Former creationist looks forward to Bill Nye’s debate with Ken Ham

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By David MacMillan. The author has a B.S. in physics from the University of North Alabama and once wrote a very positive review of the Creation Museum.

It’s rare to see a prominent scientist or educator agree to a public debate with someone from the creation science movement. Giving equal time to both sides might be a foundational principle of American dialogue, but it paints the issue as more of a controversy than it actually is. That’s why it surprised a lot of people when Bill Nye, science educator and TV personality, agreed to debate the president of Cincinnati’s Creation Museum, Ken Ham.

Even so, it’s not hard to see why Nye has chosen to engage creationism directly. The most recent polling shows one in three Americans still won’t accept that all living things evolved from a common ancestor. Creationism may be pseudoscience, but its grip on the American public is hard for a science educator like Nye to ignore.

This debate is more than academic for me. I grew up steeped in creationism. I was home-schooled with creationist curriculum, my family took us to creationist conferences, and I was deeply proud that I knew the real story about evolution and the age of the earth. I was taught there was absolutely no way the universe could be explained without creationism. Evolution was a fairy tale based on faith; creation was good science. I was taught that Christianity wasn’t consistent without creationism – that all “Bible-believing Christians” rejected evolution and long ages in favor of a six-day creation and a global flood.

My proudest teenage achievement was mowing lawns to earn $1000 so I could help build the Creation Museum. My donation earned me lifetime free admission, a polo shirt, and my name engraved in the lobby. I wrote back and forth with many prominent creationists and hotly debated origins with anyone who dared argue in favor of evolution. On two occasions I even wrote featured articles for the Answers In Genesis website – a high honor for Teenage Me.

I’m writing all this because I don’t know many people who were as far into the creation science movement as I was and came out of it. After graduating high school, I went on to college and got my bachelor’s degree in physics. Despite four years of physics, it still took me a long time before I actually came to understand evolution, geology, and cosmology. Now, I’m always learning, always finding out new information, always excited.

Because so much of what I’d been taught was flatly false, I had to relearn practically everything about biology, geology, and the history of science. I’m amazed by the amount of evidence I systematically ignored or explained away, just because it didn’t match creation science.

Bill Nye may not understand just how difficult it is for people who were raised like me to abandon creationism. Creationism isn’t just one belief; it’s a system of beliefs and theories that all support each other. We believed that unless we could maintain confidence in special creation, a young planet, a global flood, and the Tower of Babel, we’d be left without any basis for maintaining our faith.

This false dichotomy makes creationism strong. As long as people think the foundation of their religious faith depends on denial of science, it takes incredible energy to make them question the simple explanations given by the creationist movement. Ken Ham claims creation science keeps people from abandoning Christianity, but it usually works in the opposite direction.

Learning the history of creationism freed me to examine the evidence for evolution. I wouldn’t claim to know everything about the Bible, but I do know Ken Ham’s insistence on “Biblical origins” is as phony as the rest of creation science. I had never known creationism was invented only a scant fifty years ago (six-day young-earth creationism was never a fundamentalist dogma until the 1960’s). I had never known that all Christians accepted the Bible’s creation account as deliberate allegory many centuries before scientists even knew the earth revolved around the sun.

I hope Bill Nye doesn’t underestimate creationists. Between their strident religious confidence and the way they painstakingly dumb-down and oversimplify evidence to fit into 6,000 years, people like Ken Ham can be tough nuts to crack. We were raised with false ideas about biology, geology, and history itself. Relearning all these things from the ground up is a tall order to begin with; the influence of religious dogma only make it that much more difficult. In a debate like this one, demonstrating even the most elementary facts about evolution and the age of the universe would be a great success.

Creationism has spread an incredible amount of misinformation over the past half-century. I hope Nye can cut through the accumulated falsehoods and teach about the actual evidence. I want people to be free to learn, free to understand, free to explore the fantastic mysteries of the universe without being tied down to phony dogma that wasn’t even part of Christianity until the last fifty years. I want children to learn how to trust the scientific method – and, even more importantly, how to use the scientific method so their creativity and imagination won’t be wasted trying to defend pseudoscience. The universe has so much more to offer than could ever fit into a few thousand years.

313 Comments

Excellent essay! But will creationists listen?

Most scientists just shouldn’t debate creationists, since they’re not used to dealing with a completely different–and false–“reality.” And, for the few scientists who do know how to publicly debate creationists–rules should be set and enforced so that soundbites don’t dominate, and debaters either have to answer or be seen as deliberately not answering.

But I think it would have been encouraging to me when I was coming out of creationism to see a good debater step up to the plate, and give answers as opposed to creationist platitudes from the other side. The basics of evolutionary evidence are not too difficult to present, and, if the science side stresses the lack of any real answers from the creationist side, anyone who can be reached could have a chance when watching a competent person defending science.

If Nye is truly prepared when he debates, it could be a good youtube resource for years to come.

Glen Davidson

David MacMillan’s story is similar to mine. My acceptance of biological evolution was far from an overnight conversion, as I desperately tried to cling to the YECism I grew up on. I went down swinging, even trying a few Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks on the way down.

Intro biology in college caused some turbulence, but my YECism survived. But intro geology was a different story for me, and it helped that the Kitzmiller trial happened afterwards (with not only ID getting pasted, but with two YEC Dover school board members caught lying under oath [Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell] ).

From there, it was the adding up of many little things. Such as teaching myself about evo-devo, molecular genetics, and other evidence for biological evolution that I didn’t grasp in college biology (partly because I partied too much that semester).

Such as learning how biologist Ken Saladin humiliated Duane Gish by exposing Gish telling a bald-faced lie (regarding ICR funding of expeditions to find the Ark) at a 1988 debate at Auburn University; even fundamentalists in the audience were stunned and openly disappointed in their hero Gish.

Such as learning that Christian science groups like the American Scientific Affiliation, Affiliation of Christian Geologists, and Affiliation of Christian Biologists accept all Christians with science credentials whether they are YEC, OEC, accept biological evolution. Yet YECs represent only a tiny percentage of the membership of these organizations (of course, groups like ICR, AIG, and the Creation Research Society exclude Christians that reject YECism and reject a world Flood).

Such as learning that the late Walter Lang (founder of the Bible Science Association) admitted that he felt that of ex-evolutionists turned creationists, only about five percent did so because of scientific evidence. Just five percent.

But I have no big illusions that most anti-evolutionists will change overnight, even if Bill Nye follows the great success that Ken Miller and Ken Saladin had in their debates against the likes of Gish and Henry Morris. I still have family members that are solid YECs despite me and a few other relatives ditching their YECism. Unfortunately, I think it will be more of a case of anti-evolutionists taking their beliefs to their graves and the new generations slowly but surely becoming more science literate; thus many of us may not live long enough to see a large drop in anti-evolutionism.

Tenncrain said:

David MacMillan’s story is similar to mine. My acceptance of biological evolution was far from an overnight conversion, as I desperately tried to cling to the YECism I grew up on. I went down swinging, even trying a few Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks on the way down.

Intro biology in college caused some turbulence, but my YECism survived. But intro geology was a different story for me, and it helped that the Kitzmiller trial happened afterwards (with not only ID getting pasted, but with two YEC Dover school board members caught lying under oath [Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell] ).

From there, it was the adding up of many little things. Such as teaching myself about evo-devo, molecular genetics, and other evidence for biological evolution that I didn’t grasp in college biology (partly because I partied too much that semester).

To me, that’s the first “killer” argument for Science. You can teach yourself science. You don’t have to rely on anyone else. It’s possible to go out and learn on your own. You can pick up a book, and study it for yourself. And, if you run out of books, you can go out into the field and do you own experiments. With science (such as ToE), you can prove to yourself whether someone is blowing smoke up your butt or not. (At least in principle, if not always in fact. Not everyone has an LHC in their back yard.) If there are differences in scientific opinions, typically there is a clear articulated reason for the differences (theory “X” does not explain evidence “Y”), and (typically) there are experiments that can be performed (at least in principle), which would decide the issue for one side or the other.

In contrast, Creationism is nothing but divine revelation and personal conversion stories. And few, if any, YEC’s can agree on a single story, or explain why they differ, and there is no way to independently evaluate the truth statements of either side. The only way to decide which theological side is right is through prayer and additional divine revelation. But you can’t “prove” divine revelation. You can’t test divine revelation.

Such as learning how biologist Ken Saladin humiliated Duane Gish by exposing Gish telling a bald-faced lie (regarding ICR funding of expeditions to find the Ark) at a 1988 debate at Auburn University; even fundamentalists in the audience were stunned and openly disappointed in their hero Gish.

And to me that is the second “killer” argument for Science. If one side has to lie to get their point across, then maybe their “truth statements” aren’t so true after all. If the support for their position is supposedly so strong, why do they have to lie or point to patently false ideas? If their position is so strong, wouldn’t it be much easier to simply tell the truth?

Sure, there are the occasional charlatans for science; someone looking to make a quick buck or to find a fast track to publicity by bending or hiding the truth or selling snake oil. But that tends to be the rare exception. Science is inherently self-correcting, in the long term. Creationism? Not so much.

