7 zingers from the Ham-on-Nye Creation Debate

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Ken Ham's slippery slope.


Ken Ham's slippery slope.

The bouncer at the front door of Kentucky's Creation Museum.

The bouncer at the front door of Kentucky’s Creation Museum.

I was thrilled to have front-row seats for last night’s debate. Well, fourth row, if you must know, but close enough that I’m pretty sure I saw Bill Nye discreetly roll his eyes when creationist Ken Ham started talking about the sudden speciation of dogs. At the very least, Nye let out a sigh.

Both debaters had their moments of posturing—Ken Ham in his desperate dog-and-pony show of real-life scientists who support biblical creationism, and the nerdly Nye in his efforts to convince us that he’s cool, bowties notwithstanding, just because he used to ride a motorcycle.

Here were seven of my favorite quips from last night, seven being appropriate because it is the Official Number of Genesis Chapter 1.

1. “Why do we wear clothes? Genesis!” – Ken Ham

In an attempt to show that the Book of Genesis is responsible for everything good in our lives, from traditional marriage to language diversity to Jesus dying on a cross (um, say again?), Ham made the unforgettable assertion that the Book of Genesis is why we wear clothes. “It’s a very important book,” he summarized. Meanwhile the people in the audience were all stripping down because it was hotter than Hades in the debate auditorium. Not sure what Genesis would say about that.

2. “Extraordinary!” – Bill Nye

I lost count of how many times Bill Nye used the word “extraordinary” during the debate, but his usage (“What you just said is so effing crazy that I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation”) is slightly different from the more positive OED definition. SEE ALSO: Nye’s use of “remarkable.”

Ken Ham's slippery slope.

Ken Ham’s slippery slope.

3. “Get rid of old people. I mean, why not? I mean, they’re just animals, costing us a lot of money.” – Ken Ham

Ken Ham used this chart (right) to claim that if science is your foundation rather than God’s word, traditional marriage will soon be out the window and we’ll start euthanizing the weak. It’s the slippery slope theory: if we reject the notion of a six-day creation and a young earth, it’s only a matter of time before we off Grandma.

4. “Were the fish sinners? Have they done something wrong to get diseases?” – Bill Nye

Nye raised this as a rhetorical question in answer to Ham’s puzzling argument that if evolutionists are correct, then suffering and disease existed in the world before the Fall of Adam and Eve. But I think it’s a serious biblical question. The morality of fish is highly questionable. Even in the Bible, there’s that fish that swallowed a guy.

5. Evolutionary textbooks claim “the highest race of all, the Caucasians, represented the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America” – Ken Ham

Here Ham accused evolutionists of racism and eugenics, saying they had used Darwinism to elevate the white race to supremacy. To prove this he quoted a 1914 biology textbook – the same textbook at issue in the 1925 Scopes trial – that contained horribly racist statements. The implication of the moment was that Ham’s Christian counterparts in the early twentieth century would never, ever have done something so horrible as be racists (cough, sputter, BRITISH ISRAELISM).

At one point last night, the debate commanded five of Twitter's top 10 trending topics, if you count "selfcomplimentnight." Which you should.

At one point last night, the debate commanded five of Twitter’s top 10 trending topics, if you count “selfcomplimentnight.” Which you should.

6. “There are certain fish, the topminnows, who have the remarkable ability to have sex with each other—traditional fish sex—and they can have sex with themselves.” – Bill Nye

I don’t think anyone in the audience thought they would be hearing so much about fish, let alone such talk of fish having sex with themselves. The elderly woman down the row from me looked outraged. The prepubescent teen boy was thrilled.

7. “Did I not say ‘one word answer’?” – Moderator, to Bill Nye

CNN wasn’t just patting itself on the back when it summarized, “The debate was moderated by CNN’s Tom Foreman, and, if there’s one thing both sides can agree on, it’s that he did a swell job.” Here Foreman was being true to his name and keeping the shift running on time.


  • I did not follow the entire debate, but the parts I was able to watch disappointed me. Perhaps the format boxed the two into positions that from the outset were absolute. The debate was not intended as an exploration of ideas. No one was going to have their mind changed or their understanding enlarged. So ultimately, what was the purpose?

