Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | February 20, 2014

Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #5

Input Output

The Creation and Evolution models are different interpretations of the same natural evidence starting from different explanatory frameworks or worldviews.

What did Bill Nye’s debate coach think about the historic Creation-Evolution debate between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy?

This fifth installment of reaction from the web to the debate has commentary from Nye’s coach.

An estimated 10 million viewers watched the live stream of the debate:
Is Creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?

Additionally, as of press time, the YouTube video of the February 4 debate has been viewed over 2.1 million times. Interest and conversation about the debate continues to be intense and vigorous.

Commentary on the Debate from the Web (Part 5)

Evolutionist geologist and paleontologist Donald Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at Cal Tech. He helped Nye prepare for the debate and provided him with extensive material. Here are excerpts from his debate report Hearts and Minds posted on the SkepticBlog hosted by the Skeptics Society.

(Disclaimer: Links to my own opinion on the debate and to previous installments surveying web opinion are at the end of this article. Those articles refute much of what Prothero says below about the debate.)

Donald Prothero

Donald Prothero

I was at Michael Shermer’s New Year’s Eve party last December 31st. … Late in the evening, Bill [Nye] comes up to me and mentions that he had agreed to debate Ken Ham. He knew I’d beaten Duane Gish back in 1983, and that I was familiar with battling creationism over the past 35 years. After I talked to him and realized that the debate was set and he could not back out, I offered to help him prepare. Then about 3 weeks ago, he emailed me and we made arrangements. He spent a day in Oakland at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), where a bunch of their staff helped him analyze Ham’s past debates and arguments (they have archives of every creationist out there), and suggest strategies. Since Ham had voluntarily set the debate topic to defend the scientific value and truth of the Bible, Bill was not in the usual dilemma of having to defend and explain complex topics of evolution. Normally, creationists employ the “Gish Gallop” to keep the scientist on the defensive, trying to undo the mistaken ideas and lies the creationist has just said, and replace it with a more complex explanation. Instead, the NCSE staffers recommended that Bill use this to his advantage, and do a “reverse Gish Gallop”: pile on the examples one after another, so that Ham wouldn’t have time or ability to answer them all.

On January 21st, Bill met with me at Shermer’s house, where Michael and I both tried to make additional suggestions and give him some specific examples. We both gave him copies of our old Powerpoints we used against creationists, and I gave him a copy of my 2007 book on evolution and DVDs of my Skeptic Society lectures on those topics. During the ensuing days, I spent a lot of time pasting together Powerpoint slides out of my many older lectures that I thought would work well, and sending them to him. As Bill got his own slides together, he shared them with me, Shermer, and Genie Scott and Josh Rosenau of the NCSE. We tried our own suggestions and tweaks, but ultimately it had to be something he was comfortable with and not words we had put in his mouth.

[Ham] did exactly as we predicted: play up this phony distinction he cooked up between “observational” vs. “historical” science, brag about the handful of scientists in the world who are Young-Earth Creationists (YECs), nearly all in irrelevant fields completely outside the only relevant disciplines: biology, paleontology, or geology. He was trying to make the ridiculous assertion that if these people were good scientists and YECs, therefore YEC must be right. He trotted out the usual phony ideas about how mainstream science was in a great conspiracy to suppress religion, and to rule out the supernatural because we’re all atheists. Toward the end of his 30-minute spiel, he began spouting religion in earnest. During his entire presentation, he presented no evidence from science that supported his cause, only an argument by association with scientists who are closet creationists.

Bill’s opening and 30-minute presentation were pretty much his own inventions, with a few ideas we had suggested to him. In his opening 5 minutes, he shot down the ridiculous “observational vs. historical” distinction, emphasized the importance of science in our culture, and set the tone for his entire debate. His first slide of the 30-minute time slot was an idea I gave him: point out that the “Creation Museum” is built on the very rocks that refute the “Flood Geology” model, complete with a hand sample of fossiliferous limestone he got from the local road cuts (somehow, even though several feet of snow were on the ground). Again and again, he reminded everyone that YEC is a narrow sectarian belief held by a tiny minority in the world (including a minority of Christians, and an even tinier minority of Americans), yet they would force their views on the rest of us and interfere with science education. He got off the line about how many real evolutionary scientists are also good Christians, such as NIH Director Francis Collins. But the bulk of his presentation focused on the ridiculous implications of the Noah’s Flood model and of the 6000 year old earth: how we have ice cores with 680,000 annual layers in them (I gave him that one) and tree rings going back over 6000 years; how the “Ark” would have torn apart because no wooden boat longer than 350 feet can survive the open ocean (let alone how it could have been built by 8 people in Noah’s family); how if only the “created kinds” were aboard, they’d have to speciate at a rate of 12 new species every day for the past 4000 years to account for the millions of species alive now (way faster than speciation as we observe it today, and a lot more evolution than most creationists would accept as well). Nye finished with the way science is about discovery and prediction of what we should find next (the opposite of creationism), giving as an example the Big Bang and the cosmic background radiation, and capped it with a reminder that our country, and our kids, need good science education if the U.S. wants to remain competitive in the world of future science and technology.

