Ham on Nye: Our Take

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February 5, 2014 Tags: Christian Unity, Science & Worldviews, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Emily Ruppel, Deborah Haarsma, Jim Stump, John Walton, Dennis Venema, and Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Ham on Nye: Our Take

Those who follow the activities of BioLogos—including seekers, scholars, scientists, and pastors—probably won’t be surprised that we haven’t been too optimistic about the potential consequences of yesterday’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. As scientists and science aficionados, we’ve been concerned that the rhetoric employed by Ham would seem to undercut the validity of evolutionary theory for those without a strong grasp on the body of evidence supporting it. As Christians, we’ve worried that our faith will be presented to the world as a tree with only one branch, rather than a rich community of believers with diverse views on origins and God’s ongoing relationship to creation.

But perhaps even more distressingly, we’ve anticipated that one of the lasting effects of this debate will be to further alienate Christianity from science in the public consciousness. As BioLogos president Deb Haarsma wrote recently, constant struggle, argumentation, and debate about worldviews is not the only way to view the relationship between science and faith!

So who won? How did it go?

Of course, we at BioLogos agreed with both debaters at various times throughout the debate and were pleased to note an atmosphere of (mostly) civility and courtesy between both parties. It’s impossible to encapsulate two and a half hours of intense conversation in a single blog post—and only time will tell what effect this event will have on the public conversation on creation and evolution. We anticipate much commentary in news and blog outlets in the coming days regarding who “won” the debate and what was said by both debaters.

Since we are more concerned with how this event will affect the acceptance of evolution in the evangelical community and the accurate representation of what a Bible-believing Christian looks like to the general public, our response to the debate is not a blow-by-blow of the arguments made but rather a series of “big picture” reflections by BioLogos scholars.

Jim Stump photoFrom Jim Stump, Content Manager:

The question of the debate was whether creation is a viable model for explaining origins. Not surprisingly, they disagreed. Perhaps part of the reason for that was that the question was not specific enough: Viable for what? Viable for whom? Young Earth Creationism is certainly viable for millions of Christians. It’s not viable for millions of other Christians. From both sides we heard a lot about what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. But “reasonable” like “viable” is a relational term. Individual claims like the age of the earth or the reality of miracles seem reasonable or unreasonable only against a backdrop of other beliefs. If Ham’s interpretation of the Bible is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think the universe is billions of years old. So no amount of evidence about the age of the universe will convince him otherwise. The argument instead needs to focus on his interpretation of Scripture before he’ll even consider the science. If Nye’s naturalism is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think that God has any role in the world today. So no amount of quoting Bible verses to him will be effective. Perhaps his concerns about suffering and Christian exclusivism need to be addressed before he’ll even consider a Christian view of creation.

At BioLogos we are not just seeking to defend what seems reasonable to us, but we’re seeking truth from Scripture and from the natural world to form a coherent picture of God’s action in the world.

Ted Davis photoFrom Ted Davis, Fellow for the History of Science:

A central point of the debate was whether the historical sciences are actually “sciences” in the legitimate sense, or somehow distinct from observational and experimental sciences. Are a young earth and old earth equally valid views? These issues were addressed in my 2012 online course “Science and the Bible”, which gave an overview of several “viable models” held by Christians about origins. Particularly relevant are the discussions of the development of the young earth creationism movement and of the principle of accommodation for interpreting Genesis 1.

John Walton photoFrom John Walton, BioLogos advisor:

In general I appreciated the cordial and respectful tone that both debaters evidenced. Most of the debate was about scientific evidence, which I am not the one to address. The only comment that I want to make in that regard is that it was evident that Ken Ham believed that all evolutionists were naturalists—an identification that those associated with BioLogos would strongly contest.

