Debate Notes: Ham vs Nye

Well having previously blogged about it, I stayed up late (really late, I’m in the UK) to watch this, and as I did so I made a few notes.

[If you have time, just skip my notes and watch the YouTube recording (below).

First my overall Summary:

Bill nailed in … Ken did the usual creationist gish-gallop,  but Bill ignored and instead laid out a clear case that demolished creationist claims. By the time we got to rebuttals and counter-rebuttals, Ken looks very flustered and clearly wished he was elsewhere as Bill pointed out that Ken had failed to address any of the points he raised. He overflowed with confidence and passion.

This will be really really embarrassing for AIG to promote, I’d bet that the recording will quietly disappear asap.

Anyway … here is a quick summary of the entire debate in one picture.


Now for a few details:

Live stream opens with an ad for the Creation Museum (Oh Joy).

Introductions and then Ken goes first (they tossed a coin to decide that).

Ken starts by introducing us to Stuart Burgess (his favourite pet creationist / scientist). He is basically giving us a “Hey, we are scientists” pitch. So far all this really confirms is that smart people can indeed believe some really whacky stuff. Ah … now he is attempting to redefine the word science to also include the supernatural in its scope! (WTF!) … and now we get bible quotes.

Bill is on now (yea). He is telling us a story about Bow ties, and learning how to tie them … (its a funny story) … he then asks “Here tonight we will have two stories, so which will hold up to being challenged?”. He then talks about Noah’s Ark, points out the claims, knocks holes in them and then asks “Is that claim reasonable?”. He then talks about the Grand Canyon and how consistent it is. Finally he points out that many religious people have no problem with evolution – US leads the world with science and technology and asks “Is Ken Ham’s model of origins viable? No.

Ken is up now for a 30 min presentation to make his case.

(Wow about half a million people are watching this on YouTube – and some of them are group feeds)

We are back to being introduced to smart people who also happen to believe crazy stuff. So far we just have religious people who are also scientists making assertions, no actual evidence yet (don’t hold your breath). We now have an assertion that other scientists are “afraid” to speak out (but no evidence for this claim, just an assertion). Now he is blathering on about “physical” geology and “historical” geology (Say what!).  Oh wow, he just played the “None of us actually saw the sandstone being laid down” card. He is all over the place here, and yes, its a Gish Gallop, he is rapidly jumping topics. “We all have the same evidence, its a battle over how we view it” … “We weren’t there” … “If we assume the bible is true, there we have testable evidence …” rattles off a list. Now is babbling about animal kinds and trees of life, is twisting it all so that it fits his model. Oh boy, he is now attempting to  redefine the word “evolution” as well, and is claiming that “evolution”is just a “belief”. (This guy deserves a gold medal for “bullshit”). Oh and now we get introduced to another pet scientist (sigh! … its back to an appeal authority time again).

Oh nasty – he just slipped in a fraudulent claim that Darwinism resulted in racism.

Ken is summing up now (I hope) and so repeats his redefinitions of evolution and science. Is claiming a distinction between observational science and historical science (a typical creationist bit of nonsense). Is playing clips of Bill and quote mines bits. Genesis is “literal history” (another WTF moment) … religious babble … jesus this and jesus that …(takes a side shot at the gay community .. “marriage is one man and one woman”) … more religious babble … jesus .. saved … yada yada … oh, he is banging on now about science text books “their naturalistic religion is being imposed” .. switches topic again to claim (falsely) that belief is the only moral position … finishes with more religious babble, died on the cross etc… (And this makes his case for the topic because?)

Well yes … he was jumping all over the place here …it really was a classical gish gallop.

OK, Bill is up … he is crying and admits that Ken has convinced him that he is wrong and announces that he has just converted … oh wait, no that did not happen :-)

Bill ignores it all, and focuses on the actual topic. Is talking about the geology under their feet there in KY, “How could this limestone have come into existence in such a short time period?”, then talks about ice cores, “We drill into ice and pull out long ice cores that demonstrate 680,000 layers, that means we need 170 winter/summer cycles each year if the earth is only 4,000 years old,  we would have noticed that”. Now talks about trees older than 4,000 years. Talks about Grand Canyon, how could we have had some many different and very consistent layers [This is great stuff … he is connecting and nailing it]. If the Grand Canyon was due to a flood, should we not have had Grand Canyons all over the place.

Bill is discussing Noah’s ark – how did the diversity of life happen? We should find evidence of kangaroos outside Australia. 7,000 kinds has now given us 16,000,000 species today … we should be seeing new species emerge each day if this explosion of life was true. Bill is still rolling … example after example of things that are simply impossible if the earth is only 4,000 years old. Now is talking about Noah’s ark and just how impossible the ark actually is to actually build. Now is demonstrating how evolution successfully predicted a type of animal that was unknown at the time of the prediction and was indeed later discovered in the rock strata exactly where it should be. Creationism cannot and does not make predictions. Bill is now doing a quick review as to why we accept the big bang theory as factual. Is now explaining how we know how old the fossils are. We can measure the distance to stars (explains how), there are billions of stars … how can this be if the world is only 4,000 years old … how can we have rocks, trees ice cores that are all far older than the earth? The proposed ark is not viable, how can it have even been? Final plea to encourage science education in KY.

Yep, bill really has it spot on, he completely ignored the gibberish that Ken was spouting and instead built a clear distinct and very solid case that demonstrates that creationism is complete and utter bollocks. It’s about here that Ken should burst into tears and admit that he was wrong (but honesty is not really his thing).

So basically Ken went for mostly assertions, and Bill went for clear evidence that conflicts with the creationist claims.

It’s rebuttal time … and Ken is up.

Ken admits he can’t address all the points Bill made due to lack of time (or for that matter evidence, understanding or facts) … and he is now using the bible to explain that to be his source for the 6,000 year claim. Attempting to discredit how we measure the age of rocks … uses some well worn creationist twaddle that has been debunked many times over … and he is back to religious babble … death, sin, the bible says yada yada (Yawn). The only reliable dating method is the word of god from the bible (WTF!)

Bill, is up now. He clears up the dating issues and also points out the evidence for the accuracy of dating, and then addresses the claim that sickness is due to sin. He points out that fish get ill and asks, “are the fish sinners, have they done something wrong?” (LOL) … as for being unable to observe the past … that’s what we do in astronomy. He points out that ken’s thinking is simply a belief in magic … as for Ken’s assertion that all animals were vegetarians … ken has the Bible, Bill has lions with teeth (and so he bites back quite effectively). Bill points out that Ken wants us to accept his reading of the bible as something that trumps evidence based science … why should we take his word for this?

Ken is up for a counter rebuttal. (He is being eaten alive by Bill and looks more than a bit flustered at this point). Ken now goes with, “There are lots of creation scientists that agree with what the bible says” … “who says Noah could not build a big boat”

Bill is back for a counter-rebuttal. Points out the Ken failed to counter the main points he made and goes over them again … ice cores, etc… Points out that professional modern shipbuilders cannot do an ark, “did Noah have shipbuilding super powers”. Then Bill addresses the  “assumptions” claim made by Ken … “Why should we accept your claim? This is just not reasonable”, and also points out that there are billions of people who are deeply religious, yet they do not accept your point of view, so what is to become of them? Bill really nails it with his closing remarks (Ken must be hiding under his pedestal by this point)

Q&A time

How does creationism account for the stars and planets? Ken starts quoting the bible (again?) It’s all to tell us how great god is (yes, another WTF moment)

What was before the Big bang? Bill: This is a great question, this is what drives us … Ken: The bible says ….

What evidence aside from the bible do you have? Ken: babbles and does not actually answer the question at all. (Now that non answer is essentially a “none” answer)

How did consciousness come from matter? Bill: I don’t know, it’s a great mystery. What drives us is the joy of discovery, there is much research going on. If we do not embrace the process of science we will fall behind. Ken: The bible says … yada yada (are we seeing a pattern here yet?)

What if anything would ever change your mind? Ken: I’ve got a belief …. (once again not actually answering the question asked) … and more or less telling us that nothing would ever enable him to change his mind. Bill: Just one piece of evidence, a fossil in the wrong layer, or evidence that you can stop atomic clocks.

What evidence do you have for the age of the earth? Bill: Explains that until we understood radioactivity we did not grasp how old things really were, then lists various provable facts, points out that Ken’s claims are not provable facts. Ken: claims no earth rock has ever been dated (??)

Can you reconcile the speed at which continents drift now happens? Ken: Appears to be claiming that they used to race around and only now move slowly (WTF). Bill: Explains (briefly) how we know that they have always moved at the same pace.

Favorite colour? (Yes this was actually pitched as a question)

How do you balance evolution with the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Bill: He explains what the 2nd law is, and what it tells us. Ken: Well god … (insert random religious babble here).

If it was established that the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe. Ken: asserts that you can never prove that (assuming of course you toss all the evidence) and god says … (yet more religious babble – I think I passed out).

Do you believe the entire bible is to be taken literally (and uses some weird examples) Ken: Yes as history, and as poetry (the Psalms) . Bill: points out that Ken is cherry picking the bits he likes and is discarding the bits he does not like.

Have you every believed that evolution was done by god? Bill: You cannot prove or disprove that a god did it all. (Oh come on, you can guess Ken’s answer)

What is the one thing more than anything else upon which you base your belief? Ken: Well … (and proceeds to babble about the bible) …Bill: I base my beliefs upon the information and the process that we call science, it fills me with joy that we can make these discoveries.

Moderator finishes and thanks both Bill and Ken.

Now here is a moment that deserves a caption …


The recording of the debate itself

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