Most of us in the scientific community focus on nit-picking details and scientific correctness, which is why it is so hard to debate creationists who run roughshod over the truth and never look back. A better barometer was immediately apparent as they signed off. A portion of the crowd shouted “Bill, Bill, Bill” (as in the theme song of his old show)—so it wasn’t completely packed with creationists. Afterwards, Bill was mobbed at the podium by many well-wishers, while no one walked up to Ham, and he quietly left the stage.

…it’s not really a “debate” in the normal sense, where the opponents address common points and talk about the same topic, and score when they make an intelligent comeback or delicious riposte or bon mot. Bill and Ken were talking about two completely different topics with almost no overlap, so as in all these events, there is no real “debate” when the two sides don’t even agree on common definitions, common rules, standards of evidence, or even what is real.

What’s really at stake is the meta-debate, the overall impression created by the experience, which is the best way to win the hearts and minds. …what really counts is to be likable, friendly, positive, upbeat, non-threatening, while explaining the science in a clear simple fashion at fifth-grade level, and not bullying or being condescending to the opponent or looking arrogant or smug as a scientist. Bill didn’t attack Ham directly or belittle his idiocy and stupidity (most of us wanted to throttle Ham each time he spouted another lie). Instead, Bill was a gentleman, talking up the absurdity of his position and saying how it “troubled him,” how Ham’s ideas were against evidence and common sense, and generally letting the audience fill in the blanks when they too realized how silly YEC is.

Bill has been a TV entertainer and science educator for 30 years, and he (along with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the late Carl Sagan) are among the few scientists who are good popularizers that we need so badly. Even as the debate was winding up, most people no longer remembered any of the details or who scored points on whom, or who failed to reply to whose challenge. What they DO remember is that they liked Bill and he made science sound fun and interesting and important, while Ham came off as a dogmatic religious extremist who wouldn’t change his mind despite any evidence, and fell back on the Bible rather than scientific evidence each time he was challenged. Bill beat Ham on this issue, hands down!

For a different perspective, read the prequel articles on this debate:
Creation-Evolution Debate: Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye – background info & the YouTube videos that sparked the debate.
Ham on Nye Debate Update
Who Won the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Debate?
– includes YouTube video of debate
Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #1 – 4 web commentators
Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #2 – 4 web commentators
Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #3 – comments from debate moderator and post-debate challenges from debaters to each other
Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #4 – Albert Mohler’s assessment

Read the sequel with more web commentary:
Post-Debate Buzz Heats Up for Ham vs. Nye #6 – astronomer, CMI, WORLD mag

Questions to Ponder
  1. What was the actual point that Ken Ham made by giving examples of good scientists who are creationists?
  2. How would you answer Dr. Prothero’s assertion that Biblical creation is held by a tiny minority?
  3. How would you respond to the description of Ken Ham as a “dogmatic religious extremist”?
  4. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Thursday February 20, 2014 A.D.

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)


  1. The WW2 planes found under 260 ft of ice layers in only 65 years blows a hole in the ice core ages – the layers just represent snowfalls at different temps. They are NOT annual rings.


  2. Ice will tend to flow like water albeit more slowly. This can be seen in the flowing of glaciers. It’s not quite the same but the analogy works. Heavy objects like planes sink in ice over time. They have this problem in Antarctica with research buildings sinking by a few inches every season.


    • Yes but they proved that the planes did not sink – there were about four and they were horizontal – if they had sank the very heavy nose of the p38’s would have been pointing down.
      The big bombers and smaller p38’s were at the same level – no differential sinking.
      Once the ice compacts there is very little sinking. The snow layers are per storm and temp change – they are not annual – the scientists are slowly beginning to accept this.


      • Interesting. Show me where you read this.


        • Just use Google – there is a lot on this.

          Google “lost WW2 planes in Greenland prove ice cores are not annual”


        • I’ve been Googling this for a while. I haven’t found anything legitimate except the original Times article. I’ve just learned that objects do not sink in ice unless they are extremely heavy anyway.


