Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kevin Ham Debates Bill Nye: Creationism vs Evolution

My wife and I chose to watch a recent debate (found here in Standard or High-Def) between Bill Nye (of PBS fame) and Kevin Ham, CEO or Answers in Genesis, a museum which puts forth one of a few different interpretations of Genesis. Specifically, Answers in Genesis bases its message on literal interpretation of the Bible, that the Earth was made in 6 24-hour periods, and that the world is just over 6000-ish years old. (There is a specific number that gets thrown around, but every year, by definition, that number will rise by 1, hence my comfortability with vaguery.)

In this debate, many points were made by Ham, and some of them quite valid, but I want to share a few specifics of where I disagree. First, he constantly points to a difference between Observational and Historical science. Observational science is the actual science, verified by observing the world and experiments and such. However, he then points to Historical science and basically says that it is a religion of itself. I've heard this one before, and it's used all the time in the debate over the teaching of evolution in schools.

Basically, the crux of the argument is this: I have determined your "historical science" is a religion, and therefore you must also teach mine, or you shouldn't be allowed to teach yours either. There's a problem with this. Historical science, as Ham refers to it, is based on the idea that I can observe Event A, occurring in conditions B, following the natural laws of physics C, that have never been seen to change on their own. From this key point, that the natural laws of physics have never been seen to change on their own, those who carry historical science as fact (which Ham views as belief), one can infer that since the laws of physics have never been observed to have changed, that they don't change without some outside (of the universe) impetus.

He then goes on to make some other points, including "pulling the race card" by citing a comment in the report of the first coding of the human genome, which states that all of the worlds people are definitively "of one race, the human race". (Inherent in this is the old ploy of "if you don't address this, you're scared because you oppose it.") From this he concludes that such is evidence of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and Biblical Genesis. The problem with this is the fact that he is ignoring several other research studies, Neanderthals are known, we have frozen bodies of them. We also have "Lucy" as well as specimens classified as Homo Erectus, Homo Habilus, and many others. These, are the scientific predecessors of humanity. No scientist has been taken seriously in the last 30 years purporting that the different ethnicities are separate species. The current belief is that there are multiple species whose interbreeding led to what we call Homo Sapiens, the human race.

Ultimately, the problem is that the Creationist model of Christianity relies on the view that everything in history and science is fundamentally unstable, and that the natural laws which have never been observed to change just suddenly became what they are roughly 6000 years ago and then haven't changed since. This is something that I just can't see how it is can be reconciled. Why do we have evidence of an expanding universe of at least 13 billion years of age, why does all the experimentation we have done on the accessible solar system hold to roughly 4.6 billion years of age. As Bill Nye put it (I'm paraphrasing), if you want me to believe your worldview, why should I when it involves throwing out such a large section of what has been observed? More to the point, why should the Creation story of Christianity take precedence over all other religions' creation stories?