Friday, January 3, 2014

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye

The news is abuzz with yesterday's announcement that Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, will be debating Bill Nye the Science Guy on February 4th, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.  Ham and Nye, besides sounding like a good sandwich, are arguably some the most vocal and widely recognized proponents of the creationist and evolutionist views of origins, respectively.  They have been indirectly debating online since Bill Nye appeared in a widely-publicized video in August 2012 denouncing creationism as inappropriate for children and harmful to the future of science and technology.  A direct head-to-head debate should prove interesting and will focus on the question of whether "creation [is] a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era."  Given the phrasing of the topic, it is likely that the debate will emphasize philosophy over hard sciences, but biological, geological, and astronomical issues will undoubtedly be brought up.  There is no indication so far that the debate will be televised or webcast.

Ken Ham

An Australian by birth, Ken Ham moved to the United States in 1987 to work with the Institute of Creation Research, which he eventually left to found Answers in Genesis-US in 1994.  Ham has a bachelor's degree in applied science from the Queensland Institute of Technology, an education degree from the University of Queensland, and four honorary doctorates from various US institutions.  He is extremely passionate about the origins controversy, so much that many Christians take offense to him, claiming that he puts too much emphasis on the accuracy of Genesis, or that he is too hostile toward Christians who do not accept the young-earth creationist model.

While presiding over Answers in Genesis, managing the Creation Museum, and overseeing the upcoming Ark Encounter, Ken Ham has written numerous books for children and adults, made TV appearances, spoken at conferences, and presented in digital media, all focusing on the origins issue.  While he is well-versed in the scientific aspects of the debate, Ham has recently been focused on the impact that rejection of a literal interpretation of Genesis has on children, particularly young churchgoers.  It is this emphasis that brought him head-to-head with Bill Nye.

Bill Nye

Educated in mechanical engineering at Cornell University, Bill Nye started out as an engineer at Boeing and appeared in training videos and local TV sketches.  He was then launched to near-celebrity status when he starred in his own television show, Bill Nye the Science Guy, a science educational program directed at preteens, and thus he had a profound impact on my generation of students.  The show ran from 1993 to 1998, after which Nye appeared on various news shows as a science consultant.  He returned to the spotlight in the last few years as his reputation as a reliable scientific source grew, even appearing as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.  In August of 2012, he jumped into the creation-evolution debate when he appeared in a Big Think video claiming that denial of evolution is "holding everybody back" and that children should not be taught creationism because "we need them" for scientific and engineering pursuits.

Bill Nye has also been awarded several honorary doctorates and received the "Humanist of the Year Award" from the American Humanist Association.  As an interesting bit of trivia, Nye's 2006 wedding was officiated by Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven series of Christian books.

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