    Neither Mr. Nye nor Mr. Ham won. Mr. Ham’s position was fundamentally (pun intended) weak in that he was selective on the extent to which the Bible uses metaphor to express truth, while Mr. Nye failed to acknowledge that spiritual truth exists beyond the capacity of science to observe and measure.

  • Larry

    Ham flubbed badly and I doubt Creationists would have picked up on it.

    Ham admitted his view requires faith in Christian Fundamentalism. Nye stated his view was based on evidence. Whereas Ham can never be shaken of his view, Nye stated it would require compelling evidence to do so. Meaning Nye’s position is one willing to accept honest and objective arguments and proof and Ham will never do so.

    Since Creationism is being treated as a form of science by various political figures responsible for public education curricula in parts of the country, it cannot simply be accepted as faith or “spiritual truth”. It needs to be treated like a science and based on scientific criteria. It has none.

    Ham admitted that much even if he did not mean to. He refuted any scintilla of potential credibility Creationism can possibly have by declaring it requires faith to support it.

    In essence Ham has said Creationism is one big fat lie. Those claims of being able to prove the Christian Fundamentalist view of a literal Bible through objective evidence and methods are all crap. That such methods are not going to be used or respected as forms of proof. Only faith. It is nothing more than religious expression.

  • Atheist Max

    Ham lost completely. But not for the obvious reason; that he was wrong.

    He lost because thousands of Creationists heard Bill Nye give them an excellent class in science and evolution.

    Over time, that will wear the Creationists down in countless ways.

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  • To actually at this point to find a kink in present day evolutionary theory one would need to spend most days working full time as paleontologist, biologist or other worker in the field. To think that a lay person can make this case is like putting me up against a nobel prize winning physicist to discuss the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. Being happy that the physicist wins just gives the illusion that something was accomplished. That Ken Ham lost on this issue is to be expected. He is not a scientist. This going after the intellectually lame and halt is about as admirable as a golden gloves boxer beating up a loudmouthed 6th grader.

  • Larry

    Its worse than that. In this case the 6th grader is trying to set fire to the boxer’s home.People like Ham are trying to whip up political support to attack the teaching of science in public schools. It is not a matter of thrashing the intellectually stunted Ham in a brutal mismatch. It is the fact that Ham openly demands to get in the ring and make the challenge.

  • Don R

    Bill Nye definetly the winner. When you try to debate a scientist with superstition, mythology, and fairy tales (the Bible), you’ll lose every time!! Amen.

  • Gary

    Traditional Marriage? As in Genesis? Is he kidding?
    Or is Ham advocating polygamy, concubinage, brother-sister unions, and prostitution? Because all of that is right there in Genesis.

  • Gary

    I’m pretty sure Nye is wrong about topminnows having sex with themselves. There are some species, such as the Amazon Molly, Poecilia formosa, that can produce clones of themselves through parthenogenesis, but they don’t really “have sex with themselves.

  • Hellsgift2u

    How so? Name one I cannot answer…

  • Hellsgift2u

    The book also says do not commit those actions…

  • Larry

    So you are saying it can’t be trusted on any given stance since it is so contradictory. One one hand it endorses acts which would be on the high end of the scale

    Except slavery, concubinage, polygamy, abducting women in wartime, and rape (provided the victim’s father is compensated for the damage to his “property”) are all endorsed by the OT with no NT disavowal.

  • John Dunn

    Some people think it is likely that there is an incalculably intelligent, stupendously magical Being, and that this Being:

    – Existed for >9,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 x 10^infinity years before creating the angels, then X more years before creating the universe;
    – Created >250,000,000,000 galaxies, each galaxy containing >150,000,000,000 suns, each sun having on average >1 planet;
    – That this Being has seen, and remembers, each and every event on each and every one of these planets, suns, and galaxies for the last 13,800,000,000 years;
    – That this Being waited 187,000 years after our species appeared on this planet before announcing Its existence 3,000 years ago to one of the minor civilizations of the time;
    – That these appearances were only to a few members of this mostly illiterate nomadic bronze age tribe, that this Being imparted all of Its instructions to these few people, then never made a verifiable appearance on Earth again for the last 2,000 years.

    Have I got that right?

  • This whole debate is a sorry sideshow to the real dialogue going on between science and religion. Here is a link that’s a convenient entryway into the productive work being done:


  • This whole debate is a sorry sideshow to the authentic dialogue going on between science and religion. Here is a link that’s a convenient entryway into the productive work being done:


  • Larry

    There is the question which killed Ham

    “What, if anything, would change your mind?
    Ham said nothing would ever change his view
    Nye said to just bring me one piece of evidence.

