WASHINGTON — More than 800,000 people watched a clash of world views at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., on Tuesday night, with evolutionist Bill Nye, known as the “science guy” for his televised science presentations, admitting he doesn’t know how “consciousness” came to be.
On the other side of the podium was museum creator Ken Ham, who said the Bible offers an explanation about that, and many other issues, and suggested they require no more “belief” than a faith in the unobservable premises of evolution.
Near the end of the debate, each was asked what it would take to change his mind about evolution and creation. Nye said he would need “just one piece of evidence.”
Ham responded, “no one would convince him the word of God is not true.”
In perhaps the most compelling moment of the debate, Nye and Ham were confronted with the question. “How did consciousness come from matter?”
Nye replied bluntly with, “I don’t know. That is a great mystery.”
“Bill, I want to say that there is a book out there that does document where consciousness comes from,” Ham said, referring to the Bible, and adding that he believes man was created “in God’s image.”
The question posed was: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” About 1,000 people were in attendance at the Creation Museum’s auditorium, but hundreds of thousands watched online.
The debate with Nye, whose 1990s PBS Kids show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” drew large audiences, and Ham, whose ministry plans include a $60 million Noah’s Ark theme park, was moderated by CNN’s Tom Foreman.
Ham focused on “observational science” versus historical science. Throughout the debate he reiterated that Nye couldn’t be certain about events he didn’t witness.
He said the creation evolution debate is really a conflict between two philosophical worldviews based on two different accounts of origins or historical scientific belief.
“The word ‘science’ has been hijacked by secularists,” Ham said, presenting a list of top scientists who are also creationists. “The battle (over creationism) is really about authority. It’s about who is the authority, man or God.”
Ham showed a recorded video of Raymond Damadian, who helped invent the MRI, expressing his belief in Biblical creationism.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a creationist or an evolutionist,” Ham argued. “You can be a great scientist.”
Nye responded with his opinion that Ham’s biblical creationism position is “dangerous.”
“If we accept Mr. Ham’s point of view … that the Bible serves as a science text and he and his followers will interpret that for you, I want you to consider what that means,” Nye said. “It means that Mr. Ham’s word is to be more respected than what you can observe in nature, what you can find in your backyard in Kentucky.”
The unlikely opponents explained their decisions to debate each other. Nye said in an interview with HuffPost Live that he chose to debate Ham because the spread of creationism “frightens” him.
He said, “I don’t think I’m going to win Mr. Ham over any more than Mr. Ham thinks he’s going to win me over. Instead, I want to show people that this belief is still among us. It finds its way onto school boards in the United States.”
On the other side, Ham told WND it’s about a “battle of world views, secular humanism and the Christian world view.”
“I think it’s all come together at this time … and is seen by a lot of people not just as evolution vs. creation, but really more a battle of secular philosophy vs. conservative Christianity,” he said.
He said the battle is playing out in many ways today – in textbooks that promote evolution, in the banning of anything “Christian” in public Christmas displays, in what children can say in schools and in what local governments can allow on public land.
Much is at stake, Ham said.
“I don’t look on it as just defending my position,” he said. “It’s more showing that Christians can be bold in standing up, saying there is a God, the Bible is God’s word, morality comes from the Bible.”
Ham said when he was younger, atheists were ardent secularists but allowed Christians to believe the way they chose.
“These days, you’re finding them more aggressive, not against just creationism, but against people who believe in God. They call the Bible an outdated book. God is an ogre, if there is a God,” he said. “There’s all sorts of statements and name-calling.”
Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, which has had more than two million visitors in six years, pointed out how Darwin’s theory of origins taught that there were higher and lower races – something that was taught in school books for decades. It was taught that there were five races of humans and that Caucasians were the most superior.
Ham noted that if scientists had started from a biblical perspective, they would have known what scientists later discovered, that there is one human race and there is no hierarchy.
Nye jumped around, discussing fossils, sediment deposits, and carbon dating.
He spent a large amount of time challenging the science behind Noah’s Ark. Nye referenced The Wyoming, a massive wooden ship built by “talented shipwrights” that was torn apart in the waters and lost all passengers. The Wyoming was about 50 feet shorter than the Ark.
Nye zeroed in on the biblical account of Noah’s Ark and the flood, questioning how so many animals fit on a ship of its size.
“The National Zoo is 160 acres and they have only 400 species,” Nye pointed out. “Is it possible that Noah and his family were able to maintain 14,000 animals and feed them aboard a ship that was bigger than anyone was ever able to successfully build.”
Ham responded that the Ark didn’t need to carry two of every species, but two of every kind of animal.
“There hasn’t been enough time since Mr. Ham’s flood for this limestone we are standing on to come into existence,” Nye challenged. He used an equation claiming that there would have had to have been 170 winter and summer cycles per year since the flood.
“Wouldn’t someone have noticed that there was winter, summer, winter, summer 170 times in one year?” Nye said.
Ham pushed back at Nye by challenging the process of carbon dating, which he described as extremely flawed and hardly should be considered scientific.
“There are a lot of assumptions when it comes to radioactive dating,” Ham said.
“You can show the earth is not flat. You can show the earth is not 10,000 years old,” Nye exclaimed.
Ham pushed back, “You cannot observe that the earth is not 10,000 years old,” reiterating the difference between historical science and observation science.
Ham explained what he called the “Seven C’s of History” which he argued are foundational to understand human origins and where we are now. The Cs include, creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation.
The debate was set up after Nye previously posted an online video imploring parents not to teach their biblical beliefs to their children, and Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, responded with a video supporting biblical teachings.
Plans for the public debate developed from there.