Episode 125: Nye Smokes Ham

The doubtcasters, along with friend of the show Jordan Fett, share thoughts and analysis (scientific, philosophical and psychological) on the debate between Creationist Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Also we discuss some of the psychological barriers to understanding evolution that both creationists AND evolutionists share, for this weeks “God Thinks Like You.” Also, learn about the Babylonian Ark Tablet and what it means for Biblical literalists in this episodes “Skeptics Sunday School”

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Episode Links:

Ken Ham and other literalists can’t handle pre-biblical Ark text

Follow up: The UN’s report on Catholic child abuse is released.

Stranger than fiction: dude tries to walk on water. Drowns. 


  1. gregfromcos says

    Look forward to the podcast.

    Regarding the debate. Had a YeC friend tell me today that they were re-examining their view on the age of the earth after the debate. Actually caught me off guard.

    She was a big Ham proponent before it, but thought he lost pretty completely.

    Either way surprised me.

  2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    * Help birth parents locate children who were taken from them for adoption out of Catholic institions. […] Apparently there’s a whole documentary out right now about this going on in Ireland.

    A few years ago, reports came out about the Catholic church’s involvement in large-scale baby trafficking (forced adoption, theft, selling) in Spain, Australia, Canada, and the US. On the order of hundreds of thousands, each.
    Documentary: BBC’s This World – Spain’s Stolen Babies

  3. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    That hummingbird you see drinking out of the beautiful flower. They’re both beautiful for evolutionary purposes. The tiger’s stripes are something we can reflect on poetically but it’s definitely an evolutionary advantage.

    Tumblr: WTF, Evolution?

  4. Don D. says

    I just finished listening to the Ham on Nye episode. Great job, guys. Thanks as always. I suppose Justin’s most recent debate is not available yet. Is that so?

  5. Rob says

    At around 58:00 Fletch says that its is totally irrational to ask what happened before the big bang because there was no time “before” the big bang.

    While that is true according to some models, it is not the case with other models.

    The best answer to that question is “I don’t know”.

  6. says

    As others here have pointed out Nye clearly won the debate. Even the YECs agree. He managed to get in his plug for evidence based education and how Kids’ opportunities in a science based society are severely limited by a YEC “education”… that alone is a big win of the side of reason and IMHO will bring more YEC indoctrinated children into the light of reason than might get there by diligent bible study followed by the realization that it is all BS. Ken has A Book. We have a huge pile of books and the freedom to figure out what to accept and what to reject.

  7. says

    Also, the scandal that Ken Ham was a science teacher with the beliefs he espouses should shock us into ensuring that his dogmas are refuted at every opportunity. IMHO, it would have been a win by default for Ken had Bill backed out of the debate. Before the debate, Ken was using opposition among skeptical pundits to the debate as an opportunity to whine about how we “devil-worshipers” want to censor his “biblical truth”.

  8. says

    When you were all discussing that “emotional appeals change minds of people” opposed to the “evidentiary factors” it reminded me of the ending of the 2012 movie The Life of Pi which posses the question:

    Pi Patel: “So which story do you prefer?”
    Writer: “The one with the tiger. That’s the better story.”
    Pi Patel: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

    In the penultimate question during the FAQ, Bill Nye stated that “Hang on, there is no evidence that humans are getting smarter.” Well, I just finished reading Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature in which he makes a compelling science-based argument that humans have been getting smart, i.e. The Flynn Effect. Whom do you think is correct: Nye or Pinker? To quote from page 652 of Pinker’s book:

    The Flynn Effect has been found in thirty countries, including some in the developing world, and it has been going on ever since IQ tests were first given en masse around the time of World War I. An even older dataset from Britain suggests that the Flynn Effect may even have begun with the cohort of Britons who were born in 1877 (though of course they were tested as adults). The gains are not small: an average of three IQ points (a fifth of a standard deviation) per decade. The implications are stunning. An average teenager today, if he or she could time-travel back to 1950, would have had an IQ of 118. If the teenager went back to 1910, he or she would have had an IQ of 130, besting 98 percent of his or her contemporaries. Yes, you read that right: if we take the Flynn Effect at face value, a typical person today is smarter than 98 percent of the people in the good old days of 1910. To state it in an even more jarring way, a typical person of 1910, if time-transported forward to the present, would have a mean IQ of 70, which is at the border of mental retardation.

    Cheers, from Andrew Antaro, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

  9. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Andrew Antaro #14:

    Whom do you think is correct: Nye or Pinker?

    The question in the debate was: “Since evolution teaches that man is evolving and growing smarter over time, how do you explain the evidences of man’s high intelligence in the past?”
    Nye was addressing the flawed premise of the question, answering that survival of the fittest does NOT mean selection for smarter people.
    Explanations for the Flynn Effect are generally environmental improvements.
    Article: Wikipedia – Flynn Effect

  10. Schlumbumbi says

    Stranger than fiction: dude tries to walk on water. Drowns.

    Since I go to hell anyway, I can laugh for as long as I want to.

  11. says

    Great podcast as always, folks. I share the general uneasiness of folks debating creationists, and I have to confess to probably being one of the few people who hasn’t watched/read/listened to the debate yet. It sounds like Bill Nye did a good job. However one aspect that we perhaps don’t see enough of is people going back and explaining the biblical text. The authors of the Genesis mythologies were not writing “history”, even as *they* saw it (although they can’t have had much of a clue). If Ken Ham has “this book”, which book is he referring to? Genesis 1 or Genesis 2? Because they can’t both be right. And if they’re not both right, maybe the more nuanced view (as held by the majority of Christian scholars) that they should be read figuratively rather than literally, is a tad closer to the truth (which is that they’re mythology)? Well done guys – keep it up!

  12. mond says


    I am not convinced saying “I don’t know” as a answer to a possibly incoherent question is really the best answer.

    Person A “What does sunshine taste like?”
    Person B “I don’t know”

    By saying “I don’t know” person B has accepted the premise that sunshine has a taste.

    ‘I don’t know if your premise is valid’ would be a better answer.

    The ‘before the big bang’ and ‘sunshine taste’ questions both suffer from a assume premises.

    By saying ‘I don’t know’ as a direct answer to the question what you are really saying is
    ‘I accept your question as valid and there is in principle an a answer but I don’t know what it is’

  13. Mark Smith says

    A great and timely episode, with Jordan offering a useful complement to the show’s regulars. I especially appreciated your points about Ken Ham’s contradiction in saying that the uniform laws of science depend on God, then turning around and saying that radioactive decay and the length of seasons and years differed in the past.

  14. Muz says

    Good stuff.

    There was a remark at the end about Ham not being willing to change his mind and the possibility he might say something different.
    I think he’s really stuck there. Probably he genuinely feels that, but even if not there’s all that footage of himself -possibly in that very auditorium – leading children in that great chant of his “God said it. I believe it. That settles it”. Not a lot of room to maneuver. (well, actually acres. otherwise all christianity would be fundamentalist. But you know what I mean).

    Anyway, I thought the Historical Science approach, while just a distillation of things creationists generally say, was quite novel. I haven’t seen that particular thrust put like that before. It was the main plank of his argument.
    While the guys went over all the troublesome implications of this notion quite nicely, I haven’t heard or thought of a really good pithy slam dunk against this argument yet. One that makes it really plain that implications and predictions from observed science make “historical science” valid.
    I don’t know if anyone knows a good one around here.

  15. Daniel Schechter says

    When young-Earth creationists claim that God put fossils in the ground, and created the universe with starlight already on its way to us, in order to mislead scientists, to give the Earth the impression of being older than it is, they are in point of fact calling God a liar.

    Now, as an atheist, I really do not care if people call God a liar. However, even a moron should be able to see that if God has “written across the rocks such an enormous and all-pervading lie” (to use the immortal words of Thomas Henry Huxley) then his word is not to be trusted, and we must assume that the Bible also is probably nothing but a magnificent stream of lies.

    In the Book of Job, God tells Job (I’m paraphrasing here) “I’m God. I made Leviathan. I can do whatever I damn well please, and I can squish you like a bug if I feel like it.” So maybe the world really is something on the order of six thousand years old and all those dinosaur fossils and all that starlight are just lies. But if that’s the case, then the Bible is most likely a fabric of lies as well, and all that stuff about Jesus saving us, and all the promises of going to heaven if you believe in him, is all baloney as well.

    I once spoke to a Bible-thumper who asserted that God cannot lie. Well, if the world is only 6,000 years old, then God is a liar.

    I sure wish the next person to debate a creationist would throw that in his face.

  16. sonwinks says

    Great podcast guys!….
    A question that could be posed to creationist….
    “Do you believe in the calculable and quantifiable ‘speed of light’?”
    “Then how is it possible for us on earth to see stars?…”
    Speed of light is observable…..in a lab….one can directly argue that point with Ham…..

  17. Daniel Schechter says

    Sonwinks: See my post above: Creationists claim that when God created the universe, he placed the starlight in transit already on its way to us all along its path, so that we would see it, giving the impression of an older universe.

    The contradiction is not that we can see the starlight, but that creationists are in effect calling God a liar. Since they believe God to be moral, they are creating a contradiction.

    Of course, a religion in which God is regarded as a self-serving, whimsical, sadistic s.o.b. would be much harder to argue against than one which claims God is moral and loving and only tells the truth.

  18. says

    Daniel: the other argument that I’ve heard is that the speed of light has slowed down over time. Therefore, the universe is younger than it looks because we are estimating it based on the current speed, which is slower than it was in the past.

  19. sonwinks says

    Daniel:…”in transit”… Creationist are ludicrous…. What did god step back in time…..create the stars…..was day 3 a time travel day for god….. Can they not see how totally stupid that is to reasonable thinking people?….
    It was in reading the book of Job…that seeded how evil the god of the bible is….gambling away Jobs life…..
    Then finally understanding evolution that sealed it for me…..
    Wow… Totally agree with you Daniel…..:-)

  20. Daniel Schechter says

    No, actually, creationists cannot see how ridiculous they are. They have been brainwashed as tiny children, at a stage in life when you think your parents are infallible, to believe in the Magic Man in the Sky who is everywhere, and can do anything, and loves you but will burn you in molten fire for all eternity if you do not believe in him. That can be pretty scary. I am an atheist and have been all my life, but the hell-fire sermon in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” scared even me. Imagine the effect on a tiny child! It can totally F up your brain.

    So, to them, the conclusion (Bible literalism) is the starting point, and any evidence to the contrary is blasphemy. Of course, to maintain their beliefs, they have to make their God a liar, since even the “slowing of the speed of light” doesn’t really work. There’s all the fossil evidence as well, and the tree rings, etc.

    Personally, I find the best approach to such people is to preach Pastafarianism to them. (Read The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.) I tell them I can prove that my FSM is real and their God is not, because life is based on DNA and DNA is just like Spaghetti. And a heaven that has a beer volcano is obviously better than one without. I also tell them that the world was not created 6,000 years ago, it was created seven days ago, with all our memories in place to make us think we’d lived for years. They have NO rebuttal to any of this! Sow the seeds of doubt! There are even videos of the FSM on YouTube. That’s better evidence than their silly old Bible that we don’t even have the original of, just copies of copies of copies. And mostly fragmentary.

    But debating these ignoramuses is pretty much pointless.

  21. Tim Newton says

    Ken Ham’s point about ‘same evidence, different world views’ reminded me of an excellent podcast interview with Paul Almond some years ago on Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot, titled Why God is a Terrible Explanation for Anything http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=9751 It’s a technical discussion of what makes a good (and bad) explanation, all option for a theory based on evidence are not of equal worth. Paul says

    ‘All an explanation is, it is something which is a model of reality which gives you the ability to make predictions which has less information than the previous level of explanation.

    ‘A God theory isn’t going to make predictions unless you specify it with a lot more information.

  22. Stymie1 says

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy this podcast. I think The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Skepticality, and RD are the very best of the best. I just had to say so.
    I hope you all find time to do ever more shows in the future.
    Very Sincerely,

    Stymie Seamans

  23. FactoidJunkie says

    Terrific cast, as nearly always, gents. Appreciated Fett’s voice in the mix. The link to the NYT article concerning taking the Holy See to task was very useful.

    In terms of the topic of debating supernaturalism generally, I think the “debating them legitimizes their claims,” argument a bit weak. There are plenty of creationist type thinkers in the world. Many hold political power. Debate is a powerful tool to engage this lot. Good or better science education is a fundamentally essential tool, but not the only one. People whose critical thinking skills are poorly or inadequately trained will respond to debates like this. This podcast pointed to the post-debate effects the Nye/Ham debate produced. Education is a lifetime process. Debates are sorta like punctuated equilibrium.

    In this same vein, your podcast series can be considered, in some sense, a blend of education and debate. One of the things I most enjoy about your approach is applying your knowledge base to contemporary issues, events, and examples. Sometimes listening to you sounds like a debate, especially when you attempt to illuminate why the other side holds certain views.

    Props to Nye, and props to all you doubt casters, for continuing the debate.

  24. says


    Interesting discussion.

    @Muz (#20), one could turn the tables on creationists and try their “historical” argument against them.

    The KJV – their “holy of holies” – dates to 1769, which the standard revised text that’s used today (the King James Bible per se dates to 1611).

    Any claims made prior to this would have to be backed up by proving that the KJV is descended from earlier texts dating back to biblical times. Since this would show up the textual differences – read, “errors in translation” – it would make their postions extremely difficult to defend.

    An obvious one is that King James did not like how certain passages were translated – because they questioned the “divine right of Kings” – with the result that he commanded the translators to change those passages to support that right.

    This clear contradiction of “the (inerrant) Word of God” would be indefensible.

    Kindest regards,


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