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"Tying Up Really Loose Ends" - The Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate Review by Jeff Miller

I've been using the high school level Truth Be Told textbook with Bible students to address the creation versus evolution issue. But I found something even better to read with college level friends. And if you know of something that tops even that, please let me know in the comments.

Click here to jump straight to the whole article, so interesting you will read all the way to the end. Or keep scrolling to read the first few paragraphs.


Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate Review: Tying Up Really Loose Ends

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Many have inquired about our thoughts on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate that took place on February 4th in Petersburg, Kentucky. Of course, we strongly disagree with Bill Nye’s contention that evolution is a viable model of origins, and wholeheartedly agree with Ken Ham’s proposition that Creation is a viable model of origins. However, we were disappointed in creationist Ken Ham’s decision to allow so many of Bill Nye’s questions and comments to go unanswered, thus leaving the impression that Nye’s points have merit or are unanswerable. In light of so many evidences, undeniable truths, and critical responses that were not brought to light that evening, I asked A.P. staff scientist, Dr. Jeff Miller, to prepare a response to Bill Nye’s assertions. These three men of science are certainly qualified to discuss these matters: Ham received a bachelor’s degree in applied science from the Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia and a diploma of education from the University of Queensland. Nye received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University. Dr. Miller holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Auburn University.]

In the debate on February 4, 2014, which is said to have been viewed by over three million people Tuesday night, and another two million plus on Wednesday (“Over Three Million Tuned In...,” 2014), Answers in Genesis creationist Ken Ham squared off against Bill Nye (known to many of us as “The Science Guy”). Nye challenged Ham with several questions which he believed to be pertinent to the Creation/evolution controversy (Nye and Ham, 2014). The debate topic centered on whether or not Creation is a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era. Without dragging the reader through a play-by-play analysis of the entire debate, we believe several of Nye’s questions and comments that were not addressed in the debate are worthy of attention. [NOTE: Ironically, although Ken Ham did not respond to several of Nye’s points, the Answers in Genesis Web site is replete with solid responses to the bulk of Nye’s arguments, as the references in this article will attest.]

Nye’s Defense of Naturalistic Evolution

First, we wish to highlight the fact that Nye inadvertently revealed some of the weaknesses and even impenetrable barriers that prohibit the naturalistic evolutionary model from being true. Keep in mind that, regardless of the legitimacy of any attacks on the Creation model, if naturalism contradicts the evidence, then the evidence remains in support of some form of supernaturalism. In truth, however, the evidence supports the Creation model.

Evolution is a Historical Science

While Ham did not adequately address many of Nye’s points, Nye was eloquently treated to a lesson on the difference between observational and historical science, proving that naturalistic evolution and origin studies fall under the historical science category. Nye was unable to refute this claim. Nobody has ever observed macroevolution (i.e., inter-kind evolution), abiogenesis (i.e., life from non-life), the spontaneous generation of natural laws (i.e., scientific laws that write themselves), a cause-less effect, or the spontaneous generation or eternality of matter—all of which are necessary under the evolutionary model. This lack of observation proves that evolution does not fall under the definition of science, as stated by the National Academy of Sciences: “The statements of science must invoke only natural things and processes. The statements of science are those that emerge from the application of human intelligence to data obtained from observation and experiment” (Teaching About Evolution…, 1998, p. 42, emp. added). Evolutionists are notorious for reasoning that the Creation model should not be taught in schools since it cannot be observed and, therefore, is not “science,” based on the naturalistic definition of the term. The fact that naturalistic evolution is also unobservable highlights that evolutionary theory is “faith-based” in the sense that direct evidence is lacking for several of its fundamental tenets. Instead of refuting that argument, Nye’s response was, “Mr. Ham, I learned something. Thank you.” Our response: if you do not have an adequate response to that argument, and if Creation does not belong in the science classroom because many of its fundamental tenets were not observed, then evolution does not belong in the classroom either.

In truth, whichever model is the best inference from the evidence should be the one used in the classroom, even if all of its tenets were not necessarily “observed”: Creation or evolution (or some other model). There is, however, a fundamental difference between Creation and evolution. The evidence actually stands against naturalism, since we know from science, for example, that abiogenesis and the origin of matter/energy from nothing (or the eternality of matter) cannot happen naturally. Those phenomena are required by naturalism. One cannot be a naturalist and yet believe in unnatural things like such phenomena without contradicting himself. The component logical fallacy called contradictory premises (or a logical paradox) occurs when one establishes “a premise in such a way that it contradicts another, earlier premise” (Wheeler, 2014). For example:

  • Premise One—Evolution is a naturalistic origin model.
  • Premise Two—Evolution requires abiogenesis and other unnatural phenomena.

If evolution is purely naturalistic, can it involve unnatural phenomena and still be consistent?

