I watched and listened to the debate between Bill Nye of "Science Guy" fame and Ken Ham, the president of the Answers In Genesis (AiG) organization - he with the delightful Aussie accent and unrelenting defender of young-earth creation science. Part of me thought it wouldn't happen, that Bill Nye would pull out of the debate. A close friend of mine and committed supporter of AiG was invited to attend the debate as well as a pre-debate dinner at the Creation Museum where the event was held. I spoke with him of my doubts that Nye would follow through on his agreement to debate Ham. But as the time drew closer, and AiG ratcheted up publicity of the event, it became obvious that it would actually happen. Some of Bill Nye's colleagues in the evolutionary science world were not pleased with his decision. Influential scientists like Jerry Croyne and Richard Dawkins have long refused to debate creationists so as not to lend legitimacy to the creation perspective. Some secular bloggers with interest in science and politics also bemoaned the fact that Bill Nye would engage in the debate viewing it as a waste of his time and an unnecessary attention-grabber for creationists who have pleaded for respect and, at the very least, a seat at the origins-discussion table. But not only did Nye show up, he agreed to the less than neutral location, allowed his image to be used by AiG and attempted to engage the audience with humor.
Both Nye and Ham were honest and respectful in their presentations and engagement - as well as being at times very academic and scientific in their arguments in response to the question of whether or not creation science is a viable model of origins. Neither of them likely persuaded anyone to their position - Nye said what adherents to evolutionary science would expect him to say. Likewise, Ham said what adherents to young-earth creation science would expect him to say. He even used his oft-repeated description of what one would expect to find if there was a global flood: "Millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and what do we actually see in the fossil record? Millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth!” From a purely theoretical perspective, the debate was interesting but predictable, informative but not paradigm-shifting.
What was most relevant and significant and telling was the obvious difference between the two men in regards to their world-views. Really, this debate became less about the theories of origins and more about beliefs concerning knowledge - how we know anything at all and where intellectual authority comes from. Is the universe self-contained? Is all there is to know limited in this vast but singular, self-sustaining universe? Or is there a creator of the universe from whom we receive not only knowledge as information, but also the ability to logically think about what we know?
Bill Nye (as well as much of modern culture) is thoroughly committed to a materialistic, naturalistic worldview. He was refreshingly honest when he stated that he did not know how matter or consciousness came to exist and expressed joy and excitement about the process of scientific discovery. Clearly, Nye is a person who is in awe of the universe and believes that the answers to the questions of origins, the existence of matter and the reality of human consciousness are contained within the boundaries of an ever-expanding universe. Several times during the debate he emphasized the importance of scientific study and encouraged young people to pursue careers in science - to observe, learn, innovate and invent. He often did so with an awkward, almost out-of-place expression of economically-motivated nationalism. But there is no doubt about the "science guy's" devotion to naturalism and his rejection of supernaturalism.
Ken Ham, on the other hand, consistently pointed to the Bible as a legitimate source of wisdom and believes that it tells us about origins, the existence of matter, the consciousness of man and man's ability to reason; it is all from a God who is outside of and above but not disconnected from his creation - a God who is not limited to the universe and its natural laws, but is the creator of the universe and its laws. Nye clearly believes that the idea of divine revelation is absurd. He often stated that Ham's reliance on an ancient text, translated into, as he put it, "American English" was disturbing. He was politely saying that Ham and anyone else that regards the Bible as a reliable source for knowledge about the natural world and the existence of man is essentially crazy.
But this reveals a major problem for secularists in general and for evolutionary scientists specifically: They fail to see or refuse to admit that intellectual presuppositions influence their thinking. When asked if any evidence could force them to change their views on origins, Ken Ham said no, pointing once again to scripture as his basis for knowledge and belief. Bill Nye responded to the question by saying that convincing evidence for creation could change his mind. He was emphatic in his anticipation of such a thing happening, stating that it would "change the world." But in reality, if Nye believes divine revelation is foolish and impossible, then he is being inconsistent to even suggest that he would be open to evidence for creation. In his view, it is not reasonable to believe the claims of creation science or, for that matter, Christianity. He believes himself to be a reasonable man and purported himself to be open to any evidence. But he is deceiving himself. He is no more open to the possibility of a creator God than Ken Ham is open to the idea that molecules evolved into men over millions of years. A vast expanse exists between these two perspectives and the differences influence how each man understands and interprets what they see in the universe.
Why is this important? Why bother considering the differences between these two men's world-views? I think there are at least two crucially related reasons. The first is that we must recognize and be comfortable with the fact that we take God at his word by faith. Creation, the scriptures and the person of Jesus are all very compelling and convincing evidences of the existence of God, his character, his purposes and our relationship to those things. But they ultimately can't be proven - we have to believe in what we don't see based on the evidence we do see. We weren't present when. God created the universe, but we believe the revelation about creation that has been given to us. We weren't present when God inspired Moses, David, Daniel, Paul and others to write God's words, but we believe the revelation about the Bible that has been preserved for us. We weren't eyewitnesses of Jesus, God in the flesh, living on earth, but we believe the revelation about Jesus that has been passed down to us. Modern culture tells us that is foolish and ignorant. They ask, "How can you believe in something you can't see?" Don't be disturbed by that question. Don't feel silly or ashamed that you choose to believe what you can't see. For, that is the very thing that those who reject the idea of God are doing. They look at the evidence and choose to believe something. Everyone has faith in something unseen. The difference - and it is an important difference - is in the object of our faith. As Christians, the object of our faith is God who has revealed himself to us in creation, word and person. The object of faith for someone like Bill Nye is not a creator, but creation itself. He believes the natural universe and man's ability to study and understand it is the hope of mankind to overcome disease and to overcome ourselves. He stated in the debate that germs are our biggest enemies, so we must keep researching in order to defeat them so we can survive and thrive. He also implied that we must overcome ourselves and what we are doing to our environment in order to survive and thrive. His faith is in creation rather than the creator. His faith is in something not seen, but that he hopes will one day be discovered. Our hope is in someone not seen but who has revealed some of himself and the knowledge necessary to overcome the curse of sin and death. As a Christian, are you just someone who looks at the world, reads the Bible and listens to stories about the power of Jesus to change lives and believes what you see, what you read and what you hear? Yes! And there is nothing wrong with that. As you trust God's revelation, you will see that it is reliable and trustworthy. Don't be ashamed of God and of his gospel.
The second reason this is important is because people like Bill Nye and many others are lost if they refuse to believe in God through the evidence provided for them. What I most appreciated about Ken Ham during the debate was his humble, faithful, personal witness of what he believes to be true. Without God, the world is lost to sin and death. We are here to humbly, wisely and faithfully share the truth for the sake of those who do not believe. My prayer was not that Ken Ham would win a debate. My prayer was that Bill Nye and others would hear the truth and believe. God has not called us to oppose the lost, to oppose evolutionists, to oppose those who live in darkness, to oppose those who revel in immorality. God has called us to seek them, love them, to play our part in their deliverance from sin and death. Our opposition has one target: Satan, the enemy of God. But those who have been blinded by him are not our enemies; they are lost souls in need of a savior and we have been called to share the truth with them in love, trusting God for the outcome.
So an interesting debate between two scientists, one who calls himself the "Science Guy" and the other who calls himself a science "bloke" provided a unique look into the significant difference between and importance of world-views. One view holds science as a god, of sorts, but offers no hope for the serious problems faced by humanity. The other view holds the God of the universe to be the only hope for the serious problems faced by humanity. What do you believe and what difference does it make? To help answer that question, take some time to read the first two chapters of Paul's letters to the believers in Rome. You would think Paul was at the debate...