The Science Guy vs The Creationist

Jerry Coyne scores the debate between Bill Nye and young-earth creationist Ken Ham:

Nye did a pretty good job defending evolution, and calling out Ham for crazy stuff like the Ark story and the supposed inconstancy of natural laws. But he could have done better. In response to Ham’s claim that there’s no way to test whether radiometric dating is accurate, or that different minerals in the same rock give different dates, Nye could have mentioned that we do indeed have ways to judge whether radiometric dating is reliable, in particular the isochron method. Nye used the term “higher” and “lower” animals, which even Darwin realized is not valid terminology under the theory of evolution (every species is equally “evolved” in terms of how long its ancestors have been around: we’re all about 2.5 billion years old. I realize that this is the quibbling of an evolutionary biologist, but stuff like the accuracy of fossil dating represented a missed opportunity for Nye.

Mark Joseph Stern holds that it wasn’t really a debate, as only one side was bound by reality:

For all his witless rejection of data, Ham displays a certain brilliance in rankling non-creationists with his insistent irrationality.

The maddening aspect of his creationism is not just that it’s ridiculous, but that he insists it’s a perfectly logical, empirically verifiable scientific explanation of the universe. It doesn’t matter how meticulously or forcefully Nye rebuffs the illogic of Ham’s views; Ham is always ready with a red herring rejoinder, a straw man riposte, an indignant counter-argument based on nothing but his own opportunistic exegesis. Nye has the burden of being tethered to facts; Ham has the luxury to create his own fiction.

Saletan considers the finer points of Ham’s theories:

The most intriguing part of the debate was Ham’s discussion of “kinds.” This is a creationist way of explaining visible evolution. According to Ham, finches and dogs have evolved, but finches have always been finches, and dogs have always been dogs. This boundary—evolution within kinds, but not evolution from one kind to another—is supposed to protect the myths of creation and the ark. But the boundary turns out to be flexible. To reduce the animals on the ark to a manageable cargo, Ham’s associates at Answers in Genesis have rationalized the number of “kinds” down to fewer than 1,000. This revision means that God did less of the work of diversification than originally supposed, so post-flood evolution had to do more. In effect, it’s creeping Darwinism.

Kevin Vallier makes the theological argument against young-earth creationists:

Ham, [Kent] Hovind and others act as if their interpretation of the Bible is the only “literal” one, when many church fathers have read Genesis 1-2 allegorically since Origen (184/5-253/4) (see Biologos’s discussion). Augustine is perhaps the most famous one of these. In the debate Ham says that you can believe in evolution and be a Christian, but he immediately adds that they have a severe theological conundrum in doing so (making sense of how death entered the world). Well, Mr. Ham, Augustine was pretty smart and he didn’t see the conundrum, so why should we?

Dan Vergano explores why our beliefs on this subject are so sticky:

[Yale professor Dan] Kahan’s research suggests that’s because people aren’t really answering whether they literally believe in Genesis when they answer questions about creationism and evolution. Rather, Kahan says, they are telling the pollsters what they think their friends and neighbors believe. If you’re a car dealer in a conservative Christian town, for example, you don’t want your customers to think you aren’t one of them or else you aren’t going to sell a lot of pickup trucks. Likewise, a coffee-shop owner in much more secular Boston isn’t going to make customers comfortable selling Bible stories alongside the soy lattes.