Talking Past One Another – The Ham/Nye Debate

Bill Nye (left) and Ken Ham (right) during the debate.
Bill Nye (left) and Ken Ham (right) during the debate.

The much-anticipated debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham happened last night. I had some pretty high hopes for the debate, and some of them were realized. However, most of them were not. If you happened to miss the debate, it is still available as a video, so please feel free to watch it. As I understand it, the video will only be there for a limited time, however, so if you want to watch it, you should probably do so soon.

Let me start by telling you the things I liked about the debate. First, it went off without a technical glitch. With so many people watching it via live streaming, there were all sorts of problems that could have happened. However, I was able to watch clear video with crisp audio the entire time. It was great to think that so many people could enjoy the debate in that format. I also love the fact that it is still available as a video so even more people can watch it!

Second, both debaters were cordial, and they concentrated on making their cases. Neither one of them resorted to name-calling, which is all too common in such situations. Nye repeatedly said that Ham’s views were “extraordinary,” and he also repeatedly referred to science as it happens “outside” the Creation Museum. However, at no time did he turn his attacks towards his opponent. That was very good.

Third, both debaters brought up some good points. You will see what I mean later on in this post.

Fourth, there were two chances for the debaters to rebut one another, and then there were (pre-written) questions from the audience. As a result, there were opportunities for the debaters to interact with one another. This is where I come to my main problem with the debate. While there were plenty of opportunities for the debaters to interact, they rarely did so. As the title of this post indicates, they spent most of their time talking past one another. That’s unfortunate, because a real discussion between the two debaters would have been more illuminating than what happened in the debate. Nevertheless, there were some good (and bad) moments for both sides in the debate, so let me use this post to point out what I thought each debater did well and what I thought each debater did poorly.

Ken Ham won the coin toss and elected to go first. When I debate evolutionists, I always give them the choice of whether or not to go first, since they have the weaker case. Most of the time, they elect to go second in order to get in the “last word.” Most debaters will tell you that going second is best. I am not sure why Ham decided to go first, but in the end, I think it was the right thing to do. Nye was there on Ham’s “home field,” so it was only right to give the “visitor” the best position in the debate.

In his opening presentation, Ham spent far too long on his “observational science versus historical science” shtick. As Nye showed later, this is really a false distinction. Nye specifically rebutted this idea when he said that in astronomy, we are often observing the past. This is true, because regardless of whether or not you are a creationist or evolutionist, you agree that the light (or other electromagnetic radiation) you are observing in your telescopes took time to travel from its point of origin to the earth, so by definition, you are looking into the past. More importantly, observational science is used when trying to tease out what happened in the past. Ham actually admitted that later on in the debate. Thus, the distinction doesn’t seem to be a real one.

Now, at the same time, I do think that there is a difference in the confidence of your conclusions when you are dealing with things that happened in the past as opposed to things that happen now. If I want to develop a new drug, for example, I can do controlled studies with animals and people to see how the drug works. If I have doubts about my conclusions, I can change some conditions and do more studies with those new conditions to allow for further testing. Because I have the chance to do repeatable experiments under varying conditions, my conclusions can be pretty solid. When dealing with events that happened in the past, I can’t change the conditions and repeat my experiments. I am forced to look at one set of data and simply try to make conclusions about what the data mean. This makes my conclusions less reliable. Nevertheless, in both cases, the science is the same. In my view, the only difference is the confidence with which you can state your conclusions.

Once he got off his observational-versus-historical-science routine, the rest of his presentation was quite good. He kept showing videos of young-earth creationists who are doing real science right now. This was good, since the debate was a result of Nye’s anti-science claim that there is no place for creationism in today’s society. Those videos destroyed that claim, and throughout the debate Nye never even tried to address how these successful scientists could be young-earth creationists given his stated position.

Ham’s best moment, however, came when he talked about predictions that the young-earth creationist model makes and how they have been confirmed by the data. For example, he presented the creationist “orchard” as opposed to the evolutionary “tree of life.” He then quoted from two studies. The first was about dogs. It showed that all dogs came from a single common ancestor, which goes against evolutionary expectations but is exactly what was predicted by the creationist model. The second was the human genome project, which showed that all humans belong to a single race. This is diametrically opposed to what was believed by most evolutionists throughout history, which is that there were several races of man, with the Caucasian race being the most “evolved.” Ham even quoted from an old high school textbook that used evolution to promote such racism.

Ham also discussed Lenski’s long-running evolution experiment. He had video of Dr. Andrew Fabich, a young-earth creationist microbiologist with very impressive credentials, who discussed the experiment. He talked about how it confirms creationist predictions. While Dr. Fabich’s credentials are impressive, his presentation was not. He didn’t really explain how Lenski’s experiments show that no new genetic information can be generated by evolution. Nevertheless, he did get the point across.

Now let me turn to Bill Nye. In his presentation, he concentrated on the age of the earth. This was unfortunate, I think, because it addresses only one type of creationism. Now, of course, this happens to be the type to which Ken Ham subscribes, so perhaps Nye thought it was best to focus on what he continually referred to as “Ken Ham’s model.” As a result, he brought up a lot of evidence that he thinks opposes a young earth (ice cores, trees, rock layers, order of fossils in the fossil record, distant stars, fossil skulls, and animal migration). All of that evidence, of course, has been addressed by young-earth creationists, and some of what Nye said about it was quite incorrect. I hope to go through some of that in a later post. Nevertheless, to those who haven’t studied the issue much, he appeared to have a lot of evidence that contradicted a young earth.

As you would expect, Nye didn’t really know much about the creationist view. For example, he said that you wouldn’t expect to see layers of rock in the geological record if there were a worldwide Flood. However, a quick review of any creationist literature not only shows that they expect such layers, but that observations of local floods as well as laboratory experiments demonstrate that floods can, indeed, produce layers of sediment that will form layers of rock. He also claimed that the creation model can’t make predictions. Of course, this was after Ham had discussed predictions of the creation model and how they have been confirmed by the data. Once again, even a short perusal of the creationist literature shows that the model makes all sorts of predictions, many of which have been confirmed by the data.

Nye tried to make one point that was really bizarre. He discussed Rubidium/Strontium dating in a way that didn’t make any sense, but that’s not the bizarre part. After discussing this dating method, he then tried to relate it to nuclear medicine. Okay, that’s a stretch, but once again that’s not the bizarre part. Once he related the dating method to nuclear medicine, he then showed a reference that says there is no place in Kentucky that offers a major for a nuclear medical technologist. He said that he hoped everyone found that troubling. That’s the bizarre part. He seemed to be implying that the Creation Museum being in Kentucky was the reason there are no degrees for a nuclear medical technologist in the state. Of course, that’s nonsense. It’s also wrong. According to the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board, there are two colleges in Kentucky that offer such programs: Jefferson Community College in Louisville and Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington.

Nye did have some good points, however. For example, he discussed the number of animals that would need to be on the ark, according to estimates made by creationists (7,000). He then pointed out how many species there are in existence today (16,000,000 – probably an inflated number). He said if there were only 4,000 years from “Ken Ham’s flood” to the present. that would mean 11 new species would have to appear every day in order to produce the number of species we see on earth! Now, of course, his numbers aren’t really correct, because the ark wasn’t used to save bacteria, viruses, water-living organisms, and plants, all of which are included in Nye’s inflated number of species that exist today. However, while his numbers are very wrong, he does point to a real issue with young-earth creationism: diversification of species had to have been much more rapid in the past than it is today. Now, there are good reasons to believe that it was, but nevertheless, I don’t know of any really good young-earth model that addresses the specifics rapid post-Flood diversification.

Okay…if you made it this far through this long post, let me finally explain the title. While each presenter made some good (and bad) points in his opening presentation, neither of them addressed much of what the other said. Ham, for example, kept asking Nye where the laws of logic and the uniformity of nature came from. The creation model explains this, the naturalistic model does not. Nye never answered him. Nye, on the other hand, kept asking Ham to explain the various hominid fossils found in the fossil record. Ham never answered him.