But both speakers also showed assumptions about the Bible that provide opportunity for analysis. Bill Nye repeatedly returned to the idea that the Bible was a book translated over and over again over thousands of years. In his opinion this results in a product that could be no more trusted than the end result in the game of telephone. In this opinion he shows his lack of clear understanding of the whole process of the transmission of texts and the textual basis for today’s translations. The point he should have been making is that any translation is an interpretation. That is the point on which to contest Ken Ham’s “natural” readings of Scripture. We cannot base the details of our interpretations on translated (and therefore interpreted) text. We have to interact with a Hebrew text, not an English one. Nye also tried to drive a wedge between Old Testament and New Testament—a non-productive direction. The point he was trying to get at, but never fully exploited was how dependent Ham’s position was on interpretation.

I commend Ken Ham’s frequent assertion of the gospel message. His testimony to his faith was admirable and of course, I agree with it. I also share his beliefs about the nature of the Bible, but I do not share his interpretation of the Bible on numerous key points. From the opening remarks Ham proclaimed that his position was based on the biblical account of origins. But he is intent on reading that account as if it were addressing science (he truly believes it is). I counter by saying that we cannot have a confident understanding of what the Bible claims until we read it as an ancient document. I believe as he does that the Bible was given by God, but it was given through human instruments into an ancient culture and language. We can only encounter the Bible’s claims by taking account of that context.

One place where this distinction was obvious was that Ham tried to make the statement in Genesis that God created each animal “after its kind” as a technical statement that matched our modern scientific categories. We cannot assume that the same categories were used in the ancient world as are used today (genus, family, species, etc.). Such anachronism does not take the Bible seriously as what it “naturally” says. In the Bible this only means that when a grain of wheat drops, a grain of wheat grows (not a flower); when a horse gives birth, it gives birth to a horse, not a coyote.

The fact is that Ken Ham rejects scientific findings because he believes the Bible offers claims that contradict science. He believes that he can add up the genealogies to arrive at the need for a young earth. He never stops to ask whether it is “natural” to read ancient genealogies in that way. In the ancient world genealogies serve a very different function than they do today, and numbers may well have rhetorical rather than strictly numerical value. He believes that there could be no death before the fall because he has interpreted the word “good” as if it meant “perfect.” That is not what the Hebrew term means. Furthermore, if there was no death before the fall, people would have little use for a tree of life. What is a “natural” interpretation—our sense of what it means or the sense that an ancient reader would have had? Ham actually made the statement that we have to read the Bible “according to the type of literature” that it is. Yet it was clear that he has done no research on ancient genres and how parts of the Bible should be identified by the standards of ancient genres (after all, our genre categories are bound to carry some anachronism and therefore cannot be applied directly). Reading the Bible “naturally” cannot be approached as casually as Ham suggests.

When Ham was asked what it would take to change his mind, he was lost for words because he said that he could never stop believing in the truth of the Bible. I would echo that sentiment, but it never seemed to occur to him that there might be equally valid interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis, or maybe even ones that could garner stronger support. He stated that no one can prove the age of the earth, but he believes that the Bible tells us the age of the earth. Nevertheless, it is only his highly debatable interpretation of the Bible that tells him the age of the earth. What if the Bible makes no such claim? There are biblical scholars who take the Bible every bit as seriously as he does, who disagree that the Bible makes a claim about the age of the earth.

In the end, then, while Ham kept challenging Nye about whether he was there to see this history that he claimed, Nye should have been challenging Ham about what makes him so certain that the Bible is making the claims that he thinks it is. What appears to Ham as a “natural” reading, is extremely debatable if one attempts to read the text of Genesis as the (God-inspired) ancient document that it is.

Dennis Venema photoFrom Dennis Venema, Fellow of Biology:

I was surprised that Nye did not delve into genetics– I was hoping for a good discussion of genomic comparisons between humans and other species, for example. Modern comparative genomics is one very strong line of evidence for evolution in general, and human evolution in particular – and one that I have written about extensively on the BioLogos Forum. So, from my perspective it would have been nice to see Nye press Ham with this evidence. For example, why do humans, as placental mammals, have the defective, fragmentary remains of gene for making egg yolk in our genome exactly where one would predict it to be based on examining the genomes of egg-laying organisms? Why is it that we share many mutations in this defective gene with other placental mammals, to say nothing of the many other defective genes with the same pattern of shared mutations? Did the exact same mutations happen over and over again in many distinct species (species that even Ham would agree are separate “kinds”) or did those mutations happen once and then were inherited by species that later went their separate ways? This line of evidence could have been brought to bear to show how compelling the case for human evolution is when looking at our genome and further highlight, as Nye did, that evolutionary biology is a predictive science – a theory in the scientific sense. This would have also shown that Ham’s position – that of independently created “kinds” of organisms – has no support at all from a comparative genomics perspective. As such, it’s not surprising that Ham didn’t bring it up, but I expected Nye to do so, and to argue it forcefully.

