Today, February 4, 2014, Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' will debate Ken Ham 'Creation Museum' and 'Answers in Genesis.' The topic is, as one would expect, evolution vs. creationsim. Some are calling this a big mistake - primarily on the part of Bill Nye.
One author, in Salon, believes this whole show will solve nothing. His premise is that the science-rejecting, anti-intellectual stance of Ken Ham has nothing to do with the text of the Bible. Rather, it is politically motivated by the American evangelical movement that rejects science as a threat to their belief system. The more scientific discoveries, the less acceptance there is for the miracle stories of the Bible. It is a belief, according to the author, fueled by the streak of egalitarianism found in American historical myths, coupled with the Protestant rejection of the control represented by Catholicism - more political than religious.
Another author, in the Christian Science Monitor, takes a harder view against Nye for participating in this. His premise is that those that follow Ham probably don't have enough intelligence or intellectual acumen to understand evolution in the first place. Therefore, by debating Ham, all Nye is doing is giving a stage for Ham to espouse crackpot ideas to the true believers, and thereby give the credence of legitimacy to his ignorance promoting propaganda.
I can see the point of both of these authors, and each raises legitimate objections. On the other hand, if knowledgeable individuals don't stand up to these crackpots and charlatans, is that then a tacit acceptance of the frauds attempts to drag us back to the time of medieval superstition and witch burnings?
Easton, I don't necessarily think the author in the Christian Science Monitor made a 'racist' statement. I think you can argue it was possibly bigoted, but not racist. To do so would imply the author is only referring to white southerners, which he did not. He did refer to evangelicals, who can be white, black, or from any ethnic background. I'd note that a large percentage of Muslims, especially in Turkey, reject evolution just like their evangelical counterparts in the US. Small distinction, but one worth pointing out.
Thank you for replying to my comment. You are right. Bigoted would be the right word to use. I guess I fell into the modern incorrect usage of the term.
Ken Ham is a very primitive thinker, and as far as I can tell, his followers--and many other evangelicals-- are, as well. It seems apparent that "science guys" like Nye and creationists like Ham are simply not on the same epistemological page. Bill Nye is very likeable in a nerdy, bow-tie sort of way, but in watching his interviews, I've come to think he doesn't express himself well off the cuff, yet he is willingly entering the rhetorical equivalent of the lion's den to debate the alpha male in the pride. Ham is an idiot when it comes to logic. He says of the Bible, "If you can't believe this bit over here, how can you believe that bit over there?" It's actually a very intelligent statement that might have come from Robert Ingersoll or Christopher Hitchens, but for the great Ham of Backwardland, it means that if you think that a 2,000-3,000 year old anthology compiled by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall is correct in asserting that a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua is actually the son of God who was killed and came back to life, then you have to believe that snakes can talk and that the earth is only a few thousand years old, whereas the atheist and/or the agnostic would say that because snakes cannot talk and the earth, science tells us, is billions of years old, perhaps the Bible got a few other bits wrong. Perhaps the Bible got damn near all the bits wrong. Ham and his ilk will never see that. Never, never, never, never, never.
I wonder if it's that Ham is a "primitive thinker" so much as he is a dog with his bone. His "bone" is young-earth creationism, and it's made him a lot of money and gained him a lot of attention and fame in the evangelical christian community. To give up that bone would be just about to give up his raison d'etre, to the point I suspect of losing a portion of his identity, and he would no more do that than William Lane Craig would give up his "self-authenticating witness of the holy spirit."
Letting go of that bone or admitting error would mean a massive loss of face, and neither Ham nor Craig nor any other of their ilk have that capacity for humility.
Loren, one thing I would add to your observation. Not only would admitting error lead to a massive loss of face. It would also lead to a massive loss of income. And if there's one thing we know of religious hucksters, it's their propensity for amassing a large bank account off the meager income of the rubes that follow them.
Zero argument, Pat ... none at all.
Craig/Loren/Pat, I agree with what you've said, more or less, but there is a kernel of actual logic that I think completely explains why creationists reject the theory of evolution. It was either Ham or Kent Hovind (I can't remember which--doesn't help that they both have the initials K. H. and both run/ran creationist museums) who stated this logic a few years back in a newspaper article about their museum. It runs like this (not verbatim, but essentially as stated by K. H.):
If evolution is correct, then there could not have been an Adam and Eve (humans are evolved from a group of hominids which evolved from a previous group of hominids, so no single mating pair is responsible for the species). If there was no Adam and Eve, they could not have committed the Original Sin. If there's no Original Sin, then Jesus Christ couldn't have died to remove the stain of Original Sin. Thus, evolution renders the central elements of Christianity null and void.
