Though Tuesday night’s Bill Nye-Ken Ham show was billed as a debate between supporters of evolution and “creation as a model of origins,” it was in fact merely a media event designed to promote two commercial brands and one failing cable network: Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, and CNN.
As the program opened, moderator Tom Foreman of CNN claimed Nye and Ham would debate this question:
“Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
The two protagonists, however, were ill suited to present a full discussion of this question because they represent just two of the five major schools of thought on the issue. Only the two far extremes – atheistic evolution as argued by Nye, and “Young Earth Creationism” as argued by Ham – were represented. Supporters of three major schools of thought that would have vigorously argued in the affirmative – theistic evolution, intelligent design, and “Old Earth Creationism” – were not invited to participate.
Francis S. Collins, the human genome expert who heads the National Institute of Health and a leading proponent of theistic evolution, was not invited to participate. Nor was William Demski, mathematics expert, Christian theologian, fellow at the Discovery Institute, and leading proponent of intelligent design. Hugh Ross, the PhD. in Astronomy who has dedicated a lifetime of research based on the scientific method to support the theory of “Old Earth Creationism,” was also notably absent.
“Young Earth Creationists” believe man and Earth were created by God 6,000 years ago. “Old Earth Creationists” subscribe to the theory that earth was created four to thirteen billion years ago (as do evolutionists and most scientists). Man was created by God fully formed, but at a point in time somewhere between 40,000 and 200,000 years ago. Intelligent design proponents focus on evidence that suggests an intelligent entity (perhaps divine) worked in the design of the universe. Theistic evolutionists generally accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, but accept the idea that man was created by God at the precise moment in the evolutionary sequence when the genetic mutation that created the species homo sapiens took place.
Even before the Nye-Ham media event, many on the left, including one writer at The Huffington Post, called it a victory for “the anti-science guy.” The Wire also declared the event a victory for the “young earth creationists” just because it was held.
The left, it turns out, won’t even entertain debates on topics they think they will win hands down. So much for the marketplace of ideas.
The left has not been unanimous in its post-game assessment of the “winner” of the Nye-Ham dust up. The Daily Beast said “[l]ast night, it was easy to pick out the smarter man on the stage. Oddly, it was the same man who was arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old.” Forward Progressives, on the other hand, wrote “Bill Nye embarrasses Ken Ham even more on CNN following debate.”
More mainstream outlets tended to score the battle for Nye. Business Insider, for instance, reported that “Bill Nye dominated Ken Ham.”
Though views on the origins of life do not necessarily track with political affiliations, many in the mainstream media try to portray discussions on the origins of life as extensions of the political battles between Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right. This is what CNN apparently intended in presenting the Nye-Ham event. In doing so without including proponents of theistic evolution, intelligent design, and “Old Earth Creationism,” it has done little to advance public understanding of the issue.
CNN may, however, have succeeded in achieving something it needs badly: getting a bump in its dismal ratings. After the “debate,” Nye and Ham appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live.
If the Nye-Ham media event generates better ratings for CNN, we may soon see Nye and Ham co-hosting Crossfire. Or perhaps Tuesday’s extravaganza was just a pilot episode of CNN’s new game show: Family Origins Feud.