Scream into the Storm

Posted on February 11, 2014


I’m late to the game on this one but I have some thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

First, I am not impartial.  Creationism is not a valid scientific theory.  An oral tradition from a bunch of bronze age shepherds that eventually got written down does not make a valid scientific text book.  I don’t respect or approve of what Ken Ham and his ilk are doing.  They are using deliberate lies and misinformation to promote their religious and socials views as science and in so doing are literally making my country more stupid.  I’m terrified that they aren’t charlatans and actually believe the tripe they are spouting.

I’m not here to to discuss the merits of the debate.  Nye and Ham were talking past each other.  Ham will never be convinced and since he has no evidence neither will Nye.  I want to discuss whether Nye should have consented to the debate in the first place.

When he accepted the invitation, and in the run up to the debate, there were a lot of people saying Bill Nye should not have entered the debate in the first place.  Some reasons given are that the science is settled and to debate creationism is to give it a legitimacy that it does not have.  These are valid points.  The science is settled.  Natural selection, the age of the Earth, Solar System, and the Universe are settled to varying degrees of high precision.  Outside the laws of thermodynamics natural selection is the most tested and vetted scientific theory we have.  Creationism, as a scientific theory that can make experimentally falsifiable predictions is a sham.  It has no legitimacy and we shouldn’t grant said legitimacy to it.

That’s not why this debate was necessary.

1/3 to 1/2 of the United States hold that young earth creationism, in some form, is legitimate.  One of the two parties America has decided to allow itself is actively anti science.  The implications of this go beyond some people getting failing grades on a test and making us look like idiots to people from more reasonable nations.  Young earth creationism is a tribal marker for certain sects of christianity  in this and other English speaking countries.  As such, members of those sects are not allowed to question the validity of said marker because to question the validity of creationism is to question the validity of the bible and to question the validity of the bible is to question God and you will not put God to the test and if you do put God to the test then you are not one of us and please see yourself out the door and straight to hell.

Christian tribalism has to deny one of the most successful theories in science because it has talked itself into a corner.  The problem isn’t only the denial of evolution.  The problem is that natural selection and evolution don’t apply only to biology.  Evolution plays a part in geology, astrophysics, climatology, sociology, economics, and numerous other scientific fields.  Calling into question the validity of evolution so as to maintain mental purity amongst the members of your tribe allows you to call into question the validity of other theories that use evolutionary principles.  Also, since creationism is not an experimental based approach to science it allows one to call into question any experimental based approach to science.

The United States is not a christian nation.  It is a nation composed of a majority of citizens that adhere to various forms of christianity.  Some of those forms strive, actively, to not allow their members access to ideas that run counter to their doctrine and ideology.  By doing this they are creating voids in the knowledge of their members.  These voids are easily exploitable by people who want to call into question the validity of other fields of science.

This is why what Bill Nye did was important and necessary.  By not debating, by not engaging, we allow people like Ken Ham to have the spotlight.  We allow people like Ken Ham to be the only voice.  Doing so has created a culture that has a fifty percent acceptance rate of creationism, that lets people ignore the science behind climate change, that allows people to ignore the results of studies about the effects of inequality.  The voices of the scientific community need to be heard in these debates because otherwise those who most need to hear them, won’t.

Bill Nye did the right and necessary thing by engaging Ken Ham.   He walked out into a storm and screamed.  Hopefully, someone heard him.

That is all.




Posted in: Politics, Science