I recently wrote about the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham debate over the scientific worthiness of creationism in the context of Darwin Day. It was my opinion that Bill Nye’s attitude in the face of Ken Ham’s unscientific arguments was just right and that Ham’s fragile house of cards completely collapsed by the end of the debate to expose the logical corruption at its core: that Ham believes the Bible first and any evidence that contradicts it must be thrown out to preserve this belief.
I constantly question myself over the utility of debates. While they generally do not change the opinions of the debaters, they can act as a platform for public education so that viewers on the fence about a particular issue come out better informed. On the other hand–and especially in situations where one debater has science on their side and the other, lunacy–engaging in a highly publicized debate confers legitimacy to the fringe. Case in point: Ken Ham has been planning for the construction of a life-size Ark in Kentucky to educate his museum’s visitors on the scientific legitimacy of the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark. It is utterly irrelevant to him that a boat of this size, put together by an inexperienced family, could not stay afloat; that there is no way to keep alive every taxonomic family without some organisms feeding off of others; that there is no manner in which to manage the tons of excrements generated; that there is no evidence for Australian species having subsequently migrated from post-flood Middle Eastern countries to Oceania; and that there is no evidence for such a cataclysmic flood, period. Rather, the Bible comes first.
Well, it now seems as if Ham’s Ark has finally been fully funded. Ham was recently quoted as saying, “The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours—and although the bond registration had already closed before February 4 and no more bonds could be purchased—the high-profile debate prompted some people who had registered for the bonds to make sure they followed through with submitting the necessary and sometimes complicated paperwork.” One could argue if the widely publicized debate really did contribute to the funding of this project. As Ham himself noted, the deadline occurred before the debate itself; however, publicity had been generated much earlier and one may argue that the legitimacy of his position had already been granted.
Regardless of the true impact of the debate, I would caution potential debaters who want to confront fringe believers on important topics to think long and hard about the impact of such a public showing. These events can cut both ways: they can serve both your interests and those of discounted lunatics.
(Feature picture by Answers in Genesis)