Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nye vs Ham reflections

"Ham’s brain has been so deeply marinated in his faith that that organ has simply become impermeable to facts. He really does believe in Noah’s Ark, the Fall, and talking snakes, and must reject or rationalize facts that don’t comport with his Sacred Book." - Jerry Coyne

My kids and I watched the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate last night. Nye, clearly in possession of the truth and the right rhetorical skills (as well as a bow tie), was the clear winner. The only thing Ham had going for him was a flashier PowerPoint presentation.

The boys cheered Nye on, and I did too, especially when he was asked by an audience member where  consciousness comes from and Nye replied " I don't know."

The humility in that answer when compared to Ham's assertion that god did it was refreshing. The same humility was displayed again later when Nye was asked what would change his mind, and he rattled off a list of evidence that would change him on the spot. Ham was unable to budge; the evidence couldn't change him; he would have to change the evidence if it countered his worldview (of course he didn't say this explicitly).

Throughout the debate, Nye, the consummate educator, gave us wide eyed evidence and enthusiasm for his subject while Ham stolidly beat on the same old rigid drum skin that he expects us to swallow without reflection. His brain, as the Coyne quotation above states, has gone into intellectual rigor mortis, and his curiosity has sapped away.

In Ken Ham and his testimonial creationists we have one of TS Eliot's hollow men: "leaning together/headpiece filled with straw" In Nye we see what a healthy sense of wonderment can look like. A perfect model for our kids.

I was nervous about this debate. I wasn't sure Nye had the chops necessary to out-talk an experienced demagogue like Ham, but he did a fine job. I'd like to see more debates like this. I'm with John Loftus.

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