Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who Wins a Debate

Last night there was a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on the topic of young earth creationism. Bill Nye is pretty well known as The Science Guy. Ken Ham is pretty much the spokes person of young earth creationism and runs a "museum" dedicated to it. 
Here is a link to the debate if you have the time (introductions start at 13 minutes, audience questions are the last hour):

Overall the debate went as expected; Nye talked about generally accepted scientific fact and Ham talked about his fringe views. 
But who won?

Sure Nye had science on his side while Ham's ideas aren't exactly the norm. Overall though I have to say Ham won the debate. To clarify, he in no way convinced me to even consider his beliefs plausible but I think he certainly accomplished his goal. 
To understand who won, it is necessary to identify what the respective goals of the debaters were. Did Bill Nye expect to sway every young earth creationist in the world to give up their beliefs? No, of course not. Did Ken Ham expect the debate to lead to the removal of evolution from school curriculum? No, he might be a little crazy but he's not stupid. Ken Ham wanted to draw attention to the topic. I really don't know why Nye accepted the debate. He said it was to protect the education system from influence of creationists. 

So who accomplished their goals in the debate? Ken Ham got hundreds of thousands of people to watch the live stream of the debate (around 300,000 at my last check when i was watching it), another 700,000 already on the youtube video, and I don't know how many via other mediums. He literally just had to show up and not throw up on stage to accomplish his goal. He reinforced what his followers already believed and drew a massive amount of attention to his beliefs from people of all kinds of backgrounds. 
Bill Nye was setting out to protect science from something that isn't really that much of a threat. There is very little evidence to back up saying that creationism has a negative effect economically on society through damage to education. 

So despite the flawed arguments and the lack of observable evidence to support his claims, Ken Ham managed to get potentially millions of people to pay attention to him. and he got me to write a blog about it. Well played sir. 

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