I didn’t watch the debate last night. Nor did I read a transcript of it this morning. I did read a few articles this morning reporting on the event to get a feel for how the event turned out. After reading all the tweets last night, my thoughts were confirmed… By the way, I did think the hashtag #HamOnNye was brilliantly funny.
I was a bit concerned about the hoopla surrounding the debate last night, thinking that in the end it will only reinforce “what side you are on”. It wound’t stimulate thinking but only more firmly entrench people in three positions: 1.) Evolution is the best way to describe what happened; 2.) Creation is the best way to describe what happened; 3.) This topic is irrelevant to actual life. So in the end a debate like this has little meaning other than to offer caricatures of the arguments on both sides. Here’s an example of what I mean…
“Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era” – Ken Ham
In a debate format where the topic is the viability of the creation model vis-a-vis the scientific model and evolutionary record, there were two problems with a statement like this. First, it tries to do too much. Whether Ham was on the defensive most of evening or not, when the claim is made that it is the only viable model, that seeks to prove way too much and probably put Ham on the defensive most of the evening (if Nye was smart).
But second, creation as Ken Ham thinks of it is a literal 7 day, 24 hour period. What of those who see the first chapter of Genesis as literal but expressed poetically? That allows for some serious Bible believing people to think of creation as a longer event, not necessarily confined to a week period. Regardless of what you believe, the literal creation reading of the Genesis text is legitimate, but it is just one way to faithfully read it.
Third, there are other arguments that have to do with the philosophy of science itself that probably were never brought up. I won’t question Ham or Nye’s credentials but neither of them seemed to me to be trained in how to think about science itself. That’s problematic because rather than arguing the fossil record or rabbit trails like the morality of fish, the argument should be does a theistic explanation work (or seem plausible) as an inference to the best explanation. It might not be the only explanation but is it an explanation?
Really what Ham is arguing for is that the literal seven day model is the only viable explanation for historical science. I’m not trained in debate but that is a very tough assertion to conclusively demonstrate, let alone garner sympathy. In the end, because that doesn’t seem plausible to many people, it ends up earning scorn and mockery. That is not a very solid debate plan. Further, what it does is leave a door open to the opposing side that as long as they have some facts and are engaging, then that’s what wins. If the debate gets centrifuged down to bytes here’s an example from someones Twitter feed how you “win”:
Debate in a nutshell… Ham: “Disease is a result of man’s Fall from God’s grace.” #Nye: “Fish get diseases. Did they sin too?”
I’m not arguing here for either a young or old earth. I’m simply stating that if the Christian argument is only for a young earth and that’s the only thing that counts for explaining the existence of the earth, that is unwise. But knowing a bit about Ham’s Answers in Genesis organization and how the media turned this into a modern day Scopes Trial, you could have guessed this would turn out the way that it did…