Yesterday’s post on Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate is here. The background, the debate format and the format in which I write about it are all discussed in that yesterday’s post.
So, in his five minute initial presentation Ken Ham talked about hijacking of the term science, which is an argument we can subscribe to, too. Modern science came to mean “naturalism”, meaning excluding all supernatural phenomena from consideration as bogus, meaning that God does not exist and cannot exist as an axiom. I wish Ham explored that aspect a bit further but he didn’t, it wasn’t the topic of the debate anyway.
What Ham focused on instead is difference between “observational” science and “historical” science. In Nye’s opening statement he denied that there’s such distinction in science but when Ham took the microphone again he presented a quote from a school textbook describing exactly that in exact same terms. Black eye for Nye, right?
Not really, the distinction Ham based all his presentation on is somewhat artificial. As Nye pointed out, all science is historical because all we can observe are clues left from the past, sometimes very close to us and sometimes removed millions of years away. We always interpret something we can’t see anymore, we are always external to the processes we study and we always have some intermediaries between us and the objects of our studies – instruments, senses, recording devices etc.
The difference Ham perceives between historical and observational science is the difference of confidence, difference of the amount of evidence, and only in the last place the fact that we weren’t there when things happened. No one was inside Hadron Collider when Higgs boson was caught, no was was anywhere near atomic explosions either. Are those examples of historical or observational science? This distinction doesn’t always make sense.
The rest of the presentation was on the points I discussed yesterday – there’s no difference between evolutionists and creationists, they all use the same methods, the same data, they just interpret it differently. Nye ignored that completely, even specific questions directed to him that were illustrated with slides.
Additionally, Ham presented predictions based on creationism, for some reason it also went straight past Nye. He could have challenged those predictions as trivial but instead, later in the debate, he kept asking for examples of such predictions, again and again even though they were listed on a screen by Ham.
Maybe the reason was that Ham made Bible based predictions about things that have already happened, like life coming from life or development of species form “kinds”. By the time Bible was recorded all kinds of dog breeds were already there, life had already came from life, intelligence already came from intelligence so they weren’t predictions in a true sense.
We can easily agree with Ham’s ideas some of which are almost word for word what he heard from Śrila Prabhupāda, and evolutionary orchard instead of evolutionary tree is a very interesting proposition that can help us understand how the entire universe is populated by only eight million plus species as said in the Vedas when there are tens of millions of species documented only on Earth.
Then there was Bill Nye’s turn to give a thirty minute presentation on validity of Young Earth Creationism and he just blew it away, predictably. At one point Bill exclaimed that there are trees which are older than Ham’s universe. 6,000 years, seriously? For all the claims against modern science there are limits to how much of it you can deny.
Even in Kṛṣṇa consciousness we can’t deny that pratyakṣa, direct experiences or nyāya, logic have a place in uncovering the truth, even Absolute Truth. Kṛṣṇa can easily override laws of nature but we can usually trust Him that laws of nature will stay in place and that our perception does reflect reality even if it’s actually illusion. Even if living under illusion we are still told to use our material nature to help in our spiritual progress.
Nye gave a couple of examples that are simply impossible for Ham to explain from YEC point of view. 680,000 seasonal layers in Antarctic ice, for example, could not have formed in four thousand years since flood. Not even four thousand years because we’ve been collecting observations about Earth for some two thousands of years already. We’ve never had 170 seasons a year that are needed to produce all the ice layers. It just doesn’t compute.
How did kangaroos hop over from Mt Ararat where Noah parked his ark to Australia without leaving any trace of their journey? How could they hop over the sea that separated Australia from Eurasia? Land bridge? If it was there only four thousand years ago – where did it disappear? No trace either.
Even Ham’s orchard theory of developing species from “kinds” created by God and saved on Noah’s ark doesn’t compute in his time frame. I don’t want to search the video for exact numbers but it was something like eleven new species need to appear EVERY day on average. Of course it doesn’t happen on average and we haven’t seen new species developed in the past two-three thousand years of recorded history so they all had to develop in a very very short period of time, and not by God by through regular mating and through evolution as accepted by YEC. Simply not possible.
There were some blunders in Nye’s presentation, too. He claimed that Noah’s ark couldn’t have been built because wooden ships of that size do not behave well at sea, that they twist in all possible ways and that they leak. It has been tried, he said, and he showed a slide with biggest ships in the world including the biggest wooden ship that sank shorty after being put to sea. Turned out that there are techniques that deal with this problem and that they have been tried and that in the very museum the debate took place there’s a model of Ark that demonstrates this very solution. Oops.
Still it was a massive ark and Noah built it all by himself, helped maybe by his wife and family, seven people altogether. That still doesn’t compute.
Having said that, no one seriously expected Ban Ham to prove that the Earth and the universe are indeed only six thousand years old. Maybe his fellow creationists did but as for everyone else – it’s a non-starter. What they can learn, and what we, as devotees, can look for in this debate, are questions about the limitations of the science itself. We know what they are but scientists refuse to admit them and it was a great opportunity to expose them to the general public.
Then there’s the idea of revelation that we and the creationists both agree on but it’s a no-no for scientists. Śrila Prabhupāda made it the central point of learning about the nature of the Absolute Truth and the only way to discover the nature of the Absolute Truth but it’s still a tall order for us. Ken Ham wasn’t afraid to push it publicly, though, and this could be the topic for the next part in my coverage of this debate.