Bill Nye vs a canned Ham: 22 answers to 22 creationist questions

That’s not a debate. A debate has scoring, just like a ball-game, which determines a winner and loser. But in honor of the Nye vs. canned Ham discussion, Phil put up a really fun post over at Bad Astronomy responding to 22 bullshit gotchya questions sometimes posed by bullshit artists also known as creationists. It’s worth a read, I’ll just go ahead and swipe his questions and provide my own answers below. Let the games begin!

1) “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”

I’m not Nye, and yes. More importantly, we’re influencing the quality of life for everyone in a positive way, unless there’s someone here who thinks discarding the fruits of science and going back to the days of burning witches at the stake or hunting game with paleolithic hand axes would be better.

2) “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”

That very much depends on the divine creator you have in mind. If it’s an all loving, all forgiving, creator who provides a heavenly life after death, then no, I have to no reason to be scared. If it’s the manic-depressive genocidal sociopath found in other parts of the Bible, one engaged in a cosmic pissing contest with another rival sociopath hell-bent on inflicting eternal torture on human pawns caught helplessly in the power struggle, then yes. I’m terrified and you should be too.

3) “Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings … Adam created as an adult ….”

Yes, that makes no logical sense even as a stand-alone premise, let alone in the rich context of the universe we live in.

4) “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?”

Rather than get into a discussion about entropy which will only confuse and frighten the fundamentalist reader, let’s just point out that if the SLoT worked the way creationists portray it, i.e., no complexity or pattern could arise in any circumstances without an intelligent agency intervening, it’s not just hurricanes or heavy elements that would be impossible. Nothing from bacteria to butterflies could reproduce and grow without an intelligent entity directing every step of the process.

5) “How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?”

Face/palm. OK, you got me, we can’t possibly explain the beauty of a sunset without proving the existence of … Helios, the Sun God.  I mean, who could possibly think there can be a sunset without a sun?!?

6) “If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?”

They don’t.

7) “What about noetics?”

Assuming this refers to the intersection between mind and matter, I’m not sure what the problem is beyond researching the mechanics of it.

8) “Where do you derive objective meaning in life?”

Nature and nurture, same place I derive the meaning of words and gestures.

9) “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?”

That’s actually a great question. Short answer, yes. Chance is as decent a single word explanation as any other and it’s highly plausible as we see a great deal of chance affecting the course of individual lives and the evolution of new species. Generations of researchers have and continue to work to find the details. Since such an event would not have left any record that survives through modern times, our best “chance” of learning about it is to try and reproduce it in labs, look for clues that will guide us in making testable inferences about by exmaning living things, and examine other planets and objects that may help us fill in more details. For example, if we find ancient remains of bacteria on Mars or in comets and asteroids and/or beyond, and they share things like nucleic acids and sugars arranged into base pairs in helical double ladders with left hand chirality with extant terrestrial organisms (Or not), we can infer the origin of those early microbes may be far more interesting than currently thought.

10) “I believe in the Big Bang Theory … God said it and BANG it happened.”

A universe that has a beginning in space-time doesn’t support a specific creator of and by itself, but is certainly consistent with a universe that was created. An eternal universe would not be consistent with a creator. Which is why it’s weird to me that so many creationists conflate Big Bang cosmology with evolutionary biology and then attack it as the same.

11) “Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a Creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?”

I’m fairly familiar with these issues and I have yet to hear of a bunch of evolutionist/atheists who reject god and yet seriously propose alien designers as a plausible, supported idea.

12) “There is no in between … the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “’official proof’.”

In just a few short decades of systemically examining billions of years worth of fossil-bearing deposits we have found dozens of transitional hominid specimens in the precise chronological order featuring a suite of transitional characteristics leading to anatomically modern humans that we would expect to find, and the same is true for many, many other species.

13) “Does metamorphosis help support evolution?”

That is an odd question, but suffice it to say that caterpillars turning into butterflies or polyps becoming jellyfish or corals may or may not turn out to be a unique biology found only on Earth, but it doesn’t really have much to do with proving or disproving evolution.

14) “If Evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as a fact.”

It is a fact that species have changed over time and that two or more currently different species share common ancestors at various points in time. Using the same methods used in criminal and paternity courts we can be certain of common ancestors and we can even be the agent changing species over time, such as breeding for higher yielding crops or dogs with specialized abilities and physical features. So we know this happens. What drove that change in a specific situation, why some feathered dinos developed flight or why a specific land mammal making living at the water’s edge evolved into giant whales, is the theoretical part.

15) “Because science is “theory”–not testable, observable, nor repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?”

I don’t object to it being taught in schools. I object to it being taught in tax-payer supported schools as credible scientific explanation in science classes. If a creationist wanted it examined in more specific courses as something to compare and contrast to a scientific explanation to develop and hone critical thinking skills, that would be fine with me. I bet it most certainly won’t be fine with you though.

16) “What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?”

