Mark Greene believes we all have to engage the debate that Bill Nye took on.
I gotta hand it to Bill Nye. He respectfully presented a masterful case in support of science and evolution against “young earth” creationist Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, the museum where they represent the biblical creation story as scientific fact. The subject of the debate: is creation a viable model of origin? Its clear that Ham promoted this debate in an attempt to legitimize his fundamentalist Biblical view of our origins. But I think he got more than he bargained for.
Doug Zeigler, Good Men Project editor had this to say about the upcoming debate:
‘Richard Dawkins had a great line about scientists debating believers. He said when you debate believers, you give them “the oxygen of credibility”. Basically, he thinks nothing fruitful can come of these kinds of debates.’
Does it give Ham credibility to be making the case for creationism on the same stage as Nye? Possibly, but I would argue that we’re past the point where creationism is being legitimized by a debate like this. Creationism has already made alarming inroads into our children’s textbooks. In our state houses and our public squares, young earth creationists continue to make the argument that creationism should be taught in our schools as a viable model of origin alongside evolution and other science based theories on the origin of man and the universe.
And so, Nye’s choice to engage this debate is an important one.
If you have an hour or so, watch the debate. The skill with which Nye makes the case for a science based model of origin echoes the great Clarence Darrow and the Scopes Monkey Trial. It is truly inspiring. Nye went in and politely but firmly called out one of creationism’s strongest advocates and dismantled his argument.
And we need more of that. We have reached a crossroads. America has become a place where the line between faith and fact is being aggressively erased by people who hold that their religious beliefs provide an adequate foundation for any system of thought. Public policy. The environment. Geopolitics. Science. No matter what the area of discussion, they hold that the answer lies in theology. The result? These people are using faith based belief systems to set public policy on every single major issue of the day.
And please note, there are millions of religious folks out there who are horrified by those who would seek to push a rigidly literal view of any religious book, Bible or otherwise on the modern world. The Taliban is the Taliban, under whatever religious banner it might march. An interesting question that comes up time and time again from my progressive Christian friends is, “Why couldn’t God have created evolution?” Indeed, why not?
The simple fact is, we all have to engage the debate that Bill Nye took on (and handled masterfully). And we have to do it with, dare I say, near religious fervor. Because we may be past the point where people like Mr. Ham need us to grant them credibility. The lack of our “oxygen of credibility” isn’t stopping the Ken Hams of the world. In fact, we may be ceding them the public stage by our absence, allowing them to own far too much of the public debate on values, gender, education policy and all the rest.
Ken Ham uses the term “historical science,” and in doing so seeks to split science into two parts, observational science which views existing events in real time (which Ham says lets us create our current technology) and historical science which is about things we can not observe because they occurred in the past.
In Ham’s opinion, we can not scientifically arrive at any conclusions about the past. Because, as he puts it over and over again, “we were not there.”Leaving, in Ham’s mind, the Bible as the only legitimate source for understanding the past. A past which he believes is only about six thousand years old.
So, now, those of us Christian or otherwise, who do not take the Bible literally, had all better start speaking out loud and clear in support of science, logic and reason. And we’d better start doing it soon. We should take Bill Nye’s lead and engage this debate with all the fervor we can muster because those who speak for young earth creationism are attempting to derail centuries of scientific knowledge and force their religious views on us all.
NPR has a remarkable timeline of the Scopes Monkey Trial which took place in July of 1925. Fundamentalist orator Williams Jenning Bryan and renowned defense attorney Clarence Darrow went toe to toe on evolution and religion.
You can view the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate here: