Bill Nye is going to debate Ken Ham

But he wouldn’t debate Aron Ra and me. I guess he was fishing for a bigger media bang for the buck.

I have a feeling this won’t go well. Neither Nye nor Ham have reputations as debaters (neither do I, but I was going to just be there to back up Aron Ra), and let’s face it, debating is a very specific and narrow skill. They’re probably going to bumble past each other for an hour. Nye will do a better job of explaining how the science actually works, Ham will just do his usual canned schtick for his friendly audiences, and given that he will pack the place with evangelicals, it will go over well there…but the rest of the world will see it and declare it stupid.

Ham has already announced that he’s going to school Nye on this “historical and observational science” bullshit that his cronies invented. I hope Nye is prepared to reject it.


  1. Wren, a Tru Hoppist says

    I live near the Creation “Museum” and I’d like to go to be a science friendly audience member, but I’m not paying them $25 to see it.

  2. gussnarp says

    The news story I read said the admission fee is going to the “museum”. For that reason alone, I will not be going. It also tells you why Ham wanted to take on Nye and not you and Aaron Ra – he wanted a big ticket draw to get a desperately needed cash infusion for his dying museum. I hope people will resist the draw of seeing Nye speak and allow the bulk of the tickets to go unsold so that after paying the travel costs for Nye, Ham will end up losing money on the deal. Sure, that means Ham gets a friendly audience, but so what?

    As for how this will go, as you say, Ham is no Gish, so I don’t expect him to do well at all. Neither is Nye known as a debater, nor is he actually an expert in any of the relevant fields of science. But hopefully he’ll study up and have some good explanations ready. That’s the best he can hope to do: adequately explain the basic reasons why evolution must be true to anyone who’s actually paying attention and willing to listen.

  3. janiceclanfield says

    This is just a terrible idea. Someone needs to coach Nye about debating creationist liars. He is going to get stomped. I just hate to think what kind of debacle this is going to be.


  4. says

    Wren, I’m totally with you. I work in Hebron and would love to go, but am having serious reservations about having 25 of my hard-earned dollars fund Ham’s Ark… unless it’s for the special exhibit on who got to transport the tapeworms.

  5. says

    I think there is little chance of Ham not selling out the 700 seat auditorium without science friendly people buying tickets. Think about it…Quiverfull and encouragement to make more souls for the lord. Yes many, many people know around the world that Creationism and Ham are ridiculous, but Ham is the largest proponent to YEC. 46 percent of American believe in Creationism, because they don’t really understand science. Ask a college professor like PZ about how much creationism and scientific illiteracy makes a science educators job much heavier than it should be. It doesn’t help that people, who are already scientifically literate people just scoff at YEC and ID Creationism. What has helped is the people, who are fighting it.

  6. 00001000bit says

    Bill Nye should only have done this if half the proceeds were being directed to charities of HIS choosing.

    Then, he should have chosen Planned Parenthood and the Freedom from Religion Foundation as his charities.

    This would help prevent the venue being flooded by fundagelicals (“my money is supporting WHAT?”). It’d also provide an outlet for “science-friendlies” to attend, as they wouldn’t be fully supporting Ham’s Creation Theme Park with their money.

  7. beatgroover says

    Clearly just a ploy to raise some much-needed funds. 700 seat auditorium at $25 a ticket is $17,500, then Ham gets to sell the (heavily edited) video off for additional profit. I just hope Nye is getting a hefty gig fee out of this or else he’s being used as a marketing and fundraising gimmick.

  8. borax says

    @4 Ashleylynnwilson, The two grasshoppers had the tapeworms. I know this because I watched a survival show that said grasshoppers often had tapeworms. BOOM, Ken Ham logic.

  9. Louis says

    Two words: Massive fucking waste of time.

    Ignore Ham et al, oppose them in the courts when they get out of their box occasionally. Don’t make the mistake of getting down in the mud with them. You elevate them by accident.

