Hammy gets it wrong, again

Ken Ham is mad at Bill Nye again, because in the wake of the Rubio nonsense, Nye went on the air to explain why the earth is actually 4½ billion years old. Here’s the clip:

Now here’s where Ken Ham wigs out.

Well, children’s TV host Bill Nye’s understanding of science is worse than I thought. A few days ago, Bill Nye was interviewed on CNN about the age of the earth (this topic was a hot one in America because of headline news after Sen. Marco Rubio was asked a question about what he believed concerning the age of the earth).

Bill Nye in this CNN interview actually equated the age of the earth to the invention of smoke detectors. Hard to believe—but he did!

No, Ham really didn’t understand anything Bill Nye said, and it’s richly ironic to see Ham claiming someone else has a worse understanding of science.

Ionizing smoke detectors use a tiny amount of radiactive material to generate charged ions by their decay; these ions are released into the space in a capacitor, and their movement generates a constant trickle of current. If smoke particles enter the detector, they bind to the ions and block the current; that easily measured decline in current is what triggers the alarm in the detector.

This is a very simple system that depends entirely on our quantitative understanding of radioactivity. If radioactivity didn’t work like we thought it did, your smoke detector would not be very reliable, and for that matter, no one would have thought of using this function to work as a smoke detector.

Bill Nye did not equate the age of the earth to smoke detectors. He used smoke detectors as an example of how scientists have a very thorough understanding of radioactive decay. What he did use as an indicator of the age of the earth was a very brief summary of how rubidium decays into strontium with a half-life of about 48 billion years, allowing us to estimate the age of a sample by measuring the relative amounts of the two elements.

Ham then goes on his usual ignorant tangent of observational vs. historical science (ignore it, it’s rank inanity and I’ve dealt with it before) and challenges Nye to explain the very fact he explained in the video: I’ve highlighted a particularly relevant bit.

I once again challenge Bill Nye to give us one example of how evolution has anything to do with the development of technology and to explain how smoke detectors have anything to do with the age of the earth—when a detector is actually the result of intelligent observational science and the accumulated information about the properties of matter that enabled inventors to build such technology.

Yes, exactly. We have accumulated information about the properties of matter that allow us to build smoke detectors, and that same information rules out the possibility that the earth is 6000 years old. The information contradicts Ham’s claims. But what Ken Ham wants to be able to do is throw out the scientific information that makes his biblical exegesis into nonsense, and keep the bits that allow smoke detectors to work.

You don’t get to do that.

But the smoke detector discussion wasn’t about evolution, anyway. It was about a measurable physical property of the universe, its age, which Ham denies. I wish these guys could get it straight: evolution is about biology, and describes processes in living creatures that occurred on this one planet; physics is describing more general physical properties that are not specific to biology.

Ham is screeching about a debate between Nye and one of his clueless staff people. I do not recommend that Bill Nye take him up on it — as we can see, the Answers in Genesis folk don’t understand anything, don’t pay attention to what other people say, and don’t learn anything, so a debate would just be an opportunity for a creationist to preach from a podium with a credible and credentialed real science educator right next to them. Not a good idea.


It’s happened. I’ve looked at my schedule and discovered that today I have negative hours free (adding a 3 hour drive to the airport to the load just destroys my entire schedule.)

There are a few things I wanted to scribble down here today, but they’re only going to happen if I can find a way to do a few things simultaneously. Need more tentacles. Need this semester to end.

I’ve got a long weekend coming up in Ottawa. I may have to spend much of that hiding in my hotel room trying to recover enough to stagger through one more week of classes.

Christianity is not religion? It’s a philosophy?

My gob, but Bill O’Reilly is an idiot. He had an argument with Dave Silverman tonight, trying to argue that the government has a perfect right to promote Christmas because Christianity is not a religion.

Right. Believing in a dead god who rose again to redeem humanity from sin is only a “philosophy”. Believing in prayer is only a “philosophy”. Believing in an afterlife with a heaven and hell is only a “philosophy”.

The only raving lunatic in this segment is O’Reilly.

Cuttlefish celebrates BillO with a poem about the war on Christmas.