In the same way, both debaters seemed to simply ignore the other on many issues. Ham kept saying that he had shown the creation model makes predictions that are verified, and he said there are many other examples. Nye kept saying the creation model makes no predictions. Nye kept saying that the creation model will harm the U.S. when it comes to science and technology. Ham had shown the videos of creation scientists who are doing serious scientific work, and Nye never explained how these scientists could exist if his view is correct. Nye kept calling the creation model “Ken Ham’s model” and the worldwide Flood “Ken Ham’s flood,” even though Ham told him that creation and the flood aren’t his ideas. They come from the Bible, and the creation model has been worked on by lots of PhD scientists. Nye kept talking about the Bible as it if had been translated many, many times, at one point even comparing it to a game of “telephone.” Ham never pointed out how completely wrong such a statement is.

So in the end, while both presentations were good in many ways, the rest of the debate I found to be rather useless. Even the question/answer session, which is usually my favorite part of a debate, ended up just being another situation where the two debaters talked past one another.

Will this debate change any minds? I doubt it, because each debater never really addressed the other’s contentions. However, I do think that the post-debate discussions that people have could change some minds. That’s the real value of a public debate. This debate allowed some arguments related to the origins issue to be “put out there.” Now it is time to discuss them. That discussion can be incredibly valuable, both scientifically and spiritually.

Please note that Answers in Genesis will have a post-debate commentary. My guess is that it will address the things that Ham did not have the time (or desire) to address in the debate. I am not crazy about such commentary when it is done by the participants, so I am not sure whether or not I will watch it. Nevertheless, I wanted my readers to be aware of it.

94 thoughts on “Talking Past One Another – The Ham/Nye Debate”

  1. Didn’t catch it last night and I really should have. I guess I will have to run to NPR right away and watch it, and draw my own conclusions.

    I question your statement about translations, if in his statement perhaps Nye might have been including Latin (Vulgate), Greek, Hebrew all the historical standards, all the languages of the world and perhaps all the versions perhaps in each language? If so, then perhaps it isn’t the language or the wording the but nuances that a word or two difference could/can make in the meaning of a phrase? Many might differ with this thought and that’s fine… it was just a thought, perhaps valid perhaps invalid.


    1. John, Nye implied that the Bible was translated from one language to another in a series, much like a game of “telephone.” That, of course, is wrong. Today’s translations go straight from the original language to English. Some of the past translations (like the KJV) didn’t always do that, but today, it’s a direct translation, using the most ancient documents possible to get the best translation. Now, of course, any translation is also an interpretation, so yes, what we have today is a translation that, by necessity, is an interpretation. However, that’s why theologians exist. They study the original languages to help us understand where the translation becomes an interpretation.

  2. Thank you for this excellent commentary on the debate. I agree that sometimes they seemed to talk around each other seemingly ignoring opposing points. I was bothered by Mr. Nye’s repeated references to “Ken Ham’s model,” or “Ken Ham’s Flood,” etc. and his predictable conclusion that it is impossible to be a credible scientist and Creationist. I appreciate that the gospel was presented clearly and pray that in Mr. Nye’s case God’s Word will not return void and he will be open to the Holy Spirit. I also agree with you that post-dabate dialog has great potential.

  3. Dr. J,
    My daughter and I watched the debate last night and observed many of the same things you noted here! We also discussed the fact that, when Ham used Scripture in his rebuttals, we were quite sure that Nye completely disregarded it as a viable response. Scripture means absolutely nothing to a nonbeliever. However, we both agreed that it IS a viable answer and that Scripture is alive and active (according to Hebrews 4:12) and God only knows what those answers may yet do in Nye’s mind or in the mind of someone else who was watching the debate. Having done your science curriculum, Exploring Creation With General Science, we have learned many great responses to uniformitarian views. Thank you!

  4. Dr. Wile — good post — definitely follow up with more re: Nye’s points on ice cores, etc. I heard debate with Hugh Ross recently, where he mentioned lake sediment. It would be good hear your thoughts on that as well. (Although you may have covered that in the past.)

    Also, you need to get on Twitter.

    1. W. Nelson, I resisted Facebook for a long, long time, but I finally had to give in. I hope to resist Twitter forever. I am just not very good with short posts, as you can see from most of my posts here.

  5. I’m unclear, though we use your Apologia Science texts in our homeschool–are you a “young Earth” creationist? Something you said in this post made me wonder.

  6. I think the root cause for the two men talking past each other is that science and religion were created to answer two very different sets of questions. It is as ridiculous for society to turn to science to answer “How should a man live his life?” etc., as it is to turn to religion to explain rock stratification or evolution of life.

    The argument that evolutionists/creationists/young earthers are “doing science” is simply not true: they are acting out an imposture of science. Scientific method requires looking at the natural world, forming a question, supposing a hypothesis, systematically testing the hypothesis, and DISCARDING failed hypotheses. Creationism does not allow discarding the principle hypothesis of the Bible being factually correct. Creationists are not forming hypotheses and testing them; they are attempting to prove one hypothesis is correct. And often (eg fine sediment stratification) grasping at straws to do so.

    The Ham arguments in favor of Evolutionists–dogs and races–are strawmen. Dogs did not evolve from a single dog–aside from that being impossible (who would that lone dog have bred with) it’s been well disproved. And DNA studies haven’t demonstrated that there are no races: Ham is confusing races with species. If anything DNA studies have shown that the concept of race is a human, not genetic reality.

    Yes, certainly Nye paid little attention to the Bible; in Science the argument “because this book says so” is a non starter, no matter who wrote the book. That Abrahamic argument is meaningless is a discussion of scientific issues.

    In the end the reason the Evolution v. Creationism argument is important is because it is the Religion (Secular and Deist) v. Science conflict writ small. And the reason that conflict is important is at least twofold.

    First, because both science and religion have good things to offer humanity, but in entirely different realms. Confusing those realms leads to real harm: asking science to provide you some guidance in choosing your spouse will bring you nothing but sorrow. Choosing prayer to treat your child’s leukemia will bring nothing but sorrow, and DENY that child a miracle in their life.

    Second, because systematic thought is an absolute good. The rejection of evolution and science promotes a culture in which there is no universal approach to understanding reality. It creates a narcissistic world in which “It’s only true if it’s true for me.” That is a world in which all ideas are equal and we have no mechanism to communicate and choose among them. A philosophical tower of Babble.

    1. I’ll have to disagree with you, Matt. The reason they talked past one another is that they didn’t answer each others’ assertions. I have had three debates with an evolutionist who is also an atheist (see here, here, and here). We didn’t talk past each other in any of the debates, because we answered each other. Now I do agree that science and religion sometimes offer answers to different questions. As you say, religion tells us how to live. Science doesn’t do that. At the same time, however, they also overlap. Both discuss origins, for example. Both discuss the final fate of the universe. Both discuss certain aspects of nature. So while there are some subjects covered by only one or the other, there are other subjects covered by both.

      You are quite wrong that creationists aren’t forming hypotheses and testing them, discarding the ones that don’t work. They do that all the time. For example, it used to be a common creationist idea that there was a canopy of vapor in the upper atmosphere that kept the entire earth warm before the Flood. However, when some creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research did some computer modeling, they found that such a canopy was not feasible, so most creationists discarded that hypothesis. Indeed, Answers in Genesis keeps a list of arguments creationist should not use. It contains a lot of discarded hypotheses.

      Now, of course, a creationist is not going to discard the Bible as being factually correct, because he or she believes it to be true. If he or she does discard that idea, most likely the person will no longer be a creationist. At the same time, however, we can say the same for most people in the origins debate. A naturalistic evolutionist like Bill Nye will not discard the idea that God doesn’t exist, because he believes there is no God. As a result, his science will be guided by that presupposition. If he discards that presupposition, most likely, his stance on origins will change as well.

      The Ham arguments are not strawmen. In fact, the latest research does tell us that dogs evolved from a single common ancestor. Not a single dog – a single common ancestor. As the latest research indicates:

      We provide several lines of evidence supporting a single origin for dogs, and disfavoring alternative models in which dog lineages arise separately from geographically distinct wolf populations.

      Also, Ham is not confusing races with species. As the New York Times tells us:

      Dr. Venter and scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently announced that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, and the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race — the human race

      If Ham is confusing race and species, so are Dr. Venter and the other scientists at the NIH!

