Bill Nye the Humanist Guy vs. Ken Ham the Creationist Man

Two weeks ago, Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) created an internet sensation with a You Tube video arguing that creationism is not appropriate for children. Almost 4.5 million views later (as of this morning), that video has certainly made quite the splash.

His basic premise is that since “evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science,” anyone who teaches their kids that evolution isn’t true is really holding their kids back. As he says,

I say to the grown ups, if you want to deny evolution and live 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.

Now the people from Answers in Genesis have responded. In the video below prominent creationist Ken Ham calls Bill Nye “the Humanist Guy” and critiques him  for having an agenda of his own, creating lots of little humanists. And (big surprise) Ham contends that teaching kids evolution is the truly harmful thing to do.

You can watch the video exchange below. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Nye has obviously struck a chord. Not only does the video have 4.5 million views, but at last count it also has 72,855 likes vs. only 15,245 dislikes (again, as of this morning). And Ham’s response isn’t likely to do much to change that. Besides the fact that it’s only been viewed a little over 87,000 times, Ham just doesn’t engage Nye’s basic point. Nye isn’t saying that there’s anything inherently harmful about creationism (regardless of whether or not he actually thinks that). His basic contention is simply that creationism ignores the best evidence and the best explanation of that evidence. So, in essence, creationism teaches kids to think un-scientifically. That’s what he’s so concerned about. He doesn’t want us pumping out thousands of kids who have learned that it’s okay to ignore the data and just believe whatever you want to. Regardless of whether Nye is right, that is his basic point and the one that needs a response. Ham either doesn’t understand that, or just doesn’t want to engage it.




  1. Christian says

    Historically (despite the Catholic church’s best efforts), Nye’s point is patently false. Advances in science and education (among many other fields) and the concept of the University have all be the result of Christians who held to a worldview that began with creation.

    Ham continues to show his irrelevancy.

    • says

      Keep in mind that Nye’s basic point (in this video, at least) isn’t that Christianity necessarily undermines scientific thought. You are correct to point out that this would be simply false. (The whole Christianity vs. science paradigm really needs to go away.)

      Nye’s point here is that modern creationism is the problem because it rejects the evidence of modern science. Older “creationists” wouldn’t fall under this criticism because science hadn’t yet developed to the point that it has today. So those earlier Christians weren’t denying overwhelming scientific evidence when they believed in a literal 7-day creation. So it’s the argument that modern creationism is explicitly anti-science that Ham needed to respond to.

      • Christian says

        Let me extend my first comment, and this relates to your desire to have modern creationists respond.

        Modern (as in “of this time” not modernity) creationists are compelled to seek truth and study creation just as older creationists were.

        But lets get something straight, we are talking about a certain sub-group within Christianity regardless of the era in which they live(d). We can list the names of men and women who were/are creationists who contributed to the advancement of science, technology, medicine, and education because those names are few and far between. This is true today. And what Nye says is true about many people today and many people throughout history. That is that a belief in certain religious ideas holds them back. But that has more to do with those people than it does with the religious idea. There has always been and will always be people who hold to an idea because that’s what they were told to believe and they won’t have it any other way. This is just as true within science as it is within religion. So what Nye fails to see, is that it isn’t about the idea, it is about the people who hold to an idea. What ultimately holds a person back isn’t the ideas to which they subscribe, but whether or not they are humble in regard to knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

