Nye vs. Ham Debate on Science and the Creation Story

As an academic — and one who has studied some religion and science, but nothing that remotely qualifies me as an authority, I always urge students to take a critical approach to the topic of religion and science. I respect people of faith who use it as their guide to promote good. I realize people have their faith because it is the element of one’s self cosmos which allows them to understand the unknown. Those of faith must also realize that we live in a very pluralistic world in which there are countless beliefs about creation. And, there are those who hold to a more evolutionary origin. In the end, our focus should not be centered on converting believers into non believers and non believers into believers;the focus should be centered on engagement: How might the world’s many beliefs be used to promote a greater sense of order? Hence, members of both sides can be critical thinkers in using their constitutional self as a measure of further engaging questions about universal discovery. Both Newton and Galileo believed in the relationship between science and religion. Hence, the rise of modern science in the age of modernity and critical thought started with them. Their research and scientific inquiry promoted a new fashion of thought. Hence, the rise of theism, deism, and eventually atheism once society reached the age of Darwin in a post Baron d’Holbach age of determinism.

What I most enjoyed about the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate was a small sense of said order. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to watch it. They were civil. And in being civil, created a forum in which all people might engage in a dialogue without the temperament.

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13 thoughts on “Nye vs. Ham Debate on Science and the Creation Story

  1. “Both Newton and Galileo believed in the relationship between science and religion.”

    That’s because during the age in which they worked, it was extremely dangerous not to. Newton was known for his isolation and drew negative attention to himself (possibility of witchery), and Galileo was imprisoned for presenting arguments that defied the dictates of religious texts.

  2. Actually many consider that Galileo did his most useful theoretical work on dynamics while essentially under “house arrest” after his trial. Galileo never renounced his faith and saw his system as simply an alternate interpretation of the biblical texts.

    I do not deny that there was religious persecution and suppression in parts of Europe during Newton’s lifetime, but it seems that any threat he may have felt was more because his religious beliefs did not conform to Anglican orthodoxy It is clear from his writings that his faith was a willing, deeply held, sincere part of his life.

    • “Galileo never renounced his faith and saw his system as simply an alternate interpretation of the biblical texts.”

      Kind of hard not to when the entirety of your life is surrounded by and embroiled in religion, mythic texts, churches, monasteries, Gregorian chanting, prayers, communion, popes, priests, etc. etc.

      I would argue that the same principle applies to Newton.

      Atheism could not have flourished under these conditions, but it’s ironic that the work these men did fostered the progress of it.

      • Just because a society might have theological boundaries, you can’t draw a conclusion about what any individual might due in the theoretical absence of those boundaries. Galileo wrote his treatise after seeking, discussing with and thinking he had received the approval of the Pope to do so. Yet even after being denounced, he not only continued his scientific work, but he also financially supported his daughter as a nun in a convent, as well as the convent she served in and the Roman Catholic church that denounced him. He could have just as easily gone off and intellectually “sulked in a corner” somewhere.

        Newton’s religious views tended more towards an Eastern Orthodox theology (not that he specifically declared as much) The point being that in 17th century Anglican/Puritan England, he purposely chose to hold a religious faith that still managed to essentially poke a sharp stick in the eye of ecclesiastical authorities. He could have more easily chosen instead to remain theologically mute, but did not do so.

        Regardless, I’m sure you know as well as I that there is a long list of important scientists, mathematicians and philosophers throughout history to this day who have had strong religious faith and, at the same time, contributed greatly to our understanding of nature, medicine, the universe, physics, chemistry, etc. One doesn’t necessarily preclude the other.

  3. Yes, justanyjon, you beat me to the punch regarding the Galileo; I would also like to add that many Western and Easter European states were adding observatories. Even France by the late 17th century under Louis XIV had one.

    As noted, religious persecution transpired then as it does today in hostel nations. My point with this post is to note that we do not have to agree in order to allow both to advance humanity. The only alternative is religious conflict — and we have seen how much that has advanced man.

  4. I enjoyed the debate. You got it right Carson when you talk about two opposing sides focusing on the betterment of humanity. As an atheist, I could care less what others think or believe. I do not want to be legislated as you stated on your blog, but I do want to be free to share my values and how my values might advance my friends.

  5. The evolution vs creationism debate last night really only cleared up one thing for me: it’s totally okay to make fun of someone else’s belief system all in the name of “science”. Let me tell you that mocking someone else’s beliefs does not make you any more “scientifically correct” or even intelligent for that matter

  6. I was able to sit and watch the whole debate tonight. I think it was conducted in a respectful manner and I didn’t see that anyone belief systems were ridiculed. I found it interesting and entertaining, but don’t think anyone’s minds were changed. I also found that, as Steve pointed out, Pat Robertson (of all people) takes issue with Ken Ham.

  7. I never agree with Pat Robertson, but he actually got something correct here. My issue with some Christians understanding of time is they ignore the point that it is a device created by man. So, this maybe the only time you hear me agree with this guy.

  8. I’ve only watched excerpts of the Nye and Ham debate because, quite frankly, 2.5 hours of it is way beyond the limits of my attention span.

    The so-called religion vs. science debate is really a problem of categories. Science seeks to observe and explain the natural world. Religion, generally speaking, seeks to explain the supernatural world — something beyond that which can be measured and explained by experimental (and even theoretical) science.

    To read a sacred text like the Bible as a science textbook is just bad reading, bad hermeneutics. Pay close attention to Genesis 1 and 2. These are two different creation stories making two very different theological points.

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