      I agree that “asking science to provide you some guidance in choosing your spouse will bring you nothing but sorrow. Choosing prayer to treat your child’s leukemia will bring nothing but sorrow, and DENY that child a miracle in their life.” However, asking where we come from is both a scientific and a religious question, as is asking where is the universe headed or if the natural world is a product of design. Thus, there are many questions which both science and religion can answer together.

      Rejecting evolution is not rejecting science. Indeed, in my view, accepting evolution is rejecting science, since science speaks so strongly against evolution. Thus, I think debates like this are important specifically because so many people have been misled about science. Science doesn’t support evolution. It supports creation.

  7. Thank you Dr Wile! Your commentary was very thought provoking and helpful. If makes me want to study rapid post-Flood diversification!

  8. Thank you for your thoughts on the debate. I also paused and wondered about your YE stance. The paragraph talking about the animals in the ark–specifically the last two sentences made me wonder if you were were OE.

    1. Thanks for pointing out what made you think I was possibly an old-earther, Tamara. It’s important to realize that all views on origins have their scientific problems. I think the old-earth views have significantly more problems than the young-earth view, which is why I am a young-earther. However, one shouldn’t ignore the problems with one’s views. One should study them.

  9. I haven’t seen the debate but it seems many people agree that Nye won as I predicted on a different thread.

    Nye made a devastating comment about Noah’s Ark that you reference above. I guess with all the anti-evolution links that you gave me, it turns out that you really do believe in evolution, Dr. Wile. You just think it happens at a really rapid rate in which case you are at a loss. The creationist asks the evolutionist “if evolution is true, why don’t we see species evolving in to different species?”. The evolutionists answers “Because it takes alot of time for that to happen. It’s currently happening but it’s too slow to observe.” If the creationist was asked “If evolution is not true, where did all the species come from in such a rapid time. Why don’t we see this same rapid evolution today?” They would answer “Cause the bible tells me so.” Of course creation science would argue that god supernaturally evolved the species so rapidly in the past but he doesn’t have to do that today because he has all the species he wants. I’m sure all the creation scientists are now testing that model in their labs as we speak.

    1. Luis, I don’t find it surprising that you didn’t watch the debate and instead are just letting other people tell you what to think about it. That seems to be your standard mode of operation. Nye didn’t win the debate. Neither person won, because neither person really addressed the main points of the other debater.

      Of course, Nye’s comment about Noah’s Ark is not devastating. As I said, there are good reasons to believe that diversification was rapid in the past. Indeed, creationists even have a good genetic mechanism for it. The only real problem is that the specific rates have not been addressed, so a solid model doesn’t exist.

      The reason you seem surprised that I believe in evolution is because you have studiously avoided looking at all the evidence I have presented to you in past threads. For example, the previous thread where you kept changing the subject because you couldn’t defend your ever-changing positions, I gave you several links that included discussions of post-Flood diversification. Also, many of the articles here on this blog discuss that. This is just another indication that you really aren’t interested in evidence when it comes to this debate. As I said before, that makes me curious about what is really driving you.

      You are also quite wrong about what the creationist says when asked, “If evolution is not true, where did all the species come from in such a rapid time. Why don’t we see this same rapid evolution today?” This creationist would tell you that rapid diversification occurs when there are open ecological niches to exploit. At the end of the worldwide Flood, there were lots of open ecological niches to fill, so diversification happened rapidly. As those niches filled, however, the rate of diversification slowed, because there wasn’t as much selective advantage to diversification. Since we are in a situation where most ecological niches are filled, we don’t expect to see a lot of rapid diversification today. Note that the word “Bible” appears nowhere in my answer. Note also that I did not invoke God’s supernatural intervention in the explanation.

      Once again, if you want to hold a reasonable position on this issue, you need to look at all the evidence, and that doesn’t seem to be something you are willing to do.

  10. This post is a great commentary on the debate. Ken Ham’s distinction between “observational science” and “historical science” largely missed the point you made in a couple sentences. Both Bill Nye and Ken Ham did their fair share of question dodging, too.

    I also think that Bill Nye’s stage presence was much more casual and friendly than Ken Ham’s, which was comfortable, but “textbook,” if you will. Ham’s accent, though great, was no match for Bill Nye’s charisma and confidence on stage. This is to be expected of someone who has spent most of his career working in television.

    One thing my parents and I noticed was that Bill Nye truly showed his reliance on man’s wisdom instead of God’s, specifically on the “What would change your mind?” question. If you want to talk about a prediction, I’d say the Bible predicted his response almost perfectly, and it was written two thousand years ago.

    This debate should spark quite the discussion, and I’m excited to read some of your follow up posts about it.

  11. While I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with this statement… “Will this debate change any minds? I doubt it, because each debater never really addressed the other’s contentions.”

    Ham presented the full Gospel, at least twice. God’s word does not return void. This debate will surely change some minds. I imagine it will also cause more creation scientists to stand up for their views as well. I just wish Ham had given Nye the prediction he kept asking for….and the prediction is this: That even Nye will bow his knee and confess that Jesus is Lord someday. I hope it is sooner rather than later.

    At the very least, seeds were planted. The knowledge of God is written on every man and those seeking him already who watched it last night may have had a big change in their thinking. Ham is definitely the winner in that regard. 😉

  12. I was waiting for Ham to call Nye on his claim that if you found one fossil species in a geological layer that it wasn’t expected the whole scientific world would be surprised. This happens all the time. Obviously Nye has never heard of Lazarus Taxa. I would have prefered Nye to actually debate a creation scientist instead of a PR guy.

    1. I agree, Jeff. Ham should have mentioned any one of several examples of fossils being found in the wrong place. The reason this doesn’t falsify evolution (as Nye claims) is because evolutionists can always change the story to accommodate such findings. A while back, I wrote about a resin fossil that had all the hallmarks of being from an angiosperm. However, it was found in rock that was supposedly formed 180 million years before angiosperms evolved. This is exactly what Nye said would disprove evolution, but in the end, evolutionists just said that it must have been made by a tree that was not an angiosperm but just happened (by sheer coincidence) to produce resin that looks exactly like angiosperm resin. And oh, by the way, that wonderful plant went extinct, so there is no evidence that such a thing ever existed. However, it must have existed, since evolution has to be true.

  13. I very much appreciate your views on this. Much of what you commented on, we noticed last night, so it’s confirmation that we were all on the right track.

    I thought that it was totally a God thing that Ken went first. He needed to lay the foundation and I think he did a good job with that.

    I think I heard you (on CD) from a home school conference, tell about a museum curator (not sure what they were at the museum) who was doing a fossil dig. They found hundreds of fossils.Problem was, they were all mixed up according to the evolutionary column. He never published his find. (I’ve probably botched all of the details. Hope I’m saying something you remember, lol)

    I kept remembering this story and wishing Ham would present this to Nye when Nye said it would take finding , “just one fossil” out of order.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Michelle. You are thinking about the fossils of the Cambrian Explosion. Evolutionists still teach the falsehood that invertebrates (animals without backbones) slowly evolved into vertebrates. However, Dr. Charles Walcott discovered this wasn’t true when he found very complex fossils in the Burgess shale, that was supposed to be from a time when only very simple invertebrates existed. He never did much with the fossils, so they languished in drawers for more than 40 years until they were rediscovered by others. They still represent a huge problem for evolution, as detailed in the excellent book, Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer.

  14. Excellent article, brother! I agree with both your disappointments and hopes that have come as a result of this debate. Praying the Lord will use what has been opened by it.
    Thank you!

  15. I was going to ask the same as Robin. It seems like you distanced yourself from a young earth position and that is not what I remembered from hearing you speak a few years ago at a homeschool convention. Thanks for clearing that up.

    I couldn’t agree with you more overall with your assessment. I also wish the opportunity to answer each other’s questions would have happened and not been constrained because of the limitations of a debate.

  16. I believe this is the passage to which Robin was referencing. It made me wonder too.

    “However, while his numbers are very wrong, he does point to a real issue with young-earth creationism: diversification of species had to have been much more rapid in the past than it is today. Now, there are good reasons to believe that it was, but nevertheless, I don’t know of any really good young-earth model that addresses the specifics rapid post-Flood diversification.”

    1. Heather and Kim, it is important to understand that there are scientific problems with any view of origins. The young-earth view has the fewest scientific problems, which is why I am a young-earth creationist. I am not distancing myself from that by honestly pointing to problems that exist. I am just saying that this is something that should be researched more.