    Even if Nye wins, he loses. The chances of an audience of the unconvinced or even moderately enlightened are tiny. This is a vanity project/cash generator for Ham. Debate is the wrong format for this sort of educational mission, detail and complexity come across poorly in debate. It’s about emotion and rhetoric, not detail, facts, and exploring poor arguments. I can count on one hand the debates of this sort that have gone the right way.


  10. says

    If we look at the math on this at 25 dollars a ticket and 700 tickets, the proceeds will be 17,500. It’s a lot to most people, but it is chump change to Ham. He has probably spent that on bibles alone. He’s already raised millions of donations for the Ark Park. What he wants is publicity for his new “science” show and to be seen as a legitimate science education authority like Nye. It’s propaganda complete with emotional manipulation like fear mongering people about their salvation if they don’t accept YEC and his authority on how to read the Bible.

    Emotional appeals are very persuasive to most people even above facts. That is why he is stinking rich.

  11. grumpyoldfart says

    More than 30 years ago Isaac Asimov wrote “Losing The Debate” wherein he warned scientists of the problems they will encounter when debating creationists. He concluded the essay with these words:

    What ought a scientist do then?

    It seems to me he ought to decline to debate these showmen on their terms if he lacks the talent for the rough-and-tumble. And if he thinks he has the talent, he should not bother defending evolution; he should move to force his opponent to present evidence for creationism. Since there isn’t any, the result could be humorous.

    I think Nye will get done like a dinner.

  12. says

    Ah! beatgroover beat me to the math point. Hadn’t thought about selling edited video. I still think that the payout for Ham is more science authority and publicity.

  13. says

    I like the Asimov quote. That is the one thing I like about this debate -the topic. Is creationism a viable model of origins? It puts the onus on Ham for evidence. Which he knows he doesn’t have, so he will do much Bible thumping and chest pounding and inflating himself for other Christians. The people like homeschool curriculum buyers and potential viewers of his new program, he sells YEC to.

    But for Nye it’s an awesome topic, all he has to do is keeping digging in on how YEC is ridiculous when you look at evidence. He’s a comedian, and has some charisma too.

  14. beatgroover says

    Lilandra you definitely nailed it with the publicity thing. One can’t understate the value of good publicity and “debating” one of the most well-known science popularizers is about the best way to make it seem like you have a valid and informed opinion.

  15. says

    I’m curious to see what happens. I mean, this is pretty big, as far as popular figures for each camp.

    I do hope the audience is filled with young-earth creationists.Hopefully some will listen to the evidence. I think that’s the best case scenario. We don’t need anyone who accepts evolution (even god assisted) to be there, really. It only helps Ham and takes seats from people who might change their minds.

    What’s the question you most often hear from people who don’t get evolution? “Where’s the evidence?” and “You can’t see evolution, so you can’t know.” Give solid answers to those; then you just need to explain why “the bible” and “minor details in evolution not being explained perfectly” are ridiculous answers to “Is creation a viable model of origins” in the face of the evidence on the side of evolution.

    ugh, how is this even a debate?

  16. Sastra says

    I agree with 0bit at #6 — it would be (would have been) wise for Nye to stipulate that his share of the proceeds would go to humanist charities. But my reaction to this debate goes against the general tide here because I see it as an automatic win for Nye.

    Nye will do a better job of explaining how the science actually works, Ham will just do his usual canned schtick for his friendly audiences, and given that he will pack the place with evangelicals, it will go over well there…

    Given this scenario, there’s something else which will happen. The “friendly audience … pack(ed) with evangelicals” will be packed with plenty of children, teenagers, and adults who have been kept carefully sheltered from the actual science and systematically lied to about what the “other side” is really saying. As far as the actual debate is concerned, Nye is risking nothing. Even if he fails to persuade one single evangelical his arguments can’t possibly be so bad that he loses anyone on the cusp.

