Social media is abuzz with expectation. Tickets to the event sold out in just two minutes. Viewers streaming live for free will surely exceed those watching any recent political debates. You would think something earth-shattering will be happening.
I doubt it.
I’m referring to the much-hyped debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham the Answer Man which marks the first time the creation vs. evolution debate has reached this level of publicity. Indeed, I suspect that both sides are mainly doing it for the publicity. Neither of them will likely be disappointed. Let’s look at the players in this drama and find out why:
Bill Nye is a thoroughbred evolutionist. He studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University, but he was captivated by one of his science professors, Carl Sagan. Sagan was a dyed-in-the-wool evolutionist in his own right who popularized the phrase “billions and billions of years”. Sagan inspired Bill Nye to pursue the field of natural science, where he has made his mark as the popular TV host of the show Bill Nye the Science Guy.
As one watches or listens to Bill Nye, it becomes evident that he is passionate about science. The reason for his passion is that, for him, science (or at least his version of it) helps him make sense of the world. By mastering science Nye feels like he is in control of his place in the universe. In essence, he has built his worldview around evolution. The video embedded below demonstrates this very well.
As one might expect, Nye offers scathing criticism of anything that threatens his worldview. In this video (and others) he doesn’t deal with the claims of creation versus evolution, but instead dismisses them in a very disdainful tone. He cannot bring himself to consider or interact with opposing ideas because they threaten the security of his worldview. This is obviously not a good debating tactic, but will likely prove to be popular with those who share his worldview. He won’t persuade anyone, but he’ll get his pot shots in, and the people on his side will be happy.
Ken Ham was raised in a conservative Christian family in Australia. As there are few Christian colleges in Australia, he attended the Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia. While in college, he became dismayed to see fellow Christians abandoning their faith as they studied evolution in the classroom. As a result, he co-founded the Creation Science Foundation in Australia and later, the Answers in Genesis ministry in the US.
Ham has the ability to dynamically engage a broad audience well and has been able to popularize the concept of creationism in a way that has not happened before AiG. His specialty is providing ammunition – short snippets or “answers” – against evolution like his oft-repeated mantra, “Were you there?”
Again, a serious evolutionist will not be persuaded by pat answers from a person with no scientific credentials. But creationists who are watching (the debate is on their turf) will be happy to see that their view is being represented in the public marketplace of ideas (much to the chagrin of Richard Dawkins).
So in the end, this is not really a debate, but a drama. Viewers are eager to tune in and watch the faceoff between two popular figures. And the winner will not be the one who argues best, but the one who gets the most out of the publicity.