PETERSBURG, Ky. — Not since the Scopes Monkey Trial have defenders of evolution and creationism had such a public forum as will occur tonight between popular science personality Bill “The Science Guy” Nye and Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham. Starting at 7 p.m. ET, the two will share the stage of Legacy Hall at the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky for a debate on the topic of “Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins?” Between the 900-seat capacity of the hall and the live stream of the event sponsored by Answers in Genesis, more than a million people are likely to hear the two’s arguments.
Nye made waves in 2012 with a YouTube video in support of evolution, in which he told proponents of creationism, “if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them.” A third of American adults do deny evolution, according to the Pew Research Center, and are in agreement with the statement that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time;” roughly 60 percent agree with an evolutionary perspective.
Among white evangelical Protestants like Ham, however, these percentages are reversed, with 64 percent supporting creationism. Ham is the leading proponent of “Young Earth Creationism,” which interprets the Bible as giving the planet an age of approximately 6,000 years. In an interview with USA Today before the debate, Ham stressed that “[w]e certainly believe students should be allowed to critically analyze evolution. You can’t really believe both [creation and evolution] because it’s not consistent with the Bible. You can’t add millions of years to what the Bible teaches.”
Some science advocates have expressed reservations about Nye accepting the invitation to the event. John Rosenau, director of the National Center for Science Education think-tank, said his general policy was to discourage this sort of debate. “The biggest thing is that a debate on stage is not how science is decided. It’s entertainment, it’s theater,” rather than a careful series of observations and experiments. Others believe that the adversarial nature of the encounter further intensifies an unnecessary conflict between science and religion. Scientists such as the astrophysicist Joel Primack emphasize that the Bible’s answers to “why” questions are in no way compromised by evolution’s answers to questions of “how.”
Again, tonight’s debate will begin at 7 p.m ET and last approximately two and half hours. It will be streamed live and will also be available on YouTube following its conclusion.