    But Ham is risking a lot. If the audience is really a creationist audience, then should there be any movement at all it will not be in his favor. And the shift can be slow. Even if everyone bounces out of there loudly insisting that Nye lost and Ham won and their faith has never been stronger — what has been heard cannot be unheard. We all know that changing one’s mind about religion is usually the result of a long, long process of reflection and contemplation, not a matter of getting caught up in the emotional high of a ‘battle.’ And this change is often jumpstarted by something as small as …. actually hearing someone from the other side express themselves clearly and well. Someone who seemed surprisingly “nice.” Maybe someone who is beloved by children.

    I mean, they KNOW what Ham is going to say, sure. But they don’t know what Nye will say AND he has the better argument. That’s the point. The odds are very, very good that there will be at least a handful of Ham supporters who will eventually change their minds due to this debate — people who would otherwise never have felt any rumblings of rebellion at all.

    If Nye was debating Ham on credible academic turf, then I agree: the negatives prevail. If Nye was debating Ham on neutral turf, then I agree that the negatives probably outweigh the positives. But at the Creationist Museum? In what amounts to a CHURCH? Ha! In my opinion Ham’s positive publicity is going to be outweighed by the fact that he’s handing over his protected, insulated, carefully nurtured audience to a powerfully persuasive and charismatic Enemy … and he can’t get them back in the same condition.

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    lilandra @ 5

    I have to disgaree with you here. America’s acceptance of Creationism has nothing to do with poor science education, especially in this age of readily available information on demand. You could sit a room full of creationists in front of the most articulate and people-friendly biologist for a comprehensive lecture about evolution and they will reject it still. This has never been about science, but religion and ideology (not to mention a touch of racism). It’s about people who don’t want to accept that they are just another species of filthy ape on an insignificant rock in vast, uncaring, universe. They want to believe they are special; created in the image of their deity himself, a deity who will reward them for their worship while punishing all they people they hate with eternal torment.

    That’s why 46% of Americans accept Creationism.

  18. says

    I have very little live debate experience. Twice I’ve helped debate TF on gun control and rape culture. It was more like a heated discussion. The rape culture “discussion” was greatly aided by his home field advantage. His friends in the discussion (except Aron) gave him softball questions and didn’t really hold him accountable. They also would make audible noises whenever I did try to pry at some of his ideas. They would show shock whenever I would ask a reasonable question about his rape prevention strategies like the mountain lion thing. Which to a lot of people sounds ridiculous. I asked how would a child or elderly person pull that off. His ridiculous reasoning made that silly question necessary. And too, his fanboys dominated the comments portraying me as “emotional”.

    I don’t want to derail to TF and his reasoning, but that is what will happen with a home field advantage for Ham too. The moderator may try too hard to balance and be harder on Nye. Frankly, I don’t see much of Nye’s influence on this debate so far the venue is Ham’s and he hasn’t said much. So I am bit nervous that Nye won’t have enough input into the moderator. Worst case scenario, he could get a Ham sympathetic moderator.

    Most of all the audience will guffaw Nye and applaud Ham. I’ve met these people they think that Ham knows what he is talking about because they don’t know better. If you get most of them in the audience, Ham will look like a hero to his audience in the video afterwards. Kinda like TF did, but I digress.

  19. jamessweet says

    Regarding the “observational science” crap, I am intrigued to find out how Mano Singham’s suggestion would go over (maybe somebody can dig up a link for this):

    CREATIONIST: How do you know evolution took place millions of years ago? Were you there?!
    MANO: Yes, I was.
    CREATIONIST: Exactly, s— wait, what???
    MANO: I was there, yes. I saw it happen.
    CREATIONIST: Um…. no you weren’t!
    MANO: How do you know I wasn’t? Were you there?!

    AFAIK he hasn’t actually tried it, but it would be fun to see what would happen…

  20. says


    I have to disgaree with you here. America’s acceptance of Creationism has nothing to do with poor science education, especially in this age of readily available information on demand. You could sit a room full of creationists in front of the most articulate and people-friendly biologist for a comprehensive lecture about evolution and they will reject it still. This has never been about science, but religion and ideology (not to mention a touch of racism).