  2. says

    Thank you Marc for your provocative post. In a way, I don’t understand what the big deal is, yet, people allow themselves to get bogged down by funny details. I probably just lost half my audience, but I’ll continue. Let’s just say that evolution is absolutely correct. How will that change my relationship with God? Evolution doesn’t deny Gods existence, though many extract that bit of information somehow. People think that God doesn’t exist because evolution IS true. So let’s run with it: a self-caused universe or a Self-caused God who then made the universe. According to Bill Nye you would need a complex system if you didn’t have evolution. This appeal to parsimony is popular and rightfully so if William Occam is right. The simple explanation really is a better one all other things being equal. What people fail to see is that there really are two different kinds of simplicity going on here. Evolution carries with it an explanatory kind of simplicity, where God carries an entity kind of simplicity. So, an appeal to simplicity doesn’t give us a REASON to think that evolution OR creationism is true.
    I assert that the existence of one doesn’t guarantee the denial of the other. As a Christian, I know that God has given us humans these powers of investigation. Using these powers we have deciphered really fantastic details about this world (the universe), about Gods creation. I mean honestly, so what if evolution is true? What if God set evolution into motion? What if evolution is the vehicle of creation? The only issue that comes up as a result that I find is that I can’t read the every single word of the Bible literally. So the creation story didn’t happen EXACTLY how it’s described by Gods chosen people thousands of years ago. Do I think God doesn’t exist as a result? Absolutely not. Am I going to interpret my favorite bible verse differently? Why would I? How about the Great Commandment? Mathew 22:36-40
    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
    So, if I love God with all of my heart, soul, and mind, why would I need to believe that the world was made in exactly six days and that God rested on the seventh? What does loving your neighbor have to do with the earth being thousands of years old instead of millions? We need to remember what’s important about being a Christian and remember that the Bible is a sacred text that should not be read without keeping in mind it’s historical and social context.
    Now then, about science. Collecting and analyzing data is a really fantastic way of obtaining knowledge, BUT, there are some things to be wary of. Humans use ‘positive test strategies’ to ascertain information about the world. In other words, they think something is right BEFORE they go about proving that it’s right. Humans frame their questions in such a way to get the result THEY want… not necessarily the results that are true. Science NEEDS to guard against this and to some extent it really does. It’s called ‘peer-reviewed’, but it doesn’t give us a guarantee. Second, answers are given by means of statistics… you know, probability. Even if scientists saw past themselves as viewers of events and framed their hypothesis appropriately, what we are still saying is that something is only MORE LIKELY given the data then something else. Lastly we don’t HAVE to be 100% sure in science. It’s called an R valve. In psychological research, you only need to be 95% sure that something is the case to make the claim that it IS in fact the case. Not all swans are white. Science isn’t always right (read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.) Every so often we humans undergo paradigm shifts in order to account for new discoveries that doesn’t align with old ways of seeing.
    So, what do I think? I think Bill Nye is tired of the UTTERLY unscientific minds of the republican right who profess Christianity and who say things like it’s not rape cause you wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. And I think Ken Ham should loosen his grasp on what it would take for the creation story to be different then he thinks and yet still be true.

  3. Nick Carraway says

    Excellent post – thank you.

    Young earth creationism is a manifestation in the evangelical community of the Gnostic instinct that has surfaced in many strands of Christianity over the centuries. This is the idea that we possess secret knowledge which liberates us from the material world.

    It feels empowering to sit in biology class and know that the teacher is wrong; to watch a scientist on television and dismiss him as a fool; to visit the Creation Museum as see it as a repository of truth; to look at overwhelming material evidence and deem it irrelevant.

    The danger of Gnosticism is that, like all heresies, it occupies our attention and draws us away from a focus on the work of Christ.

    I only realised how strikingly “unChristian” young-earth creationism is when I looked at Muslim materials attacking evolution and realised they were nearly identical to those produced by the likes of Answers in Genesis.

    Young earth creationists are not more faithful to the Bible because they do the scriptures a disservice by reducing God’s revelation to a blow-by-blow account of how the world was made. They reduce God to a mere super-builder. They erect an obstacle to faith by suggesting that junk science is a prerequisite belief.

    God has blessed us with minds capable of observing facts and weighing evidence and we can honour him in this worthy work. Christians, and evangelicals in particular, should be the foremost defenders of truth. The push to believe in a six-day young earth narrative is bad news for both Muslim and Christian communities and will only lead to the retreat from the public square, the spread of secularisation, and the establishment of a “ghettoisation” of the religious mind.

