Nye Smokes Ham in Debate, by Virtue of Science In and of Itself


I watched the Nye vs. Ham debate, which is unusual since I generally don’t watch these things. They’re too depressing and even more so, sometimes frightening; but since I happened to catch it live, I figured: Why not? The best analogy I can think of when I listen to a creationist attempt to convince someone that the world is only 4,000 years old is the example of, say, the apple in hand argument. Someone walks up to someone else and says, “Look, I’m holding an apple.” This person, however, has nothing in their hand. The natural response is, “No, you are not holding an apple.” But the person arguing that he actually has an apple will persist nevertheless, until it feels like dementia is settling in for the listening parties involved.

Of note, with regard to the debate, rests in the fact that biblical scripture was presented onscreen as Ham argued. This is bizarre because the world of persuasion and rhetoric knows that in terms of the Bible, it does not function as proof of its claims.

The other matter of note was in how Bill Nye relied on scientific examples alone; that and his ability to convey the ideas. Ken Ham perpetually had to bring in the names of other scientists, PhDs who apparently believe as he does. He threw out a plethora of dubious claims, but he kept having to invoke the appeal to authority fallacy, to alleviate his noticeable sense of discomfort. The whole — “Look! I’m not the only one who believes this!” trick — this is an indication of a weak argument. Of course, creationism is much more than a weak argument, but just saying…

Apparently, the debate was held in Kentucky. Bill Nye had his work cut out for him, though science pretty much works on its own. I actually didn’t know that Ham was from across the Atlantic (Ken Ham is Australian I have learned), signaled by his accent, but since he’s clearly fanatical, the location for the debate, and this creationist museum that’s been built, the setting was appropriate. It was obviously designed to favor Ham. I guess that’s how it’s done when you’re trying to make truth out of myth (a.k.a. bullshit).

The real factor here, which Nye touched on, was in the danger of allowing creationism into public education. For those who don’t understand, creationism is fiction; it’s textual myth. Creationism dictates truth as imagined by the minds of men living thousands of years in the past. Hypatia of Alexandria said it best on this issue: 

“Fable should be taught as fable, myth as myth, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truth is horrifying. The mind of a child accepts them and only through great pain, perhaps tragedy, can the child be relieved of them. Men will fight for superstition as quickly as for the living truth — even more so, since a superstition is intangible, you can’t get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, as so is changeable.”

Hypatia of Alexandria (370 – 415 BC)

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14 Responses to Nye Smokes Ham in Debate, by Virtue of Science In and of Itself

  1. I’m still and I think you’re right… scientist vs. preacher gives us exactly what I expected: A scientist/engineer explaining things and challenging the preacher to use his model to predict things, loudly so. Then there is the preacher saying nothing more than god did it, a non-explanation. I think Nye is pulling off exactly what he wanted to and what I had hoped for.

  2. alexdbear says:

    I posted a similar review. I was chuckling at the 5 or so “scientists” he kept having to establish ethos with. Not to mention constant fallback on scripture instead of science. There is no place for these people in scientific endeavours. Creationism is an hypothesis. Evolution is a theory. That debate was nearly three hours of facepalm.

  3. alexdbear says:

    Having to establish ethos by bludgeoning us with the names of what… 5 “scientists”.. Is pathetic. Creationism is an hypothesis, evolution is a theory. People like Ham need to stay out of science, i’m sorry. Their work has the foundation of something that can never be proven, and will ultimately do science.more harm than good. I don’t build a house on invisible, intangible concrete, and we cannot accept scientific work built that way.

  4. Peter says:

    The quote from Hypatia is bogus. It, as well as all other quotes supposedly from Hypatia, was invented by Elbert Hubbard in his book, “Little Journeys to the homes of Great Teachers,” published in 1908 book. There are no historical documents in existence containing any first hand writing of Hypatia’s, the only record of anything said by Hypatia is a letter written by Synesius of Cyrene (a christian Bishop), to Hypatia, where he repeats a comment she made to him.

  5. Great title for your post. I really like your “apple in hand” analogy, and for reasons that go beyond the scope of this comment. You also made some good points about Ham’s annoying appeals to authority and scripture.

    But I have to disagree with your assessment that Nye won the debate. Sure, he won for those of us who already agreed with him, but for those who didn’t, Ham walked off the stage a hero, with enough fresh clout to raise millions of dollars for his “Kentucky Ark Lark”. I’ve written my own post on this explaining it in more detail (link to follow), but the upshot is that at least one serious error Nye made was in failing to pounce on Ham’s gleefully stupid exploitation of the fact that “Science makes assumptions, lots of assumptions” (I’m pretty sure that’s an exact quote but I’d need to double check). In doing so I really think Nye missed an excellent chance to throw Ham to the mat and maybe even give him a wedgie in front of his shiny faced fans.

    (Imagine if Bill Nye had said something like the following: “Yes, yes, Mr. Ham, Science does make lots of assumptions, but they are not lumbering and arbitrary assumptions, any old, out-of-your-ass-umptions, like the kind that you make, Mr. Ham, when you assume the whopper of all assumptions ‘God did it’. The assumptions that Science makes, and keeps making, and will go on making, are tiny, precisely selected, carefully tested, publicly tested, repeatedly tested, and retested assumptions (hypotheses), which are scrutinized by an army of thousands, where each ‘soldier’ in that army is a highly trained expert who would love nothing more than to prove even one of those assumptions false and thus collect a Nobel prize.

    “Mr. Ham, there are assumptions, and there are ASS-umptions, and they’re NOT all created equal”.

    Heres the link to my own post. I would love your feedback on it: http://greatbandwagon.com/2014/03/03/assumptions-vs-ass-umptions-how-the-f-did-bill-nye-lose-against-ken-ham/

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