On Tuesday of this week, we had a group of people here at Bethany to watch the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye about whether biblical creation is a valid scientific model of origins. Here are some thoughts about what we saw:
- Both Ken Ham and Bill Nye ended the debate with the same position in which they started the debate. Ham is a creationist and Nye is an evolutionist.
Ken Ham is willing to call both evolutionists and creationists “scientists” in the same sense, but Bill Nye is reluctant to call creationists “scientists,” convinced by his own reason that anyone who believes in creation is incapable of scientific research or engineering, and that unless children learn to be evolutionists, America will fall behind other nations in scientific development.
Ken Ham notes a distinction between observational science and a historic kind of science. In observational science, it is possible to apply the scientific method, make predictions, test hypotheses, and make practical applications. Anyone can participate equally in observational science, whether they are creationists or evolutionists. When looking at pre-historic origins, however, everyone is limited to formulating theoretical models from the same evidence, but no conclusive tests can be made to verify whether one model is more likely true than another. The only source of better information would be the witness of someone who was actually present through that prehistoric time. Ken Ham therefore relies upon the information provided by God in the Bible.
Bill Nye denies the distinction made by Ken Ham, and denies that the Bible is credible, on the basis of what his own reason tells him. For example, “Miracles are impossible. The Bible describes miracles, therefore the Bible is false.” Bill Nye’s worldview supporting his use of reason is known as naturalism or materialism, and is believed by many people.
There are things in Bill Nye’s model of origins that he does not understand or know, like “What existed before the Big Bang?” Ken Ham knows some of those things from the revelation of God (who has always existed) in the Bible.
From his description and use of it, Bill Nye does not seem to know much about the Bible, its origin, its transmission, or its contents. His view of science and his naturalistic worldview would dissuade him from learning about it. On the other hand, Ken Ham knows a lot about the scientific theories at the heart of Bill Nye’s worldview. The creationist scientists mentioned by Ken Ham are also highly accomplished in their scientific fields.
Bill Nye repeatedly referred to the time of the Flood as 4,000 years ago, but that only seems accurate on his usual scale of millions of years. Abraham (Genesis 12) lived 4,000 years ago, and that was several long generations after the Flood. Furthermore, Ken Ham referred to adding up the lifespans of the generations before the Flood to arrive at the total age of the Earth, but the chapters describing those lifespans are not necessarily written for the purpose of giving a mathematical sum. While the numbers of years are certainly correct there, we know that other writers of biblical genealogies have skipped generations, in order to fulfil another purpose. For example, see Matthew 1:17. The purpose of the pre-Flood genealogy of Noah was to record the names of those faithful patriarchs who passed their faith on to future generations within their own family. So the numbers thrown around during the debate as a supposed biblical age of the Earth, or the time since the Flood, were not necessarily accurate. However, the error in those numbers would be in thousands of years, not millions.
We saw an excellent illustration of Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Ken Ham knows this, but only because he believes what the Bible says. Bill Nye cannot know this, because he rejects what the Bible says. Jesus described a similar problem when He explained to His disciples why He was teaching in parables (Luke 8:10), “that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.'” St. Paul also described this in Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Christians cannot convince someone like Bill Nye that the Bible is true by simply making an argument or debate with him. That was not Ken Ham’s purpose. Rather, the only way someone can know the true origin of the world is to believe what God says. This faith is completely a gift of God, which He provides through the message of the Gospel. Now, all of us who care about Bill Nye and the truth have the task of praying that God would use the Gospel message to work a conversion in his heart. Ken Ham spoke that message more than once during the debate, and it’s also available to Bill Nye in many other places. God intervened in the life of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the Church terribly, turning him into the man we know as St. Paul. God can also convert Bill Nye, or any other non-Christian evolutionist.
We should also pray that God would correct and strengthen the faith of those Christians who are tempted to disbelieve the Bible because of the worldly pressure exerted by people like Bill Nye. There are Christian evolutionists in the world, but their Christian faith is constantly under attack within their own hearts by the naturalistic, materialistic worldview of evolution.
Finally, we should imitate our merciful God as we show love to our neighbors, many of whom are confused and misled by teachings like evolution. Since the public school system is unable to allow creationism equal footing with evolution, it would be a good thing for us to teach as many children as possible to understand the world in a biblical way. That’s one of the strong reasons why it would be a wonderful thing if God were to bless Bethany with a Christian day school.