    • Joe says

      “God has blessed us with minds capable of observing facts and weighing evidence”. With this I certainly agree, however, here is the problem with using that to go against what scripture says. I and every other other person alive today can observe that it is a scientific impossibility for a woman to conceive a child and remain a virgin. (granted today we can do this but there was no artificial insemination back in Mary’s day) It is also an fact that a man dead and buried for three days will not come back to life. We have never observed a man floating into the sky. It is insane to believe that you can feed thousands of people with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, water into wine, walking on water, healing the sick and raising the dead with nothing more than a spoken word. I could go on, but hopefully you’re catching my drift. If we as believers of the holy scriptures use our “intellect” against God’s supernatural abilities every time we want to fit in with the world’s perception of science, well then, the entire bible becomes a fairytale.

  4. says

    So we have two pretty strong voices in favor of the idea that modern creationism is inherently anti-intellectual. It would be interesting to get a couple of voices from a different perspective. I know that quite a few people who read this blog reject evolution. (I even conducted a poll on it a while back.) And I’m pretty sure that they don’t see themselves as being either anti-intellectual or anti-science. It would be great to hear from that side of the discussion.

    • says

      The real issue here is not that Flood Geology/YEC is defunct, but that all four models in modern creationism are critically flawed (Theistic Evolution, YEC, Progressive Creationism/Old Earth, and Intelligent Design). TE and ID (which is essentially TE with all the deceptive practices of YEC, aka Wedge Theory and Jonathan Wells the Moonie apologist providing Christian diversity to the Discovery group) are reductionist, pushing God back into the very-Deist Planck Era or vesting His creative power into “proto-conditions,” with no explanation how the subsequent conditions of millions of years of predation, death, and the whole argument of theodicy turns into glory for Him since if all of that Methodological Naturalism is correct scientific method (it is) about the beginnings and the rise of complex life, by what hermeneutic we suddenly get to shift our method and avoid the extinction of God’s good creation in the Heat Death of natural eschatology.

      ID is theologically incoherent as it is currently practiced, outside of legitimate information theory. The natural theology inherent in the scriptures is offset by the theology of the Fall, which ID theorists simply forgot about entirely. Planet killing comets, black holes sucking everything into its event horizon, and galaxies colliding together is not God’s “very good” original creation. That doesn;t exist in its primitive form anymore, or more accurately it is now “fallen” and a hybrid of the riginal in need of redemption and recreation. That isn’t just Romans 8 Pauline theology, that’s Messianic Judaism, that’s the Bible’s underlying theme of salvation. Man is a creature, not separate from the Creation. It is fallen too. So that kind of guts the idea of seeking irreducibly complex mechanisms that prove God’s existence. In fact, the theology of the NT states pretty clearly that Creation now acts to do the opposite, beyond the superficiality of the “heavens declaring” order and complexity. It now acts to work against Man, and opposite of its original purpose, the Curse of Sin and the Ground operates on a principle of “thorns and thistles” until the final redemption of all creation at the Eschaton (last day). Thus, ID is chasing the proverbial rabbit, its theology (theory) is incorrect, therefore its methodology also is flawed, which is why it must couch itself in real evolutionary theory, only theistic evolutionary theory. Does not further a doctrine of creation, it only advances the dichotomy between science and faith.

      Progressive Creation/OE commits a similar error, it accepts and uses the cosmological evolutionary methodology and wraps it in “cosmological constants” that boggle the mind and fill half a book with exciting astrophysics mixed with natural theology. Then for the latter half of their book, they have to reject methodological naturalism in vehement terms when it concerns biological evolution (at least when it gets to complex animals, like humans). They lived in caves, practiced religious burial and worship, made and wore jewelry, had art and culture, but were just animals without souls. Fail. Half-theories that thrill the church folk in seminars but does nothing but advance the dichotomy further with bad method, again.

      Enter Presuppositional Creationism (yours truly, yes I have the copyright, I have advanced this model for more than 15 years, but as usual the prophets are stoned by the guys who refuse to edit their books or modify their lying, because of the ego and the cash flow of it all. I’m not a great writer, not a great science guy, have no fancy degrees, but it doesn;t take a rocket scientist to understand that all of these “creation models” are replacement forms of Naturalism. They demonize naturalism and then practice it, but badly.

