Bill Nye is a science educator. Ken Ham is a science obfuscator. The two together on one stage could go one of two directions for Bill Nye (the science guy). That direction will depend upon how Bill Bill Bill approaches the – shall we say – discussion.
First things first: there is no debate. Evolution is true. Evolution is taught in grade schools, primary schools, colleges and universities the world over because it’s real. Evolution is at the foundation of modern biology because it’s real. Evolution explains why there is an “R” in MRSA because bacteria developing a resistance to antibiotics is bacteria evolving, ergo, evolution is real. Evolution explains the fossil record, because fossils are real. Evolution explains vestigial features, because vestigial features are real. I could go on, but please understand this, there is no controversy. In fact, suggesting there is given what we know, is absurd.
And that is why Bill is in dangerous territory. Many pro-science writers such as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and Peter Boghossian have built articulate cases for why it’s a bad idea to get science on the same stage with creationism. They argue, quite correctly, that just the appearance of equality might give creationist activists enough confidence to dust off their snake oil and try yet again. That said, the NCSE, the FFRF, and others are forever thwarting attempts by biblical fundamentalist lawmakers to back-door Adam and Eve in to science curricula. So while this “debate” may arm some creationists with one or two fancy-sounding yet fatally flawed sound-bites, the gazing populace of creationist yokels will nonetheless continue to pop up irrespective of what is said on stage between Bill and Ken.
Now, if Bill Nye chooses to go toe to toe with Ken Ham’s apologetics smoke screen, he may struggle. There is only so much evidence and reason one can reference if the other party is not interested in respecting evidence and reason. But that is precisely the type of cognitive dysfunction that Bill Nye can exploit to “win” in the lion’s den that is the Creation Museum, where this “debate” is taking place. Bill needs to connect with the rational minds of the viewers and audience – for each of them have such a mind buried in there somewhere. Bill needs to start making people feel uncomfortable when they hear their truth claims couched in terms of the ridiculous and absurd. If Bill can do this, he might be able to put cracks in the creationist facade.
Above all, this is an educational opportunity for science. Bill Nye is talking about dinosaurs while Ken Ham is talking about dragons. Bill Nye is talking about astronomy. Ken Ham is talking about astrology. Bill Nye is talking about medicine. Ken Ham is talking about witches’ brew. Bill Nye is talking about evolution. Ken Ham is talking about creationism.
Bill must plant in the minds of listeners at the outset, that science is based on evidence and that evidence is based on what’s real. He must remind people that wishing something to be true, does not by itself, make that something true. Finally, Bill must do what he does best: educate. If he chooses to go toe to toe with apologetics pugilism, he will lose. Ken Ham will preach. Ken Ham will reference Bible verses as scientific evidence and there will be hundreds of unnerving, cultish “amens” from the audience. Bill must remind audience members that there’s a difference between reality and make-believe. He must remind what surely will be a pro-creationist audience that science is something each of them rely on every single day. And then finally, Bill will need to explain the facts. If he does all this, he might just come out ahead in spite of the justified angst that surrounds this “debate.”
Just like Daniel, he may emerge from the lion’s den unscathed.