The only discussion of genetics was a brief mention of the work of Richard Lenski, a microbiologist who has been performing a decades-long experiment on the evolution of bacteria (E. coli) in his laboratory. One key result of the Lenski experiment was to catch an evolutionary innovation “in the act” and then tease out the many genetic changes that were required for it. Specifically, Lenski and his colleagues documented the basis for the bacteria to acquire a new function – the ability to utilize the compound citrate as a carbon source in the presence of oxygen. The genetic details of how this new function arose are complex and fascinating, and certainly not the simple case, as Ken Ham claimed, that “nothing new” had arisen and that it was merely the case that “a gene that was previously present was suddenly switched on”. Indeed, this is a well-documented case of a new function, with new genetic information, arising through evolutionary mechanisms – and one that I have written about extensively for those interested in this fascinating story.

Despite these particulars, overall I had the general feeling what is really needed for the conversation on evolution among brothers and sisters in Christ is twofold. First and foremost, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of the Bible, especially the Ancient Near Eastern context and setting of the original audience of Genesis (for which I am glad for the work of others with expertise in that area, such as my colleague John Walton). Secondly, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of how science works in general, and specifically how the lines of evidence for evolution converge on a robust picture of how God used this means to bring about biodiversity on earth. While I am of little help with the first point, the second is the goal of the Evolution Basics series I have been writing for the last year. This series is intended to bring the average layperson “up to speed” on evolution – a resource that I hope will be useful for many who watched the debate and came away with questions.

Deb Haarsma photoFrom Deb Haarsma, President of BioLogos:

While the debate pitted two extreme positions against one another, I was glad to hear references to other options. Bill Nye repeatedly pointed out that many religious people, including Christians, accept the evidence for evolution and the age of the earth. Nye even mentioned our founder, Francis Collins! Ken Ham pointed out that the scientific method grew out of the Christian context of medieval Europe and that the faith is in harmony with the process of science. He even shared a love of technology with Nye! But several times we here at the office groaned in frustration, like when Ken Ham made false scientific arguments or Bill Nye turned to science to answer questions of meaning and purpose. When Ken Ham was asked something like “If science were to show conclusively that the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe in the historical Jesus?” I wished he would have simply said “yes.” Our belief in the Bible and Jesus is more fundamental than our views on science. When Bill Nye referred to religion as a source of social connection and comfort for millions, I wished that he had a deeper understanding of what Christianity is all about. Our faith is much more than a social club; it’s about absolute truth and salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The highlight of the night for me? Seeing people discover the resources at BioLogos from our tweets during the debate.


As Web Editor, Emily Ruppel oversees the editorial content of the BioLogos website, including working with our many guest authors for our blog. She received a master’s degree in science writing from MIT and a bachelor’s degree in English from Bellarmine University. Since graduating MIT, she has worked as the Associate Director of Communications for the American Scientific Affiliation, where her favorite activity is editing and publishing God and Nature magazine, and as a freelance writer.
Deborah Haarsma serves as President of The BioLogos Foundation, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.
Jim Stump has served as the Content Manager at BioLogos since August 2013. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates the existing content. Jim's PhD is in philosophy from Boston University where he wrote a dissertation on the history and philosophy of science. He is the author (with Chad Meister) of Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010) and the editor (with Alan Padgett) of the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Jim is a frequent speaker at churches and other groups on topics at the intersection of science and Christianity.
John Walton is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois and an editor and writer of Old Testament comparative studies and commentaries. Throughout his research, Walton has focused his attention on comparing the culture and literature of the Bible and the ancient Near East. He has published dozens of books, articles and translations, both as writer and editor, including his latest book The Lost World of Genesis One.
Dennis Venema is Fellow of Biology for The BioLogos Foundation and associate professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signalling.
Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #84530

February 15th 2014


Forgive me for overlooking some  of what you wrote above.  The thing is that I do not agree that the Ten Commandments are written late so I disagree that “we KNOW” this.  As far as I am concerned this is dead wrong so the basis of your whole concern is without foundation as far as I can tell. 

As far as I am concerned P was Davidic, not post-exilic.  Davidic makes sense because of the building the Temple and the writing down of the Torah would go hand in hand.  We know they had the written Torah during the time of the Kingdom, so how could it be post exilic?    

The Semitic myths cited were part of Semitic long before the exile as far as I know. 

Hanan D - #84560

February 18th 2014

Roger, let’s try this again

It is irrelevant if it is pre or post exile. All that is irrelevant is what the text says. Now, let us look at Exodus. Exodus, unlike Deut. is actually recording God himself talking, not Moses delivering a follow up sermon. Now, in Exodus, it is recording that God himself says that he is giving the Sabbath as an Eternal sign BECAUSE he created the world in six days. Now, we know this to be untrue. We also know that the creation story is from Babylonian sources much later. The whole description of the cosmos matches what we see in other ancient sources. 

So now you are left with some options

1) God gave that commandment with that justification. If that is the case, God is a liar, since we know that that creation story is not true. And since God cannot lie, he did not give it. 

2) God did not give anything

3) God gave the commandment minus the justification and some brave priest decided to put words in God’s mouth. 


And regarding what you said earlier: That the bible is not the word of God, but Jesus is. Well, I would bet dollar for dollar that Jesus believed that the Torah WAS the word of God. That if you had the chance to ask him, he would tell you the Torah is the dictated Document from God to Moses. I mean, if you asked him why did he keep the Sabbath, what would he say? Did Jesus know that it was just a priest? And also, since you Roger, know that the Torah is a compiliation for JEPD, does that mean you are smarter than Jesus, because I can assure you, he had no idea about that. 

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84531

February 15th 2014

Lou wrote:

Also, as you know, there were lots of sparring Christian sects at the beginning, as evidenced by frequent references to them by Paul and others. The sect that won out declared the others as heresies.

Yes and No, but mainly No.  Of course there were different ideas about the meaning of the Christ event at the beginning, just as there are different ideas about most things.

However the word sect indicates an organized group which was not true in the beginning.  Later different groups did come into existence and their ideas were debated in Ecumenical Councils.

Your comment indicated that you think that these questions were not settled by determining the truth of these ideas, but by political power.  You are entitled to your opinion, but my opinion and others is very different.

There was much discussion then and throughout the history of the Church of the theological and moral issues discussed then.  We do have the Gnostic writings which still do not stand up to rational scrutiny.   

Now for those whose believe that the only the physical exists, there can be no metaphysical truth, because nothing beyond the physical exists.  However the problem is that truth concerning good and evil, right and wrong are metaphysical, not scientific.

You are right.  Christian truth is not based upon objective reality.  Whether Jesus Christ is the Messiah and He arose from the dead cannot be proven “objective” witness. even though Paul was an objective witness.

The evidence for Christianity is both rational and experiential as it is for science.  People who reject either the rational aspect of Christianity or the experiential are mistaken.  Those who reject either the rational or the experiential side of science are wrong also.

Physical monism does not effectively taken into account the experience of good, joy, peace, hatred, etc. because these are spiritual values.  It is also true that while we can experience nature, people cannot understand nature without the rational, which is not physical, but mental.

It does not make sense to discuss the spiritual with those who reject the existence of the spiritual.  Again there is no lack of evidence that the spiritual exists, that values and morals are important, that life is not good or rational, but for those who think that only the physical exists, all these are purely subjective.

The Church is also at fault for clinging to an outdated philosophy which is illsuited to the needs of the world and its own needs.         


Lou Jost - #84533

February 15th 2014

Roger, values and morals can be important even if they are not imposed from above by a god.

Lou Jost - #84532

February 15th 2014

Andy, Scott, and other potentially interested readers: Above I was arguing about evidence for a bodily resurrection (or lack of it) in Paul. I want to alert you to a new edition of a book on this subject, which is currently free (in the US) for Kindle on Amazon:


It assumes the existence of Jesus and the authenticity of Paul’s epistles, and given these assumptions, it asks whether there could be plausible explanations for the biblical resurrection accounts if the resurrection didn’t happen. I just started looking at it but it starts out noting Paul’s silence on the empty tomb. I know the response is that the empty tomb might have been so well known to Paul’s readers that it does not bear mentioning. I haven’t read far enough to see if the author addresses this. But I wanted to alert curious readers, since it is free right now, and will probably not remain free past the weekend.

GJDS - #84535

February 15th 2014

Just as an aside to Lou, you may find yourself on stroger grounds regarding your latest foray in Christianity, if you were to read Paul, Peter, James (more ammunition for you), because unless I am very much mistaken, none of these provide details on how and why the ressurection should be historically understood. There you are, you can move on from Paul to Peter and James (and Roger, Paul argued with James and Peter on vaious aspects of the OT - maybe you can make more of your odd theology from this).

Lou Jost - #84537

February 16th 2014

Thanks GJDS. The book I cite above actually has an interesting note about James, which claims that Jesus says he was “buried in the sand”. This seems like an unlikely direction for a Christian burial myth to evolve; the suggestion is that this burial story is possibly a late survival of the original story (which was probably true, given the known burial procedures for most Roman execution victims) and that the burial in a rock-hewn tomb, later found empty, was a post-Pauline legend.

What I have read of the book so far is a mixed bag of plausible and less plausible observations. I liked the examples from modern times of how faiths resolve the cognitive dissonance of failed predictions. People are remarkably resistant to reason and apt to invent wild things when faced with the refutation of all they believe in. This is especially true when they have invested everything in that belief. There have been several other cases in which a Jewish messiah figure unexpectedly dies before saving the world. The reaction of their followers is to invent anything to save their beliefs. The gospels actually read very much like these kinds of post-hoc rationalizations of the failure of messianic predictions.

Upon failure of other messianic predictions, cult members often invent some ad hoc reason why the supposed messiah had to die. The idea that “Jesus died for our sins” has always seemed a little ridiculous from an outsider’s perspective, since he didn’t stay dead in the Christian story, and since the entity who received the blood sacrifice was sort of himself…..This convoluted explanation for his death is just the sort of rationalization that a cult might make in their desperation to reconcile the unexpected death with their belief that he was the messiah.

GJDS - #84538

February 16th 2014

You never fail to amuse Lou. I am referring to the Epistle of James in the NT; he discusses many issues for Christians - the obvious conclusion is the resurrection was not a controversial topic and did not require elaboration.

These remarks are extreme even by your odd standards (especially since you constantly claim to be evidence driven, and yet you fail miserably to bring one shred of credible speculation, let alone evidence - perhaps you should bring up the DaVinci code so that we will all benefit from your deep understanding of the times of the Apostles. Then again, with all the evidence you have piled up, and the analysis of all sorts of things (all religions, Christian doctrine, history, not to mention quantum mechanics) - don’t you think such a vast understanding of yours may be wasted growing flowers in SA?

You have made these statements about contrived scripture and mythical sects - I have challenged you to bring something of substance for your endless pratling, but once again I am dissapointed. Convoluted is a term that I may use regarding your opinions - Oxford Dictionary - twisted, coiled, intricately so, extremely complex.

But then again, we repeat and repeat with you!!!!!

Lou Jost - #84543

February 16th 2014

Always glad to amuse you. I was referring to the “gospel” of James.

Jon Garvey - #84549

February 17th 2014

I was referring to the “gospel” of James.

Now that is amusing. No doubt GJDS meant James Joyce, whose work would be just as useful a source for details of Jesus’s life as that 2nd century infancy narrative that Origen said was of “recent and dubious origin.”

Lou Jost - #84550

February 17th 2014

The author of the book I cited above was well aware that this “James” was a late legend. That was part of his argument.

Lou Jost - #84546

February 17th 2014

“...Don’t you think such a vast understanding of yours may be wasted growing flowers in SA?”

I never claimed to be a bible scholar. As for the other subjects, even though I am just growing flowers in South America, I still manage to publish in good journals in ecology and population genetics. Beats the rat race of academia!

Jon Garvey - #84539

February 16th 2014

Lou - I can see why you discern ad hoc evolutionary developments in your biology: they’re just the sort of thing you reliably find in religious teaching too.

So you’re suggestingt the very unexpectedness is exactly what one would expect?  That makes you differ from the higher critics, for whom unexpectedness is the major criterion for a saying or story about Jesus being authentic.

Now, it’s a fact of history that many of the Jews in Jesus’ time were expecting the Messiah - so is the congruence of Jesus’s appearance with that expectation evidence in favour of his Messiahship, or as much evidence against it as the things the Jews didn’t expect whcih you find to be ad hoc? Isn’t a theory that makes the same predictions from opposite phenomena dead in the water?

Jon Garvey - #84540

February 16th 2014

Not to mention, ad hoc?

Lou Jost - #84542

February 16th 2014

Stop and take a breath, Jon. The unexpected part, for Jesus’ Jewish followers, was that Jesus died.  I AGREE with you that this unexpected twist adds credibility to that part of the story. That’s why I don’t dispute that Jesus was crucified.

The question then is “What is the best explanation for the reports of subsequent events?” And I think the author of the book I mentioned above has an interesting and plausible idea about that, which I would like to investigate further. There are lots of historical cases of surprise endings to cults (death of suppposedly immportal leader, failed doomsday predictions, or failure of aliens to come transport cult members to another world), and it is astonishing how the deeply committed cult members react to this, contriving elaborate rationalizations…..

Perhaps this theory, or some other, will be the best explanation for the data, even if one granted the existence of a theistic god. Nobody should rule out that possibility a priori.

PS. What’s that comment about my science? Can you go over to your blog and explain that?

Eddie - #84541

February 16th 2014

“People are remarkably resistant to reason and apt to invent wild things when faced with the refutation of all they believe in.”

True—and “people” here includes all kinds of people, not just “religious people” but people of all sorts.  Democrats will not accept reasonable criticisms of Democratic policies.  Republicans will not accept reasonable criticisms of Republican policies.  Marxists will not allow any empirical evidence about historical events to falsify their philosophy of  history.  Feminists continue to believe that women are being discriminated against in the educational system even though hard numbers show that both in high school and undergraduate girls and women receive higher grades than boys and men.  Randians will not accept any facts that show weaknesses in libertarianism.  Devotees of AGW will not allow the long years of virtually level temperature, or the failure of temperatures to rise again after 2011 as they predicted, or the return of Arctic ice, or any other fact, to count against their model.  Scholars and scientists of all types frequently resist changes to the status quo for a longer time than warranted, especially those scientists and scholars whose reputation was made by establishing the status quo.  In fact, highly educated people (who are mostly non-religious these days) can be quite as stubborn, if not more stubborn, than uneducated people in this regard, because educated people tend to think they are much smarter than everyone else and therefore tend to find it hard to think they could make an error.

Sometimes religious belief can lead to intellectual stubbornness.  It doesn’t always do so.  And intellectual stubbornness would appear to be a general human failing, not a failing of religious people any more than others, though of course if we take narrow samples of the world religious population, e.g., US fundamentalists, then we may well find higher-than-average levels of intellectual stubbornness in those samples.  But I could find the same level of stubbornness among the sample “analytical philosophers” or “deconstructionist literary critics.”  

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84544

February 16th 2014

Lou wrote:

Roger, values and morals can be important even if they are not imposed from above by a god.

That is not the question.

If values and morals are important, then we need to discuss them to build a better world, no matter from whence they come. 

The problem is you and others do not want to discuss morals and values, but instead the existence or non-existence of God. 

You should know by now that values and morals are not imposed by God or anyone else.  They are built into the nature of human beings as created by God in God’s own image.

I expect that you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values.  I agree that people have three levels of needs that form their values, the physical, the rational, and the spiritual.    

If you want to discuss this fine.  However do not give me the nonsense that spiritual values do not matter.


Lou Jost - #84545

February 16th 2014

“The problem is you and others do not want to discuss morals and values.” No Roger, I just don’t want to discuss them with someone who thinks his particular moral beliefs are handed down from a god. That would be a waste of our time, unless one had good evidence that the god really existed. Hence the interest in the latter question.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84547

February 17th 2014


In some sense I agree with you.  If a person has no real basis for their morals and values, there is no basis for discussion.  That is the reason why I asked you for the basis for your understanding of morals and values.

I can see you reject a rational God, Who created a rational universe as a home for rational human beings and others, and it seems that with God, you reject a rational understanding of the universe.  That does seem to be the case for Monod so it would not be without precedent.

In which case we certainly have nothing to talk about. 

Ted Davis - #84623

February 28th 2014

I thought I’d change the topic slightly, if anyone is still returning to this thread. I see where Casey Luskin commented on this debate, on behalf of the pro-ID Discovery Institute, here: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/02/the_ham-nye_deb081911.html

Note how much he emphasizes two classic pieces of the OEC view, namely the insufficiency of the fossil record to demonstrate what’s often called “macroevolution” and the lack of proof (in his opinion) for human evolution from other primates.

This is further evidence for the accuracy of my analysis (http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-intelligent-design-part-5) that ID all but collapses into the OEC view, despite the presence within the ID movement of a highly prominent proponent of common ancestry (Behe) and a few vocal proponents of YEC (such as Paul Nelson).

If ID really wants to claim that it’s not necessarily opposed to evolution, then folks who work for Discovery need to change their tune(s).

Eddie - #84626

February 28th 2014


I don’t contest the claim that most of the ID leaders seem to be Old Earth creationists.  However, what struck me is that both Discovery (see also Klinghoffer’s remarks) and BioLogos have said that the Ham-Nye debate was counter-productive insofar as it promoted a “warfare” model of science and religion.

And this makes sense; from the point of view of ID theory (insofar as it is authentic ID theory and does not stray into quoting the Bible or promoting a right-wing social agenda), the contest ought not to be between science and religion, but between science and science, i.e., between the science of Dawkins and Coyne and the science of design inferences, and between the positive evidence for Darwinian mechanisms and the serious criticism of Darwinian mechanisms that have been made even by atheist biologists, and between the assertion that human ancestry from apelike progenitors is an uncontestable fact, and the assertion that there is room for doubt about that.  

One can raise objections to particular scientific arguments made by Luskin, but the point is that Luskin intends them as science, not as Biblical exegesis.  He doesn’t—as Ham often seems to—offer his arguments as the word of God.  All of his comments in the article about Tiktaalik, chromosomal fusion, fossil record of hominids, etc., whether one agrees with them or not. purport to be based on empirical evidence, not the Bible or any religious confession.  Thus, the warfare model is eschewed.  In both Ham and Nye, however, the warfare model is what frames the issues.

I think it should be an encouraging sign that at least some ID people, and at least some TE people, want to transcend the warfare model, and find more constructive ways of relating science to theology.  Atheists and YECs, on the other hand, seem to have a vested interest in the warfare model.  One would think that this would cause ID and TE folks to look at each other more favorably, as occupying a saner and more balanced middle ground.

Ted Davis - #84640

March 3rd 2014

I’ll nuance your comment a bit, Eddie, by way of reply. I agree that the new atheists promote the “warfare” view, and that is also what they think they are doing. The YECs also promote the “warfare” view, but that is not how they see it themselves. Rather, in their opinion (with which I entirely disagree), the “historical” sciences are not genuinely scientific. In their opinion, they fully accept genuine science, and the “warfare” is between only “science falsely so-called” (to quote a bilbical phrase that is commonly used in just this context) and the Bible. There is only agreement between what they take for genuine science and the Bible.