  17. I think that part of Nye’s “bizarre” statements on education are connected to the implementation of the Common Core Standards and I believe he is not-so-subtly promoting them. I noticed he appealed multiple times to “voters” in States that haven’t fully embraced the CCS. Here is my post-debate comment I posted on AIG’s facebook page this morning:

    “Anyone else notice how Bill Nye was shamelessly plugging the Common Core education model? In the CCS: There is no absolute truth (or right answer); everything is evidence based, and any claim can be true as long as you present enough “evidence”. Funny thing, even he could not provide conclusive evidence to back his claims, only share how his interpretation of the “evidence” couldn’t possibly support creationism. Even by his own logic, Mr. Nye has to admit that there are absolute truths; he kept using mathematical equations to illustrate his points. This is why kids are getting frustrated with the CC, they are being told in MATH CLASS, that there is no right answer! Sorry, Bill, the CCS will not create innovative scientists of the future, it’s hallmark qualities are confusion and frustration, and it’s inherently designed to defeat the child’s love of learning or “joy of discovery” as you put it. Think about it, would you enjoy figuring out new things if your discoveries were never validated? Read some of the CCS for yourself. Do they make sense to you? Could YOU truly enjoy learning this way? Do you really think you would have followed the same career path had your educational experience been the same as what we are forcing on America’s children? The CCS are untested, unproven, and likely won’t work. How is that good science?”

  18. It is quite disturbing that today there is such a great rift between the educated positions of people that this is actually a viable debate. First, we should establish that evolution in no way discounts the existence of God or of creation. Nor does the bible exactly layout when creation was performed, as this is scientists trying to impose a timeline. Evolution explores the possibilities of how life, a novel chemistry possibly unique to our planet Earth, and how it adapts to the ever changing environments. Religion speaks to the unknown source of this life, which will always remain a mystery to science. Second, if one believes the Earth is only a few thousand years old, then this whole exercise of evolutionary study is meaningless, because most things just don’t genetically drift that fast to evolve. However, if you believe in radioactivity and plate tectonics, and uniformatarian geology then evolution seems like an interesting subject. It would seem this is what gave rise to the inability of the two debaters to really engage in a true debate. They just stand to far apart intellectually to connect. This rift will only grow and unfortunately will seriously impede our ability to make science policy to address our future, changing world. Do we then set up a dichotomous society?

    1. I have to disagree with you, smw. This isn’t disturbing at all. It is a reflection of the fact that there are data on both sides of the issue. Some educated people believe in a young earth because there is evidence to support it, and they consider that evidence to be the most compelling. I certainly do. However, there is evidence to support an old earth as well, so many educated people believe in an old earth because they find that evidence compelling. Far from being disturbing, I find this incredibly healthy. The way science progresses is through honest debate about the data.

  19. Dr. Wile, I did not watch the debate, but I have done a Bible study put out by Answers in Genesis and have also used your Apologia textbooks for Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, so I was interested in how the debate went and also what you thought it. Thank you for your analysis and summary!
    I also wanted to thank you for your excellent work on the Apologia books. The way they were written made Science one of my favorite school subjects! I very much appreciate the fact that every time you reached a topic where evolutionists had a significant or iconic claim, you carefully and thoroughly refuted it. We went through Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project” recently, and at one point they showed several iconic images used by evolutionists in textbooks. Having been through your textbooks, I recognized most of them immediately and also knew why they were wrong/deceptive. Thank you!

  20. Dr. Wile, do you personally think being an Old Earth creationist is incompatible with the Bible? You agree that problems exist for young-earth creationism. Would the backlash from young-earth creationists homeschoolers prevent you from ever changing your mind should data point to old earth as the more scientifically valid position? I respect you as a scientist and fellow Christian and enjoy your books. I plan to look into your new curriculum for elementary students. I lean old-earth creationist/theistic evolution myself and I am a Catholic.

    1. Thanks for your question, Ira. I do not think that an old earth is incompatible with the Bible. Some of the greatest theologians of our time are old-earthers, and even some very ancient theologians and early church fathers saw the Genesis account as figurative, not historical. It’s all a question of how you take the first few chapters of Genesis. I personally think they read like history, so I take them as such. However, others see the poetic elements that are most certainly there and decide that it must be poetic. Both views are reasonable and Scripture-honoring. I prefer the historical view because it also lines up well with science.

      I am completely open to changing my mind on the issue. I changed it one way (I used to believe in an old earth), so I can certainly change it back. I try to write my books very even-handedly when it comes to the age of the earth, so even if I changed my mind, it’s not clear my texts would change all that much. I can say for certain that I don’t live my life or choose what to believe based on what other people think, so any “backlash” that might happen from a change in my beliefs doesn’t have one iota of impact on what I believe. If that were the case, I would never have become a young-earth creationist, as the backlash I experienced in my career on the faculty of Ball State University for being a young-earth creationist was much greater than any I would receive from the homeschool community! Also, I have had people throw my books in my face because I take a scientific stand on vaccinations. If I were worried about a backlash, I wouldn’t write so openly about what I believe in that regard.

  21. Thank you for your honesty and candid response. I look forward to examining your curriculum further ,as your science texts have all been well done.

  22. I am Nathaniel’s mom whom he mentioned in his post. Watching the debate with my son showed me what an excellently written curriculum can do to teach our children to be both creationist and science-minded. Nathaniel has learned to think and will continue to use your science books until he completes high school studies next year. Your commentary touched on many of the same ideas and thoughts we discussed post-debate and after reading your comments, sparked a new round of discussion between us.

    Perhaps most bothersome to me was the fact that Creationism is not allowed to be taught in our government-funded schools. I believe, as Christians, we need to know and teach our children to know both the creation and evolutionary point of view on origins. To only teach one side, as they do in the public schools, is not a good educational model, nor does it speak highly of evolutionary theory when the opposite point of view is shut down. Perhaps Ken Ham should have pointed this out when Bill Nye repeatedly tried to “dis” Ken Ham’s assertion that creation is theology and not science and therefore should not be taught in the public schools.

    As a homeschooler, I realize God’s Word does not return void. If we believe it is truth, then we should not be afraid to teach our children the opposite point of view, i.e., evolution! Thankfully, you wrote your high school curriculum with that in mind. I believe that those who use it will be better equipped to handle secular science classes when they get to college.

  23. Oops — I goofed — I meant Ken Ham should have pointed this out when Bill Nye repeated tried to assert that creation is theology and not science and therefore should not be taught in the public schools.

  24. On, “All of that [old earth] evidence, of course, has been addressed by young-earth creationists” – I have to cordially disagree. While YEC scientists have made attempts to rebut this data, I think many of their attempts fall short of being compelling or even reasonably persuasive. Especially the distant-starlight problem where the best effort seems to be Lisle’s anisotropic synchrony convention of light, which is at best an interesting idea.

  25. My observations were very similar to yours. Though I highly respect Mr. Ham for his bold advocacy, myself a young-earth creationist also, I do not stake the security of my beliefs on him or any other, and I find it constructive to identify imperfections when they occur.

    Notably, I too saw error in Mr. Ham’s distinction between observational and historical science. In my words, it seemed Mr. Ham was equivocating simple extrapolations into the past, based on observable processes, with assumptions that have no empirical basis by calling them “historical science.” This led Mr. Nye to counter by pointing to the constancy of natural law, which wasn’t really Mr. Ham’s point, apparently thinking he was talking about all things of the past. Mr. Ham has elsewhere better explained the influence of assumptions on scientists’ historical models, but he mistakenly mislead Mr. Nye with an incomplete definition.

    I was not really disappointed by the debate, since I do not hold much stock in verbal debates anyway as a means of showcasing ideologies in contrast. I have seen similar problems in better debates (though I’d love to hear of any exceptions). They usually don’t allow the participants sufficient time to address all of each others objections. Wherever the debate becomes impromptu, the participants are limited by how fast they can think under high pressure. The quality of the ideas presented depends highly on how well they are expressed. As you said, the real value of a public debate is the post-debate discussions. I’m looking forward to reading any scientific analyses you may post later on.

    (Amen, Malapert!)

  26. Dr Wile

    I think I asked this before and I didn’t get an answer.

