*Serious Blog Disclaimer – These are my opinions. I’m not an expert in the field of this discussion. What follows is simply my take on the situation/topic, and it should be treated as such. If something is fallacious, or I make a statement that offends, please let me know and I will attempt to fix the issue.
I recently watched the debate between Bill Nye (CEO of the Planetary Society and advocate of science) and Ken Ham (Christian Apologetic and president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky) on the topic of “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” To get straight to the point, there were a number of claims made by Ham that, to me, just didn’t seem valid. Focusing on the opening statement and the 30 minute presentation period, there are certain arguments made by Ham that I would like to touch on and explain why I disagree.
The distinction proposed by Ham between what he labelled as “Observational” and “Historical” science was confusing to me. It seemed as though, when discussing “Historical” science, Ham was only considering a time before human existence as “the past”. He was constantly repeating that we could not possible know how old the earth is, or by what means evolution happened because we weren’t there. My issue with this is there are numerous situations today that would, for me, fall under Ham’s definition of “the past”. An example used (but not expanded on enough) by Nye was that of the crime scene. If we find a dead body in a house, one would expect a forensics team to examine the area, looking for clues as to what happened. Let’s say that the culprit in this analogy is evolution. Is Ham suggesting that we can’t possibly convict the culprit, even if their DNA is found on a murder weapon, witnesses place him at the scene of the crime, and there is blood from the victim found under their fingernails (in other words, overwhelming evidence)? It certainly seems like this is Ham’s view when discussing evolution. We have the evidence, we’ve done the science, and it all points to one conclusion. Sure, if we find CCTV footage of someone else murdering the victim, all evidence for the first suspect will be reclassified and charges would be dropped. The same applies to the theory of evolution. It could be so easily disproved, all it would take was one fossil in the ‘wrong’ layer of rock. But that’s what makes it such a strong theory; that even though it’s so easy to discredit, it hasn’t been yet.
Further adding to the issues I have with Ham’s “Historical” science is that he so firmly believes in the Bible, which (to me) has the same issues as what he claims is mislabelled evidence for evolution. Both the bible and (past) evolution was not witnessed by any living human today, which is something he seems to take such a stand against when talking science. The major difference is that scientific evidence can be tested (to an extent, we can’t go back in time to measure radioactivity, element levels etc…), but we can’t “test” the bible. It might seem like a silly point to be making on my behalf, but it wouldn’t need to be made if Ham acknowledge the issue with his unfounded trust in the Bible.
Moving on to a similar issue, Ham questions the “laws of logic”; where do they originate from a scientific view point. It is a fair question, and the answer, I believe, is still to be discovered. HOWEVER, if one is going to claim a scientific theory is false, or at least not as strong as some believe, one must offer scientific evidence to support their counter-theory. This is something that Ham fails to understand. Throughout the debate he offers no scientific evidence to support his view that creation is scientifically viable. Sure, he has creationist scientist chime in with evidence, or at least views, to discredit mainstream scientific thinking, but the closest he comes to offering up actual evidence in favour of creation is his so-called “orchard of life”, an idea that all animals of a “kind” (what he equates to ‘family’ in the classification of species) come from an ancestor of only that “kind” (e.g. all dogs from dogs, all finches from finches, etc…). This idea is based upon the fact that within the human lifespan major evolutionary changes cannot be witnessed, therefore concluding that major evolutionary changes (macro-evolution), do not occur, and a species will always remain within its “kind”. The major issue with this ‘theory’ is that it can be easily discredited, even without complex scientific analysis. For example, if dolphins/whales were always dolphins/whales (animals that exclusively inhabit water), would it not make sense for them to be able to breathe underwater? Wouldn’t we expect not to find vestigial organs, such a pelvises, suggesting that they once lived on land? Furthermore, if humans were always humans, it seems strange that during foetal development we grow tails, webbed feet, or other such features of no use to human kind. It would seem that god got a little confused when creating completely separate “kinds” of species. It’s a very weak argument; not disprovable, but not supported by anything other than an ancient book.
Every time Ham seems to be making a decent argument, instead of offering scientific evidence for what should be scientific theory, he simply points to the Bible, as if that is supposed to satisfy us. Moreover, when it comes to scientific theories based on countless studies and fossilised evidence, Ham asserts that we can’t keep “assuming” when we talk about “the past”. The use of the word “assuming” is extremely misleading. “Assuming” can imply “presumptuous” or “arrogant”, and it is this undertone that can undermine the scientific evidence. It also suggests that scientific theories are not made using all available evidence, and do not take into consideration other possibilities. There is certainly an aspect of assumption within science, but it is misdirecting to claim that the theory of evolution, or any scientific theory, assumes anything in the way Ham suggests.
There are many more issues with Ham’s argument that I could nit-pick with, but I’ve covered the major concepts that frustrated me with his debate. To summarise, if you are going to debate a scientific theory based on scientific evidence, you must have a counter-theory based on evidence that is equally as strong. The theory of creation (in my opinion) is an entirely non-scientific concept, and cannot be considered a scientific theory in its current state. Furthermore, the theory of evolution should be viewed to be on the same ‘level’ as theories such as gravity and relativity, and if you think the earth revolves around the sun, you should acknowledge that the evolutionary process is scientific fact.
**Second Disclaimer: By “creation”, both the debaters and I are referring to the belief in a LITERAL account of Genesis/Bereshit, specifically that god created all living things as separate “kinds”. This is not an argument against religion, nor the idea of a god. That’s for another time.
Here’s the link to the debate on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI