Last week, a video appeared on YouTube which got a considerable amount of press. It was posted by a user named “Answers in Genesis,” and it was a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. It was the age-old (since 1859) debate between evolution and creationism. In this case, the debate was centered around the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” Ken Ham is a creationist and best-selling author, while Bill Nye is a scientist and award-winning educator. Bill Nye, of course, is mostly known for his television series “Bill Nye the Science Guy” (and if most of you aren’t internally chanting Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, now then I would be very surprised.)
Ken Ham opened the debate and from the first moment he was on the defense. He seemed more concerned with dispelling myths than offering a convincing argument that creationism was a viable origins model. He showed testimonies from various scientists that identify as creationist who said that they had found no evidence that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible was wrong. It seemed, however, that all these scientists (all men, by the way) had always been creationist. In other words, there were no converts—no one who had started as an evolutionist but changed to a creationist based on the evidence. As Ham said, it’s probably because students are being “indoctrinated” with the “religion of evolutionism” in schools. If only kids were taught the proper truth of creationism, there wouldn’t be so many darn evolutionists running around!
Which brings me to another point, one that was noticed by many viewers: Ken Ham showed a complete unwillingness in change. He basically stated that even if he could go back in time and witness the Big Bang, he would still believe that God created the universe in six days. Bill Nye, on the other hand, stated that if one person could go out and find proof that contradicted the theory of evolution, science would be revolutionized and he would be more than willing to alter his opinion. It was almost funny at times when audience members (through previously submitted questions) asked what proof Ham had for creationism. The resulting conversation went a little something like this:
“What proof do you have for creationism?”
“This book right here, it has all the answers.”
“No, no. I mean, what proof do you have that the book is correct?”
“The book, it gives all the facts.”
“But how do you know that the book is right?!”
“Because it says so.”
“What says so?”
It would be funny, except for the fact that he truly believes that a book can validate itself based on the assumption that it was written by an all-knowing, all-powerful deity. I don’t necessarily want to give an opinion one way or the other, but this is an opinion piece, so I will. It seems ridiculous that people can refute enormous amounts of data by claiming that a deity simply created everything as-is without providing reasoning because God knew what he was doing and doesn’t need to explain it to us mere mortals. That a book written a mere two thousand years ago can somehow hold the answers to life, the universe, and everything seems, quite frankly, incredible.
And, come to that, the book we know today as The Bible wasn’t even around when Jesus was alive. “Well of course not,” you say, “Jesus’ followers wrote down what he said and that became the Bible.” True, but also completely wrong. The first known complete Bible in its modern form is from around the 4th century, nearly four hundred years after the death of Jesus. Sure, the gospels and the letters of Paul and the Old Testament and various other things were floating around Christendom before that, but they weren’t all put together in a nice, neat book until four hundred years after Jesus died. The first gospel isn’t even thought to have been written for nearly one hundred years afterwards. My point is, just because it’s old, doesn’t make it right (which could go for people as well, I suppose.)
That aside, the debate highlighted an ongoing feud between religion and science that is far older than Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” In recent times it seems to have fallen somewhat to the wayside politically, but this debate made it clear that there is still a sharp divide, even among scientists. However, even though Christians make up nearly a third of the world’s population, all Christians aren’t creationists. The Bible is old and at the time its ideas were conceptualized, humans had a very limited knowledge of the world around them. Ideas have evolved (no pun intended) as has our conception of our world.
It is wrong to generalize all scientists as evolutionists, strangely, but it is also wrong to generalize all Christians as creationists. Ken Ham represents a rather vocal segment, perhaps even a minority, among Christians, but he is by no means representative of the whole. Bill Nye seems to represent a larger population, but is also not representative of the whole. At the very least, the debate gives us something to think about and spurs us to question our perceptions and our beliefs about our world and universe and where it is we really come from.
—Lily Elbaum ’16 is an international studies major.