    If macroevolution isn’t true then where did all the fossils come from? Why do we see supposed sudden stops and starts in the fossil record? Evolution can answer by saying we haven’t found all the fossils. If creation is true that would mean that hominid fossils appeared out of nowhere instead of evolving out the australopithecines. How does creationism scientifically answer this?

    1. You have gotten an answer, Luis. I will be happy to repeat it, however. The stops and starts in the fossil record are a reflection of the fact that there are not transitions between different kinds of animals. If macroevolution were true, you would expect a continuous fossil record. Instead, you get a fossil record that is precisely what is predicted by creationism – full of discontinuities. Also, the idea that the fossil record is incomplete doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 97.7 percent of all living orders of land vertebrates are represented in the fossil record, and 79.1 percent of all living families of land vertebrates are represented in the fossil record. So in order to use the argument that the fossil record is incomplete, you need to believe that for some mysterious reason, the vast majority of the transitions didn’t fossilize, while the vast majority of the animals we see today did! The fossils are mostly a snapshot of the organisms that lived at the time of the worldwide Flood, because that’s what produced the majority of the fossil record.

      Of course, creationism doesn’t think that the hominid fossils appeared out of nowhere. There are two types of hominid fossils: apes and humans. Some of the ape fossils show specialization to certain lifestyles, and some of the human fossils show specialization to certain lifestyles. Thus, the various hominid fossils simply show that there was a lot of diversification among both apes and humans.

  27. Thanks so much for this review! I’m currently at the hospital with my son and the wi-fil here doesn’t allow any kind of streaming and I really wanted to see the debate. It was very interesting to read your viewpoint of the it and the things you observed. I’ve devoured almost every book on creationism in the past 20 years or so, so I was very interested in what would be covered. My kids enjoyed Bill Nye the science guy during our years of homeschooling. He did lots of fun stuff and I really appreciate the video he made about Cystic Fibrosis since my son has that disease and it was a fun way to learn what’s happening in his body. But his dismissal and ridicule of scientists who believe in creationism has been very annoying. 🙂

  28. “…Now let me turn to Bill Nye. In his presentation, he concentrated on the age of the earth. This was unfortunate, I think, because it addresses only one type of creationism. Now, of course, this happens to be the type to which Ken Ham subscribes, so…”

    In the above statement, I wasn’t sure if you were trying to set apart *your* understanding of the age of the earth from *Ham’s* (as stated in Nye’s presentation) when you said, “…because it addresses only one type of creationism.” For a second, I thought this might be a nod to theistic evolution. I’m appreciate your response and am thankful that I was wrong to wonder! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your reply, Robin. I was just saying that there are other creationist views out there. I wasn’t supporting them.

  29. Dr Wile,
    thanks so much for posting your thoughts on the debate. As I was watching it, I remembered when you came to my area of upstate NY to debate the newspaper columnist Carl Strock. I was unable to go to the debate myself, but my mom and my sister attended. I have no idea when this debate was ( although I can guess maybe 7 or 8 years); I was wondering if there have been any major discoveries that would help validate the YEC standpoint?
    Also, thank you so much for your science curricula–I’m studying Marine Biology currently, and absolutely LOVING it!

    1. Caroline, I actually wrote a piece about the Strock debate a while ago. I had forgotten about it until someone showed me a book he had written. I think two of the more major discoveries that strongly support the YEC position since then are the soft tissue in dinosaur bones and the fact that there is virtually no junk DNA in the human genome. There are several other smaller discoveries that support the YEC position. You can look at the creationism category to get an idea of what they are.

  30. Dr. Wile,

    I was very much looking forward to this review, and it didn’t disappoint! You’re always right on the spot with everything say. Thanks for the incredibly prompt review!

    I’m glad for the commentary, and thankful for the clarification about historical science and observational science. I didn’t see that clearly when I heard the debate, although it did occur to me that technically you are always observing in the past, because it takes time for your nervous system to communicate to your brain what’s going on, heh!

    Something you didn’t mention that stood out to me was that Ken Ham talked quite frequently about Public Schools, textbooks, and what is being taught in the schools today. I felt like this was rather off topic for the debate!

    I agree with Cathy that most atheist who may have heard the debate will probably discount anything Mr. Ham says due to his Scripture quotes. Maybe I’m wrong about this (I’m not very experienced with speaking to atheists!), but when you’re talking about science with an Atheist, or anyone who doesn’t believe in the Christian God, I think that you should stick to the basics: science pointing to an Intelligent Designer. From THERE the person in subject can look for the truth that lines up with science. Ultimately science doesn’t bring you to a personal relationship with God, it just shows you a lot of awesome ABOUT God and his nature. When you bring the Bible into it, it should (in my opinion) only be an example of a worldview that correlates with science that then points to a creator. After this step in accomplished you can explore various different religious worldviews and discover that Christianity line up perfectly. That being said, God does work powerfully through any one of his servants, regardless of whether their methods are perfect or not. I just felt like in this scenario, Ken Ham was being an evangelist primarily rather than a scientist, and given the setting, I thought that felt a bit off.

    I loved how Ken Ham pointed out that everyone has the same evidence, and that it is interpretation where we all get off on. It reminds me of this quote: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion,” the great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York was fond of saying. “He is not entitled to his own facts.” Everyone has the same facts, eh?:-)

    I was hoping you might recommend a textbook on Evolution to me. I don’t have a very solid understanding of Evolution. I don’t even have a very good big picture view of it. What I have learned about Evolution I have learned from your science text books, and from other sources that simply refute various aspects of evolution. I want to follow your sage advice and look at all sides of a worldview/topic. Or is there any other way you would recommend learning about this?

    1. Thanks, Kendall. I agree that Ham’s comments about the schools were off topic, and I do agree that when speaking with atheists, you need to stick to the basics.

      I am glad that you want to look at both sides. That is the only way to truly educate yourself. I think the best book introductory book about evolution is What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr. It has it’s biases, of course, but it is a solid book that gives a good overview of the hypothesis and the data that relate to it.

  31. What do you think about the lungfish referenced as a transitional organism, Dr Wile? I mean, where’s the half-formed lung?

  32. jlwile- thanks for the great post! I would just like to point out a couple things for discussion.

    1) Ham talked about an “orchard of life”, and how it disproves concepts of scientific racism from the 19th century, and you quoted it approvingly. This is silly, and a bad point- there are no credible scientists defending this position, and it’s about as widely held and as widely accepted as “Christian White Supremacy”. It’s a straw man designed to make the opponent look bad, and it’s bad argumentation, on both sides.

    2) Here’s the paper that Ham cited regarding dog genetics:

    I thought it was strange when Ham quoted it, because it says that dog populations split from wolf populations at least 9,000 years ago, or 3,000 years before the world (in Ham’s estimation) ever came into existence. Also, it’s based on calculations of genetic mutation and heredity that derive from evolutionary studies. It provides evidence /against/ what Ham thinks its proving, and /for/ evolution.

    Once again, great post, keep up the good writing!

    1. I will have to disagree with you, DGSTieber. On your first point, the scientific racism quoted by Ham is not from the 19th century. The book from which he quotes was published in 1914, which is in the 20th century. Also, the idea that there are several races of man existed well into the 20th century. I have a Life Nature Library book on my shelves entitled Evolution. The copyright is 1962, and pp.156-157 has a two-page illustration entitled, “A Primate Tree and the Races of Modern Man.” It shows 4 different races, all springing from four different ancestors.

      The link you give is not to the paper that Ham cited regarding dogs. It is to a press release about the paper. The actual paper is here. As it says,

      We provide several lines of evidence supporting a single origin for dogs, and disfavoring alternative models in which dog lineages arise separately from geographically distinct wolf populations.

      This is precisely what was predicted by the creationist orchard, which is also more consistent with the other scientific data than is the evolutionary “tree of life.” That’s why the creationist orchard is the more scientific way to view the data. Now certainly the paper’s timescale is off, but that’s because molecular clocks are not reliable.

  33. Hello Dr. Wile. I greatly enjoy your blog but I think I disagree on the point about speciation: “I don’t know of any really good young-earth model that addresses the specifics rapid post-Flood diversification.”

    About a year ago I made an interesting find in the supplimentary materials of Body Size Distribution of the Dinosaurs ( — tables of all tetrapod species and genera and their average masses. They list 10,000 bird, 8700 reptile, 6500 amphibian, 5488 mammal, and 32000 fish species. Of those extinct there are 1350 known dinosaur and 2034 known cenozoic mammal species. Ignoring fish and adding those together would be 34,072 species.

