Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham! Here Are Some Tips

Tomorrow, Bill Nye will debate Ken Ham at the Creation Museum. I made a video with a few tips to help him out!

Basic transcript:


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Noooo! Do it!
    Why you might ask? Because people are being taught bogus evolution by creationists and need to hear what evolution really is by a science educator. Even if it doesn’t convince them right away. But it gives validity to creationism you might say. Not any more validity than it already has being believed by ~33% of the US and forced into textbooks that will be adopted by the educational system.

    Don’t do it, if you are actually trying to *win* a debate or convince K. Ham.
    There’s no winning, only instilling the seed of real science and its process into listeners so that one day when Ham repeats the overused “Evolution is like a tornado in a junk yard” a little voice in the listeners head might just say, “wait, that’s not what the evolutionist said.”

  2. It doesn’t go over well. Creationists generally make fools of themselves without our help, but a scientist being there apparently legitimates them. On top of that, the existence of any omnipotent being automatically makes any theory unfalsifiable. You and I would dismiss something that makes no predictions about the nature of things, but you know how the general public is.

  3. Isn’t saying don’t do it kind of similar to the argument of “don’t feed the trolls”?

    I see a clear difference in the situations, in the case of standing up to sexist trolls, you’re being attacked with vile hate rhetoric and pushing it back in their faces. In the case of bill Nye, it’s fighting a multi-millenia old dogma that’s got basis in non-logic. Still Bill has a great history of debating fundamentally illogical arguments and belief systems in a way that makes people on the fence question their own beliefs.

    So I think the connect with “fighting the trolls” is that, while it may seem fruitless to onlookers like us, when other people see the active fight, they may feel the inspiration to become more active themselves.

  4. I don’t think this is helpful. Sure, laypersons should probably not go up against a creationist in a public forum and whether or not this is a good idea for Bill Nye remains to be seen, but sometimes you have to feed the trolls…or squash them. The point isn’t to convince the fundies they are wrong; nothing apart from a miracle could accomplish that goal. The benefit is for people like me. Several years ago I found myself tottering on the edge of the fence. I was far from objective but willing to listen to another perspective. Once I realized that one side was spewing absolute bullshit I eventually decided to jump ship. It was difficult leaving my religious security blanket and I owe Hitchens, Dawkins, and many others a debt of thanks just for being visible. Anyone in opposition to fundamentalism is demonized. Simply seeing the opposing side can have a real humanizing effect.

    Why should we just sit back and allow them to spout any nonsense they want without challenging them. Instead I think the motto should be to expose the bullshit at all costs. Instead of wilting away let’s take the fight to them. Would you give the same advice to debating misogyny or bigotry?

    1. “Would you give the same advice to debating misogyny or bigotry?”

      Absolutely, without a doubt, yes, and I’ve been completely consistent on this in the recent past when people like Lee Moore have approached me to ask for a “debate” to be set up between me and the misogynists who harass me. Your error in thinking here is assuming that a debate on the “enemy’s” turf is the only way to fight ignorance. It is not.

  5. I honestly thought this “debate between science and creationism” thing was no longer a thing, but I see I was wrong.

    Science doesn’t operate well in debate form, and scientists typically aren’t equipped as debaters, which is why these things often go terribly wrong. It’s also worth noting that Ken Ham thinks that fire-breathing dragons were on Noah’s Ark, and that antediluvian peoples rode on their backs using saddles. How do you debate that? How do you have a coherent conversation with someone so untethered from reality?

    I hope Bill Nye knows about the dragons.

  6. When this debate is a painful memory, I hope everyone who defended this decision will remember what they wrote here. Rebecca is right. This has happened over and over and over again. You just can’t win a public argument with someone who doesn’t care about the truth.

    1. “Winning” the debate isn’t really the point. Open ended, non-formally-judged debates don’t have win/lose conditions. A debate like this simply presents arguments for people to listen to and think about. If some of those arguments reach people who are teetering between a scientific view of the universe and a religious one, those arguments can help people think through their beliefs better.

      Thus, I disagree with Rebecca. Bill Nye is one of those opinion leaders who is REALLLLLLY good at making convincing arguments. Calculated risks are worth taking and this is a calculated risk on his part that I’m sure he’s thought out well enough.

      1. Nye seems good when you already agree with him. Look at him argue with pundits on Fox News about global warming. He’s not convincing anyone who doesn’t already agree with him. That’s what “winning” means to me. Actually making a difference in people’s opinions. Nye is NOT as good at that as you seem to think he is.

        1. Well I think the adults who watch Fox News are already deeply set in their opinions. It would take a miracle (*snicker*) to change their minds.

          It’s more like, the 17 year old kid watching it who is kind of questioning her or his worldview.

          1. And you think getting shouted down and ridiculed by a Fox pundit is going to help that 17 year old kid? I think it’s just going to reinforce their prejudices.

      2. Yes! This is about the long game. No one will be swayed either way today, but a year or two years from now that seed might grow to question creationism. I say this as someone who has known extremely fervent creationist who are now science accepting atheists because they just couldn’t keep the internal deception up.

        I’m certain of one thing though, no one will be swayed towards creationism that wasn’t already wading into their pool of kool-aid and in that regard there is no actual losing of this debate.

        1. How many atheists do you know that attended a formal debate on creationism? These events entrench an ideology rather than disrupt it.

          No losing this debate? You didn’t watch Rebecca’s video before you commented did you? The number 22,500 means reason has already lost.

          1. A least a few atheists, they didn’t become creationists.
            How do these events entrench an ideology anymore than it’s already entrenched?
            $22,500 mostly paid by creationists to creationists, which as Rebecca even says, is a drop in the bucket compared to what they generally get (Yes I did watch the video.)
            $22k they would have made anyway to allow their followers to listen to an actual science educator talk about actual science without being edited and taken out of context, seems like a deal to me, so long as Bill Nye doesn’t make a habit of it.

            I don’t think people understand just how sheltered from science most everyday creationists actually are.

  7. I agree with you that giving money to the creation museum and their ilk is something that I cannot support. I completely agree with dr.dr.professor though in that debates like this are not about who wins but about getting a message out that otherwise might not be heard. Imagine all those virgin ears that will be hearing this sort of information for the first time. (Assuming that Bill Nye doesn’t go apeshit on Ham and upturn the podium on his head) I would like to say though that I wish it were someone other than Ken Ham.

    1. I get Rebecca’s point. He’s walking onto the enemy’s turf where the rules will likely be stacked against him. And it might blow up on him.

      But I trust people who have been so strongly consistent in their judgement to take such risks.

  8. I would think its too late to back out now, so he kind of does “have to do it”.
    With that in mind:
    1. While Ken has his turn on the stage, listen to your iPod or laugh uncontrollably at every syllable he utters, your choice.
    2. Ignore everything Ken said, and just give a simple presentation on something like the fossil sequence when its your turn to speak.
    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for as long as the debate continues.

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