    The point I was making is about creationist understanding of science not being good enough to know who is right between Ham and Nye. I agree their scientific illiteracy is caused in large part by religion and ideology blocking them from understanding it. But as a science educator, I see the effects of poor science education all the time. Most of my 12 year olds came in not understanding what atoms or elements are. I’ve been in professional training with teachers who thought that we could draw the Milky Way by drawing a jug of milk. When adults don’t know their own galaxy teach children about science it is part of the problem.

  21. Randomfactor says

    There is a time and a place for debating creationists. That time and place is in a courtroom while there’s a judge presiding to say “Objection overruled, please answer the question, Mr. Ham.”

  22. stevem says

    Re OP:
    The question of whether to debate a creationists is always “debatable” /snark.

    My advise to Nye would be to feed back Ham’s methods to Ham himself. Gish Gallop in reverse, whatever Ham says, always ask him, “Were you there?”, “Show us your evidence for that.”, etc. etc. Keep asking Ham about every little detail of anything Ham says. I.G. if he says, “God told me so.”, just ask “When? Did anybody else hear? Is his voice high pitched or low?” etc. etc.Whatever game Ham is playing, play it right back at him.

    Re “estimated revenue”:
    [sorry to not blockquote] Your calculation of $25 per seat for 700 seats is accurate enough, but appears to disregard the potential sale of many more DVD’s of the event for all those “poor souls” who could not attend in person. I may be wrong, but I’ll bet you; AIG advertises such a DVD the very next day.

  23. blf says

    I’ve been in professional training with teachers who thought that we could draw the Milky Way by drawing a jug of milk.

    Well, at least they didn’t try to draw a candy bar.
    Or a warehouse converted into a music / arts centre (Melkweg in Amsterdam).

  24. bbgunn says

    I doubt Mr. Nye will get through to Ham’s supporters, even using the small words and simple sentences that he reserves for his youngest audiences.

  25. theignored says

    My email to Mr. Nye:
    From: ******
    To: Bill Nye

    Dear Mr. Nye:

    I understand that you’re going up against Ken (“Were you there?”) Ham of AIG in a debate about “creation”.

    I would advise that you take a fair amount of time to research Ham’s tactics, and also to see what he’s been saying about you!

    ex 1)
    ex 2)

    If you look at their children’s cartoons, their attacks on scientists get worse:

    Even if Ham doesn’t pull cartoons like this out, know that his audience will be thinking of things like this:

    1) Look up the phrase “Gish Gallop”: Many statements of complete bull can be tossed out very fast, and you will NOT have the time to refute them.

    For example, this is how they deal with the probability of evolution: –a few seconds to read the cartoon, and how many minutes to explain their “misunderstanding” of it?

    2) Watch the video series “The Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism”
    by Aron Ra. His work is well researched and Ken Ham will NOT debate

    3) Know that Ken Ham censors opposing viewpoints on his, and on AIG’s
    facebook pages. When they have control of the venue, as they will at
    the Creation Museum, they will take advantage of it. Expect that any
    video they make will be similarly edited.

    4) Baud 2 Bits has some videos where he discusses Ken Ham and AIG as well (Aron’s videos are more general):


    5) The people on the Panda’s Thumb website have talked about this as well; they know how people like Ham think and how one can possibly handle him:

    –Note how AIG goes against the methodology of science:

    One thing to remember: “Evolutionists” are evil in their eyes. In their mind, you are NOT trying to get people to learn about the world around us, you are not trying to get people interested in science…in their mind you are “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” and are deliberately trying to take children to hell.

    This is, after all, what they think of children:

    The entire audience at their museum will take all that for granted.

    You will be facing an extremely biased and hostile audience at the Creation Museum. Hopefully some of this info will give you insight into how these particular creationists think, and has given you insights on how to deal with Ham.

  26. Alex says

    Using Ham’s methods back on himself, doing a reverse gish gallop etc. are too far out of charakter for Nye’s media personality. It won’t work to force him to do something that is so far away from his natural mode of operation. But it might not be necessary! He should try to learn how to avert the most obvious Hamisms rhetorically, otherwise stick to his own great strengths which are calm clear and patient explanation of scientific concepts and facts, and hope that Sastra is right. I think Sastra has a point.