    If you count genera, it’s amphibian=236, reptile=841, dinosaur=275, bird=1993, mammal (excluding cetaceans)=2023, for a total of 5368 genera. So that means that each starting genera would need to split in two once time, and then split in 3. This seems very reasonable, especially since species are typically defined as any population that doesn’t breed with any other population. Talk Origins even claims the genus rattus “currently consists of 137 species and is known to have originally developed in Indonesia and Malaysia during and prior to the Middle Ages”

  34. I don’t know if you do programming, but here is a MySQL database I put together from the supplemental materials in the dinosaur paper. It’s fun to run stats on, such as calculating the total mass of all animals on the ark, as I’ve attempted here . Nothing that other creationists haven’t done before, but I like to see things for myself.

    1. Thanks, Joe. Have you thought about writing a paper on this? Like I said in my post, I don’t know of any really good young-earth model that addresses this well. I certainly didn’t know about your analysis. I would like to read something a bit more in-depth. I don’t do programming anymore, but the database might be useful to some of my readers.

  35. Unfortunately I’m not adding anything I haven’t read from other creationists. My own investigation is just reproducing their work. At this point I don’t even remember where I first became acquainted with similar numbers. Perhaps my only contribution was finding a more detailed source for the same numbers I saw elsewhere?

  36. Thanks for your answer Dr. Wile. I was taking a poke at Nye for using a fish with fully developed and functioning respiratory system as transition/intermediate. Appreciate the debate breakdown – learning a lot.

  37. I grew up in public school and I find it highly ironic that when I read my 7th grader’s General Science book by you, Dr. Wile, it was the first time I found myself thinking, “Now if I had a book like this when I was in 7th grade, I probably would have gone into some sort of science field.” Bill Nye’s assertion that the creationist view is harming technological advances and science is completely opposite if you ask me!

    1. I completely agree, Evie. I hear from lots of students who say that my creationist books inspired them to go into science at university, and many of them are now working in various scientific fields. The idea that creationism somehow detracts from science is just nonsense.

  38. Thank you very much for this review! I had thought some similar things, but I must admit I went to bed last night thinking, “I can’t wait to see what Dr. Wile has to say about it tomorrow!” And you did not disappoint. I have come to greatly respect the careful way you deal with things, and this was no exception. Thank you.

  39. Thanks for the comments! Though, as you said some arguments were not responded to, it was a well-prepared and well-executed debate by both parties.

    My understanding of Ham’s “observational science versus historical science” distinction was that it differentiated between data we observe (today or in the past) and interpreted data recorded for us by previous generations. In that case, ancient starlight would still fall under the category of “observational science.”

    I really appreciated Mr. Ham bringing in his presuppositions as well, being up front with them, and taking time to give the gospel.

  40. Ham’s distinction between what he called “historical” and “observational” science was important because he wanted to demonstrate that the two camps use both kinds. His position starts with the Bible’s historical account, and those who believe in macro evolution also have historical assumptions of their own. Ham need to prove that creationism is at least as viable a model.

  41. Pretty good review ^^^^.

    CMI’s review is titled Clash over worldviews. Among other things, it documents that leading evolutionists E.O. Wilson and the late Ernst Mayr agreed with a distinction between observational and historical science. It also deals with Nye’s ‘evidences’ that Ham had no chance to rebut in the short time available.

    It was an unconscionable bait-and-switch for Nye to compare the number of kinds on the Ark, only vertebrate animals, with the number of so-called species today. The vast majority of those species are non-vertebrate, and no creationist believes that they evolved from the Ark vertebrates. See for example Refuting Noah’s ark critics.

    The Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat, and it’s well known that mountains are good for rapidly producing new varieties and even speciation. That’s because they readily provide the geographic barriers needed for allopatric speciation. With the small populations off the Ark, it’s even easier because of genetic drift.

    Actually, even before Darwin, creationists understood that a wide variety of animals descended from a relatively small number of kinds on the Ark. Thus they realized that there was a lot of post-Flood variation, and even what we would now call speciation. For example, Anglican Bishop John Wilkins (1614–1672), the founder of the metric system and the first secretary of the Royal Society; and German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), renowned in his day as “master of a hundred arts”.

    Even now, we could call it a creationist prediction that rapid speciation would be more common than evolutionists expect.

    1. Thanks so much for your contribution, Dr. Sarfati. I am always honored when you comment on a post, and your comments are very helpful! I hope my readers go to CMI’s review!

  42. Dr. Wile, I agree that they did not address each other as much as needed. I did keep detailed notes, and from my calculations Ham answered 7 of Nye’s 14 main points for a 50% answer-ratio. Nye answered 2 of Ham’s 8 main points for a 25% answer-ratio. Also Ham addressed Nye’s main premise (creationists as scientists) but Nye did not address Ham’s main point (observational vs. historical science). For these reasons, whether someone agrees with Ham’s philosophies or not – he did “win” the debate. I give more details on the various “main points” on my website.

    1. Thanks, Tim. I didn’t think of “keeping score” like that. I added a link to your article in your comment so people can read your analysis more easily.

  43. I think that the observational-historical distinction (which I’ve seen distinguished as “operational-origins”) is not just a shtick. It is intended as a defeater to the “lumping” fallacy often committed by proponents of evolution. That is, they lump evolution, etc. in with things like medical technology and treatments, etc., as “modern science.” Then, they act like all of it stands or falls together, that questioning evolution means you’re rejecting the methodology that led to all these other specific advancements. Or, they try a reductio, and say “Well, since you don’t doubt airplane design or MRIs, then you can’t doubt evolution, since they’re based on the same ‘modern science.'” So, making distinctions (not dichotomies–I put dashes and not “vs.” above on purpose) is important, because opponents seriously obscure any differences at all between various branches of scientific study.

    1. Joshua, I would be more supportive of a distinction, but it is a clear dichotomy to Ham. As I say, the conclusions are less certain when looking at the past, but the science really is the same. In many ways, the same science that made airplanes is used in evolution (and creation). The difference is the conclusion that airplanes fly is a lot more certain.

  44. Hi Mr Wile. Is it pronounced with just a long i sound like ‘ride’ or does it have a long e sound at the end like Dr. Wiley from the Mega Man videogame franchise?

    One of the reasons the Noah’s flood story couldn’t have happened is because during and after the flood, there wouldn’t have been sufficient energy to feed all those animals. According to a lion on average taks in about 8-9kg a day. If they went out and hunted at that rate, which they would have had to to maintain the size they are today, they would have made many species extinct.

    I suppose you could get around this by saying that there were many more species on the ark, but that would mean that the ark would have had to house many more animals.

    Also, what I’m saying here doesn’t just apply to lions. I’m only using them as an example for people to wrap their heads around. The principle that applies to lions also applies to the energy needs of other organisms as well. We could say the same thing about other carnivores as well.

    1. Thanks for your comment, agnosgnosia. My name is pronounced with a long “i” and silent “e,” like “ride.”

      I think you need to investigate this issue a bit, as you don’t seem to have read anything on the creationist side about this. You are assuming, for example, that all lions always have to be carnivorous. That simply isn’t true. For example, there was a lion in the 40s and 50s that refused to eat meat. She lived her whole life as a vegetarian. More recently, a lion that was transported from Italy to South Africa was raised on pasta, vegetables, and tomato sauce. There is even a domestic cat that is exclusively vegetarian.

      Even in the wild, most carnivores supplement their diets with vegetables and fruits. Indeed, scientists have only recently found out that almost three-fourths of crocodile species eat fruit regularly. So the idea that the carnivores on the ark would have hunted the other species to extinction doesn’t work. Indeed, hunting would have been very difficult in the early years after the ark, since the density of species was quite low. Now there would have been some meat to eat, because there were lots of fish, and as the Flood waters receded, some would have been caught in the equivalent of tidepools, etc. Most likely, however, the carnivores supplemented their diets with fruits and vegetables, as we see most carnivores doing even to this day.

  45. Sorry for the wall of text, but I did at least sum up what I think are the most pertinent issues at the end to facilitate in your response, if you so choose to make another one.

