(The spacing in my Word document is a bit different. Sorry!)
It has taken me a while, but I finally found the time to finish the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I have the benefit of watching a recorded version so I am able to pause and take notes when something interesting is said. I am very excited to hear both perspectives and I hope that I walk away having learned a lot. I, however, am disadvantaged as I was forced to watch the entire 2 hour 45 minute debate between several dates. Hopefully the notes I took along the way prevent me from disconnecting any major points of the debate.
A lot of us know Bill Nye regardless of religious beliefs or lack of. If you had any sort of normal childhood in the '90s and a television, you probably saw his show. When I was young, I thought Bill Nye was just an actor but it turns out he is an actual scientist, engineer, and genius. Not only that, but he had the privilege of learning from Carl Sagan (Another personal hero of mine). During the Superbowl, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane's teaser for The Cosmos aired. A re-make of the brilliant series by Carl Sagan that aired in 1980 and I am very much looking forward to it. I did learn that some people don't take Nye seriously because of his Emmy winning background, a position I disagree with. I cannot make the connection as to why being a successful Emmy winning producer, writer, and host should take away from your credibility as an engineer and scientist. As Nye explains in his closing statement, when you're in love, you want the world to know.
Ken Ham is probably not a household name, but that doesn't mean he should be discredited (The same way I don't think Nye should be discredited because he is known). I have only gotten snippets of Ham so I don't know too much about him. I know he is one of those people that believe that dinosaurs and humans once roamed the earth together. I do feel a bit sorry for him because he wants so badly for science and religion to co-exist. Perhaps that is possible, most likely unreasonable, but no one is here to tell him that it's impossible. I've seen interviews with plenty of Catholics leaders that believe in science and religion and do a good job of separating the two. Mr. Ham (At least in the material I have seen him in) fails to separate religion and science when it is necessary and is willing to suspend facts to support his own belief. (And now that I have completed the debate, I believe in this position even more).
I felt like the opening statements portion was the most bearable and "reasonable". Reasonable in the sense that both sides made their points, interests were raised, and you wanted to hear more. The second half increasingly became frustrating because of Ham's inability to answer any of the questions or address any of the challenges that went his way.
I'm so glad Mr. Nye addressed this strange idea of "observational" science and "historical" science. It's difficult to understand why the scientific method applies to one, but not the other. He did a great job handling a strange idea that he was exposed to for the very first time. It's very difficult to break down a new idea on the stop. It's much more fair to have an idea, to sit and examine it, and to pull it apart and put it back together before you can explain it in full. Nye wasn't afforded this luxury and was still impressive enough to dispel this kooky and random method of operating.
But not all my frustrations in the opening statement were directed at Mr. Ham. I was already growing impatient with Nye's call to scientific support. I absolutely support this idea that we need to inspire the next generation of scientists and I absolutely believe that humans will only thrive as far as reason, intellect, and scientific advancement will allow us to. But stop taking this "patriotic" angle and just debate Ham. Win the debate, and inspiration will generate itself because no one will want to go down the path of Ham.
I am glad that Mr. Ham was able to address something a lot of Christians are afraid to address these days. It's no longer dangerous to be in support of equal rights when it comes to the LGBT community. Many of us know this line of thinking doesn't quite jive with the Christian way of thinking. Mr. Ham claims that humanists, secularists, and scientists have hijacked the word "Science". He also claims that those groups of people also are out to indoctrinate children. They aren't. Quite the contrary actually because science asks them to be open minded, to question, and to progress. But I will side with Ham on a position and if any idea has been hijacked it is "Christian Morality". These Christian apologists have blurred, mashed together, and made confusing what Christian morality is and the morality of those that want a fairer, safer, more consistent, and loving world. Do not get me wrong, Jesus preached great things and I am a fan of Jesus Christ. It's more the Christian god that I am upset with. The point I am getting to here is, I am glad that Ham has the backbone to stand up and say that "marriage" is between a man and a woman. A lot of Christians these days don't have the courage to stand up for the book they live by. For that, I will applaud Mr. Ham for his strength and criticize his stance on morality.
It's only when the rapid fire rebuttals and the Q&A begins that the debate begins to unravel a bit and we see Nye separate himself and take the lead in the debate. Ham refused to answer any of the proposed questions. And by refuse I don't mean that he choose to not speak, but he kept reciting the same practiced answers as if this were a Sarah Palin interview. Or, he ignored major portions of the question entirely. Nye had a different, and thoroughly supported responses for all the questions and then on top of that expanded on the questions and asked Ham to elaborate. I actually learned about physics, about biology, about chemistry, about the cosmos, about ship making, about evolution, and so many other sects of knowledge because Nye explained his answers in detail. Nye also tried to come in with his point again about the future of America and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) being the key to a flourishing future. We get it, Bill Nye The Science Guy.
I also did not expect that the two would dissect the topic and story of Noah's ark so much. I agree with Christian apologists on this one that the story of Noah's ark so be taken as...well, story. To believe this as an actual and literal story would be akin to believing Lord Of The Rings, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Thor, or any other fictional story or character as non-fictional. When you're a child, you do have license to let your imagination run wild. If your child wants to believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Santa Clause, that is totally fine. But when you become an adult and you need to make decisions off facts, and based on reasonable ideas and intuition, you need to harness that imagination a bit. This is what a lot of Christians fail to do. With all that in mind, if you were still somehow on the fence about the story of Noah's ark, then Nye's explanation about Noah's ark should have tipped the scales. Not only did he present an argument with reason (much like the way I outlined above), then be brought logic into it, and then lastly he brought history and physics into it. The story about the ship bending and taking in water is something I never would have thought of or have heard of. For many reasons, but for one I don't work on boats. I also don't know the physical properties of wood well enough to be able to understand that's what happens. This should have been the last we heard about the story of Noah's ark, but it continues as the debate does.
