (e.g. the presidential debates).

Ken Ham’s Sticky Point

I was disappointed that Ham allowed the age of the earth to become such a stumbling block to his argument.  Not all Christians who hold to a literal six-day creation believe the earth is 4,600 years old.  It is quite possible that there are gaps in the genealogies that allow for the insertion of addition spans of time.  I wish Ham would have conceded that the earth could be much older just to allow the discussion to push beyond the age of the earth.

Ultimately, the Bible doesn’t tell us the age of the earth.  It does, however, tell us that God was the Designer.  As I watched, I was like, “Less talk about age of the earth, more talk about intelligent design!”  This gets at a more foundational presupposition than the age of the earth argument.  Nye denies an intelligent, creative Designer, while Ham believes in one.  Ham could have been very successful in raising arguments based on evidence for intelligent design–irreducible complexity being one concrete example that comes to mind.

(Note: It is possible that Ham did in fact raise this argument, as the YouTube link went dead several times for a few minutes at a time during the debate, and I may have missed it!)

Hamming Up Genesis

I really enjoyed Ham’s perspective on Genesis.  Genesis is more than just about the beginning of the universe.  It is about the beginning of the universe, and mankind, and gender, and marriage, and biological science (the naming of species in the Garden), and sin, and death, and animal sacrifices, and the family, and murder, and languages, and God’s chosen people through Abraham, and their journey to Egypt.  That’s a whole heck of a lot of beginnings, and Ham did a great job in illustrating this point.  Genesis is more than a history text.  It’s a systematic theology for the people of God presented in truthful historical narrative.

Ham was unashamed to admit that the Bible was the foundation of his belief.  One of his main objectives was to call evolutionists to make the same basic statement–that they have foundational presuppositions upon which they build their scientific reason.  I do think he was inarticulate in explaining the differences in the genres of the books of the Bible, and this was somewhat detrimental to his explanation of a book like Genesis.  Once you admit to a scientist that Genesis 1-3 is quite poetic, it is immediately written off as fiction.  Historicity and poetry are completely disjointed in “the reasonable man’s” mind.  I have argued here why that is not the case.

Lastly, Ham really got some digs in on Nye near the end when they were answering questions.  Nye was fully engaged when he was speaking about discovery of the unknown, finding the meaning of life, and the origins of the universe. In response, Ham basically said: “There’s a book for that!”  It was cute, but I think it was trite.  And I also think Ham missed a huge opportunity.  However, I was especially pleased at the earnestness with which Ham shared the complete gospel several times in his presentation and dialogue.  This is absolutely necessary in any discussion between Chrsitians and non-Christians.

Science Rules!

Bill Nye’s approach was very interesting.  Like Ham, he skirted issues he did not wish to answer directly (a very typical debate tactic), and he emphasized his talking points.  Particularly, he used this platform as an opportunity to plead with parents and children to treasure science, mathematics, astronomy, and engineering.  In many of his answers, he ended with a flourish in which he looked into the camera and earnestly implored for the youth of America to apply themselves in the discovery of the sciences.

Unfortunately, this was also a thinly veiled slap in the face of the intelligent design camp, because by implication, he was stating that belief in intelligent design kills the drive of discovery.  Multiple times Nye implied that Ham’s view fetters the sense of scientific wonder.  Honestly, Ham played right into Nye’s hand with his “It’s all in this book!” responses.  I know that Ham’s team and other creation scientists do not allow the answers in Genesis to make them apathetic in their search for discovery.  Ham should have addressed this implication and argued just as vigorously that Christians are driven to explore the universe by the divine command of God and by their curious delight in finding out more about our Maker.

Science or Science?

I found Ham’s distinction between observational science and historical science to be very helpful.  Nye was completely unwilling to admit that there is a distinct difference between what we are able to observe in the present with our five senses and what we claim to know about the past.  Ham would have done well to argue on the basis of authority.  We only know things about history because of eyewitness testimony.  We accept the testimony of men from the past on the basis of faith.  We know Napoleon Boneparte existed not because any of us have actually seen him with our eyes, but because we trust the records, paintings, and books that tell us he did.  So it is with any part of history.

Showing His Hand

In Nye’s closing comments, I think we saw a clear display of our Creator.  Nye said there were two foundational questions that drove him to push further and further in his investigation of the universe:

Where did we come from?

Are we alone in this universe?

Wow.  Romans 1 tells us that God has put this desire to know our Creator within each of us, and we heard it last night straight from the scientist’s mouth.  May Nye finally discover the answers to these two timeless and God-ordained questions.  May the Holy Spirit open his eyes to the answers in Genesis

(photo credit)

P.S.–The title of this post is an homage to Bill Mallonee’s “All We’ve Left Unsaid” from his album My Year in Review.

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

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