I didn’t watch the Bill Nye/Ken Ham evolution debate tonight. From the reactions I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter, it went exactly as I figured it would, with Nye bringing the science and Ham bringing the Bible. And since my mind is already made up, this debate was basically going to be a chance to watch Ham get beat up for an hour or so, which really doesn’t accomplish anything. And might actually do more harm than good.
Because what this amounts to is the best boxer in the world fighting a 90-year old man. Early on, you might marvel at the boxer’s training, his conditioning, his impeccable technique. But as time goes on, the impression you’re left with is, “What’s he doing to the poor old man?” You know the outcome is a foregone conclusion, so the overwhelming takeaway isn’t pleasure at the victory, but sympathy for the vanquished. And that’s even more likely to the case among those who were rooting for the old man all along. They’re not going to come away fans of the boxer; they’re going to hate him for beating up Grandpa. Remember, for all his brilliant verbal sparring and complete demolition of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow lost the Monkey Trial.
Besides, the point of a debate is supposed to be to sway opinion, and neither side in this argument is swayable. The creationist side of the coin has dug in their heels and refuses to accept any answer other than, “The Bible says so.” The worldview they adhere to doesn’t allow for questioning or even a change of opinion; things are the way they are because that’s how they always have been, and if it was good enough for their parents and grandparents, it’s good enough for them. It’s a philosophy that removes the burden of examination. The answers were written down thousands of years ago, all nice and proper, so no need to rack your brain trying to fit new and conflicting ideas into it.
Of course, you could argue the evolutionists are just as unflinching in their views. But those views are backed up by hundreds of years of recordable, repeatable scientific observation, very often based on believing one thing, testing it, discovering that thing wasn’t necessarily what it was thought to be, and changing assumptions as new facts emerge. It’s the result of searching for answers, not merely accepting them. I’ll take the opinion of someone who’s willing to have his mind changed by what he observes over someone who won’t change his mind because he was raised not to. It makes the world a larger, more fascinating place, filled with mysteries to explore, rather than pointing to a book and saying, “Because God.”
In the end, tonight’s debate was pretty pointless. The believers will have their outrage at one of their own being subjected to a public browbeating, making Ham a martyr for the cause. The non-believers will have their self-satisfied chuckling at how thoroughly Nye danced circles around Ham, as if that particular outcome was ever in doubt. Tomorrow will dawn with very little having changed, whether you believe that dawn is the result of physics or a magical man in the sky.