    So Ham was admitting that he will never accept evidence or a well supported argument ever if it conflicts with his view. Nye showed he was reasonable, open minded and intelligent.

    That pretty much summed up the debate in one sentence each. Whereas evolution (and by implication, the entire scientific community) is willing to consider evidence and reasonable arguments and inquiry, creationism is merely stubborn ignorance and being a whiny-baby.

    Ham admitted more or less that Creationism can never be considered proper for science classes or any form of education. It is just inflexible, restatement of faith. No more important to learning and development of knowledge than rote-learning a catechism.

  • Dan

    That’s the thing– ultimately this argument becomes pointless, because each side is arguing different things. Creationists are arguing theology, and evolutionists are arguing science. They are different world views; as you point out, one based on evidence and reason, the other based on faith. Over a hundred and fifty years after the Huxley/Wilberforce debate, and people are still trying though.

    The real debate should be among theologians as to biblical interpretation in respect to evolution, not between scientists and theologians. One can be religious and not be a young earth creationist. That’s just a particular bit of dogma of certain sects of Christianity (and Islam and Judaism, btw).

  • RickK

    Question: “What would make you change your mind.”

    Ham: “Nothing”
    Nye: “Evidence”

    Only one of these people should be allowed on a jury, allowed to vote, and allowed near children.

  • Doc Anthony

    Rick, I’m thinking of how the atheistic government of China has in the past separated Chinese parents from their children, merely because the parents refused to relinquish supposedly “wrong” beliefs (such as biblical Christianity).

    Are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable living over there in China, instead of here in America where biblical Christian parents are allowed to remain with their kids?

  • Larry

    Doc, any country run on the type of “Biblical Christian values” that you profess would be no different from China, Iran, or any other dictatorship you can think of. Same authoritarian attitudes, just a different name for it. People like yourself are encouraging developing nations to commit various human rights abuses in Christ’s name.

    That being said, Nye essentially said he was being a reasonable person capable of intelligent discussion. Ham admitted he has a childish, inflexible view and doesn’t take such intelligent discussion seriously.

  • Larry

    But the Creationists are making calculated attacks on science education in support of their theology. They are lying about their view’s alleged scientific merits and using political clout to cretinize public education. Treating Creationism as anything less than an attack on rational critical thought is to take it too lightly.

    It is not a subject that is useful for debate because debate implies an equality of viewpoints. That being said, it accomplished the goal of giving the Creationists enough rope to hang themselves in public.

  • Doc Anthony

    You’re right, Ken Ham is not a scientist, although Ham’s bachelor’s degree in Applied Science carried an emphasis in environmental biology. But neither is Bill Nye. His bachelor’s degree is in mechanical engineering. Neither one has a master’s degree.

    You don’t have to be a full time PhD biologist or paleontologist or (gasp!) theologian. You just need to be interested enough in the topic to invest serious time learning it, as you would ANY other topic or hobby.

    I don’t even have a science degree (my bachelor’s is in another field), yet I could tell where Bill Nye was resorting to flawed evolutionary arguments, arguments that Ham’s own organization has exposed assorted problems and weaknesses with.

    (Ham actually crushed Nye’s primary message that creationism hurts American science efforts, for Ham displayed several successful, published PhD scientist counter-examples. Nye had no comeback for that move.)

    So let’s not be intimidated too quickly by these evolutionists. Don’t let them get away with sketchy games. You knew in advance that they were going to claim total victory even if the actual debate was effectively a DRAW…which is the more accurate verdict anyway.

  • Doc Anthony

    Actually, Nye spent so much attacking the Global Noahic Flood that he didn’t actually spend much time discussing how evolution works.

    In fact, Nye spent so much time attacking the Noahic Flood that Ham’s 30 minute presentation to Nye, establishing important definitions and attacking Nye’s main thesis with compelling video counter-examples, went mostly unchallenged and untouched. Nye had to play catch-up for the rest of the debate.

    I believe that Nye WAS successful in catching up to Ham by the end of the debate, but that left the debate a draw, with no clear winners and no fatal mistakes.