On the other hand, though the creation of the Universe and the Flood cannot be observed today, the evidence points to their historical reality indirectly. In the same way forensic scientists can enter a scene, gather evidence, and determine what happened, when it happened, how it happened, who did it, and many times, why he did it—all without actually witnessing the event—humans can examine the evidence and conclude that the Universe was created. Bottom line: it is clear, regardless of the model you choose, that something happened in the beginning that was unnatural, or as Nye insinuated, “magical.” How is Creation far-fetched, as the naturalists believe, in comparison to a model that espouses magic—with no magician?

Flawed Evolutionary Dating Techniques

Conflicting Dates from a Fossilized Forest

When the research of geologist Andrew Snelling was discussed as proof that uniformitarian dating techniques are fundamentally flawed, Nye was not able to offer an adequate response. In the research, fossilized wood from deep within the Earth under Australia was carbon dated to be about 37,500 years old, while the basalt rock encompassing the wood was dated using the K-Ar method to be some 47.5 million years old (2000), though both the rock and the wood should have been the same age. [NOTE: Carbon dating is used to date organic materials, while the K-Ar method and others are used to date inorganic materials (rocks).] Nye’s attempt to explain the problem using plate tectonics was quickly refuted by Ham when he pointed out that the basalt was not above the forest, but was encompassing the forest. Nye did not respond. Snelling’s research stands as evidence against the validity of evolutionary dating techniques which Nye could not refute. The Creation model has no problem with this research, since it does not rely on uniformitarian dating techniques. [NOTE: Uniformitarianism is the evolutionary assumption that “events of the geologic past can be explained by phenomena observable today” (McGraw-Hill Dictionary..., 2003, p. 2224). Creationists believe that catastrophism is a better model for interpreting the geologic column. Catastrophism is the idea that most “features in the Earth were produced by occurrence of sudden, short-lived, worldwide events” (McGraw-Hill..., p. 342).]

Assumptions and Evolution

Nye claimed that we can know with certainty the age of the Universe based on the present. The problem with that argument for the naturalist is that since no one was there at the beginning to observe what happened or when it happened, no naturalist can actually know, as Nye claimed. Instead, assumptions have to be made by the naturalist in order to try to surmise what may have happened—namely that conditions today were also present in the past (i.e., uniformitarianism). That is quite a presumptuous assumption to be sure. Creationists argue that assumptions such as uniformitarianism and those of radiometric dating techniques are faulty and disprove the validity of those techniques (e.g., Miller, 2013a; Morris, 2011, pp. 48-71). In response, Nye said:

When people make assumptions based on radiometric dating; when they make assumptions about the expanding Universe; when they make assumptions about the rate at which genes change in populations of bacteria in laboratory growth media; they’re making assumptions based on previous experience. They’re not coming out of whole cloth.

First, we find it ironic that Nye so strongly supports evolutionary assumptions, arguing that they are valid because they are based on “previous experience.” Nobody has ever observed macroevolution, abiogenesis, the spontaneous generation of natural laws, a cause-less effect, or the spontaneous generation or eternality of matter, and yet these absurd notions are assumed under the evolutionary model. In the debate, Nye even verbally admitted that the evolutionary model has no explanation for how consciousness could come from matter. He said, “Don’t know. This is a great mystery.” In truth, of course he cannot know, because the evidence from nature says that it cannot happen naturally. His evolutionary model prohibits it (Miller, 2012b), and yet he ignores that evidence. Concerning the origin of matter, he also admitted, “This is the great mystery. You’ve hit the nail on the head…. What was before the Big Bang? This is what drives us. This is what we wanna know!” Again, the naturalistic model prohibits the eternality or spontaneous generation of matter (Miller, 2013b), though one of them had to happen under the naturalistic model. So of course it’s “a great mystery” how it could happen. In truth, it cannot happen naturally. Nature has spoken, and yet Nye and his colleagues reject the evidence in favor of their closed-minded bias towards naturalism.

These are significant questions that evolution cannot answer and that cannot be brushed aside as he attempted to do. They must be answered by the naturalist before naturalistic evolution can even be a possibility—before it should even be allowed to be taught. Without a legitimate explanation, evolution is no different from a fictional story. Life had to come from non-life naturally in the evolutionary model, and matter had to come from somewhere, and yet the evolutionist ignores those problems as though they are irrelevant and assumes there’s a naturalistic explanation for them without any evidence substantiating that assumption.

In truth, all “previous experience” in science says that none of those things (i.e., macroevolution, abiogenesis, the spontaneous generation of natural laws, a cause-less effect, or the spontaneous generation or eternality of matter) can happen. The questions that Nye and his colleagues consider “a mystery” are not really mysteries. Science has spoken on those matters and concluded that they are impossible under the naturalistic model. There are scientific laws which prove that truth (see Miller, 2013c). Accepting those things as possible flies in the face of the scientific evidence and is tantamount to a blind faith in evolution. Evolution is a fideistic religion that ignores the evidence. It has no foundation, since the evidence contradicts its foundational premises. The Creation model, on the other hand, has no problem with the evidence. The Creation model harmonizes with the evidence on all counts and only disagrees with the evolutionary interpretation of the evidence.

