Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 3): Changing Natural Laws, why Non-Christians Aren’t Allowed to Use Reason…and why Bill Nye is kind of like Hitler

In my last post on Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s take on the Nye/Ham Debate that took place in February 2014, I took a look at the way Ham and Hodge (HH) attempted to frame Ken Ham’s opening statements in a favorable light. As I noted, nothing in Ham’s statements or HH’s analysis of them actually addressed the debate topic: “Is young earth creationism a valid scientific model for the study of origins?” Instead, it was an attempt to obfuscate what science really is, to paint Bill Nye as a bad man, and to portray Ken Ham as a champion of biblical authority.

In this post, I turn my attention to the way HH analyzes Bill Nye’s opening statements. To be clear, I think Nye’s understanding of the Bible and of the Christian faith is wanting; but he does know what he’s talking about regarding the fundamentals of science, and that was the focus of the debate. As you’ll be able to see, that is precisely what HH wants their readers to forget about. HH’s goal is to convince the reader that Bill Nye is not only bad and sinister, but also ignorant of science. Let’s see how they do.

Bill Nye: He’s Trying to Blind You!
The very first thing HH does in their analysis of Nye’s statements is not to address any issue, but rather to try to equate Ken Ham…with God’s Word. They took issue with the way Nye opened his argument. He had said that the debate was ultimately about two stories: “Mr. Ham’s story” and the one of “mainstream science.” “Not so” states HH! It is “about biblical creation as revealed in God’s Word” (35). Ken Ham “is simply standing on the shoulders of most Bible-believing Christians” (36).

Well, that’s not really true. Yes, there have been many Christians throughout the years who assumed the early chapters of Genesis were historical; but for that matter, there have been many Christians who didn’t. But what’s more important (and this is the real issue), it is just blatantly false that Christians throughout history have read Genesis 1 as a scientific description of origins. Ken Ham’s “story” is that the early chapters of Genesis are “God’s historical science textbook.” I will bet my house that no one in Church history has ever made that claim until the 20th century and the rise of the young earth creationist movement.

Regardless of this fact, HH boldly states that it’s not Ken Ham’s story, but rather God’s Word; therefore, Bill Nye simply isn’t wrong about science—he is anti-God. Don’t believe me? Consider this statement: “Really, it was Mr. Nye representing the ungodly, versus God and His Word. It just so happens that Mr. Ken Ham was representing the position of the godly, with affirms God and His Word” (36).

Remember, they haven’t even addressed any of Bill Nye’s actual arguments, and they already have tried to convince their readers that Bill Nye is not simply bad, but is anti-God. They are basically saying, “So do you believe anything he tells you!” They haven’t simply poisoned the well for the debate; they have filled it with arsenic, anthrax, and cyanide, strychnine and ricin.

And to top it off (again, before they even get to any of Nye’s arguments), HH takes issue with the way Nye presented the debate topic. At the beginning of his time, Nye had put up a slide that read: Does Ken Ham’s Creation Model hold up? Is it viable? Now, as any reasonable person can tell, this was obviously a slight paraphrase of the official debate topic. “Not so,” cries HH! “Of course, this was not the debate topic. [Nye] was trying to change the topic to point to Mr. Ham as opposed to the biblical position that Mr. Ham espoused” (37).

Remember…this isn’t just Ken Ham’s position—it’s God’s position.

Historical Science and Natural Laws
The way that HH actually goes about criticizing Bill Nye’s arguments is truly fascinating, yet still predictable for anyone who is familiar with the standard talking points of Answers in Genesis. The very first thing HH criticizes Nye for is his ignorance of the difference between observational science and historical science. This is a standard plank in the YECist platform: if you take this away, the entire YEC edifice collapses. But since there really is no difference, since no scientist (outside of YECist organizations) defines “historical science” as “religious beliefs about the past that can’t be tested,” the fact is there is no edifice to YEC to begin with. It is all smoke and mirrors.