If by new information you mean new DNA base pairs that manifest themselves as a physical characteristics, it’s easy to add genetic information in a bunch of different ways. One of the easiest for a non geneticist to understand: knock out one “letter” in a gene in one generation rendering it non functional and add that letter back in the next generation, bingo, new info added to that generation/individual. Stuff like that happens all the time, it’s not just observed, we can actually make it happen, it’s called a back mutation.

17) “What purpose do you think you are here for if you don’t believe in salvation?”

I don’t know that I have a purpose at all. What purposes do you think God created you for? What evidence do you have that that is the case outside of belief?

18) “Why have we found only 1 ‘Lucy,’ when we have found more than 1 of everything else?”

See question 12.

19) “Can you believe in ‘the big bang’ without ‘faith’”?

Believe is a loaded term here and, this can’t be stressed enough, the Big Bang is one of the few great scientific findings that is completely consistent with a universe that was created. The evidence for the Big Bang is the observation the universe is expanding and was therefore smaller in the past, the cosmic background radiation (We can actually “see” the Big Bang happening by looking very far out into the universe and thus very far back in time) and a little bit more advanced, the ratio of elements like Hydrogen and Helium observed in deep space.

20) “How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It’s amazing!!!”

We like the parts we like and those are tiny parts: the vast, vast majority of the universe is dead empty, featureless intergalactic space with absolutely nothing going on in it at all. If a human was stuck out there for millennia with no creature comforts of any mind, not even a spaceship, and somehow able to survive (Some might say condemned to survive), they would be bored to suicide, unable to see, hear, smell or feel much of anything but empty blackness without the help of LOTS of modern technology. A similar point could be made about the earth, most of it is deep underground, black and featureless, immense pressure and heat with nothing to see or hear or do. I’m not sure how that translates into faith in a specific deity, especially as there are many deities credited with creating the universe or some part of it by many cultures, both in the recent historical past and right into present day.

21) “Relating to the big bang theory … Where did the exploding star come from?”

It wasn’t a star and we don’t know.

22) “If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

Of course, monkey’s today are different than monkey’s millions of years ago, but fair enough: if we went back along the line of human predecessors we’d probably find an animal twenty or thirty million years ago that looks superficially like a modern monkey. The answer is, same reason Chihuahuas came from wolves and there are still wolves.


  1. says

    About 22, surely the short answer is that there aren’t still ‘monkeys’: at least not the ones we evolved from.
    …and to make it a bit longer: the ‘monkeys’ that present day monkeys evolved from aren’t either.

  2. tbrandt says

    If white Americans came from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?

    If dogs came from wolves, why are there still wolves?

    If pigs came from wild boars, why are there still boars?

    If cows came from aurochs, why are there still aurochs? Wait, um, I mean…

    All right, so cows could have evolved from aurochs (but no later than the middle ages; the aurochs went extinct in the 1600s), while pigs, dogs, and white Americans were clearly created by God in their present form.

  3. says

    What purpose do you think you are here for if you don’t believe in salvation?

    As I said elsewhere, I’m here to turn pizza into poop. And to filter red wine into urine!
    Isn’t that purpose enough?

    If it’s not, I’m also put here so that Led Zeppelin will have a full, appreciative audience.

    Why complicate things? My purpose is clear and decisive!! And, so far, with all due modesty, I’m doing pretty well at it.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Re question 11 – In the pseudo-documentary Expelled, Richard Dawkins speculates on the intelligent-alien-designer idea. (Reportedly, he was prompted by the interviewer, rather than bringing it up himself, and his comments were edited to make him look like he supports the idea.)

    Reply for questioner 11 – why do you believe dishonest documentaries from former Nixon aides?

  5. Jackson says

    Most people are familiar with their family trees, so I find it most effective to rephrase number 22 as:

    “If I came from my grandpa, how can I have cousins?”

    If you condense the time frame to a couple generations it becomes clear why that question is so ridiculous.

  6. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Besides the obvious answers, I would say that most of these questions, especially #s 12, 14, 15, and 19, demonstrate astounding lack of understanding of what science and the scientific method are.

    12) “There is no in between … the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “’official proof’.”

    There is no such thing as “official” anything in science. There are no agencies that put a stamp of approval, of “proof” in science. One of the great things about science is that it is a brawl. You win the brawl by convincing others that your idea beats the others, using evidence. It is utterly informal.

    14) “If Evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as a fact.”

    First, Evolution is NOT a theory like creationism, and secondly, the writer obviously does not understand what constitutes a “theory” in science: a hypothesis (explanation for observations) that has been repeatedly tested, passed those tests, and has been tentatively accepted by consensus as the best explanation for observations, until disproved.

    15) “Because science is “theory”–not testable, observable, nor repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?”

    Clearly, since theories MUST always be testable, observable, and repeatable (see above), this is a straw man argument.

    19) “Can you believe in ‘the big bang’ without ‘faith’”?

    Science does not depend on “belief” or “faith” – it depends on independently verifiable observations, hypothesis generation, and testing.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    7) “What about noetics?”

    I would guess this person is acquainted with the woo-ified version of noetics. In 2009, NPR’s religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty went off the leash and tried her hand at science reporting. This included interviewing folks at the Institute Of Noetic Sciences.
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