That said, we have no problem with the idea that present observations can be useful today and even useful in some ways for the past—but within careful limits. If it is true that, for example, the nuclear decay rates are not a simple constant, but instead are variable, depending upon environmental conditions which could have been significantly different in the past due to catastrophic events like the Flood, then it would be naïve and erroneous to make age estimates of any rock without considering the possibility of such fluctuations.
“[M]aking assumptions based on previous experience” would be incorrect since that “previous experience” did not include the Flood.

In his book, The Young Earth, Creation geologist John Morris documents modern research which casts serious doubt on several of the assumptions of evolutionary dating techniques, especially the assumption of constant nuclear decay rates (2011; see also DeYoung, 2005). For example, research by a team of scientists (known as RATE) that was presented at the International Conference on Creationism in 2003, indicates that the nuclear decay rates have not always been constant (Humphreys, et al., 2003). The RATE team had several zircon crystals dated by expert evolutionists using the uranium-lead evolutionary dating technique and found them to be 1.5 billion years old, assuming a constant decay rate. A by-product of the breakdown of uranium into lead is helium. Content analysis of the crystals revealed that large amounts of helium were found to be present. However, if the crystals were as old as the dating techniques suggested, there should have been no trace of helium left, since helium atoms are known to be tiny, light, unreactive, and able to easily escape from the spaces within the crystal structure. The presence of helium and carbon-14 showed that the rocks were actually much younger (4,000 to 14,000 years old) than the dating techniques alleged. Since these zircons were taken from the Precambrian basement granite in the Earth, an implication of the find is that the whole Earth could be no older than 4,000 to 14,000 years old. The results of the crystal dating indicate that 1.5 billion years’ worth of radioactive decay, based on the uniformitarian constant decay rate assumption, occurred in only a few thousand years. How could such a thing be possible? How can the two dating techniques be reconciled? By understanding that the rate of decay of uranium into lead must have been different—much higher—in the past. This research simply cannot be ignored by any serious, honest scientist. If the Creation model is true, then modern, historical science should be reconsidered and completely revised.

Concerning the creationist stance that nuclear decay rates were different in the past, Nye further said:

So this idea, that you can separate the natural laws of the past from the natural laws that we have now, I think, is at the heart of our disagreement. I don’t, I don’t see how we’re ever going to agree with that if you insist that natural laws have changed. It’s, for lack of a better word, it’s magical. And I have appreciated magic since I was a kid, but it’s not really what we want in conventional, mainstream science…. I encourage you to explain to us why, why we should accept your word for it that natural law changed just 4,000 years ago. Completely. And there’s no record of it.

First keep in mind that three significant assumptions that underlie dating techniques were mentioned by Ham to Nye, and Nye completely ignored two of them (i.e., that radiometric dating techniques assume a specimen was originally completely composed of a parent element, which would yield incorrect dates if daughter elements were present in a specimen from its creation. Such initial conditions would be predicted in the Creation model. The other assumption he ignored was that the specimen was completely isolated throughout its lifetime, and therefore unaffected by outside phenomena—a closed system. See Miller, 2013a for a discussion on these dating technique assumptions.). We believe they were left completely unanswered because they would be impossible for him to refute.

Second, it should be firmly understood that we would not argue that the natural laws of the past have changed. That, in fact, is a requirement of the evolutionary model, not the Creation model. The Law of Biogenesis, for example, would have to be “changed” in the past in order for naturalistic evolution to get started since all evidence indicates that life comes only from life in nature (Miller, 2012b). The Laws of Thermodynamics would have to be “changed” in the past in order to account for the origin of matter and energy, since all of the scientific evidence indicates that energy cannot be eternal and/or cannot spontaneously generate (Miller, 2013b). The Law of Causality would have to be “changed” in the past in order to account for the Universe not having a cause (Miller, 2011b). It seems that we should be challenging Mr. Nye instead: “I encourage you to explain to us why, why we should accept your word for it that natural law changed billions of years ago. Completely. And there’s no record of it. It’s, for lack of a better word, magical.”

The creationist does not argue that the laws of nature changed in the past regarding decay rates, but rather, that decay is subject to a more complex law or equation than the one being assumed today. If nuclear decay rates fluctuate based on conditions resulting from certain catastrophic events, then if all of those conditions were met today, we would argue that the same results would still occur today. In other words, the “law” for decay rates is still the same today, but is merely misunderstood and needs to be modified to be more robust. It should be able to account for the unusual effects of catastrophic activity before applying it to the past. [NOTE: While the creationist does not argue that scientific laws have ever “changed,” he would argue that laws have been temporarily suspended in the past during God’s supernatural activities (Miller, 2003). The evolutionists, however, are in the unenviable position of having to explain, not only how a law could come into existence, but how it could be re-written without a Writer.]

Energy from the Sun for Evolution

The audience asked Nye the question, “How do you balance the Theory of Evolution with the Second Law of Thermodynamics?...

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