Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham: A Minute-by-Minute Recap

Featured images thanks to Flickr users eschipul and ellenm1.

Bill Nye debates Ken Ham – HD” -

I notated pertinent parts of the debate found at the link above and have created a paraphrased reference guide for anyone who might be interested. I’ve provided hour/minute/second marks for the link above, though they may not translate to all versions of the video. Also note that anything that is bracketed [x] is my personal commentary or reactions to the content. Anything in quotations is a direct quotation from the clip.

[EDIT: Thanks to feedback from others, I have expounded more from Bill Nye's 30-minute presentation. Thanks to those who offered the suggestion!]

Introductory Statements

19:20: Ken presents a false distinction between “Experimental/Observational Science” and “Origins or Historical Science”. [The truth is, all observation is made indirectly, through the senses, etc., so this supposed difference of type is actually only one of degree.]

21:10: Ken states that “the word science has been hijacked by secularists in teaching evolution to force the religion of naturalism on generations of kids.”

22:01: Ham posits that “Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era.”

24:45: Bill Nye observes that on shows like CSI, there is no difference made between observational science and historical science, and charges that it a construct put forth by Ham, et al.

26:25: Bill Nye notes that there are billions of religious people who do not accept Ham’s Creationist model.

30-minute Presentations – Ken Ham

28:00: Ham goes first, and starts by showing several successfully scientists who are also Biblical creationists in order to dismiss the idea that creationists can’t do real science. [Ham is speaking past this particular criticism by concealing the true target. The issue is not that there are no scientifically competent creationists, but rather that creationism must ignore basic scientific methodology and tried-and-true theories in order to retroactively justify itself. The enterprise is not scientific, not necessarily those who hold to it.]

31:53: Ham: “Question for Bill Nye: How do you account for the laws of logic and laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God?”

~35:00: Ham keeps hammering home the observation/historical science ‘distinction’.

36:45: [Ham acts as if the scientific method is only applicable to “observational science”.]

38:00: “Predictions based on the Bible:

  • Evidence confirming an “intelligence” produced life
  • Evidence confirming “after their kind”
  • Evidence confirming a “global flood”
  • Evidence confirming “one race”
  • Evidence confirming the “tower of Babel”
  • Evidence confirming a “young universe””

43:18: Ham states that observational science confirms creationism – “evolutionism” has been hijacked using a bait and switch to indoctrinate students to accept evolutionary belief as observational science.

47:00: [Ham uses an ad hominem attack against Darwin based on his incorrect ideas concerning the races.]

48:23: Ham: “Define the terms: “science” and “evolution” – understand how they are being used to impose an anti-God religion on generations of unsuspecting children.”

53:15: Ham: God invented marriage, and it is between a man and a woman.

55:48: Ham: “They arbitrarily define science as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural.”

30-minute Presentations – Bill Nye

58:50: Limestone is problematic for creationism. How can fossilized animals build up this limestone in only 4,000 years?

1:00:00: Snow ice is also a problem. How can hundreds of thousands of layers form from winter/summer melt cycles in 4,000 years? That'd be 170 winter/summer cycles each year!

1:01:30: There are trees older than the supposed age of the young earth.

1:02:30: Ancient rock layers are laid down evenly, not tumultuously as we might expect from a catastrophic flood.

1:03:30: If the Flood waters all drained through the Grand Canyon as they receded, wouldn't there be similar canyons throughout the world? 

1:04:00: If you could find one example of “turbulence”, where animals are out of order in the fossil record, then you would change the world. The Flood should have led to the tumultuous mingling of species across strata.

1:05:30: How do we account for the many fossil relatives to humans if man was created as-is 4,000 years ago?

1:06:20: How did humans/animals make it from the Middle-East to the rest of the world in only 4,000 years? Why no evidence of kangaroos along the way? Where are the land bridges need to do this/where have they gone?


  • "4,000 years since Ken Ham's flood
  • 7,000 Ken Ham's "kinds"
  • 16,000,000 species today [a fairly conservative estimate]
  • N(new species) = 15,9993,000 species/(4,000 years)(365.25 days/year)
  • = 11 new species every day"

1:10:15: How can the flood model account for huge rocks, such as those found throughout Washington/Oregon in an ancient lake bed, which sit on the surface, since they should have sunk to form the bottom layers according to the flood hypothesis?