Because so much of what I’d been taught was flatly false, I had to relearn practically everything about biology, geology, and the history of science. I’m amazed by the amount of evidence I systematically ignored or explained away, just because it didn’t match creation science.

And that’s the most amazing thing. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” It’s one of the Ten Commandments directly from God. Yet the Young Earth Creationists must consistently lie about everything, even about the history of their own religion. Even about current Christianity.

It would be one thing to say, “Look, Evolution is really clever and all that, but our Creationist ideas explain reality better.”

But no. Instead, Creationism lies about what Science and Evolution actually are and what Science claims to be true, and Creationism has to lie about history and reality itself. They must deny self-evident facts in order to make reality conform to their dogma. And when put on the witness stand, they must lie about their own actions, and their very own words.

And this is the kind of Christianity that they want you to believe in.

My hat goes off to David MacMillan, and all those others who had the personal integrity to follow the evidence wherever it leads, despite the personal sacrifice.

I wouldn’t claim to know everything about the Bible, but I do know Ken Ham’s insistence on “Biblical origins” is as phony as the rest of creation science. I had never known creationism was invented only a scant fifty years ago (six-day young-earth creationism was never a fundamentalist dogma until the 1960’s). I had never known that all Christians accepted the Bible’s creation account as deliberate allegory many centuries before scientists even knew the earth revolved around the sun.

I am taking this part with me, back to the Bathroom Wall, for a relaxing exercise in dissection and, well, debunking.

I do get the part about David MacMillan growing up as a smart, gung-ho homeschooled creationist youth who would mow $1000 worth of lawns just to give it to the Creation Museum. Sheesh, that IS some dedication (for as a teenager, I’d have kept all the money and blown it on Pop Tarts!).

But I also get the part about how MacMillan lost all that creationist “Bible-believing Christian” fire and fervor as soon as he set one foot in the university science hall. Okay, that’s understood too.

But that paragraph above tells me, flat-out, that MacMillan’s knowledge of creationism and Bible (at least today), is apparently far lower than his knowledge of physics and science.

So, like I said, I’ll just borrow that one paragraph and gently put it on the dissection table down by the Wall.

FL

FL said:

But that paragraph above tells me, flat-out, that MacMillan’s knowledge of creationism and Bible (at least today), is apparently far lower than his knowledge of physics and science.

So, like I said, I’ll just borrow that one paragraph and gently put it on the dissection table down by the Wall.

That’s a pretty amazing claim: that Creationism and the Bible are, “today”, so significantly different than they were just 7 years ago, when David wrote such a glowing article about the Creation Museum.

Has YEC really changed that much in just 7 short years? Do tell us all what is so different about YEC today that David’s knowledge is “far lower” than it was after 12 years of home schooling. Do tell us all what has changed about the Bible in these 7 short years that David would not recognize it.

Mr. MacMillan (and/or Matt Young) can certainly send this to the Wall, but the topic of the OP appears to be about the “conversion” of a YEC, and the lies that he was told growing up.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

FL said:

I wouldn’t claim to know everything about the Bible, but I do know Ken Ham’s insistence on “Biblical origins” is as phony as the rest of creation science. I had never known creationism was invented only a scant fifty years ago (six-day young-earth creationism was never a fundamentalist dogma until the 1960’s). I had never known that all Christians accepted the Bible’s creation account as deliberate allegory many centuries before scientists even knew the earth revolved around the sun.

I am taking this part with me, back to the Bathroom Wall, for a relaxing exercise in dissection and, well, debunking.

FL

I am certain that will entail a thoroughly uninteresting pack of creationist lies and nonsense.

FL said:

But I also get the part about how MacMillan lost all that creationist “Bible-believing Christian” fire and fervor as soon as he set one foot in the university science hall. Okay, that’s understood too.

That’s why it is called a “liberal” education. College encourages the student to ask questions and seek answers for themselves. To find out for themselves what is true and what isn’t. To find out for themselves what works, and what makes sense of the world around them.

Creationism dogma requires that all questions be answered by what’s in the Bible. Creationism, as exemplified by the statement of faith of AIG, requires that any knowledge, any facts, any observations that do not conform to the Bible be flat out rejected. As one YEC politician as stated, all of science are “lies, straight from the pit of hell”. Creationism requires that the Creationist lie to himself and the rest of the world.

That’s why (ironically) YEC is a conspiracy theory. Not so much because the YE Creationist sees conspiracies all around him, but because the YE Creationist must be an active participant in a conspiracy to deny the truth of reality.

FL, you prove this with every word you write.

Robert Byers said:

What’s a prominent scientist?? What are the degrees of hierarchy here? Is this nye guy a scientist or another TV scientist?

