By Phil Plait
In 2014, popular science communicator Bill Nye “debated” creationist Ken Ham in a live webcast on YouTube. The event went pretty much as expected; Nye presented levelheaded evidence that science works, that evolution is real, and the Universe is very old, while Ham used bad logic, cherry-picking, and blatant twisting of scientific claims.
At the time (and still today) I think Nye made the right decision to participate in the event. Ham runs the Answers in Genesis ministry, and also the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and is well-known for his outrageous statements. It might seem silly to elevate the debate by paying any attention at all to Ham, but that ignores the fact that polls consistently show that half of the American population believes in some form of creationism.
We ignore this at our own peril.
Debating creationists is slippery. When your opponent doesn’t have to adhere to facts or logic, it’s tricky to find traction. My friend Zach Weinersmith once wrote that it’s not that most creationists are anti-evolution, it’s that they’re anti-some distorted version of it told to them by their pastors.
He’s completely correct. That became even clearer to me when, shortly after the debate, BuzzFeed posted an article called “22 Messages From Creationists to People Who Believe in Evolution”. It was clear from the questions asked that the creationists involved had no idea about how evolution—even science itself—worked. The questions were universally based on false premises, a distortion of the science that made it actually pretty easy to answer those supposedly “gotcha” queries.
So I did answer them, in a post titled “Answers for Creationists.” I politely, but firmly, answered the questions posed, with links to expert sources if anyone wanted to dig a little deeper. It became one of my most popular articles of all time.
But as Zach pointed out, while these questions have been answered countless times, they still get asked. Why? The answer is obvious: Because the people asking those questions are still getting their information from people like Ken Ham who refuse to listen to anything science has to say and who still propagate falsehoods.
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