The second thing HH accuses Nye of is distorting the YECist position regarding the laws of nature. Nye put forth the point that young earth creationists believe that the laws of nature are not constant, and that at some point in the past they changed, whether it be in relation to the age of the universe, the age of the earth, or the YECist claim that there was a worldwide flood a mere 4,000 years ago.

Well, HH accuses Nye of setting up a straw man, and that such a claim “was a fabrication by Mr. Nye” (37). They continue: “Creationists agree that natural laws aren’t changing. In fact, in his presentation, Mr. Ham challenged Mr. Nye as to how he could believe the laws of logic and nature from a naturalistic view of origins” (38).

Wait…what?

Young earth creationists do, in fact, teach that natural laws have changed. (A) How can there be distant starlight from over 14 billion years if the universe is only 6,000 years? Easy: the anisotropic synchrony convention—the claim that light can speed up or slow down with the vacuum of space! Jason Lisle at AiG even claims that ancient cultures were familiar with this fictitious theory that he promotes. (B) How did millions of species develop so quickly from the “1,000 kinds” that came off of Noah’s ark a mere 4,000 years ago? Joel Duff writes about the claims of hyper-evolution made by YECists, who claim there was an explosion of genetic variation immediately after the flood, but then soon slowed down to the rate that we know observe today. Let’s be clear: young earth creationists teach that natural laws change—it’s in their very literature.

The Laws of Logic
And while we are at it, what was that talk about the laws of logic? Let’s put aside the fact that it had nothing to do with the topic of the constancy of natural laws, and let’s focus on the fact that HH positively hammers Nye on this point. Later on, they say the following:

“Mr. Nye is actually borrowing from a biblical worldview to make the claim that natural laws will not change in the future. …Christians have a basis for such a thing (natural law being constant in the future). But in the secular view, natural laws have changed from the onset of the Big Bang, and they have no way of knowing that in the future the laws of nature might not change again. Christians know that the laws of nature will not change since God, who is not bound by time and knows the future, reveals that to us. As God’s Word states, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8)” (39).

And when Nye asked the crowd if Ken Ham’s version of Noah’s flood was “reasonable,” HH came back says this:

“I want to address something more disturbing about Mr. Nye’s use of ‘reason’ by his own professed worldview. Mr. Nye is a secular humanist, thus naturalistic and materialistic in his religion. …Those who hold to a naturalistic and materialistic worldview say that everything is matter. …But here is the disturbing part: logic, reason, truth, knowledge, and so on are not material…. If Mr. Nye (or any other materialist) is consistent in their worldview, then logic, truth, and reason should not exist in their worldview, any more than God, who is also nonmaterial. Mr. Nye is actually borrowing from a biblical worldview when he attempts to use logic and reasoning” (42).

Are you confused? That’s okay, I think that was sort of HH’s goal. Allow me to trace their argument.

  • Bill Nye appealed to the constant laws of nature, pointed out that YECists claim that, whether in their attempts to explain distant starlight or hyper-speciation since the flood, they argue that natural laws can change.
  • HH responded with the claim that “secularists” believe natural laws change and that Christians are confident that natural laws don’t change, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  • HH further said that Nye is simply “borrowing from the biblical worldview” when he attempts to use reason and logic. They thus implied that since Nye was a naturalist, he wasn’t allowed to use logic and reason…? What?

Now, let’s be clear: what Nye said is true—YECists claim natural laws change. How else can HH respond, but with the illogical mess that they present? Does anyone in their right mind think that when Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, that that is the basis for belief that the laws of nature don’t change? Are they really trying to claim that Hebrews 13:8 is making a scientific statement about the natural universe? That is nonsensical.

And so what if Nye is “borrowing from the biblical worldview”? Now, let me say that technically HH has a point here. If you take philosophical naturalism to its logical conclusion, then there really is no naturalistic basis or reason for logic, meaning and purpose. But that’s really beside the point. As a Christian, I realize that even though Bill Nye is not a Christian, he is still created in God’s image and still has the ability to use his reason and logic to understand the world, even if he fails to acknowledge where that ability comes from.

