PETERSBURG, Ky. — TV’s “Science Guy” Bill Nye says there are infinite discoveries yet to be made about the universe and how we got here.
Ken Ham, the man Nye traveled to Kentucky to debate Tuesday night, says all those answers are already in the Bible.
Over the course of the two-and-a-half hour debate at Kentucky’s Creation Museum, both men had plenty to say, but neither left convinced of the other’s argument.
Nye, true to his TV persona, delivered a passionate and animated defense of science and challenged the teachings on display at the museum that the earth is 6,000 years old and man once lived alongside dinosaurs.
“If we accept Mr. Ham’s point of view … that the Bible serves as a science text and he and his followers will interpret that for you, I want you to consider what that means,” Nye said. “It means that Mr. Ham’s word is to be more respected than what you can observe in nature, what you can find in your backyard in Kentucky.”
Nye said scientists can track the age of stars based on their distance from earth.
“How could there be billions of stars more distant than 6,000 years, if the world is only 6,000 years old?” Nye asked Ham.
After a question from an audience member about where atoms and matter comes from, Nye said scientists are making discoveries on that front every day.
Ham, founder of the Creation Musuem, said he already knows the answer.
“Bill, I want to tell you, there is a book that tells where atoms come from, and its starts out, ‘In the beginning …,’” Ham said, referring to the Bible’s creation story.
Ham showed the theater audience of about 800 people — and those watching the debate live on the Internet — slides to back up his assertions.
“The Bible is the word of God,” Ham said. “I admit that’s where I start from.”
He also introduced scientists who he said were creationists.
“I believe the word ‘science’ has been high-jacked by secularists,” Ham said.
Regardless of the outcome, the debate was a boon for the museum, which opened in 2007 after being built on $27 million worth of private donations. Ham said his Facebook page on Tuesday had hundreds of thousands of views.
“I think it shows you that the majority of people out there, they’re interested in this topic, they want to know about this, they don’t want debate shut down,” Ham said before the debate.
Some scientists were critical of Nye for agreeing to debate the head of a Christian ministry that is dismissive of evolution.
Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog that “Nye’s appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids.” Coyne pointed out that the Creation Museum will be selling DVDs of the event
The museum quickly sold out its 800 seats, thanks in part to Nye’s celebrity as the former host of “Bill Nye The Science Guy,” a 1990s science education TV program that is still played in some classrooms. Some people in the audience wore “Bill Nye is my home boy” T-shirts. A few more fans wore a bow tie and Nye’s signature lab coat.
Nye waded into the evolution debate in an online video in 2012 that urged parents not to pass their religious-based doubts about evolution on to their children. Ham rebutted Nye’s statements with his own online video with comments from scientists who work at the museum.
Since the debate was announced in early January, attention has been heaped on the Creation Museum and its directing ministry, Answers in Genesis, which is raising money for a theme park built around a replica of Noah’s Ark. The project was announced in 2011 but fundraising has been slow and its groundbreaking date is in limbo.
The Creation Museum said visitors from 29 states bought seats for the debate.
Ham believes the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells the factual account of the universe’s beginnings and the creation of humans. Nye said he, and the rest of the scientific community, believe the Earth was created by a big bang billions of years ago and people have evolved over time.
“I just want to remind us all there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion,” said Nye, who wore his trademark bow tie. “But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old.”
Nye said technology keeps the U.S. ahead as a world leader and he worried that if creationism is taught to children the country would fall behind.