This is one place where, IMO, ID and YEC connect partially, though not entirely. The ID house is divided on the legitimacy of the “historical” sciences. The OECs in that camp (the bulk of the ID leadership) accept geology & cosmology, but not evolutionary biology. The YECs reject all 3.

This is an issue that ID cannot keep putting off, if it’s to appeal more than it presently does (which is not very much) to Christians in the sciences. When someone like Cornelius “George” Hunter (a regular for Uncommon Descent) sits back and essentially trashes the historical sciences, without identifying himself openly as a YEC (which he very probably is), it gives people the impression that the forensic reasoning employed in the historical sciences is not acceptable. What then counts as legitimate scientific reasoning, if not the coherence between (say) the Alvarez dinosaur extinction theory and the observed facts? If that doesn’t count, then what does? Nothing? If so, then ID collapses into the YEC view.

Eddie - #84642

March 3rd 2014

I don’t exactly disagree with your remarks, Ted.  I might, however, qualify them.

You say the YECs promote a warfare view, but don’t see themselves as doing so.  I think that is true for some, but I wonder if it’s true for all.  Haven’t at least some YECs said that, if it gets right down to it, even if it looks as if the science does point to common descent, they will reject the science and stick with the Bible?  Didn’t Ham come close to saying that to Nye, when he wouldn’t indicate anything that could change his view?  And let’s take someone with a position subtler than Ham’s, e.g., Todd Wood—isn’t his position more or less that common descent is supported by good, solid science, and that he can’t see the flaw in it, but that he must continue to reject it, because revelation tells him the earth is young and that macroevolution has not happened?  Even if he has hopes that some day the flaws in the arguments for common descent will appear, he is willing to go to his deathbed, if need be, denying common descent, because faith tells him to.  Isn’t that a variant (albeit a subtle and paradoxical variant) on the warfare position?

Regarding the historical sciences, I think it is important to distinguish between rejecting them on principle (as basically epistemologically unsound), and disagreeing with the majority or consensus view over certain particular conclusions.  For example, Luskin and Meyer think that the consensus view regarding the age of the earth is warranted, but that the consensus view regarding biological evolution is not warranted.  So it is not historical science per se that is being rejected.  There is no “science versus religion” war; not even a “historical science versus religion” war.  Rather, it is a war over particular conclusions of a particular theory in the historical sciences.

And even that war is not conceived in the same way by all ID folks.  Luskin tends to cast doubt upon common descent as such; Behe does not protest the inference of common descent, but objects to the proposed mechanism.

I agree with you that George Hunter’s motivations are opaque; he is ultra-careful not to indicate his opinion regarding OEC vs. YEC, and I see no justification for his silence on that question.  I also agree with you that the line of argument that he takes, while not always entirely without value, is in principle open-ended and could lead to the rejection of historical science per se.  But I think that Hunter is unusually obscure among the ID theorists.  I think that more typical is someone like Meyer or Dembski, who admit that inferences of common descent are in principle reasonable, but simply think that the evidence isn’t strong enough to support the inferences, beyond changes within fairly obvious groups (cats, dogs, horses, etc.).

Indeed, Meyer explicitly argues that we should employ historical reasoning regarding biological origins, but thinks that the historical reasoning thus far dominant (e.g., neo-Darwinian reasoning) is inadequate, because it arbitrarily rules out possible causes—such as intelligent design—from the outset.  I suspect that Luskin would agree with that, and would say that it should be as permissible to infer the activity of designing intelligence as it is to infer the activity of random mutations and natural selection, wherever the empirical evidence seems to point in the direction of a designing intelligence. 

If all options were on the table—both design and non-design options—and it were simply left to the evidence which should be favored in a given case, then, from an ID point of view, the need for any “warfare” between science and religion would be gone.  It is only because atheists—sometimes strongly supported by TEs—insist that the design option must be removed from the explanatory table, that the religious community, in self-defense, adopts an offensive posture against the “scientific” view—or rather, against the view that atheists and many TEs label as the only possible scientific one.

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