Have you never heard of the educational TV show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy”? Perhaps not. It ran for about 5 years in the mid 1990’s, and has been in reruns ever since. Bill Nye has had other TV shows since then.I’m sure that no Creationist would allow their child to watch a popular science show for children. He has a BS in Science, and has focused on mechanical engineering and educating people about science.

Bill Nye is a “prominent” scientist in that he has made his name and his face highly, prominently visible, like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan, by trying to use the public media to educate people about science. To my knowledge, he has done no research himself, has published no papers, and has not earned any advanced degree.

In science, there is no “hierarchy”. (That’s not to say that there isn’t a “hierarchy” at any given universities.) What Bill Nye demonstrates that it does not take an advanced degree to both understand and to explain science.

I speculate he agreed to the debate because he violently accused hordes of creationists and christians of doing child abuse by teaching their kids creationism is true and not evolution. I speculate he regrets this and thinks it hurt the evolution counter reformation movement.

Well, at least you admit that this is pure, imaginary speculation on your part, made up out of whole cloth. Bill Nye has been very public, very outspoken about the importance of science education, yet he has consistently been very polite and very well spoken. It would be completely out of character for him to have accused anyone of “child abuse”.

Back up your “speculation” with facts. There is lots of information about Bill Nye. Google it. Find where you think Bill Nye has accused Creationists of child abuse. There are several “prominent” atheists who have done so, and it’s easy to find them on line making such claims.

Show where Bill Nye has done what you “speculate” he has done.

FL said: I also get the part about how MacMillan lost all that creationist “Bible-believing Christian” fire and fervor as soon as he set one foot in the university science hall. Okay, that’s understood too.

But that paragraph above tells me, flat-out, that MacMillan’s knowledge of creationism and Bible (at least today), is apparently far lower than his knowledge of physics and science.

I’m afraid the real story is nothing so rosy as all that. I still would have termed myself a creationist even when I graduated college, though I was admittedly far less conservative by then. Engineering and physics and chemistry can survive quite well in a creationist’s mind; my physics professors didn’t really concern themselves with biology or geology all that much.

My degree didn’t teach me the facts about evolution; I found those out on my own. It did teach me how the peer review process works, how models are built and tested and falsified, all that good stuff. That’s what enabled me to see that evolution had all the same characteristics of good science: falsifiability, predictive power, independently verifiable ways of getting to the same thing. It was only in actually doing science that I gained the tools I needed to sort through creationism’s rubbish misinformation.

I admit, I probably should have said “most all Christians” rather than “all Christians”…clearly an oversight on my part. I was trying to make the point that Young Earth Creationists have as many falsehoods about their own history as they do about science. The whole picture of bold Christians standing firm on literalism against the encroachment of atheistic science is flatly false. As it happens, I minored in history…and the historical revisionism of Young Earth Creationism will match any other variety tit for tat. I probably came on too strong, but compared to the sort of notions I was taught growing up, it’s not far wrong.

Scott F wrote:

It would be one thing to say, “Look, Evolution is really clever and all that, but our Creationist ideas explain reality better.”

By the time I graduated, this is pretty much what my position had reformed to. The predictive success of everything involved in the theory of evolution had forced me to admit that it was, at the very least, a passable explanation. Right before I realized creationism was not.

Creationism, as exemplified by the statement of faith of AIG, requires that any knowledge, any facts, any observations that do not conform to the Bible be flat out rejected.

The beautiful thing is, you can get them to admit this plainly (if you know the right buttons to push). All of the pseudoscientific posturing is just an attempt to convince you (and themselves, for that matter) that there’s genuine controversy afoot. Hit them hard with truly undeniable evidence (shared primate GULO pseudogene, anyone?) in a way they can’t possibly reinterpret it, and they’ll regress immediately into the “Oh well, science will probably change its interpretation of that someday, and then you’ll know I’m right.”

Robert, this is the only hit from Google (other than a bald claim from Ken Ham), where “Bill Nye” and “child abuse” are in the same context. In here, Lawrence Krauss calls creationism “child abuse”. Bill Nye does not.

Watch this video. It’s only 9 minutes. The beginning and ending are a bit weird, but the central part of the video is a plea from the heart to teach science correctly.

Yeah FL tha’s why he started by saying, “I woudn’t claim to know everything about the bible..” His knowledge, thank buddah, is more directed to reality than lovely stories.(And some not so lovely stories.)

FL do you take pride in being able to quote that book? I am actually more impressed, and learn more, and am more amused and enlightened by those who can do the Hamlet soliloquay. Better writing and a more honest author.

