The Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate in Pictures

Last Tuesday, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” debated the head of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, on the feasibility of creationism as a scientific explanation of the origins of life, the universe, and everything.  Nobody won, no one was convinced, and a sizable portion of the commentariat believed Nye just showing up gave Ham credibility he didn’t deserve.

You can watch the whole debate on YouTube. Right away, you’ll discover something odd.

Ken Ham doesn’t know what words mean.

Nye Debates Ken Ham YouTube Description

…or at least their connotations. Apologetics is an actual term for arguing rationally in favor of a controversial opinion, but in common parlance it’s usually applied by opponents, referring to someone defending the indefensible.

Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn.

Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn.

The debate opened with an animated commercial for the Creation Museum. The minute detail of the cartoon Ham wearing a lapel mic juxtaposed with the obvious unreality of a comet swooshing by and a Tyrannosaurus Rex contemplating eating him is exquisite. (Moments later, Ham cheekily directs Rexy back to his exhibit, and the terrible lizard roars and stomps away obediently.)

The moderator was clearly anxious to be parodied on SNL.

The moderator was clearly anxious to be parodied on SNL.

CNN’s Tom Foreman made awkward jokes, adopted Pixar’s lamp as his illumination source, and generally resembled Chris Parnell.

Nye and Ham didn’t disagree on everything.

Nye and Ham didn't disagree on everything.

Look at them both using the same brand of laptop. Gives you hope for humanity, doesn’t it?

Ken Ham doesn’t know what words mean (part 2).

Ken Ham doesn't know what words mean (part 2).

Ham’s presentation began with the claim that scientists are using the word “science” wrong. He later freely admitted that he worked backwards from the conclusion that the Bible’s account of six days of creation was literally true.

The past is kind of adorable.

The past is kind of adorable.

Look at the tiny little arms on that grinning T-Rex! And the embarrassingly long ones on the monkey! Ridiculous how anyone could think they’re related, right? The portrayal of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as grapes rather than an apple is an interesting choice, too, given the use of wine in Christian worship and the fact that grapes don’t actually grow on trees.

The Bible is a snake.

The Bible is a snake.

Okay, sure, it’s supposed to be that ribbon attached to old books to act as a placekeeper, but why the forked tongue? Are Ham’s illustrators trolling?

Bill Nye has major flair.

Bill Nye has major flair.

That’s clearly his personal MacBook, because it’s covered in stickers for NASA missions JUNO and MAVEN as well as the Save Our Science campaign of the Planetary Society, which Nye heads. He also wore two lapel pins: one with the logo of the Planetary Society and one rectangular green thing that one can only hope is not a Borg emblem. Oh, and that rock? He picked it up from the side of the road. It has a fossil in it. Science just follows this guy wherever he goes.

Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn (parts 2, 3, & 4).

Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn (part 3). Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn (part 3). Ken Ham likes having cartoons of himself drawn (part 4).

At least he cuts Nye in on the action some.

Bill Nye did not hire a graphic designer.

Nye did not hire a graphic designer. 19 20

At least I hope he didn’t. On one slide (which I have generously not included) he used Comic Sans.

Bill Nye has odd labeling priorities.

Nye has odd labeling priorities.

The point here is a very good one that I personally hadn’t thought of before: if the only animals surviving the great flood were on Noah’s ark, where’s the evidence of them moving to their current habitats? But if Nye explained his rationale for labeling nine random spots on the globe like Utah, Sweden, and Peru, I missed it.

Science is just plain neat.

Science is just plain neat. Science is just plain neat. Science is just plain neat.

We built giant telescopes to look farther and farther into space. We predicted cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang and built stuff to find that. We use the Earth’s change in position over the course of a year to analyze the minute apparent shift in star positions and measure how far away they are. Science, you rock.

Ken Ham has problems with scale.

Ken Ham has problems with scale.

Can anyone make sense of this timeline? 130 and 800 add up to 930, but I have no idea why they’re on this diagram. Maybe it wasn’t finished in time?

Ken Ham is a disturbed psychopath.

Ken Ham is a disturbed psychopath.

This slide was supposed to depict the absurdity of a universe where pain and suffering is natural, as opposed to the sensible, perfect world where death was only introduced as punishment for eating fruit. Instead, it’s clip art of a white man in a 1980s suit standing on a pile of blood and skulls being stalked by an alien vaguely resembling an ape.

Skeptical moderator is skeptical.

Skeptical moderator is skeptical.

Tom Foreman didn’t often have to cut Nye or Ham off; they were both remarkably cooperative in using only their allotted time for presentations and rebuttals. It must have been challenging staying neutral.

Science is just as revelatory to scientists as religion is to believers.

Science is just as revelatory to scientists as religion is to believers.

At one point Bill Nye acted out the Big Bang with his hands, and went “PSSSHH!” with his mouth. Then he did it again without sound because there’s no air in space to transmit sound. Look at how excited he is. Look at how much it thrills him to know not only how much we’ve discovered about the universe through hard work and dedication but how much we have yet to learn. How much does this guy love his job?

This debate wasn’t so much about secularism versus religion as it was science versus a very specific strain of young earth creationism. There’s nothing in evolutionary theory saying that there’s no god; it just doesn’t deal with the untestable. Nye said several times that “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer in science, and it is. Filling in supernatural explanations  cuts off the search for knowledge rather than satisfying it.


2 Comments on “The Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate in Pictures”

  1. This is, so far, the most fun thing I’ve read about the debate. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Mike says:

    If comic sans was good enough for the Higgs announcement then it is good enough for Bill Nye.


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