Man, just when you thought Neil deGrasse Tyson was about to nudge us into the Great Age of Rodenberry, along comes young-Earth creationist Ken Ham and a near-endless supply of antediluvian cash to try to wash away the progress of science and evolutionary theory.
Tonight at 7 p.m. upon the grounds of the dreadful Creation Museum, Bill Nye the Science Guy has accepted the ‘shallonge’ of Creation Museum muckety-mucker Ken Ham.
In this corner, Spokesperson for Reason, Newton in a Bowtie: Bill Nye the Science Guy!
In the other corner, a guy who supports the unenlightened who want to construct of a 500-foot replica of Noah’s Ark “to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park” in Williamstown, Kentucky: Ken Ham.
Round Earth or Flat Earth. Tonight is the Battle for Causality & Reality.
There has been a lot of fuss lately as to whether Bill Nye should even share a schnitzel with someone like Ken Ham.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation issued a vehement critique of Nye, stating that not only is this a debate not worth having, but even going so far as to suggest that Nye, an engineer and not a biologist, is not qualified to engage Ham.
However, I have a bone to pick with the great evolutionary biologist and his foundation’s position that “[s]cientists should not debate creationists … period.”
Once upon a time, in fifth grade, every student in my class was forced to write a paper and make a presentation “proving” Creationist Literalism. Not examine the two theories of Creationism and Evolution, but prove the literal truth of the Genesis Creation.
In those days, there were no talking heads with the charisma and passion of a Bill Nye to address our nation on the subject, no person willing to sit behind the camera in a colorful bowtie and declare that “to have a scientifically illiterate point of view in your neighborhood, or in your state, is not in anyone’s self-interest.”
As a boy obsessed with cosmology and nature, I would have killed to sneak peeks here and here of Bill Nye espousing evolution, even at the threat of my fundamentalist father finding out.
Tonight’s “Ham on Nye” Debate will be viewed by millions of people who are sold on the theory of Creationism for no reason other than that pastors and pundits tell them to interpret the Bible literally. For many, this may be the one true opportunity they ever have to hear the Bullet Points of Evolution presented in a comprehensible and dynamic manner.
Give ’em hell, Bill!
To conclude, here are some previous thoughts on Creationism from my article “The Bible, Rated X: From Adam’s Snake to the Horny Beast”
Everything You Ever Needed to Know about Genesis in 1,000 Words or Less
The year is 1983. I am a fifth grader at a conservative Christian private school in Minneapolis. My science class assignment is to write a paper that proves the Creation Account in Genesis is “scientifically accurate.” Not: consider the available resources at hand and make the best possible assessment of the facts. But: no matter what you do, little ten-year-old boy, prove that Genesis literally means what it says. Now go find Mt. Ararat.
As everyone knows, the essence of Christianity is proving that the world is just barely older than some of the world’s most ancient olive trees. Jesus said that during the Sermon on the Mount. Right?
Budding writer lamb that I was, I penned the “winning paper” and earned the right to present it orally to multiple classes. I remember that the paper cited an article about the Paluxy River Mystery, where human footprints supposedly are embedded alongside dinosaur tracks. (Thirty years later, after a quick Google search, I realize that not even hardcore Creationists buy this crap any longer.) My teachers, parents, even my pastor, patted me on the head. I had proved The Truth. Of course, when I started asking how Noah had squeezed sauropods onto the ark, everyone told me to go outside and play with my friends.
One decade later, while browsing the library shelves at the conservative Christian college I was attending in St. Paul, I stumbled upon a slender volume entitled The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the most ancient works of literature. The narrative tells the adventures of Gilgamesh, demigod of Uruk (modern Iraq), and includes a number of Mesopotamian cosmological myths. I read the book cover to cover while standing in the stacks, and browsed through several other related books, including Alexander Heidel’s classic work, The Babylonian Genesis.
Lo and behold, who is this Utnapishtim fellow? Seems to have a lot in common with Mr. Noah. Asked by Enki (God) to construct a giant boat that will serve as a refuge for animals and humanity from a pending deluge. Hmm, that’s odd, Utnapishtim also released a dove from his boat to see if the waters had receded. Well, now, I wonder if Moses ever considered suing for plagiarism.
That afternoon had a remarkable impact on my interpretation of Scripture. It dawned on me that the author(s) of Genesis weren’t writing anachronistically to disprove Darwinism. They didn’t give a flip about the age of the universe, nor were they interested in producing a play-by-play account of life on Earth. They were simply writing a tract on monotheism in response to the polytheisms of the day.
Hey, you Egyptians over there who worship the sun and jackals and hippos! That’s silly! You do realize the sun and animals originate from something else, right? And you Sumerians, you think you have a flood story? Hold on, wait until you hear about this dude Noah. Yeah, we know, we know. He had a son named Ham, and we don’t eat pigs. Laugh it up. But our Garden of Eden is way more titillating than your Enuma Elish creation myth. Eve was naked!
The point of Genesis is an overarching message that human beings are dependent on God for existence and providence. Then, along came this guy from Ur named Abram, and here’s the legend of how the Israelites ended up in this land called Canaan.
That’s it. That’s the whole point. Genesis is a series of campfire stories.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t historicity contained within the first 50 chapters of the Bible. But readers were never intended to read Genesis the way a viewer approaches Judgment at Nuremberg, expecting transcript history.
However, if you’re a fundamentalist, Genesis has to read like a documentary. Otherwise, there’s a grotesque amount of uncertainty. And Fundamentalism is in the business of knowing.
If the world wasn’t created in seven days—including plants before the sun—that means scientific inquiry is as close as we can ever get to “knowing” our Origins. While science is fine and dandy when it comes to cancer screening and designing bridges, who can stomach the idea that humans started out as inelegant hominids in the Olduvai Gorge rather than Abercrombie & Fitch models in the Gardens of Giverny? To say nothing of the concept of Original Sin and the Fall of Man—and especially the Fall of Woman! Wait, what the hell do you mean that men and women have the same number of ribs?! That’s blasphemy! (Vesalius figured that one out back in 1543 with his De Humani Corporis Fabrica. But definitely bring up the rib question at Thanksgiving. You’ll be shocked at the responses you hear.)
Genesis is epic and replete with wonderful morality tales. I’m particularly fond of Balaam’s ass, and I admit that I relish the conundrum of Sodom and Gomorrah. Can someone please tell me why Lot’s poor wife was turned into a saltshaker, whilst Lot himself later fathered children by his own daughters yet was never transformed into a table condiment?
But the fact of the matter is: there is not one single word in the Book of Genesis that the orthodox Christian is beholden to in order to practice his or her faith. Ultimately, Christian living is dependent on interpreting the life and teachings of Jesus. Not on talking snakes.
That does not mean that Genesis is irrelevant to the Christian life. Genesis is in fact loaded with Truth. But that Truth isn’t readily apparent. It is Truth that must be earned with critical thought.
And so, all of these untold billions of dollars wasted on Creation Museums and recreations of Noah’s Ark are just that: wasted dollars by the chief priests of Evangelicalism who are bound and determined to deliver precise answers on Origins to the bleating sheep who cannot be bothered to think that life ever could have started any other way than just how Genesis describes it. Pass the Funyuns.
Genesis is a campfire tale. An invaluable saga of a campfire tale. But a campfire tale nevertheless.
Mr. Nye, may your words this evening lead to the enlightenment of individuals whose minds are mired in myopic muck.
AGAIN, YOU CAN STREAM THE DEBATE LIVE AT THIS LINK .
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