      Why the need to provide naturalistic explanations for miracles in the same breath that you are dissing the naturalism of the scientific method?

      That’s cognitive dissonance on a grand scale.

      Christian Creationism is Naturalism, light. LOL

      But Christianity is Presuppositional. We know the answer before we ask the question, because Christian theology is based on a non-negotiable epistemology of SPECIAL REVELATION. General Revelation is subordinated to Special Revelation (at least most of the time, unless you are Hugh Ross or the late Henry Morris who boasted Flood Geology was a superior methodology to that of Methodological Naturalism, even without the scriptures being invoked).

      So, bottom line is I’m not going to outline PC for you, it is not a replacement for Evolution, it accepts the scientific method and provides theological reasons why the evidence does not match the theology, the Fall is the culprit.

      My main point is that because of this lack of coherent message in Creationist models, which no one else except the critic seems to see, Christianity has NO DOCTRINE OF CREATION !!! Considering that it is the first question that jumps off the pages of the Bible, this is in no small degree utter FAILURE of biblical theology and apologetics.

      Christianity also has a serious issue explaining FREE-WILL, the second question that jumps off the first three pages of the Bible. Supralapsarianism and Arminianism are total failures, the former for obvious reasons, it is a determinist ideology proffered to replace the Determinism of Darwinism. Except when Darwinism condemns you to death and extinction, it doesn’t torture you for eternity in flaming Hell. It is MORE just than the Calvinist Monster God.

      Arminianism fails because their answer is FOREKNOWLEDGE. God saw Adam’s choice and planned accordingly. But this does not match the Christian doctrine of IMMUTABILITY (God’s changelessness). He doesn’t plan based on the acts of secondary agents of causation, He is the Prime Mover. So foreknowledge doesn’t work, or Molinism’s open theology where William Lane Craig dices God’s omni- powers into little tunnel vision explanations of self-limitation or something, I can;t make heads or tails of their high-sounding stuff, I just know a terd when I smell it.

      I’m a Creationist. I’m a REAL creationist. Unfortunately, I had to invent another model to offer the millions of Christians who lost their ability to defend their faith without violating their intellect or their conscience when YEC failed 15 years ago.

      And while they now call themselves Presuppositional Creationists, it isn’t because they understand my arguments or know what my model even says. It’s because KEN HAM decided it was a cool name to sound smart with, when it became unfashionable to say you were a YEC’er. So now he starts the conversation using my title, Presuppositional, claims he’s always been that (rather than an unashamed EVIDENTIALIST which is what he really is and doesn;t know it) and then says that it is the evolutionary scientist’s presuppositions that keep them making all those terrible mistakes in methodology and analysis that keeps them discovering newer ways to get to MARS and someday LIVE ON IT, perhaps forever if we can overcome the Curse of that damn Second Law.

      Ham then, once he has put the poor Naturalist to intellectual shame by invoking Sonny’s Magic Wand of Presuppositionalism (actually, Van Til’s magic wand….whatever), he then launches into the same old failed YEC explanations like those awesome PHASMID LEAF INSECTS, who God created with invincible weapons and camoflage, so they could go around the Garden of Eden kicking the ass of all their PREY. Predation. Death Before The Fall. (there was no need for those defensive weapons and camo in God’s Paradise, Ken. Oops.

      Oh, Ken. Et Tu?

      • says

        Oh, I failed to name the central thesis of Presuppositional Creationism, specifically, and that is of course, dysteleology.

        My model is the only one in Christianity that makes dysteleology the center of a creation model, which means it’s is the only one that matches “what is actually there,” as Francis Schaeffer would put it (he didn’t, but I’m borrowing a great line and making it my own.

        Schaeffer’s “middle way” presuppositionalism (middle between Van Tillian presuppositionalism which does not solve the issue of cognitive dissonance on all issues pragmatic) is suited for this kind of revamping of flawed Thomism, even though Schaeffer himself believed most closely “A.E. Wildersmith” brand of creationism, which other than my own was perhaps the most brilliant of the Creationist authors of the previous century, even though it’s still wrong.