    “Most likely, however, the carnivores supplemented their diets with fruits and vegetables, as we see most carnivores doing even to this day.”

    Supplementing a diet with fruits and vegetables is an altogether different thing to say than if an animal can survive solely on fruits and vegetables. Some animals are obligate carnivores. They start suffering health problems if they don’t eat meat.

    First of all there was a flood and that would have killed off all of the vegetation. The most generous I could be is to say that there were seeds left around and plants grew from that. That vegetation wouldn’t be able to grow in time for them to eat. Of course, it depends on what vegetation we’re talking about, but it certainly wouldn’t be able to grow fast enough.

    Secondly, the cats you mention were being fed food made for humans. They weren’t eating stuff out in the wild. You’re going to have to argue that they can survive off of eating stuff out in the wild, not stuff that was carefully chosen for them, like the lion in the 40s and 50s. Her diet was specifically chosen to include lots of protein. I hope you’ll forgive that it’s not a peer reviewed source, given that you didn’t give a peer reviewed source either.

    Thirdly, cats start suffering health problems from a lack of taurine. It can take 5 months to two years, but they will eventually start developing problems with their heart and eyes. I’m no veterinarian, but I would strongly suspect that this would have far greater impact on cubs than the parents.

    Fourthly, you’re leaving out that the Westbeaus supplemented her diet with meat and eggs. Cats are going to get sick without protein. That’s just a fact. Are you going to try to tell me that a cat knows that it needs to get its protein from meat and eggs?

    Fifthly (is that a word? I’m too lazy too look up, haha), was there any independent verification of the Westbeaus story? As far as I’m aware, all the information regarding little Tyke comes from the book they wrote. Given that it was such a popular story at the time, I wouldn’t put it past them to polish up the truth in order to make a buck. I’m not saying they were lying, but it surely would help your case if there were an unbiased, disinterested third party corroborating their story.

    For all of those reasons, I’m not buying that lions *in the wild* can survive off of non meat sources. What about all the other cats? What about all other obligate carnivores? You still haven’t addressed the central issue of there not being enough energy for the biosphere as a whole.

    As for your crocodile example, it bears pointing out the same question that applies to the cats applies to crocodiles. We need to ask if they can survive on these things *in the wild*. Asking if they can survive

    I’m an electrician by trade. Almost all of my post high school education was in physics, more specifically, electricity. Here’s the question that I really would like answered,

    1) is there enough energy in the system to meet the energy demands of all the organisms. We can’t power a house off of a 9 volt battery. There just isn’t sufficient energy to do so. Likewise, the same principle applies to animals.

    2) are there enough materials (e.g. magnesium, chromium etc) for the essential functions. Just as one example, cats will go blind if they don’t get a sufficient amount of taurine.

    3) Even if they can survive on a diet without meat, how are they going to know *what* to eat in the wild? You and I are in agreement that obligate carnivores can survive off of a non meat diet in captivity. Is there enough protein in the plants in the plains of Africa to keep cats healthy?

    1. Thanks for your reply, agnosgnosia. Once again, as I said in my original response to you, there would be some meat available due to the fish and the receding Floodwaters. In addition, insects would be abundant. Thus, this would be a case of supplementing the diet for the carnivores.

      I think the fact that you haven’t really investigated this issue is hampering your understanding of what went on after the Flood. You claim that vegetation wouldn’t grow in time for the animals to eat it, but that is clearly not true. Had you looked into any resource regarding the Flood, you would have learned that on day 278 of the Flood, Noah sent out a dove that returned with an olive leaf. So trees were growing at that point. Noah, his family, and the animals didn’t leave for another 92 days. Thus, there would have been plenty of time for vegetation to grow for the animals.

      I agree that the cats I have mentioned were eating diets that were constructed by humans, but once again, those diets did not contain meat. There are proteins in plants as well, and if it varies its diet enough, an animal can get the entire variety of amino acids it needs from plants. Once again, this would not be necessary in a post-flood environment, because as I already pointed out, some meat would be available in the form of fish. There would also be insects. However, even if no meat were available, obligate carnivores could still survive.

      I agree that cats suffer health problems from a lack of the amino acid taurine. However, there is taurine in red algae, which would have been abundant in a post-flood world. There is also taurine in certain plants. So in the end, taurine would not have been scarce for the carnivores that needed it.

      Cats do get sick without protein, but proteins exist in all living things, including plants. I think what you mean to say is that cats get sick if they don’t get the right mix of amino acids. However, as I have already shown, that wouldn’t be a problem at all for the animals that came off the ark.

      I don’t know of any independent verification of the Westbeaus’ story. However, that story is not crucial to my case. It is just an example of how a supposedly obligate carnivore can live on a vegetarian diet. I have provided two other examples as well. Once again, however, there would be some meat in the post-Flood world in the form of fish and insects, so really, this is just an issue of supplementation, which we know happens in obligate carnivores even to this day in the wild.

      You might not buy that carnivores in the wild can survive off non-meat substances. However, there is strong evidence that they can, whether or not you want to believe it. Also, once again, this is about supplementation, not exclusive vegetarianism. Indeed, the crocodiles that were shown to eat fruit regularly were doing so in the wild!

      There was plenty of energy in the biosphere for the animals as they walked off the ark. Remember, they waited 92 days after trees started growing before leaving the ark. That would give plenty of time for plants to grow. In addition, fish and insects would be plentiful. So in answer to your questions:

      1) Yes, of course there is plenty of energy in the system. Fish and insects would be around in abundance, as would plants and lots of algae. That would provide plenty of energy for the animals leaving the ark.

      2) Yes, of course there were enough materials. Once again, taurine would be in abundance in red algae as well as the fish and insects that would be in abundance as well.

      3) Yes, of course there is enough protein in plants, red algae, fish, and insects to keep obligate carnivores healthy. How would the animals know what to eat in the wild? The same way they know to this day. They have instincts.

  46. On my second point I need to clarify. There were *some* cats that I read about that were eating pastas and other stuff made for humans, but I don’t think that was little Tyke.

  47. Dr. Wile, thank you so very much for posting this breakdown of the debate. My 7th grade son and his friend got extremely excited about the debate and spent the entire evening putting everything else they could have been doing aside in order to watch it live. We have discussed some of the issues within the debate, but this will really help me to break things down with him in a more practical format.

    On a separate point, I was raised in public schools and just took it for granted that evolution was true. I became a Christian at 18 and was truly shocked to see there was another, better explanation! I am so thankful for the amazing curriculum you have provided to allow my children to see things more clearly from an earlier age.

    1. I am glad the post was helpful, Abbie. When you look at all sides of an issue, you will sometimes be surprised to see that the “popular” side is not the one that is correct. This is the case with evolution, as you found out once you actually looked at the other side.

  48. It seems to me that the operational/historical science idea can be amended to get around the objection Nye brought up. Nye pointed out that astronomy is an instance of the blurred lines between historical and operational science. However, aren’t astronomers actually observing events that happened in the past now, because of the distance of starlight? It seems that astronomy is a form of observational science. In other words maybe observational science doesn’t have a time stamp on it. Maybe the time element should excluded, and we simply say that if you cannot observe x, then you are not doing observational science, but lets call it um… I don’t know what to call it, but it seems to me you are doing something different. It seems to me that astronomy puts us in the paradoxical position of observing events in the past. There is nothing analogous to this in geology, evolutionary biology, etc. Rather in those disciplines we must extrapolate back, and also create a narrative where as in astronomy we can “see” a supernova exploding, or a black whole swallowing a galaxy even though that event happened in the past. It seems to me that there is an equivocation involved.

    1. Blake, I think the equivocation you are seeing is a result of the fact that the observational/historical science idea is a false dichotomy. In astronomy, the lines are really blurred, because you are actually observing past events. Thus, you need to do extrapolation if you want to know what is happening now. However, the blurred lines also exist in geology, evolutionary biology, and the like. For example, I can do experiments in the present that show that it is at least possible to make oil without using organic materials. That affects how we view the past, because that means some of the oil we see today might have been made from non-biological materials, even though the standard view is that it is made from the remains of plants and animals. We can do experiments on animals by mutating their DNA in the present, and that will affect how we view the process of evolution. In the end, the lines are blurred because it’s a false dichotomy.