  27. David Marjanović says

    Yes many, many people know around the world that Creationism and Ham are ridiculous

    Off-topic, but… few people around the world know that Ham exists at all. I’ve only ever read about him on Pharyngula and perhaps a few other Sb/FtB sites. There is no such thing as a world-famous creationist who is famous for being a creationist. It’s a US thing.

    Before Bush the Lesser’s campaign in 2000, very few Europeans even knew that anyone was still a creationist!

    America’s acceptance of Creationism has nothing to do with poor science education, especially in this age of readily available information on demand. You could sit a room full of creationists in front of the most articulate and people-friendly biologist for a comprehensive lecture about evolution and they will reject it still.

    Information is readily available on demand. As soon as you want to enroll in the U of Google and take a 10-hour course there, you can! If you don’t want to, however, or if you just figure you don’t have 10 hours at your disposal, you’ll never learn about that information unless something else happens.

    You could of course sit a room full of adult creationists in the situation you describe, and they’d still refuse to consider evolution. That’s because they come with baggage: they were taught about evolution in school either not at all, or by creationists who (knowingly or not, probably not) misrepresented it, or by people who accepted it but hardly understood it (say, imagined it as a magic march of progress through the ages, where mutations arise as needed to preserve the species or some such crap); and they’ve lived all their lives in a creationist environment, on the one hand getting used to it, on the other hand sinking costs into it.

    Put a room full of vaguely curious teenagers in a school that is worthy of that name, and the result will be different.

  28. hexidecima says

    All Bill needs to say is this

    “‘Is there scientific evidence – observable evidence – to support the claims of Christianity?”

    If Ham thinks it works for him “‘Is there scientific evidence – observable evidence – to support evolution?’” then it should work in this case.

  29. curbyrdogma says

    Anyways, Bill should confront Ham about ripping him off in the AiG “educational” [sic] video “The Creation Adventure Team”, among other things

  30. mykroft says

    I seriously do not get the “a written testimony from someone during that period is more credible than science” argument. By that logic, Mohammed must have ascended to heaven on a flying horse, and Joseph Smith was given the principles of Mormonism on golden plates.

  31. Ichthyic says

    Someone needs to coach Nye about debating creationist liars.

    Don Prothero spent some time coaching Nye at a New Year’s Eve party with DJ Grothe….

    i’m sure that covered it.


  32. Ichthyic says

    MANO: I was there, yes. I saw it happen.
    CREATIONIST: Um…. no you weren’t!
    MANO: How do you know I wasn’t? Were you there?!

    it should work quite well, actually, since it then forces the creationist to answer the question posed:

    How DOES the creationist know Mano wasn’t there?

    …which leads to discussion of deduction and reasoning… which then basically shuts down creationism.

  33. Ichthyic says

    Ham will look like a hero to his audience in the video afterwards

    that reminds me, I do hope THIS TIME, both speakers have a written contract that allows for each party to view and have final approval over any edited video copies.

    Ham and Co. are notorious for modifying videos to make the other person look bad.

  34. unclefrogy says

    I would not pay any money to see that debate mainly ‘cuase I ain’t got any but I would like to hear it and see it Bill Nye has spent his career talking to kids a about science he is the right man for the job. Using the normal evidence and rhetoric for a scientific debate will not make a good impression on the audience. It is the audience that should be the focus. Bill’s disarming charm and his ability to keep it simple so any 8 year old can understand it should do well at least in contrast with the arrogance of Ken Ham He also does not get side Trying to convince Ham of anything is pointless he has a script and does not stray from it it is the only thing he knows to do.
    uncle frogy

  35. unclefrogy says

    I should have finished adding “he does not get side tracked”
    unlike me, my unruly mind goes in all directions at once I am amazed I can get any thing written that makes any sense at all.
    uncle frogy

  36. says

    Good idea or no, if this actually does take place (I’m still fuzzy on whether or not it’s indeed going to happen) I do plan to attend. I realize I’m just playing a part in their exploitation of Bill Nye and the science community but I’m quite curious to see where this goes.

