February 5, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Fact Checkers, Spin Doctors Go to Work After Creation Debate

Neither side feels their champion scored a clear victory in the creation debate.  Now it’s time to evaluate who had the better facts and logic under fire.

Here is a sampling of opinion after the widely-publicized debate Feb. 4 between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.

USA Today provided a fairly neutral analysis of the two debaters’ major points, including video excerpts.

Supporters of Ken Ham

Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis views it as a “historic moment for the creation movement.”  Over 3 million tuned in, an AIG press release says.

Answers in Genesis posted a follow-up video with Ken Ham, looking upbeat, discussing the debate with AIG scientist Georgia Purdom.  He provides more clarity about what he said and meant to say.

Kent Hovind of Creation Today had a booth behind the debate hall, where he recorded a post-debate show on YouTube.  Historian Terry Mortenson (AIG) and astronomer Danny Faulkner joined in, pointing out Ham’s strong points, Nye’s weak points, and specific rebuttals to some of Nye’s scientific claims that Ken Ham lacked time to address.

Creation Ministries International‘s review includes a list of scientific rebuttals to some of Bill Nye’s claims.

The Discovery Institute called the debate a missed opportunity, and said that the debate avoided intelligent design.  Dr. Michael Egnor, however, appreciates Ken Ham’s openness about his assumptions, and discounts the scientific validity of naturalistic assumptions.

A writer for Uncommon Descent provided scientific support for some of the geological evidence against long ages.

Cross Examined thought Ken Ham put the cart before the horse by arguing Biblical authority to a secular audience instead of disposing of naturalism first.

WND gave Ken Ham the edge, pointing out what Nye admitted he didn’t know.

Al Mohler analyzed Nye’s reference to the “reasonable man” as not an unbiased rhetorical device.

Tony Perkins at Family Research Council turned attention to God’s moral law, saying it isn’t really a question of the incompatibility of creation and science.  He urges parents to watch the debate with children, in order to teach them to be “able to respond with confidence and authority” to Nye’s assertions.

Supporters of Bill Nye

Live Science reported the debate, encouraging people to watch and describing the history of evolution debates.  Most surprising was their less-than-flattering description of Bill Nye’s performance as “not a total disaster.

National Geographic‘s headline was, “Bill Nye and Ken Ham Debated Creationism—But Did They Change Anyone’s Mind?”

The Daily Beast was very critical of Nye, calling the debate a “disaster for science.”

On The Guardian: Liberty Voice, Rebecca Savastio gave a blow-by-blow synopsis and concluded Bill Nye clearly won, because he presented a lot of scientific evidence, but Ham presented mostly belief in the Bible.

Jeremy Pritchard (U of Birmingham) wrote a typical anti-creationist rant on The Conversation, referring to the debate.  Sample of his attitude:

The patterns that weave through the natural world scream of evolution, extinctions, diseases and dead-ends, but also of intriguing solutions and wonderful designs from molecular motors to the efficiency of bird flight. These were not created but thrown together from a rag bag of historical left overs to ensure that the possessor was not perfect, but the best, the fittest, at that time and that place. There is no direction, no progression, no perfection but instead a wonderfully simple process as each generation runs as fast as it can to stay ahead of competition, predators and pathogens. Evolution may be going nowhere but it is better to travel in hope than to arrive.

Many anti-creation sites mentioned that they advise against debating creationists.  The NCSE has a standing policy against debates, because they feel it only gives a platform for their ideological enemies.  Ken Ham and his supporters hope that the publicity will open some minds and get people thinking.  One thing was undeniable: a lot of people were tuned in.

Many have written in and shared similar sentiments to our mixed feelings about the debate performance.  We hope that in the aftermath, with the personality issues fading from memory, the facts will be clarified with details and references, so that it will become clear who really had the better scientific information.  What AIG needs to do (and appears to be doing) is to rush its supporting documentation to press as far and wide as possible, to clarify points that were not rhetorically effective, and to expose the factual errors and illogic Nye employed.  Ken should also be honest about what he wishes he would have said, and should have said, instead of spinning the debate as a total victory (which it was not).  He portrays his performance more positively than it came across to many listeners, even some supportive ones.  The debate can still be rescued for good in at least two ways: (1) clarification of any lingering doubts about the science, and (2) use as a training video on how to improve debates against fast-talking Darwinians.  In the final analysis, all viewers should keep in mind that, as in a court of law, it’s not the flair of the lawyer that should sway the jury, but his evidence.


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  • tjguy says:

    Agree with your thoughts on Ken’s portrayal of this as a total victory! I watched his follow up talk with Dr. Purdom and was disappointed that the first five minutes were all about Ken was top trending on Twitter and Facebook, how the website got so many hits and how popular the debate was. I felt like they were just blowing their own horn. It gave the impression they only did it for press coverage like the atheists claim. Purdom even said something about it being more popular than the Super Bowl. That was a totally unfair comparison. I was very disappointed by that.

    It would have been nice to see some humility and more honestly evaluate his performance!

  • Insectman says:

    It’s tough to know the heart of a man, but I can see the possibility of fund raising as a motivation (at least in part) by AiG.

  • Pastor Mark says:

    I have watched a number of debates with Kent Hovind. There are many reasons why Kent could not have done this debate, not least is going to jail for tax fraud. However, one thing Kent always did is argue the facts. He typically creamed evolutionists on the facts.

    There was one tactic (not discussed yet) that evolutionists used successfully on Ken and Kent both. When answering any question they would finish by asking the creationist for answers on something or other. Of course the creationists cannot respond because the moderator then asks the creationist the next question. This tactic of asking a question at the end of their turn, with no possibility of response, made it “appear” as if the creationists were hiding and leaving unanswered questions.

    Someone needs to come up with a way to handle this tactic. This dirty tactic is still used and viewers are unaware it is deliberate and it is dirty. Perhaps one example would be

    “Mr moderator, before I answer this question, my opponent just finished with a question, knowing that the flow of the debate process does not allow me to answer. I would ask you to allow me to answer when he does this, before giving me the next question. Otherwise My esteemed opponent should get more spine and have the courtesy to ask the question when he knows I have an opportunity to reply.”

    Yes, debates can be tricky. Older debaters like Dwayne Gish knew the tricks. This was only Ham’s second debate and he is not seasoned to the tricks and tactics of debates.

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