I’m a few weeks late on this, but I felt compelled to write about the recent Bill Nye-Ken Hamm debate.  You can see it in its entirety here:

This was actually a very interesting debate.  Full disclosure:  I’m a deist in the Thomas Paine, Age of Reason sense and I don’t think that whether there is or is not a God is of any import.  More to the point, I believe in evolution, and I think that while creationism is silly, young earth creationism is comically absurd.  I’m embarrassed of my species that anyone actually buys that at this point.  That said, there was a lot to be learned from this debate, if only you were willing to listen.

After watching the debate, I took the time to watch some of the after-debate commentary as well as saw some of my friends’ responses as well as some of the Facebook science pages I frequent.  Yes, I’m looking at you Tysonism.  What was so interesting about it was how very little either side took from the debate.  In my estimation both sides did quite poorly and yet afterwords pointed at just how ignorant the other was.  There wasn’t much civility at all in the way these sides view each other.  I can understand that each side would find difficulty in getting along with the other.  They both impact each other quite negatively in very tangible ways.  But then why debate?  Debates should be there to give us a chance to learn and exchange ideas.  They should not be there to do battle.  If battle is what we seek, then you should make it real.  Pistols at 10 paces.  Otherwise, this was just a silly chance for people to feel superior to each other as they high five each other in their respective battle lines.

A few of the flaws in each man’s debate:

— Hamm decided to parade out various scientists and inventors who are young earth adherents as if to say, we can science (it’s fun to use as a verb) too!

Uh, okay?  So the guy that invented the MRI believes in young earth creationism.  Big deal.  I’m a lawyer.  If you talk to me about family law, criminal defense, or the Constitution, I can be treated as some sort of authority.  But I still know zero about Worker’s Compensation.  Anything I say in an unrelated field carries no validity.

— Nye debated by appeal to emotion, especially at the end.  And it brought with it not only a weak argument, but a flawed one.  He asked the audience whether we should believe what science has to tell us, or what Ken Hamm tells us the bible says.

Well, we needn’t listen to Ken Hamm telling us what the bible says.  There are countless bibles littering the planet translated into every language imaginable.  These are no longer the days where priests spoke latin, and read the bible in latin to people who can’t read anything in the first place.

And what of science?  I have to base my opinion off of information SCIENTISTS tell me.  I can make my own opinion about the bible (Hint: it’s bunk), but all the science I know is based off of what teachers have told me, or what I’ve read in books.  I’ve conducted precious few experiments myself, recorded no observations about red/blue shift or observations of other disciplines, especially those showing things on the macro and micro levels.  I have to rely on what scientists observe and what they surmise from that information.  And science is often wrong.  I give you the entire history of medical science.  Sometimes it’s rife with charlatans, such as the guy who “found” the nonexistent Brontosaurus.  And even the most respected of scientists may change their minds.  Stephen Hawking just came out saying that now he thinks black holes don’t exist.

“But they’re peer reviewed!” you shout.  Well, there are dozens of peer reviewed biblical journals.  Google is your friend.

— Hamm’s end all answer, “Well, we’ve got a book that answers that.”

This in and of itself points to why this debate shouldn’t have happened.  The men cannot work on the same playing field.  Science can be proven wrong, faith cannot.  Nye can point out all the flaws in the shipbuilding skills of Noah and the way wood would behave under strain on a ship of the magnitude of the ark.  But, assuming that there’s this book with an invisible flying bearded sky man (and those don’t even scratch the surface of his superpowers), and you believe this book to be legit, then it’s perfectly logical to buy the Noah story.

The major takeaways:

— Christians need to stop being crybabies.  You used to face down lions in the arena and now you’re crying about how mean the atheists are to you and how academia forces you to hide your beliefs.

— He’s right though.  That definitely happens.  But that’s because liberals have cornered the market on science as a buzzword.

— Science as a buzzword.  Both men sought to take ownership over the word.  He who wields mighty Excalibur  wins the debate.  Hamm sought out legitimacy by showing scientists in unrelated disciplines who agreed with him.

But Nye, and moreso, those in his camp, have turned science into a religion.  All you need to do to shut down debate is to say that, “Science has shown.” or “the scientific community agrees” and then not only do you shut down debate, you stop asking questions.  Consider the attitudes toward those in the anti-vaccination movement.  Consider the global warming skeptics.  There is no room for questions, only blind acceptance.  Science should be the kingdom of renegades, skeptics, and outcasts — not conformists who seek to silence those that disagree.

I concede, I put my faith in science.  Not in the fact that it has all the answers now, but that it’s the instrument by which we will unlock the secrets of the universe.  But those who treat science as a buzzword are practicing religion and are every bit as backward as the young earthers.  We don’t have all the answers yet.  We’ve barely scratched the surface.  So much of what we believe is wrong — we just don’t know it yet.  What an exciting time to be alive!  Someday we’re going to figure this universe out.  And science will take us there.  But we don’t have the answers yet, and it’s arrogant and suicidal to pretend that we do, whether it’s in medical science, current cosmology, or the belief in a deity.