    On a side note, while at a local movie theater last week my husband and I had to sit through a pre-movie advertisement for this “museum”. I’ve seen their billboards but never had I actually seen an commercial and in a theater no less. It’s obvious they are REALLY making a push to get more people into their building.

  37. David Marjanović says

    unlike me, my unruly mind goes in all directions at once I am amazed I can get any thing written that makes any sense at all.

    Yeah. Learning more punctuation would definitely help. In some of your run-on sentences I simply lose track and get lost in the monotone.

  38. Al Dente says

    Bill Nye is an excellent science presenter. If he were giving a lecture on basic evolution I’m sure it would be both entertaining and informative. A debate requires a different technique set than a lecture. It’s rather dubious if Bill has that set.

  39. George Peters says

    Ken Ham will eat Bill Nye for breakfast. I’ve watched Ham debate. He also has science on his side.

    Nye will just trip over his ego.

  40. ChasCPeterson says

    He also has science on his side.

    You obviously know nothing of science. (Who’s got the larger ego is also debatable.)

    x-posted from the other thread:
    There seems to be some question as to whether anybody’s mentioned any of this to Bill Nye…it’s been picked up by mainstream media, but Answers in Genesis is the only source and Nye has not confirmed or commented, to anybody, in any way, as of this writing.

  41. says

    He also has science on his side.

    :snort: Oh my. And here I thought the whole idea was that he had faith on his side. What does God need with science? Well, keep da faith, George.

  42. says

    Editorial suggestion: Change “he” in the first sentence to Ham. As it’s written, between the header and the first line, the antecedent for the first “he” is Nye.

  43. says

    Wut planet do you live on?

    Perhaps no one has explained this to you, barrydesborough, but here on planet earth, it’s considered polite to say who you are addressing. This has been a free pro-tip.

  44. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Monitor Note:

    From the Rules:

    VI. Courtesies:

    If you are replying to a specific comment, use the comment number and poster’s name.

    This is as opposed to replies to the OP.

  45. satanaugustine says

    Bill Nye has to be an ignorant naive fucking idiot to agree to this “debate.” Given that all the money goes to the Cretin Museum nothing good could come of this…unless Nye shoots Ham in the face. I cannot believe this stupidity will occur and that there will be atheists who will fork over $25 to help maintain Ham’s steaming pile of ignorance. Atheists/skeptics/Bill Nye should know better. I’m disappointed in “my people.”

  46. says


    unless Nye shoots Ham in the face.

    Please, don’t do this. By the way, promoting violence is against the comment rules. You might want to look at this thread. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence, at this point, that Nye has accepted this debate, or even knows about it.

  47. regina says

    Akita MacKenzie @18, while I agree with your post when it comes to adults, I would disagree that poor science education has nothing to do with keeping the next generation “in the fold”. When you don’t have a science education, you don’t understand why Ham’s arguments are wrong. I was raised in a fundamentalist home/went to private Christian schools. At 13, I could not have told you why Ham’s “were you there?” argument was invalid. When your education is that poor, you don’t know what you’re missing. We were taught that Ham’s type of reasoning WAS science.

    But the thing is, fundamentalist Christianity is based on very fragile ground. In order to be true, it has to all be 100% literally true. That’s what is pounded into their children’s heads. Sometimes all it takes is simple exposure to the littlest bit of quality science to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

    Maybe it’s a mostly no-win situation for Bill Nye, but he doesn’t really have anything to lose with that crowd either. Like a pp said, no thinking person will give a second thought to what Ham says. But maybe a few creationist-brainwashed young people will walk away with a little ear worm of doubt or, even better, questions.

  48. says

    I live in the area and wanted to attend. I went to look for the ticket sales today and their website says they are sold out. I still haven’t heard any confirmation from Bill Nye. Did I miss it?