In case you missed it, Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Science Museum in Kentucky, and Bill Nye (of Science Guy fame), will debate “Is Creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
You can catch the debate on 2.4.14 at debatelive.org.
It sounds like a great event. The chief apologist for Young Earth Creationism versus the most popular television personality in the realm of science. What’s not to love? Maybe someone will tune in to the debate and learn something. Hear an argument from Ken or Bill they’d never heard before. Decide to do some research on their own. Grow a little in critical thinking skills.
That’s why I felt a little dismayed when I started to read blog posts about the event:
Internet Monk: “Bad Idea. Very Bad Idea. Horrendously Bad Idea.”
Richard Dawkins: “Why Bill Nye Shouldn’t Debate Ken Ham”
The last article shows why everyone is so upset about this debate: not just because it’s a media event, but because there’s a real chance that Ken Ham will run circles around Nye, and to folks who hold to Evolution, that’s a train wreck.
What you don’t see in this list of articles is any explanation as to how Ham could walk away with a win if Young Earth Creationism is built on snake oil and pseudo-science as its opponents suggest.
The Missing Link
In the list above, there’s a missing link: the link to an article which fairly represents the strongest positions on both sides and invites readers to judge for themselves. I couldn’t find one.
It troubles me that bloggers are willing to warn people away from this debate, call it a freak show or a media circus, without returning to the fact that it is a debate between two camps who interpret the same facts differently.
It’s a debate, and viewers can decide for themselves if Ham seems like a quack or if Nye comes off sounding like an expert.
But it seems that everyone has already made up their minds as to what they believe, and no debate is going to get in the way of their presuppositions. Many bloggers–certainly the ones listed above–are already fossilized in their opinions, and there are few transitional bloggers to be found.
Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans (who I normally admire as a tenacious thinker), tweeted that anyone who believes in Young Earth Creationism, in order to be consistent, “must also believe that the earth is held up by pillars and covered in a firmament.” This is unfair and actually wrong. Young Earth Creationists do understand metaphor and differences in literary genre. And by “firmament” Rachel probably means vapor canopy, because we all believe the world is covered by a firmament. Firmament means “sky” or “heavens.”
So why would Rachel, normally a clear thinker, belittle Young Earth Creationists in ways that make them sound ridiculous by using terms which aren’t even accurate? And why would no one in her Twitter feed know enough—or care enough—to point out the error?
I think it’s because when it comes to Creation vs. Evolution, the battle lines are already drawn and reactionism replaces reason.
When Bloggers Act Like Congress
Rachel wrote a book about her own journey out of Christian fundamentalism and how she evolved as a thinker (Evolving in Monkey Town – a great read). The Young Earth Creationists trigger her because she grew up believing that was the only possible interpretation of scripture, which left her feeling foolish and betrayed when she heard other perspectives. So she reacts strongly against anyone who tries to show the merits of Creation Science today.
I can understand that, because I do the same thing. I often react to the area of spiritual authority because of my own background in a Bible cult. I also sometimes mock folks who seem to farm their thinking off to other people, because that’s what I used to do. But that doesn’t make my mocking correct, and it certainly doesn’t make it Christian.
That’s why it troubles me when popular bloggers, instead of listening in order to understand the best arguments of the other side, have instead led the charge in the “no thinking and no questions allowed” campaign with Creationism vs. Evolution.
If you’re a Creationist, you’re an idiot. If you’re an Evolutionist, you’re going to hell.
It sounds a lot like Congress, actually, where Republicans and Democrats accuse each other of idiocy and nefarious motives, listen to each other without hearing the substance of the conversation, and try to overcome each other with blunt force. They also try to keep the other side’s arguments and proposed bills from the general public via denial of service attacks (filibustering) and snarky rhetoric which is heavy on accusation and scanty on facts.
So that’s working pretty well for our government, right?
If not, then why do we think similar scare tactics and reactionism will promote understanding in the Creation vs. Evolution debate?
But we do it. Bloggers have already told everyone why this debate is such a bad idea and what a freak show it will be. The content of the debate? Irrelevant. Why? Because for many bloggers, the debate itself lends credibility to Young Earth Creationism as reputable science. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently intolerable.
Asking the Big Questions
This concerns me. If Young Earth Creationism is based on “junk” science as some of these bloggers suggest, then a debate seems like just the place to expose it.
But it’s not that simple, and the Young Earth arguments are not that easy to dismiss. This is because Young Earth Creationists have their own stable of experts and Ph.D scientists who write journal articles and use footnotes and draw diagrams and use calculus and physics and hydrology and quantum mechanics to back up their interpretation of the data. It’s actually pretty impressive.
Young Earth Creationists, for their part, add their own shrill voice to this polarized arena. Ken Ham is well known for calling this issue a culture war and using militaristic language to describe the controversy. Evolutionists are ridiculed, pamphlets are churned out by the hundreds, children are taught to fear the mainstream educational system and to believe that a person cannot hold to evolution and still be a Christian.
I was taught these things in my former church. We attended a “Creation Vacation” in 1994 and I learned some of the questions to ask about evolution:
- Why are there polystrate fossils?
- Why do human footprints appear with dinosaur prints in Glen Rose, Texas?
- Why is there such discrepancy in dating methods?
- How can evolution defy the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics?
- Are geological patterns best explained by Uniformitarianism or Catastrophism?
- Why does Jesus refer to a literal Adam and Eve if they never existed?
- What about irreducible complexity?
- Where are the transitional fossils that evolution demands?
If you’re an Evolutionist, you already have answers to most of these. I, however, believed that anyone who did not subscribe to Young Earth, six-day Creationism was going to hell.
Later, after exiting my cult, I decided to do some research on the other side of the debate. Look into some of Evolution’s best questions for Christianity:
- How is it that we can see light from stars which are billions of light years away?
- Why do rocks and fossils appear to be millions of years old?
- Why does the fossil record appear to show evolution from simple to complex organisms over time?
- Why are there similarities in genetic material between apes and humans?
- Do the days in Genesis 1 and 2 refer to literal 24-hour days? How can that be if the first several days had no sun?
- Why did God give T-Rex and lions sharp teeth if they ate only vegetables?
- How could Noah fit all the animals onto the ark?
- Where did Cain get his wife?
If you’re a Young Earth Creationist, you already have answers for these. But each question certainly deserves serious study and could involve reading widely from conflicting sources, don’t you think?
Where are the transitional bloggers—those who are willing to hold in tension data which appears to be in conflict? Where are the voices of reason and moderation? Where are the critical thinkers who avoid ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments?
When a blogger says that a debate is a bad idea before the debate has happened, he or she displays a troubling bias. Don’t think about these issues, they might as well say, just believe. Trust the scientists. Trust the Evolutionists. Ken Ham is an idiot. It will be a freak show.
But maybe the freak show is happening on blogs which refuse to seriously consider alternative viewpoints or let readers and viewers decide for themselves. Is Creation a viable model of origins, or is it dead on arrival? Bloggers have already expressed their set-in-stone opinions.
I hope you can think for yourself and work it out in transition.
Maybe you can be that blogger who provides the missing link.