Obviously, I think evolution is quite real and the above logic serves as a thorough refutation of Christianity, well supported by countless other lines of reasoning from evidence. Fundies like Ham can't accept that their religion is false, therefore, by the ironclad logic above, evolution must be (and incest must be OK, but we'll leave that aside). The logic is sound, but they start with a bogus premise (actually the conclusion that they prefer). This is why they fight evolution so hard. Sure, they think humans are special in their god's eyes, but it's not just that they think being descended from fish is insulting. And they try really, really hard to misinterpret how evolution actually works in order to support their worldview, so they really don't understand it. I don't think that's a failure of intellect, but rather a failure of starting principles.
The Pope tries (and fails) to rescue Christianity by saying that humans are still Fallen, even without a literal Original Sin, but that really requires a lot more hand-waving, and biblical literalists don't like that. They prefer to simply ignore the parts of the bible they disagree with.
So it's not just loss of faith, fame, income, etc that drives these guys. It's that their entire worldview, their security blanket, completely falls apart if they're wrong on this *one* thing. I can see how that would terrify them. What they can't see is that people who abandon their stance actually can get along OK afterwards. It's really not that scary out here in the real world, but it's awfully hard to convince people to stop cowering behind their bibles.
Jason, you make an excellent point. Their internal logic of Biblical literalism demands a belief in Adam and Eve. All else flows from this. The power and majesty of their god, the degraded nature of humans, the belief that Big Brother will save you from yourself. And, as a direct consequence, the fear of experiencing life without living under their self imposed master/slave relation. It's easier to let someone else do your thinking for you.
The problem is that the premise of their 'logical' argument is sophistry (I use this term in the modern sense - not the ancient school of sophism). And, you correctly point this out. That is, you start with a false premise and build on that. Like a house of cards on an impending avalanche. What they don't realize is that, in this case, the avalanche is actually liberating, as opposed to the mental suffocation under which they currently live.
Agreed, Pat. It's sad that so many are so terrified of abandoning a suffocating religion when life on the outside is so much better.
And I find it ironic that I never noticed that Adam and Eve vs evolution argument until a creationist pointed it out to me. They are keenly aware of the problem. They just won't go with the evidence.
Wouldn't that be the difference between faith and science? An argument from faith begins with an assumption that is never examined because it is sacred; science may begin with an assumption, but at some point that assumption will be tested. Whether or not evolution is true, it's obvious that Genesis cannot be true, partly because there are so many contradictions between the first two chapters. Was humankind created first or last? Depends on which chapter you read. Were man and woman created at the same time, or did God really search among the animals for a mate for Adam? To believe one is to disbelieve the other. Ham's logic is backwards. Belief in the unfalsifiable proposition of a creator god cannot possibly prove that the sky was solid, which is what the text clearly states. (It also states that God thought it was solid.) The contradictions and mistakes should cast doubt on the theological beliefs; instead, the theology "disproves" observable and testable facts. All these arguments beg the question, using the conclusion they are trying to prove as evidence for itself. Vicious circular reasoning, all so they can pretend to know things they don't know.
Craigart14, I totally agree; Ham is putting his conclusion into his premises, and evolution is only one disproof of the origin story in Genesis. But evolution is interesting (and terrifying to fundies) because all by itself it completely dismantles the central elements of Christianity, ie, Original Sin and redemption thru Jesus Christ. Everything else is window dressing. Bogus, bogus window dressing.
The thing is that science starts less with an assumption than with a question: Does this work? Is this right? How does this behave? Then it examines the mechanics and details of that question. If it does indeed work, we've added to our library of knowledge and understanding, but if it DOESN'T, we drop it. Drat, didn't do what I thought it would; let's try something else.
As you say, Ham starts with his conclusion: that the bible is all that and a bag of chips and CANNOT BE CHALLENGED. I've said many times that the de-facto definition of "sacred" might as well be "OFF LIMITS TO INVESTIGATION." Questioning the bible means questioning their faith, and that's a Pandora's Box they can't or won't deal with.
You'd have better luck separating a child from his security blanket than you would getting them to look critically at their bible.