  • Doc Anthony

    In other words, when Ham zinged Nye with those “Bill, there is a Book out there” rejoinders, you finally realized that, despite Nye finally catching up with Ham during the second half of the debate (for Ham put Nye on his heels during the first half), the overall debate was going to end pretty much in a draw, and you wanted Nye to do better than a draw.

  • Doc Anthony

    If Nye was “willing to accept honest and objective arguments and proof”, Nye would have honestly acknowledged Ham’s videos of successful, journal-published, PhD creationist scientists such as Damadian and Faulkner, and then RETRACTED his suggestions that creationism hurts American science efforts and puts America behind other countries.

    Instead, Nye ignored those obvious PhD counter-examples as if they never existed. Every MRI scanner in every hospital in America is the result of a biblical creationist, Dr. Raymond Damadian. So where does Nye get off claiming that creationism hurts American sci-tech advances?

    Ham put a big hole in Nye’s message, right then and there.

  • Doc Anthony

    I agree with you that neither debater won the debate. There were no clear knockouts, but no fatal mistakes either.

    Ham had a strong first half, but Nye seemed to catch up and move strong during the second half (but not without getting zinged with Ham’s “Bill, there is a Book out there” rejoinders).

    So in the end, Ham hung right in there with Nye, both men failed to answer important issues because of time pressure, and the debate ended a draw.

    Oh yes, one more thing: Evolution is INCOMPATIBLE with Christianity. Nye could only offer a logical fallacy, the Argumentum Ad Populum, in a feeble, non-Biblical attempt to escape that truth.

  • Larry

    The evidence question was definitely a bad stumble for Ham. Especially when seen by an audience without such readiness to accept confirmation bias, the occupational hazard of Creationism.

    Nye came off better because he did not act like an imperious know-it-all. He was interested in giving the audience a view of science of not only being important but also wonderful in its own right. He was a much better spokesperson than any “New Atheist” on the subject because he acted more like a children’s show host than a stenorian.

    What is funny about your view of Creationism is that even fellow Christian Pat Robertson, no stranger to saying stupid things in public in service of his version of faith, thought Ham made a fool of himself.

  • Larry

    Actually a draw was better than expected considering the hostile audience and a format designed to give Ham a greater degree of credibility than deserved. Nye aquitted himself nicely by bringing a children’s show host persona with him. Getting people to consider the joys of scientific study as opposed to pretending always to have the answers.

    Ham shot himself in the foot on the evidence question. It was basically an admission that any pretense of Creationism as science was a joke. It is nothing more than a tool for affirming his religious faith. Something of no value to someone interested in learning about the world or for critical thinking.

  • Larry

    You mean Ham’s fiction of acceptance of Creationism by anyone in the scientific fields of study which touch upon evolution. The ones designed to confuse laypeople and nobody in any professional scientific organization would ever take seriously.

    Its easy to ignore those people you suggested because none of them are using their creationist ideas in service of their scientific studies. Ham didn’t mention those scientists because Nye would have thrown it right back as examples of people spouting off about subjects outside their professional knowledge.

    Creationism has no function in science except to cretinize education of it in public schools. Ham admitted himself that Creationism isn’t science and does not follow rules of scientific methodology and proof. You can quit pretending it does.

    No Creationist actually believes in such proof anyway. They certainly do not base their belief of the subject on such things. Its just a means to an end.

  • Larry

    But Nye is not pretending to uproot over a century of accumulated scientific study and research. He is merely falling back on what is already established. Ham is the one who is making the claims and requires the credentials to challenge the existing scientific ideas. The burden is his and his alone.

    If you want to perform operations on a person, you need med school and a license. It doesn’t matter how many medical books you read in your spare time, an amateur is still an amateur.

    You have to be a biologist to produce scientific studies on the subject of biology and submit such studies to professionally recognized peer review in order to be taken seriously on the subject. Anyone else is just a wannabe crank with delusions of their own abilities and knowledge.

    If you thought Nye intended on “setting the record straight” about evolution to this crowd, you were sorely mistaken. He knew it was a Creationist crowd. One unwilling to be lectured to or to grasp notions of the credibility of scientific metholodolgy. Nye came in there to show that science is not something to be avoided. Instead it was something which has its own wonders. Ones which bring tangible benefit to those who seek it. His attitude and fairly benign persona carried the day more than the facts he tried to recite.

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