“Oh well, science will probably change its interpretation of that someday, and then you’ll know I’m right.”

Of course the obvious retort to that is that nothing has changed more than religion.

FL said: But I also get the part about how MacMillan lost all that creationist “Bible-believing Christian” fire and fervor as soon as he set one foot in the university science hall. Okay, that’s understood too.

If that’s what you got, you’ve got a complete failure of reading comprehension. Here’s what he actually said:

Despite four years of physics, it still took me a long time before I actually came to understand evolution, geology, and cosmology.

IOW his conversion occurred slowly during college or possibly even afterwards.

Please tell me how you took the David’s actual statement ‘despite four years, it took me a long time before I actually came to understand evolution’ and somehow converted that in your mind into ‘lost all that creationist fervor as soon as he set one foot in the university science hall.’ Because I really want to know how you could get from A to what is essentially not-A.

I’m not looking forward to Nye’s “show” at all and I certainly don’t want the bragging rights of “I told you so.” This is one instance where I openly hope to be wrong in my preconceptions. That said, I’m not optimistic.

Nye is a TV personality. He has to be nice and accommodating, precisely the wrong attributes in dealing with old Scambo. I very much doubt that Nye has the guts to pull the pin on the nuclear hand grenade that would take out both Scambo and Nye’s own career, that is, attacking the foundation of Scambo’s scam, the Bible.

Watch Scambo’s videos. He’s very clear and direct on where he stands. No wiggle room. The Bible is true and all perception is based on that. Even his recent essay on “critical” thinking was based on first finding an authority figure, then making sure that authority figure was Biblically based. Nye has to go after Scambo like a hyena and not give an inch. Nye has to destroy Scambo’s foundation unyieldingly.

Nye won’t do it. (AronRa would!) This entire stunt is completely ill-founded. All Nye is going to do is lose the respect of every rationalist on the planet, if he hasn’t already done so, and Scambo will increase his power and influence as having “faced down” Science. I can just hear Nye whining, “Well, at least we can agree to disagree.” It’s a disaster.

Learning the history of creationism freed me to examine the evidence for evolution. I wouldn’t claim to know everything about the Bible, but I do know Ken Ham’s insistence on “Biblical origins” is as phony as the rest of creation science. I had never known creationism was invented only a scant fifty years ago (six-day young-earth creationism was never a fundamentalist dogma until the 1960’s). I had never known that all Christians accepted the Bible’s creation account as deliberate allegory many centuries before scientists even knew the earth revolved around the sun.

FL is near correct in his criticism of this paragraph. It’s not accurate. Far from all Christians accepted Genesis as allegory even in the 1800s, and I think it would be fair to say that the vast majority of Christians believed it literal (to whatever extent they thought about it) before that.

He’s off on modern creationism too. George McCready Price and other seventh-day adventists pushed “flood geology” starting with “Illogical Geology” in 1906. “The Fundamentals” in 1910-1915 was a strong influence. It was somewhat dormant but still around until “The Genesis Flood” in 1961, when what we know today as YEC took final shape. But Morris and Whitcomb lifted wholesale from Price (without attribution).

So he’s off there. Of course he’s spot-on with the rest. YEC is a colossally failed paradigm, it can’t be made to correspond with reality in any manner.

Jon Fleming said: Far from all Christians accepted Genesis as allegory even in the 1800s, and I think it would be fair to say that the vast majority of Christians believed it literal (to whatever extent they thought about it) before that.

He’s off on modern creationism too. George McCready Price and other seventh-day adventists pushed “flood geology” starting with “Illogical Geology” in 1906. “The Fundamentals” in 1910-1915 was a strong influence. It was somewhat dormant but still around until “The Genesis Flood” in 1961, when what we know today as YEC took final shape. But Morris and Whitcomb lifted wholesale from Price (without attribution).

As I said, I probably came on too strong in this section. My point was not that no Christians ever advanced a six-day-creation view, but simply that six-day-creation was by no means the only view. There were plenty of people as early as the second century who subscribed to a day-age or framework interpretation; even Ussher’s infamous chronology was based around each of the days of Genesis 1 allegorically representing a thousand years of human history. Six-day young-earth creationism was not, in any event, the unified dogmatic front that AiG falsely paints it to be.

I’m certainly aware that George Price advanced flood geology in the first decade of the twentieth century, but Seventh Day Adventists were considered a cult by mainstream fundamentalism and so his views (based on E.G. White’s visions in the 19th century) were never adopted. The Fundamentals broadly censured biological evolution on the grounds that it challenged God’s status as creator, but they did not advance anything resembling a young-earth view. As you said, it wasn’t until the early 60s that Morris and Whitcomb’s plagiarisms of Price were adopted into the mainstream…and then, primarily via adoption by the KJV-only groups, which are a cult in their own right.