        • FROM : WEBSITE : Age Indicating Factors: Ice Cores, the Poles & the Lost Squadron

          “That’s right. The lost squadron was covered by 263 feet of ice in only 48 years!

          Point of fact, airplanes do not sink in ice, so the planes did not just sink. If you place a penny on an ice cube, it will slowly begin to sink to the middle, but only at room temperature. This would not occur in the freezer.

          We can further conclude that they did not sink because airplanes are nose-heavy, and they would have been found nose-down in the ice. However, these airplanes were dead level. They did not sink, ice simply accumulated on top of them.”


        • Another explanation is that the width of these “growth-rings” strata is not constant. That the “growth-rings” in Greenland are substantially larger because that area sees a great deal more annual snow fall. Snow fall data is available and seems to strengthen this hypothesis. To my knowledge no core samples were taken from the site of the buried planes and so no conclusive data about the strata were established. It is the strata not the depth that is the suggested candle. The depth is completely variable. To make this claim the researcher would have to compare the quantity of strata above the planes with the suggested candle. If there are greatly more than 40 strata layers above the planes that puts the candle in question.

          I am a creationist myself, but I refused to make arguments without fully understanding the variables involved. That is done way too often in our community and it tends to make us look like reactionary fools. I cite Kent Hovind as a good example. He leaves out variables and makes his point on false propositions all the time.


        • I remember reading somewhere that one of the explorers did count the snow layers at much more than the annual snowfalls – I will try to find it.
          Plus if greenland was warm about 1000 and less years ago there would only be a thousand years of snow to account for the thickness .


  3. But I suggest that 260 feet of ice can accumulate after only 40 years in Greenland. The depth is not the issue but rather the layers of stratum. Scientists use a known candle to determine the reliability of a second candle. Here the known is that the planes are under 40 years of accumulated snow/ice. I no longer question that. To disprove the yearly strata candle one would need to measure the number of stratum above the planes. If this value is much greater than 40 then the candle is wrong. It takes one verified measurement to prove a model wrong. The depth is irrelevant.


    • The depth is not irrelevant if it is compared to the total depth. If they are saying 100,000 years for a certain depth then this 260 ft for 40 years can be compared with the this depth for 100,000 years to disprove it or reinforce it.


      • They are not saying 100,000 years for a certain depth. They are saying 100,000 years for a certain number of stratum. Depth is irrelevant.


        • But since it is not 100% clear what forms the stratum – we are left with depth.
          Since the depth of the planes over 45 years can be compared with the overall depth for 100,000 years then depth would come into the equation.
          So if around 4000 ft = 100,000 years – then if we assume conformity of sorts then 260 ft = 6500 years – we have a problem.
          But if the snowfalls were in different areas of the world then depth would be irrelevant – but they are in the same area so we can assume a relationship of reasonable averaged uniformity of snowfalls. So I would say depth is not irrelevant by any means – especially since the inconsistency is so large.


        • No one is saying that 4,000 ft means 100,000 years. The claim is that one strata of an ice core sample is one year of snow accumulation. The size of the inconsistency is not conclusive. You cannot use depth to disprove the stratum count because stratum size is variable, an unknown. And it is likely different even within Greenland. I’m having trouble finding the exact location of the planes and the location of the ice core samples. Such data is important in refuting this claim. Also, historical snow fall data would be necessary. I’m not saying that this claim cannot be refuted, I’ve just not seen anything that does.


        • Well they are saying that 4000 ft means 100,000 years or even less feet means 100,000 years.


        • For that particular core sample perhaps but not universally.


        • Well since the average thickness of ice is 4000 ft we can assume that above the planes the snowfall would be similar. Since the discrepancy is so large then the stratum seems less reliable than the depth.

          Doing it back to front – if 260 ft = 45 years – then in only a 2000 years we should have ice on greenland at 11500 feet. So we have another serious discrepancy. In 100,000 years we would have 575,000 ft ??


        • That is a very interesting point.


        • See I love having these conversations. It reveals real and interesting questions. I love it. I’m not trying to push forward a world view. I’m trying to work out all of the unaccounted variables. Thanks. 🙂


        • One thing I have ascertained is that ice is not completely solid. Under the extreme weight of more than a mile of ice the bottom ice will flow similar to a glacier and gradually move outward into the ocean.

          Also, the discrepancy is not that great when you consider that the yearly build-up would be about 6 inches for the planes and half an inch for the core sample. Also several other dating methods were used and agreed with the date suggested by the stratum. I doubt you would find those reliable but that’s what verifies the strata candle.


  4. If the ice at the bottom was flowing out glacier like then the thickness would be even more than 575,000 ft ?????


    • Why is that?


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