OK, I’ll confess. I’m going to watch the debate on February 4 matching creationist Ken Ham versus "Science Guy" Bill Nye. I’ll do so with eagerness and pleasure. Well, I’ll watch part of it anyway. I’ll probably watch a few minutes of the Super Bowl too, the Sunday before, since everyone here in Seattle is going nuts about it. That’s despite the fact that I haven’t watched a televised football game for more than a blink of the eye for my entire life.
Colleagues to whom I’ve confided this — the part about the debate — have sought to perform an intervention. They say: “Why waste your time?” It’s simple.
This will be entertaining. I know how much leaders in the Village Atheist movement like Jerry Coyne and the Richard Dawkins Foundation have urged against it. It will make them squirm, seeing someone like Nye who is kind of their guy but, they fear, not outstandingly articulate in live performance put up against Mr. Ham, who I assume is well practiced at what he does. That in itself is enjoyable.
More seriously, I would like the world to get a good look at a genuine creationist: what he says, how he argues, what questions animate him. It’s been among the more dishonest tactics of ID’s critics to paint intelligent design as just another shade of "creationism." The more people watch Ham debate Nye, the better they will be able to appreciate the stark contrast between advocates of intelligent design and those of creationism.
Creationists themselves are honest about saying what that distinction is. As Mr. Ham’s "Answers in Genesis" colleague Georgia Purdom has candidly said, the main difference is that creationists insist on faith’s directing the conclusions that science reaches. Devout materialists, while reaching opposite conclusions, come at the question of life’s origins in much the same manner. Naturalism demands an answer to the mystery of evolution that excludes intelligent direction. So that’s what it gets and what it offers.
ID advocates follow the evidence where it leads. That, more than the age of Earth, is I think the distinction that drives everything else.
This serious, open-minded engagement with the actual evidence of science is the reason that while the "Science Guy" at least was all too willing to debate a creationist, Coyne and Dawkins have consistently chickened out when invited to engage us in debate, whether live or in print.
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