  49. Sorry, Dr. Wile

    But this is getting to be absurd. You can’t use one or two lions and crocodiles as representing the species. Maybe these lions didn’t eat meat but the species as a whole does. You can’t say this is scientific evidence of what the they may have been like on the ark. Even if they were vegetarians, how did they eat plants if they too were drowned underwater? How did they chane to planet eaters to begin with and why did they revert back to eating meat? Did sin enter the world a second time or did god intervene to make them peaceful?

    You claim to look at the evidence objectively but all I see you citing is creationist science. Science that supports your worldview. Why is that? Why is creation science better than non-creation science?

    I can’t understand how someone who has a PHD in nuclear science can’t see how much of a stretch this is scientifically. How much of a strectch any of it is.

    I honestly mean no disrespect to you or your credentials. It’s just that I have a hard time seeing and accepting all this.

    1. Luis, I am sorry that you find following the evidence to be absurd. Because I am a trained scientist, I find following the evidence to be the least absurd thing you can do. That’s why I am a young-earth creationist.

      I am not using “two lions and crocodiles as representing the species.” I am using the specific cases of two lions and a cat to show that animals thought of as obligate carnivores need not necessarily eat meat. In addition, the study to which I linked (which you ignored, of course) is for three-quarters of all crocodile species. Thus, it is a fairly representative sample of animals thought to be obligate carnivores.

      Once again, if you would look into these things, you would find answers to all of your questions. No, the plants were not drowned underwater. Plant seeds float, and large, floating mats of vegetation would have been common in the flood. These mats of floating vegetation would settle onto land as the Floodwaters receded, allowing for quick recolonization of the land by plants.

      The carnivores didn’t “chane [sic] to planet [sic] eaters.” They simply ate what was available. As I pointed out already, animals we thought were obligate carnivores (like crocodiles) have been shown to supplement their diets with plant matter in the wild even today. Thus, there is nothing unusual about obligate carnivores supplementing their diets. Nothing would have been different back then, except perhaps for the varying levels of supplementation. There might have been less meat than what is available today (but not no meat because of fish and insects), so the carnivores coming off the ark might have needed to supplement more than carnivores do today. That’s the only difference.

      I don’t make the claim that creation science is better than non-creation science. I look at all evidence, regardless of the source. You, however, make the (unsupported) claim that non-creation science is better than creation science, and you aren’t even willing to look at a creationist source. As I have pointed out before, this is an example of the genetic fallacy, and it is not something a serious scientist would ever engage in.

      I think you have a hard time seeing and accepting all this because you refuse to look at the evidence. Please spend some time actually looking at the evidence, and you will have a better time understanding my position.

  50. I don’t know if there is any evidence for this, but is it possible that the animals in the ark could have been hibernating? Just a thought.

    1. Kendall, it’s possible that some animals did hibernate for part of the time they were on the ark, but that wouldn’t be incredibly significant. There aren’t a lot of animals that hibernate, and even among those that do, it doesn’t last for a year. Now, of course, since the animals were not as active on the ark as they would be in the wild, their food needs were reduced. Hibernation among some of the animals for part of the voyage would have reduced the food needs a bit more, but I don’t think it would be significant. In any event, there has been a detailed study of what would be necessary to take care of the animals on the ark, and it shows that given the dimensions of the ark and the number of humans on it, all animals would be taken care of without any undue stress.

  51. Dr Wile,
    I was curious as to know at what rate the flood waters would have receded. Also, what would the normalized depth of the water distribution be? As these would seem to affect the extent and the maturity of the surround vegetation. Also, it was 92 days after the dove returned with the olive leaf; is this before or after the ark was “beached?”
    For the water depth, I was thinking that the revolutions would cause a bulge around the center of the earth. This is assuming though, there was enough water to cover the earth and persisted for most of the duration of the flood. I have not read literature pertaining to this topic, so the following may not be applicable. If the planet was covered with sufficiently enough water, currents that would arise. These currents would help to disperse the resources from a region of the earth to another. If this is correct,this would help to diversify the the vegetation life after the flood. Would it also provide a greater range of available plants to supplement the diets of carnivorous animals?
    Also, there would not be enough time after the flood for generations of plants. Have animals shown the ability to recognize when a certain resource is growing scare and move onto another resource that provides the same nutrient? Or would they move through, in a sense, ravaging the land of certain types of plants that provide their sustenance?

    1. D. Perrine, the Bible tells us that the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat on the 150th day of the flood. It was 128 days later when Noah released the dove and it came back with the olive leaf. By day 314, the surface of the earth was dry. That gives you an idea of the rate at which the floodwaters receded. I would think that there would be a lot of currents, which would, indeed, diversify the vegetation after the Flood.

      I am not sure why you think there would not be enough time for the generation of plants. Potatoes, for example, can be harvested in as little as 70 days after they are planted. Some plants grow more quickly, some grow more slowly. Remember as well that there weren’t a lot of animals at first, and they spread out as the migrated. Thus, there is no problem with the vegetation supporting the animals coming off the ark.

      There are animals that seem to know when to stop utilizing resources. For example, leafcutter ants typically only remove about 10% of a plant’s leaves before moving on to the next plant. This seems to indicate that they know they shouldn’t ravage the resources. Once again, however, I don’t think it would be possible for the animals to ravage the resources. In general, plants grow and mature much more quickly than the animals that feed on them. Thus, as the animal population grew, the plant population would grow much more quickly. Also, the animals would have been migrating, constantly encountering areas that hadn’t hosted any animals since the Flood. Thus, I just don’t see a lot of opportunity for ravaging.

  52. This is a good review. As a creationist I thought Mr. Ham did fairly well, but not exceptional…I thought he did extremely well the first half of the debate in laying the foundations for the idea of two separate world views…but then when it came to defending the onslaught of questions and challenges of Nye, I thought he his responses were a bit weak. Now admittedly he didn’t have much time to address all these challenges, but at the same time it seemed to me that he was repeating himself unnecessarily, which took away from his time and ability to respond effectively.

    specifically I wish he would have addressed that propaganda piece that Nye kept showing, depicting the comparison of skulls, which was a Talk Origins photo.

    the first problem with that photo is, in reality, most of these individuals are different sizes. The chimp and the human, for example, are much different in overall size….and the human skull, as well, is much bigger than the chimp skull. yet look at the picture; all the photos of all the skulls are about the same size, despite the fact that the ape skulls’ volumes are all about half of the humans’…. for example, the Australopithecus africanus, STS 5 has a cranial capacity of 485, while modern humans have a cranial capacity of over double that…yet the photos make their sizes look identical…..this amounts to intellectual dishonesty….This photo is a blatant attempt to confuse and deceive.

    The other, even more obvious point that I wish Ham would have pointed out is that none of these creatures’ bodies are included in the photos. How easy would it be, if all the complete skeletal evidence was there, to distinguish humans from the apes? But this is a typical evolutionist tactic of using incomplete information as a tool of persuasion — and it was implemented perfectly in this debate. It’s too bad Ham didn’t call him on it because I believe this was one Nye’s most “compelling” arguments.

    As far as Nye’s performance goes, he was ok as well, but again, not spectacular…..I actually thought he came across as a bit angry and frustrated the whole time and it almost felt like he was having to stifle his real emotions….he also had a bit of an arrogant tone, which I personally find quite distasteful….I think this tone is actually appealing to others so maybe it’s just a personal preference.

    Ultimately, like you, Dr. Wile, I found the debate to be mostly useless, save for Ham’s wonderful invitation for viewers to give their life to Christ…..

  53. Nye certainly did have a “tone” as you said, ss. His frequent references to “Ham’s Model” and “the outside world” made it clear that he did not consider creationists capable of doing real science. And then there was that absurd bit with nuclear medicine and the map of Kentucky… Really, Nye? It’s creationism’s fault? He seemed to consider this whole exchange not as a debate, but as an intellectual missionary expedition of sorts.

  54. Just wanted to say that it is a blessing to discover your blog site, Dr. Wile.
    I appreciate your admonition to verifying sources of information before using them and the unreliability of the internet as a “source” of truth.
    Thanks for your comments on the Ham-Nye debate. They described nicely the “play by play” of the proceedings and approach of the two participants.
    I look forward to any future comment you might make about the purpose of these ventures in apologetics and the reasonable expectations Christians can take away from them.

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