The Ham-Nye Debate ... from One Who Was There
A few minutes after 6 a.m. on Tuesday, February 4, while it was still pitch black in Lynchburg, Virginia, I grabbed my hot coffee and headed west on route 501. My destination was the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, location of the Great Debate between Ken Ham and the Science Guy, Bill Nye. Nine hours later, my friend from Atlanta and I entered the museum, hoping to get a brief look at some of the exhibits. Unfortunately, due to the increased security and preparation that the debate required, the museum exhibits had already closed for the day. The entire focus was now on the debate, which was still almost four hours away. Already, however, there was electricity in the air. It was clear that something special was soon going to take place, and everyone knew it.
After eating dinner in Noah’s Café, with its beautifully handcrafted solid wood tables and chairs, we headed toward the Conference Center, site of the debate. I wasn’t able to secure a ticket to the live debate for my friend, so he went to the room where it was going to be simulcast. After passing through a security check worthy of Delta Airlines, I entered the Center. Although it was only about 5:30, the room was already about three-quarters full, and seats in the front were scarce. I found one, though, on the far right, about four rows back. About 6:45, a murmur arose from those around me. The star had entered the room, Ken Ham. He was standing near the exit door right in front of me, along with his support team. Although not physically imposing, Mr. Ham definitely has an aura about him that is impossible to ignore.
At precisely 7 p.m. the moderator, Tom Foreman of CNN, presented his opening remarks and introduced the debaters. The “Debate of the Century,” as some have titled it, was underway.
The debate went about according to my expectation. It was obvious that both men entered the debate with an agenda, a list of points that they were determined to make, and, generally speaking, they achieved their goals. There were no real “gotcha!” moments. I did think that Mr. Ham failed to address some issues that Mr. Nye raised, which unfortunately left these issues as check marks on Mr. Nye’s side.
Let me give you one particularly glaring example of this. In his half hour presentation at the beginning of the event, Mr. Nye showed pictures of some fossils in the Grand Canyon, explaining that these fossils appeared in distinct layers of the canyon walls. He then stated that “never, ever do you find a higher animal mixed in with a lower one.” That is, never is a fossil that is indigenous to one layer found in another. Instantly recognizing the utter absurdity of this claim – such “out-of-order fossils” are actually ubiquitous in the geologic column – I wondered whether I had misunderstood the speaker’s words. His next words proved that I hadn’t. Directing his remarks to the audience, he said, “If you can find one example of that [a fossil being out of order], scientists would embrace you, you would be a hero, you would change the world.... People have looked and looked – they have not found a single one.”
Mr. Ham had just been thrown a slow hanging curve ball, and he didn’t even take a swing at it. On the positive side, however, Mr. Ham forthrightly defended the absolute authority of the Bible and clearly proclaimed the gospel of salvation, which is the heart of the entire Answers in Genesis ministry.
At the end of the debate, it was announced that the area was in the throes of a Level 2 snowstorm, and everyone was advised to exercise extreme caution on the roads. I wasn’t sure what a Level 2 snowstorm was, but I soon found out. Icy, dense snow was falling hard, and several inches had already accumulated. The trip back to our motel in the driving snow was a bit of an adventure, but we made it safely.
Once we settled in to our room, my friend and I had a wonderful conversation about the debate and related subjects, and I knew that such conversations were taking place all over the United States at that very moment. The Great Debate was over, but I knew that its impact would ripple through the land for a long, long time. The gospel of salvation was clearly proclaimed by Ken Ham, and as a result, God’s Kingdom will surely grow – exactly the result that Mr. Ham desired. He may not be the best debater in the world, but he certainly is a faithful defender of the faith, and for that he deserves nothing but praise.
Today’s guest blogger is Stephen Bartholomew, author of Scopes Retried. He wasn’t even planning on attending the debate until his friend, who is new to the creationist perspective, persuaded him to go. This is Steve’s account of their experience.