On February 4, Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” will debate creationist Ken Ham at Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. (The link gives details.) The topic is “Is creation a viable model of origins?”, and admission is $25. That’s a lot of dough!
My worries are these. First, Nye is likely helping fund the Creation Museum and its mission to teach children Biblically based untruths about the origin and diversity of life. Had I been Nye, I would have suggested some other recipient of the money. Not only that, but why hold such debates in a Temple of Ignorance instead of on neutral ground?
Second, Nye, by his very appearance, is giving some credibility to Ham and his views. After all, The Science Guy is known and beloved by many Americans as a popularizer of science. Why debase himself this way?
My third worry, then, is this will look great on Ham’s curriculum vitae, but not so good on Nye’s. It is my practice not to debate creationists for reasons #2 and #3. Nye can attack creationism in his own talks and writings, as he has been doing with great effectiveness. Debates are not the way to help people accept evolution.
Finally, does Nye have experience in debating creationists? It is almost entirely an exercise in rhetoric, not a search for truth, and is Nye prepared to deal with the “Gish Gallop,” the rapid presentation of dozens of creationist arguments in succession that require expertise in many fields to rebut?
Finally, there’s no doubt that Ham will try to pack the house with his fellow creationists. To that end, I urge my friends in Kentucky, particularly those at the nearby University of Kentucky, to show up to support real science, despite the ridiculous $25 admission fee.
Jerry A. Coyne is a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago and author of Why Evolution is True, as well as the eponymous website. A version of this post first appeared on WhyEvolutionIsTrue.