But it seems that HH sees that as justification for completely dismissing Bill Nye’s very reasonable argument. HH essentially says, “Bill Nye is appealing to reason, but he can’t do that because he’s not a Christian…therefore we can dismiss what he has to say.” And just like that, HH has succeeded (at least in the eyes of Ham’s followers) in completely having to address the very real fact that they have to claim natural laws change at random in order for their YECist claims to work. They have side-stepped having to address the fact that their claims are illogical.

Bill Nye might not be a Christian, and he might not have a philosophical basis for his use of reason and logic, but at least he’s using it.

The Flood and Science Education
The rest of HH’s analysis of Nye’s opening comments were fairly predictable.

  • How could plants survive a year underwater? They were only under water 110 days, and some could have survived on floating log mats. Besides, “some plants or seeds that may not survive underwater today may have been able to do so at the time of the Flood” (41). Wait…isn’t that evidence that HH is claiming natural laws can change, something they adamantly deny a mere three pages prior?
  • What about fossils and rock layers? It’s all historical science, and interpretations will depend on one’s starting point. Bill Nye wasn’t there, but God tells us in the Bible, and we’ll take God’s word for it.
  • So what if millions of people don’t embrace 6,000 year creation? Would you agree with Hitler if he said there were millions of people who didn’t believe the Jews were people? (Yes, HH actually compared Bill Nye with Hitler).
  • The reason why science education in America is falling behind is because Christianity has been “thrown out of public education and replaced with evolutionary humanism” (47).

And with that, HH finishes their analysis of Nye’s arguments with a general accusation of the culture: “The more Mr. Nye’s naturalistic view of origins permeates the education system, the more I suggest we will see moral relativism pervading the culture—which is exactly what we see happening today. The religion of naturalism will ultimately destroy a culture! Mr. Nye’s religion is pernicious for any nation” (48).

Remember, the topic was: “Is young earth creationism a viable scientific model?” Bill Nye gave initial reasons why he thought it wasn’t, and in response, HH called him ignorant, dishonest, and anti-God; they said he was not allowed to use reason because he wasn’t a Christian; they were able to get in a Hitler reference; and they falsely equated a scientific theory with a naturalistic philosophy, and then put forth a rallying cry to fight the culture war.

So…is young earth creationism a viable scientific model for origins? There has been no evidence given as of yet.

8 Comments

  1. I have always thought that Ken Ham’s choice of topic and debate partner was very clever on Ken Ham’s part. I think Ken Ham intentionally picked someone who knew very little about Christianity.

    I think it would have been a very different debate if Ken Ham had debated a scientist who was also knowledgable about Christianity and biblical interpretation, such as Denis Alexander, Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Karl Giberson, Owen Gingerich, Mark Harris, Denis Lamoureux, John Lennox, Alister McGrath, Kenneth Miller, or John Polkinghorne, for example.

    I will grant that most of these do not have the name recognition that Bill Nye has, and that is unfortunate.

  2. “Let’s be clear: young earth creationists teach that natural laws change—it’s in their very literature.” They tend to use different terminology when saying this. Essentially they claim there is a ‘uniformity of nature’ (which makes science possible) but they firmly reject uniformitarianism. The term ‘uniformity of nature’ appears to be one which AiG have arbitrarily invented (possible Jason Lisle coined it when he worked for them). For instance: https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/is-the-present-the-key-to-the-past/
    When debating ‘historical’ science the YEC motto appears to be “if we can’t win the argument by fair and rational means, muddy the waters or chat instead”.

  3. >”YECists claim natural laws change.”

    Yes, and they also teach “Fine Tuning” arguments which depend on natural laws being fixed. The very concept of contradictory arguments seems to be unknown to them.

  4. Don’t forget the most fundamental changing natural law in the YEC paradigm: radioactive decay. They believe it’s either so variable as to be completely meaningless, or that God sped it up for no discernible reason by several orders of magnitude during the Flood.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: