Debates on the origin of mankind have grown increasingly scarce in recent years, says Cedarville geology professor John Whitmore. Public discussions between creationists and evolutionists were quite common throughout the 1970s and the early ’80s. Since then they have grown less prevalent.
But on Feb. 4, Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. The debate will seek to answer the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Cedarville will be streaming the event in the DMC.
“The debates (of the 1970s and ’80s) were very polarized,” Whitmore said. “Often times, it would just be Christians that showed up. (The debates) typically happened in a church or another place where non-Christians wouldn’t typically go.”
Additionally, according to Whitmore, creationists such as the late Duane Gish often frustrated evolutionists. A biochemist and former vice president of the Institute for Creation Research, Gish was called “the foremost creationist debater in the world today” by Answers in Genesis.
Ronald Numbers, in his book “The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design,” an academic review of the roots of creationism, said Gish “relished the confrontations of formal debates with prominent evolutionary biologists.”
“The evolutionists never did very well in the debates,” Whitmore said. “There occasionally was a highlight, but Duane Gish was a very skilled debater and, in my opinion, he really did well in these debates. They became kind of an embarrassment to the evolutionary community. The word went out not to debate creationists, and that is still around today.”
Evolutionists have their own explanations as to why they tend to avoid origin debates. In his book “Atheism and the Case Against Christ,” Sacramento State University professor Matthew McCormick asked the following of creationists: “Are there any considerations, arguments, evidence or reasons, even hypothetically, that could possibly lead you to change your mind about God? If the answer is no, then we’re done.” McCormick, a philosophy professor, said it is rare to come across a creationist that can pass this “defeasibility test.”
According to professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, to debate a creationist lends credence to an idea that deserves no such credibility.
“It’s like debating a homeopath or a flat-earther,” Coyne said in an August 2013 post on his blog “Why Evolution is True.” As a result, Coyne, a professor in the department of ecology and evolution, prefers the printed page or lecture settings because he says debate is purely showmanship and rhetoric.
Cedarville theology professor Jeremy Kimble said both print and debate are valuable.
“The printed page allows you to have greater depth of research, but a debate forum allows a person to have points, counterpoints and responses that may not come in a one-sided journal article,” Kimble said.
Sophomore Josh Willenbrink, a public administration major with experience in speech and debate, said he agrees with the assertion that creation versus evolution must be tackled in more than one way.
“(Debate) can’t be the only medium for this argument of creation versus evolution,” Willenbrink said. “Time-wise, most debates aren’t long enough to address the arguments to the full extent. But I don’t think that should cancel out debate. Debate forces everyone to look into the opponent’s side of the issue before stating theirs.”
While the prevalence of creation-evolution debates has fallen in recent years, interest in such debates has not faded.
Earlier this month when tickets to the debate went on sale, Ken Ham posted on Facebook that all tickets for his debate with Bill Nye sold out within minutes.
Additionally, Answers in Genesis reported an enormous jump in traffic to its website and the number of calls to the Creation Museum since the debate was announced.
The debate between Nye and Ham, which will focus on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” is Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.
Michael Shoemaker is a senior history major and a reporter for Cedars. He enjoys playing guitar, reading whatever he can get his hands on and a hot cup of coffee.
Watch Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham at Cedarville
Cedarville plans to stream this event in the DMC on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.