Adam vs. atom: Nye, Ham debate science and creationism

(Graphic by Autumn Mariano)
(Graphic by Autumn Mariano)

By David Prete

Armed with his television personality and famous bow tie, award-winning science educator Bill Nye, better known as the Science Guy, faced off on Tuesday against young-Earth creationist and Christian author Ken Ham in a debate that has both the scientific and religious communities abuzz.

The two-and-a-half-hour event, which was held at Kentucky’s Creation Museum and streamed live to more than 500,000 viewers, featured Nye and Ham arguing and counter-arguing over the age-old question: “How did we get here?”

Ham, an Australian native and president of the Christian apologetic ministry Answers in Genesis, referenced the Bible for much of his argument and expressed the need for more academic freedom by providing instructors the ability to question and readdress evolutionary theory.

“The Bible says God created in six days,” said Ham, commenting on the Earth’s age. “From Adam to Abraham — you’ve got 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, 2,000 years from Christ to the present, 2,000 years. That’s how we reach 6,000 years.”

Nye, however, true to the animated persona that made him a staple of science classrooms in the ’90s, argued that Earth was created billions of years ago following the Big Bang and insisted that some people, like Ham, are limiting America’s scientific endeavors by weakening scientific education.

“We are standing on millions of layers of ancient life,” said Nye after displaying a limestone prop he’d gathered from Kentucky that day. “How could those animals have lived their entire life and formed these layers in just 4,000 years? There isn’t enough time since Mr. Ham’s flood for this limestone that we’re standing on to have come into existence.”

After a five-minute round of opening statements, both debaters dove into 30-minute presentations followed by two rounds of rebuttal before concluding with audience-submitted questions.

“It’s not the evidences that are different,” Ham concluded. “It’s a battle of the same evidence in regard to the past.”

The battle, which was sparked when Nye released a video in 2012 urging parents not to pass their religious-based doubts about evolution on to their children, has now turned into a widespread debate regarding what can and should be taught in the classroom.

“I was taught creationism in school,” said Drew Griffin, a Weber State University student studying performance management, following the debate. “But I was also taught evolution, the Big Bang and other versions of creationism as well. I believe in God, and I believe in creation, and I definitely think it should be taught alongside scientific theory in school.”

The latest Gallup poll regarding evolution and creation found that 46 percent of Americans believe in some sort of young-Earth creation story.

“I think we should be teaching scientific facts, not imposing religious beliefs or scientific theories,” said Alysha Sutton, a WSU student studying communications and public relations. “Let the students decide for themselves what they believe or choose to believe.”

After the debate, many viewers remained unmoved from their original sentiments, including the two debaters. When asked what could sway their opinion, Nye asked for evidence, while Ham responded that nothing could sway his faith.