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Apr 22 2014

Fair Enough – Bill Nye’s Defence

I read Bill Nye’s defence of why he chose to engage in a debate with Ken Ham. While I think the biggest risk was that a Bill Nye defeat would somehow restart the old “Creationist Wars”, his arguments put him squarely in the victory camp.

But his defence also makes sense, even though Ken Ham may have profited monetarily, Bill Nye probably sowed the seeds of sufficient doubt to encourage children and indeed parents to start questioning the applied theology of creationism.

But the thing is? Ken Ham was always given legitimacy among the various right wing Christian groups, many of whom control school and education boards. Not challenging him made him the sole voice to these people. People like Zack Koplin and Bill Nye drag the conversation back to the same battles we fought in the 90s because we may have to fight them again. Ken Ham probably expected to win this debate but having been left alone for a while those skills atrophied. While we aren’t inundated with huge numbers of creationists the dialogue of creationism never stopped. In not engaging we may have given them the space to say that they won and win over more parents.

Bill Nye’s enthusiasm for science seems to have made him do this. This is not exactly the best idea but since when does a passion for science curtail itself from trying to educate others?

So I say? Good on Bill Nye. The Science Guy reaches another group of people.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Holms

    My take on the question of engaging cranks in high profile debate is always something of a balance between “someone needs to engage with those that would poison the education system” and “engaging with them gives them an appearence of legitimacy, that their idiotic criticisms of science actually amount to a relevant challenge to the science being taught”. I end up simply being glad that someone that is not me is doing that particular dirty work.

  2. 2
    seraphymcrash

    My problem with Bill Nye’s decision to debate Ham was that he didn’t put enough time into determing the parameters of the debate. He should have ensured that an independent party moderated and filmed the debate, and that it was held in a neutral place. Ham had too much control over the audience and the location, and that’s unacceptable.

    I do think it’s important to engage with the creationists occasionally, though it’s very necessary to decline to debate many of these “resolved” topics as well.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    I agree – Nye’s “teaching the controversy” because that’s the only way to counter an opponent who feels they can simply make up their own ‘facts’

  4. 4
    Akira MacKenzie

    …even though Ken Ham may have profited monetarily, Bill Nye probably sowed the seeds of sufficient doubt to encourage children and indeed parents to start questioning the applied theology of creationism.

    I think you’re missing the fact that Americans attribute financial success and wealth with the validity of ideas. Most people aren’t going to care what Nye said in the debate. All they’re going to hear is how Ham brought in millions to his cause, and if there was nothing to creationism, then how could he make so much money?

  5. 5
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ Akira MacKenzie : There’s more to life than money and I hope more people realise that than not.

    Bill Nye’s enthusiasm for science seems to have made him do this. This is not exactly the best idea but since when does a passion for science curtail itself from trying to educate others?
    So I say? Good on Bill Nye. The Science Guy reaches another group of people.

    Well said. Seconded.

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