        Schaeffer had other fish to fry, although the historicity of Genesis was a central theme of his work.

        Teleology is still true, it just has been dampened by the fact of the Fall, and those dysteleological aspects of the universe which Dawkins and others so lustfully believe trumps theism, is in all actuality the truth that makes Creationism and the Bible make sense, it’s what it teaches.

        Oh irony! Sorry, Richard. I was never all that impressed with you anyway….

    • John Oliver says

      I just came across this blog post today, April 24, 2013. Sorry it’s taken so long to respond…. I’m a young earth creationist. I am so because of hours and hours of research into the subject. Yes, I do have a presupposition that the Bible should be taken literally when it appears to be speaking literally, but that doesn’t hinder me from exploring the options. An atheist friend recommend I read Jerry Coyne’s book, “Why Evolution Is True.” I checked it out at the library and began to read. I found that many of the points of evidence were beyond my ability to assess, not having a Ph.D in anything. So I turned to scientists who were also Christians, both young earth and old earth types. I listened to debate after debate, lecture after lecture. I visited the Creation Museum, and read, and read. I have come to the conclusion that there is a wealth of evidence to support the position of YEC. They are not ignorant of the evidence, they dig into with clear-headed, critical thinking. They consider the arguments of both evolutionists and old earthers, and to my mind, adequately answer both. Sure there are points that are more difficult, but both sides have that. In the end, though, I find no reason…scientifically…to doubt the clear, straight-forward reading of the opening chapters of the Bible. And for me, that’s important, because I do believe the issue here is authority. Which authority will we listen to, and why? Science has changed it’s mind millions of times, the Bible, not so much! For those critical of Ken Ham’s ministry, have you really listened to his lectures and those of his staff? Have you really listened to how they deal with the evidence? I find them thoroughly convincing. Another very helpful resource has been a program called “Origins”, where they have YE Creatinists talk about a wide spectrum of evidential issues. Here’s a link: Thanks for the post!

  5. says

    Years ago I contacted Bill Nye’s office to request he appear at our science fair. I was told he would only talk about, as I remember, the paranormal. We weren’t interested, and so did not invite him. I have a brother, who is a scientist, who believes the young earth theory. I sent him a link to this blog so maybe he will chime in. What settles creation vs evolution for me is Romans 1: 18-20, ” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

  6. Mark says

    There is not a shred of evidence for evolution. There never has been and never will be. Science and origins don’t mix. It is all a matter of presuppositions. To accept evolution you must first accept the presupps of the evolutionist. No Christian should ever do so! Those who do are undermining the faith for future generations. What’s more important – whether we “undermine” so-called scientific inquiry or undermine the Bible and historic Christian faith? Give up creation and you give up the ship. History proves it and will continue to prove it.

  7. says

    I believe in a young earth/6 day creation. I believe it for the same reason I believe there was a flood that covered the whole planet, that God used plagues in Egypt to free His people, and that Christ was raised from the dead. In and of themselves all these stories seem unlikely if not impossible, but I believe them, by faith, because that is what God asks of me. In my study of scripture I have found that the simplest interpretation is probably the correct one. I believe it is when people try to change scripture to fit their own (human and therefore short-sighted) observations, experiences, or explanations that the most damaging heresies are created.

    As for how faith affects science? I think that faith, whether the faith of a creationist or the faith of an evolutionist (to believe either certainly requires some faith in something) can be damaging to scientific advancement. When you have faith in something everything you witness is filtered through that lens of faith. Certainly we all would like to exchange our faith for proof, and so we can’t help but look for the proof in everything we see. An evolutionist and a creationist will look at the exact same thing and both see evidence that furthers their faith! To me that’s simply amazing and shows me how big and mighty God really is, working in ways even the most capable of minds simply cannot fully understand.

    The answer for science, I believe, is a simple one- we ought to stop teaching our children answers and instead teach them the questions and see what answers they come up with. Of course, most of us don’t really like that answer because it requires us to first give our children permission to come up with answers we don’t agree with, and that scares us all, regardless of which side we fall on.

