When Bill Nye debated Ken Ham earlier this month, I didn’t watch. I read the reviews and the articles. I read the comments on social media. What I did not do, however, was care.
Both men argued from the false premise that science and religion are mutually exclusive. They are not. Both men tried to claim science for their argument. Nye, known as the Science Guy, commented that billions of people are religious and believe in science. Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, argued that many well-educated scientists also believe in creation. Both men are right and that is exactly where they went wrong.
Although they made the points that people can believe in science and religion, neither made a point that it was acceptable to do both. Nye, a television personality with a degree in mechanical engineering, bounced around between scientific discussions without clarifying that the big bang, a Christian theory credited to priest/physicist Georges Lemaître, and evolution are not the same thing. Ham, an Australian with a degree in Biology, argued from a literal seven day creation model contrary to most theological interpretations of Genesis.
So, what was the point of the debate? For Nye, it doesn’t appear to have any purpose beyond attacking religion – a sport among some atheists. For Ham, it was publicity and a chance to increase donations to his nonprofit organization. For the rest of us, it was more divisiveness. Science and faith are not at odds but, like politics, the mainstream opinion makes bad television.