Wrangling over the details aside, I think it’s very interesting that the history of creationism was one of the key things that set you off. That is not the type of argument most scientific defenders of evolution would consider a “go to” one. We tend to want to address the scientific misconceptions first. But if correcting historical misconceptions works better, we should perhaps start using that tack more.

Doc Bill said:

I’m not looking forward to Nye’s “show” at all and I certainly don’t want the bragging rights of “I told you so.” This is one instance where I openly hope to be wrong in my preconceptions. That said, I’m not optimistic.

Nye is a TV personality. He has to be nice and accommodating, precisely the wrong attributes in dealing with old Scambo. I very much doubt that Nye has the guts to pull the pin on the nuclear hand grenade that would take out both Scambo and Nye’s own career, that is, attacking the foundation of Scambo’s scam, the Bible.

Watch Scambo’s videos. He’s very clear and direct on where he stands. No wiggle room. The Bible is true and all perception is based on that. Even his recent essay on “critical” thinking was based on first finding an authority figure, then making sure that authority figure was Biblically based. Nye has to go after Scambo like a hyena and not give an inch. Nye has to destroy Scambo’s foundation unyieldingly.

Nye won’t do it. (AronRa would!) This entire stunt is completely ill-founded. All Nye is going to do is lose the respect of every rationalist on the planet, if he hasn’t already done so, and Scambo will increase his power and influence as having “faced down” Science. I can just hear Nye whining, “Well, at least we can agree to disagree.” It’s a disaster.

I agree with you 100%. This will be a disaster of … wait for it … Biblical proportions for Nye.

I also hope that I’m wrong.

Maybe the debate will turn out fine. Maybe BIll will get really pissed at Hambone and rip him a new one. That would be great, a mild mannered guy getting so upset by all the lies and dishonesty that he goes ballistic on the hammy. Of course then the creationists would probably just declare victory anyway and say that the emotional response was in appropriate in a “scientific” debate! The only hope is for Bill is to patiently and calmly call him a liar and prove it. Maybe he could even get Hambone to lose it if he plays it just right.

eric said:

I think it’s very interesting that the history of creationism was one of the key things that set you off. That is not the type of argument most scientific defenders of evolution would consider a “go to” one. We tend to want to address the scientific misconceptions first. But if correcting historical misconceptions works better, we should perhaps start using that tack more.

I think it’s something we might be able to make use of.

The entire young-earth-creationist worldview is grounded in one big false dichotomy: either YEC and all it contains is 100% true, or the Bible can’t be trusted and Jesus probably never existed at all. Now, we skeptics may not have any particular desire to “trust” the Bible (and I’m sure we have varying views on whether Jesus existed), but we’re not doing ourselves any favors when we allow this sort of nonsense to go unchecked.

Looking back, I realize I couldn’t evaluate the evidence on any objective level, simply because doing so would open the door to the possibility that the Bible wasn’t 100% literal history. I thought “myth” meant “falsehood”; I believed anything other than a literal 6-day creation meant throwing out Genesis as fake and uninspired. It had never occurred to me that these “narratives” could be deliberate allegory, let alone that church fathers had explicitly taught that view as early as the second century.

As easy as it is to say “look, the Bible simply isn’t 100% true”, we’d have a better shot at actually communicating if we said “look, the Bible simply isn’t 100% chronological narrative history”. This isn’t science vs religion; this is religion vs religion.

In a way, YEC is an easier nut to crack than the old-earth creationist types, simply because their objection is primarily chronological, not biological. I’ve even gotten some strident YECs to admit that yes, evolution could have produced common descent if it’d had enough time, but that 6000 years just isn’t enough time. Which, honestly, is half the battle.

Please do not respond to the FL troll here. He has promised to post his revelations on the BW; please respond there if you cannot control your urges.

DS said:

Maybe the debate will turn out fine.

Ham gave an interview yesterday and is already touting it as “a wonderful opportunity to present the creationist message” and saying “the debate will help point out that there is significant dissent in the scientific community about whether or not molecules-to-man evolution is a true explanation of origins.” Link.

So, uh, probably not. Given that AIG is already getting mileage out of the mere existence of the debate, and that Ham has outright said it’s a platform to advertise creationism, Nye is going to have to hit a home run just to make the event worthwhile. He can’t just hold his own, he’s got to put on a performance so good that the creationists will be embarrassed to air the debate or acknowledged it happened. If he doesn’t, they’re going to get mileage out of the fact that it happened.

eric said:

Ham gave an interview yesterday and is already touting it as “a wonderful opportunity to present the creationist message” and saying “the debate will help point out that there is significant dissent in the scientific community about whether or not molecules-to-man evolution is a true explanation of origins.” Link.

