The debate rose from some controversial statements that Nye made to Big Think about how creationism isn’t appropriate in schools. Pleading with parents not to force their faulty world views on their kids, he said:
I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can — we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.
Ham, an Australian evangelical who believes that the Earth is 5,000 years old, responded to Nye’s comments with his own video, in which he says that “evolutionists” are the ones brainwashing the children.
He also says:
Bill Nye also has an agenda to teach children not to believe in God, to teach them they are the result of evolutionary processes, that they came from slime over millions of years…
Bill Nye is implying that if we are going to teach children creation that it’s really a form of abuse, that creationism is inappropriate for children. I’ll tell you what is real abuse, and I’ll tell you what is inappropriate for children. When you take generations of kids and you teach them they are just animals and there is no God…
It’s really people like Bill Nye that are damaging kids, creationists are teaching children that they are special, that they are made in the image of God….
Them’s fighting words. And the fight is on, tonight.
An infuriating debate
The debate is infuriating scientists worldwide, who see the “debate” over evolution as over. As Death And Taxes put it:
It’s nice that Ham is sounding friendly, but technically this isn’t a debate between beliefs — it’s a debate between Ham’s beliefs and Nye’s measurable data. Nye doesn’t “believe in” evolution — he has deduced from facts and concrete evidence the condition of the natural world. There’s no external evidence to support the claim that the earth is 5,000 years old.
Some people are criticising Bill Nye for even engaging in such a debate, as it just gives more credence and publicity to the creationists, while putting money directly in their pocket. The Creationist Museum is holding the debate, and they charged $US25 each for the 900 tickets.
The “debate” is just giving creationists a national stage from which to spew their fake facts, according to Josh Rossenau of the National Center For Science Eduction, a group with a long-standing policy against debating creationists:
Creationists are famous for using the “Gish gallop,” a rapid-fire repetition of supposed evidence against evolution and alleged support for their own claims, reeled off so fast that neither the audience nor the other debater can even keep track of all the claims, let alone refute them in the time allotted. So there’s no chance of the audience learning a lot of good science in a creationist debate, and every chance of it learning a lot of bad science.
They’ve even created some bingo cards to use during the debate, which include some of the favourite tactics used by creationists. As the debate wears on you can keep yourself entertained by looking out for tactics like: Asking “were you there?”; saying “radiometric dating is unreliable”; and alleging that creation scientists are being persecuted.
Tonight’s the night
The YouTube stream where you can watch the debate is embedded below.
We will be tweeting the best one-liners from the debate at our BI: Science Twitter feed. Join in the conversation with us there.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.