A bit of a brouhaha is being stirred over an upcoming debate that is going to happen in February between the famous Bill Nye (a.k.a., the Science Guy because of his award winning program for children on PBS-TV, Bill Nye the Science Guy) and President and Founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham. The immediate backdrop to this debate developed when Nye had a short video recorded last year in which he expressed his concern that creationism would prevent younger generations from being optimal contributors to society when they became adults. So he made an appeal to parents not to shackle their children with unsupportable religious convictions about creation because they are scientifically untenable and eventually would be non-existent in years to come anyway.
Well this video was a hit and became viral in a short amount of time thereby motivating Ham to provide a video response to Nye’s claims. Subsequently, this led to Ham inviting Nye to a debate and the rest, as they say, is history. Now I will admit, these two names do not represent the well-established academic powerhouses of the evolutionist and creationist camps (no disrespect to either of these men is intended). However Nye and Ham are indeed highly intelligent men and I’m sure they know their positions well enough to have a robust discussion that would be enjoyable and congenial. But regardless of how the debate turns out, there is no questioning the sparks of interest that have been made because of their agreement to collide.
That being said, I confess that I have no idea how this debate will go. I have my guesses but the purpose of this post is not for me to share them. Rather what I want to do is briefly highlight something that contributes to this polarizing divide which some are unaware of and others just tend to ignore.
That issue pertains to what one thinks the purpose of science actually is. Often I have noticed that many people think the evolutionist/creationist impasse is solely driven by contrary attempts to “prove” the origin of the universe by looking at the empirical evidence and arguing about whether the biblical portrayal of creation can match up. And no doubt, this is obviously part of the debate. Nevertheless, underlying the differences regarding the raw data of science is a deeper rift regarding the philosophy of science. The real question is not whether, biology, genetics, geology, astronomy, or any other scientific discipline overwhelmingly supports evolution or the biblical account of creation.
Instead the debate is about how scientific inquiry works, what presuppositions drive a particular way of examining empirical data, and what questions does one think that science can answer. If one wants to deduce that naturalism and/or atheistic versions of evolution are true, then one is forced either to deduce that science can answer all questions including non-empirical concerns or one must find some other means to do so. And the Christian response to this dilemma is that there is no sufficient source, science or otherwise, that can fill these metaphysical gaps outside of revelation.
To illustrate this, science can be instrumental in helping us decipher how the elements of nature function around us. Yet it cannot tell us anything about value judgments. In other words, science can tell me why my body gets thirsty. But it cannot tell me why I prefer to drink Coke Zero or Dr. Pepper as opposed to the loathsome Pepsi products. On a more serious note, science can tell me many things about the components that are interrelated to how the brain works. However, it cannot tell me why someone cognitively affirms evolution as opposed to creationism or whether they should affirm one or the other.
Thus my challenge to believers is to keep this thought in mind when watching creation/evolution debates, whether it be between Nye and Ham or any other polemical opponents. Don’t simply follow what they are saying about the content that science provides. Be sensitive to follow how they approach science to make their cases and whether the subsequent worldviews they construct are coherent. The real debate is whether a system of unbelief can justify its existence with “science” or any other resource outside of revelation. The rub comes from the fact that Christianity has always said “no” it cannot.
Finally, I dont’ know if Nye and Ham will go down this road in their debate or not. Just remember though, it’s the factor that divides them more than any other.