So, uh, probably not. Given that AIG is already getting mileage out of the mere existence of the debate, and that Ham has outright said it’s a platform to advertise creationism, Nye is going to have to hit a home run just to make the event worthwhile. He can’t just hold his own, he’s got to put on a performance so good that the creationists will be embarrassed to air the debate or acknowledged it happened. If he doesn’t, they’re going to get mileage out of the fact that it happened.

Nye explained some of his reasoning here…to hear him tell it, he’s actually intending to give publicity to this issue. I think he wants to demonstrate that creationists exist, that they’re organized, and that they’re willing to push their drivel into public school textbooks.

“the debate will help point out that there is significant dissent in the scientific community about whether or not molecules-to-man evolution is a true explanation of origins.”

Really? How could he possibly know what the debate will point out? All he knows is what he plans to say. I guess he just assumes that Bill won’t be able to dispute this talking point. So there you go Bill, be prepared to refute this lie and show Ham up for the disingenuous huckster that he is.

DS said:

“the debate will help point out that there is significant dissent in the scientific community about whether or not molecules-to-man evolution is a true explanation of origins.”

Really? How could he possibly know what the debate will point out?

Ham is likely advertising part of his strategy. IOW, he’s going to use some of his time to drop names or misrepresent to the audience that notable scientists don’t agree with the TOE. While Nye could be generally prepared for such a strategy, IMO it’s very unlikely he’s going to be able to counter such points in real time, because there are just too many possible experts that Ham could misrepresent. Nye can’t memorize every possible misquote of every evolutionary expert that Ham could access.

Or Ham could gish gallup ~20 names, and leave Nye with the options of (1) spend time explaining why one or more don’t support creationism, but not having enough time to cover all of them, or (2) making the rhetorically weak “nuh uh” response to the entire list.

I guess he just assumes that Bill won’t be able to dispute this talking point.

*I* don’t think Bill will be able to dispute this talking point. Not because it’s a good one, but because it can be made in a rhetorically powerful manner in a very short time, but cannot be answered in a rhetorically powerful manner in a short time.

What Nye ought to do is to construct a set of links to the debunking of the usual creationist canards and have his assistants tweet the links in real-time during the debate. He might consider having an extra assistant with a duck call to blow as each canard is shot down.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

harold said:

However, four aces is still an extremely high ranking hand, and four aces losing to a straight flush would be an extreme “bad beat”.

The odds of that occurring, at least in a Texas Hold’em scenario, is 1 in 2.7 billion.

I should specify here that those odds are for a quad vs. royal flush. There are obviously only 4 possible combinations for a royal and there’s 36 possible for a regular straight flush (not including the royals) so the odds go up a bit there.

daoudmbo said:

All this talk of Poker and poker probability makes me wonder if there was ever a case where 2 players both had royal flushes (in a non-community card version)? And if someone says there was, or there must have been, I will of course reply with “How do you know, were you there?”.

While I wasn’t there I’d give pretty good odds that if it did, someone was shot and killed right after being accused of bein’ a low-down-no-good-dirty-rotten-yellow-bellied-side-windin’-sap-suckin’ cheat.

When I was living in Albuquerque quite some years ago, actually before internet/television poker, there was a buzz at the Medical examiner’s office about an interesting homicide.

Apparently, there was a high stakes poker game - I think the actual location may have been Santa Fe.

The story is that a player was accused of cheating and said “If you think I’m cheating why don’t you shoot me?”.

harold said:

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

harold said:

However, four aces is still an extremely high ranking hand, and four aces losing to a straight flush would be an extreme “bad beat”.

The odds of that occurring, at least in a Texas Hold’em scenario, is 1 in 2.7 billion.

I should specify here that those odds are for a quad vs. royal flush. There are obviously only 4 possible combinations for a royal and there’s 36 possible for a regular straight flush (not including the royals) so the odds go up a bit there.

daoudmbo said:

All this talk of Poker and poker probability makes me wonder if there was ever a case where 2 players both had royal flushes (in a non-community card version)? And if someone says there was, or there must have been, I will of course reply with “How do you know, were you there?”.

While I wasn’t there I’d give pretty good odds that if it did, someone was shot and killed right after being accused of bein’ a low-down-no-good-dirty-rotten-yellow-bellied-side-windin’-sap-suckin’ cheat.

When I was living in Albuquerque quite some years ago, actually before internet/television poker, there was a buzz at the Medical examiner’s office about an interesting homicide.