  8. kirk spears says

    I’m not all that concerned about what Bill Nye thinks. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, but I think he has stated in a very diplomatic way that he thinks all creationists to be dunces. Creationists are usually accused of pushing an agenda, but in this case, I think the shoe is on the other foot.

    My bigger concern is with believers who eschew a literal interpretation of Scripture in order to embrace the ever-changing field of science. I’m not an expert in the area, but I just don’t get it.

    If we have a high view of God and profess to trust Him for our eternal destination, then why wouldn’t we trust that He would provide us with an accurate account of how He brought our universe into existence.

    Furthermore, if God did use evolution to bring us into existence, then what are we to make of the link between death and sin that is seen throughout the Old and New Testaments. I suppose than many Christians who hold to evolution would hold to an allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture. That seems odd to me, on one hand embracing the scientific and on the other placing so much stock in allegory. It raises the question as to what part of Scripture is historical and what is allegorical? Do we need a historical Jesus? Was his physical death required?

    Certainly one doesn’t have to be a creationist to be a Christian, but for me, it seems a bit intellectually dishonest. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh. I certainly don’t mean it to be.

  9. says

    What is not helpful about Nye’s comments is that he does not define the kind of evolution he is referring to but I think it would be safe to assume he is referring to Darwinian evolution which includes macroevolution. In which case, Nye would be the naive one because there is no scientific evidence for it and as a presupposition for science it does not help make sense of what we can observe. Now microevolution can be observed, makes sense as a scientific presupposition and is supported by the evidence. This is in fact what Darwin himself dealt with in his studies but he projected it onto the origins of life for which it did not make sense.

    Another issue I have with Nye’s views, and quite frankly that if many YEC’ers (which I am) is that they tend to conflate the origins of the universe with the origins of earth and its inhabitants. I have no problem with an old universe but I believe science and Scripture support a young earth.

    Also, for Nye to say that science cannot be done unless we accept the kind of evolution he is referring to (which again he does not say but we can be pretty sure what it is) is to go against the history of science pre-Darwin and even today. There are hundreds if not thousands of scientists who do not accept Nye’s views on evolution but do science every day and both discover new things and make new things.

    Further, YEC’ers do not reject evidence. Everyone sees the same evidence but we interpret it according to our basic set of presuppositions. For Nye those presuppositions include Darwinian evolution and for me they don’t. So, we should expect to come to different conclusions. If we don’t all start from the same place we will not all end up in the same place.

    Nye says that without his view of evolution everything becomes a big mystery. I say, without God (whose existence he denies and would interpret the same evidence we both can see to support that) nothing in the universe/world makes sense and is even more of a mystery. Even with God there is mystery because we are finite beings.

    Well, I’ve had my say.

  10. John R. Lawless says

    I remember this article from when I had entered the lion’s den ( I try to enter at least once a week. If I don’t receive my weekly supplement of name calling and beatings it just doesn’t feel right.

    Many of our 21st Century residents depend a great deal on someone else filling in the blanks. The creation-evolution controversy is no different. So many of our educational, critical thinking, and open minded individuals would never think to question MSM and their agendas. Because of this many of our Christians are not aware of the tremendous resources avaialble that support creation and provides numerous reasons for doubting the spontaneous generation models.

    Allow me to share just one of those resources (my favorite might I add). R. L. Wysong has written a great book entitled, “The Creation-Evolution Controversy.” It is filled with so many points that shed serious doubt on evolution. It just doesn’t use science but also mathematics. Just the idea that spontaneous generation could take place at all is so mathematically slim it should surprise no one it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to beleive in creation.

    Christians of the 21st Century, creation can be embraced by educated, critical thinking, and open minded individuals without embarrassment or regret.


  1. […] Bill Nye the Humanist Guy vs. Ken Ham the Creationist Man: Nye has obviously struck a chord. Not only does the video have 4.5 million views, but at last count it also has 72,855 likes vs. only 15,245 dislikes (again, as of this morning). And Ham’s response isn’t likely to do much to change that. Besides the fact that it’s only been viewed a little over 87,000 times, Ham just doesn’t engage Nye’s basic point. […]

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