Also, it makes difficult the point Ham made about "observational" science and "historical" science. There is a large disconnect and major inconsistency. Mr. Ham claims that Mr. Nye cannot know or project to know what happened, let's say, 4000 years ago because Nye was not there to observe what happened. This is the case Ham was making against Nye when they were talking about the age of the earth, the atmospheric bubbles trapped inside ice, the fossils that are excavated, the rings in trees, and so on. Since Nye did not witness those things happen, he cannot claim to know any of those things. However, the same can be said about Ham not witnessing the Christian God hand down any of the laws he desires, nor the creation of the world as explained in genesis, or Noah's ark, or how the Bible was written and the credibility of the Bible because he simply was not there. Ham cannot have it both ways.
Ham also continued to sidestep every question and rebuttal that came his way and it became increasingly frustrating. Not the most exciting speaker as it is, it almost became unbearable when he continued to waste our time by not addressing anything. He continuously played a game of semantics to avoid supplying us with anything substantial. At one point, he asked us what "literally" meant. Oh, I don't know...maybe what we all mean when we use the word "literally"? Mr. Ham also went on to say incredibly stupid things like, "It's not survival of the fittest, it's the survival of those who survived," and "It's true, that's why it's true". What does that mean? That's like if you looked up the word "bread" in the dictionary and the definition read, "bread". It explains nothing! It doesn't even attempt to. It's lazy, and when you're engaged in a debate, it's cowardly.
Also, before I wrap this up, I have a historical question. Mr. Ham credits the invention of logic as a Christian invention. Obviously Ham's credibility is pretty low after this debate, but it's worth trying to figure out. Historically speaking, is logic a Christian creation?
I think it was a mistake for Bill Nye to debate Ken Ham. There was very little upside for him to debate Mr. Ham, while the upside for Ham was exponentially greater. The trouble with a debate is that the point isn't actually to find the correct answer. It is to win by either showcasing your position and ideas, or by bringing down the other person's idea enough to make your stance the more viable position. Even with that, Bill Nye was able to win the debate and hopefully he generated inspiration and momentum for the reasonable, and scientific community. There is a poll that was taken shortly after the debate and even Christians overwhelmingly thought Nye won the debate. It was probably a mixture of his charisma, his tone (Ham's tone almost seemed indifferent), smiling (Ham looked like death!), and the fact that he brought information with him. Congratulations and thank you to Mr. Bill Nye for allowing reason to prevail.
Before I end all this, I do have to reference Christopher Hitchens. One of the most articulate, knowledgeable, and greatest debaters I know. Ken Ham at one point brings up that without Yahweh and the Bible, that the world would be without morals because there would be no origin. I would pay money to watch Christopher Hitchens take down Mr. Ham on this point. No one demolished Christian morals the way Hitchens did. For that, we are forever in his debt and I miss him greatly. Simply read Leviticus and Deuteronomy (you could look elsewhere too and find shocking material, but those are easy places to start) to know that if we lived in a world of Christian morals, it would be a horrific place to live.
Be opening minded, love, and progress.
(No proof reading was done. I hope this makes at least a little sense).
Do you have to commit intellectual suicide to be religious? Although I would very much like to say you do have to hand over any license to be intelligent when you choose the path of blind faith, I just donít think itís fair to say that. My objective side tells me that truth is power, and because truth is power, Iíve chosen not to be a theist. To claim that religious people are committing intellectual suicide just on ďgut-feelingĒ would put me into the same pool as those who practice blind faith. Can you be a theist and also have a great progressive mind? I think it certainly is possible, but I do feel that having the burden of being a theist does create unnecessary barriers. This is a shame because what if these barriers hinder a great mind from changing the course of history. Imagine how many great ideas and inventions we might have missed out on.
We do need to be very careful when mixing blind faith and intellect. When we throw blind faith and evidence into the same pot, we are creating a mess. Mixing the two together gives faith credibility it doesnít deserve. Iíve heard some argue that being intolerant of religion is just as dogmatic as religious folk. I used to agree with this sentiment, but now I think there is a rebuttal to be made. I watched Sam Harris give a speech at TED that really opened up a new perspective for me. I thought being completely tolerant and open minded was a great thing, but Sam Harris suggested that being too open minded and too liberal is actually harmful. Instead of trying to sum up Harrisí great speech, Iíll just provide the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww. For me to even attempt summarizing his insights would be shameful. The part that stood out to me was when he talked about Saudi Arabia and continued to explain that when we know something is just plain wrong, it isnít intolerance to be firmly suggest a correction.
I was at church this weekend reading a book about the culture of gardening and the book suggested that the earth has been around for 3 billion years and that we need to look to the earth for gardening tips. However, after reading that tip, it occurred to me that some people believe the earth doesnít have 3 billion years of gardening experience to draw upon. Christians believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and this to me shows a certain level of arrogance. Christians believe that this giant blue ball was created in their honor. There is no humility in believing that this beautiful planet was put together just so we could walk around on it and do harm to each other and other living creatures. No, I believe the earth was around before we were, and the conditions happened to be just right for us to make a home on it. The earth was around before we were and will most likely continue spinning when we are gone. There is no humility in believing that the earth was created for us, and that the earth ends when we do.