Apparently, there was a high stakes poker game - I think the actual location may have been Santa Fe.

The story is that a player was accused of cheating and said “If you think I’m cheating why don’t you shoot me?”.

Filed under the category:

“He asked for it”

bigdakine said:

Filed under the category:

“He asked for it”

Legend has it that here in Texas in the good ol’ days (before any commie big govmint gun control) a justification accepted in court for homicide was, “He needed killin’.”

That would still fly in some locales.

David MacMillan’s article, posted on PT a week or so ago, has just appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader under the head From creationist to scientist; personal journey reflects debate hurdle for ‘science guy’.

I thought modern Literal Creationism arose around the 1910s?

Just Bob said:

bigdakine said:

Filed under the category:

“He asked for it”

Legend has it that here in Texas in the good ol’ days (before any commie big govmint gun control) a justification accepted in court for homicide was, “He needed killin’.”

That would still fly in some locales.

They’re called Stand Your Ground laws.

frankpettit2 said:

Just Bob said:

bigdakine said:

Filed under the category:

“He asked for it”

Legend has it that here in Texas in the good ol’ days (before any commie big govmint gun control) a justification accepted in court for homicide was, “He needed killin’.”

That would still fly in some locales.

They’re called Stand Your Ground laws.

Stand Your Ground laws, huh? Let’s call them what they really are – Murder With Impunity laws.

Keelyn said:

Let’s call them what they really are – Murder With Impunity laws.

Hear, hear.

phhht said:

Keelyn said:

Let’s call them what they really are – Murder With Impunity laws.

Hear, hear.

Time for repeal.

Legal definitions of what constitutes reasonable self-defence differ across jurisdictions. Here they are not really a subject of legislation. The common law provides definition. A person who claims self-defence in the case of a homicide will usually be charged and tried, and it will be up to an instructed jury to decide whether the defence is allowed. Juries have accepted a plea of self-defence where the deceased was armed - whether with a less lethal weapon or not - while in the commission of a crime (such as breaking and entering, or even the tort of trespass), and showed aggressive intent. Even if armed and unlawfully on premises, commensurate force only may be used. Even if the robber is running away with your property, you cannot shoot him.

It should be noted, though, that civilian use of firearms in self-defence is very rare, here, and it is also very rare for petty criminals to carry them. Even most “armed robberies” involve knives or similar weapons. Use or carriage of firearms by criminals will greatly increase the sentence, while at the same time ensuring that the police investigation will be thorough.

Did I remark that in this country there is no right to carry arms, and that it is a criminal offence to carry a firearm in a public place?

I don’t know of any jurisdiction in the USA that dis not allow a self-defense argument prior to the “stand Your ground” laws. As I understand it, the traditional self-defense argument requires that one attempt to escape before using deadly force – killing your assailant was the last resort. Under “stand your ground,” killing your assailant can be your the first resort.

Ironically, many of the proponents of “stand your ground” claim to be followers of a man – celebrated in my community as the Prince of Peace – who said something about turning the other cheek. Who would Jesus shoot?

SWT said:

Ironically, many of the proponents of “stand your ground” claim to be followers of a man – celebrated in my community as the Prince of Peace – who said something about turning the other cheek. Who would Jesus shoot?

It’s kind of irrelevant. After all, by applying Ken Ham’s “Christian” reasoning, any murder trial at all is pretty much irrelevant right out of the gate.

After all, murders occur in the past, and any jury selection worth its salt would automatically exclude any actual witnesses from serving as jurors since they’d have “presupposed biases”.

Ergo, since none of the jurors was actually there murder trials are historical science.

The only exception, apparently, would be the first person testimony of the presumed murderer and the presumed victim, both of which you can reasonably conclude were actually present if a murder had really been committed.

The dead guy would invoke his right to not testify (possibly at the risk of committing contempt of court), and the presumptive murderer would proclaim his innocence, or perhaps propose that the dead guy was running at 900 feet per second when he negligently plowed right into the defendants stationary bullets, which were minding their own business, hovering innocently in the air (the laws of physics being different then - prove me wrong).

Lacking any other evidence (since any such evidence would have to be “historical” since it couldn’t be re-created inside the courtroom) the jury would have to acquit.

(Other witnesses wouldn’t be allowed, of course. Since the jurors weren’t there, a jury would be hard pressed to prove that the supposed witnesses were there, either, since establishing their presence at the scene would rely on physical evidence, like, for example, security camera footage, which, of course, would be “historical”).

The dead guy would invoke his right to not testify (possibly at the risk of committing contempt of court),

He’d take the sixth*?

*(feet under)

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on January 22, 2014 4:21 PM.

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