11:11:00: The largest wooden ship (~300 ft in length) was structurally unsound and eventually sank, despite being build by skilled shipwrights in the early 19th century. How could Noah and 8 family members build a boat roughly 500 ft in length with unskilled hands?

1:12:45: Is it reasonable to assume Noah and his family could have taken care of roughly 14,000 animals for a year on a wooden boat bigger than anyone had ever built?

1:15:20: Evolutionary theory predicts we will find gaps in the fossil record, and that later discoveries will fill those gaps. This has continuously occurred. 

1:15:40: Why do animals have sex? Germs/parasites! Sex produces new genetic mixes that help fend off disease. 

1:16:30: Ham’s creationist model is not predictive, and is thus not scientific.

1:19:00: Science wants the ability to predict, which the creationist model fails to provide.

1:19:45: Why we accept the Big Bang. Discusses Hubble's discovery that the stars are all moving away from one another. 

1:22:10: Background microwave radiation was predicted by the Big Bang model and has been discovered, and it exactly matches descriptions.

1:24:00: Rubidium/strontium radioactive decay allows us to accurately date volcanic rocks/fossils.

1:25:45: Nye implores people to respect the importance of scientific education (specifically nuclear sciences).

1:26:45: How can the stars be billions of years old if the earth is only 6,000?

1:27:30: The amount of contradictory evidence makes creationism unreasonable to accept.  

5-minute Rebuttal – Ken Ham

1:31:20: Ham claims that wood discovered in a 45,000,000 old layer of basalt rock (as dated using potassium/argon dating) was carbon dated to ~45,000 years old, and that this undermines the veracity of radiometric dating methods. [Completely misunderstands – or worse, deceives – concerning the efficacy and proper use of these two different dating methods. Carbon dating is only useful to 45,000 years or so, after which the trace amounts are too low to presently detect.]

1:32:30: Ham argues that assumptions (however safe) must be made for radiometric dating methods, negating their usefulness.

1:33:45: Ham claims that Christians who accept the old Earth hypothesis have a problem, since the Bible tell us that death and disease came after the fall, yet there must have been millions of years with death and disease prior to the evolution of man is evolution is true.

1:34:00: Ham believes only an eyewitness account is a sound dating tool, so he relies on the world of God, as he is the only, and only truly trustworthy, witness to the events of creation.

5-minute Rebuttal – Bill Nye

1:36:15: Nye notes that all observation is historical, since all observation is indirect – the false distinction fails.

1:37:15: Nye questions whether animals were vegetarians before the Flood: Physiology disproves that, so pointing to the Bible (a telephoned, endlessly translated document – something Nye points out regularly throughout the debate).

1:38:45: Nye charges that Ham is asking us to accept his interpretation of a translated document over and against what we can directly observe.

5-minute Re-rebuttal – Ken Ham

1:40:35: Ham appeals yet again to an argument from authority by pointing to scientists who are also Biblical creationists.

1:41:45: Ham argues there is a difference between “kinds” and “species” [“kind” is higher up, like an Order or Clade as opposed to lower orders like Genus and Species].

5-minute Re-rebuttal – Bill Nye

1:45:00: Nye points out that diminishing the number of “kinds” actually increases the problem of speciation within the time-frame since the Flood.

1:46:00: Nye states that the assumptions made regarding “historical science” are based on experience, i.e., they are well-founded assumptions.

1:47:00: Nye says that it is unreasonable to assume the planet has changed so drastically, in so many ways, in only 4,000.

1:49:00: Nye reiterates that it would only take one fossil that had swum between layers to change the world by undermining evolutionary theory, as currently understood.

Question & Answer Section

*Each participant is asked questions, after which they have two minutes to respond. Their opponent then has one minute to respond as well.

1:50:55: (1) How does creationism explain the expansion of the universe?”

  • Ham: We don’t know. Perhaps to demonstrate how great God is?
  • Nye: Astronomy stems from our urge to know more about where we come from.

1:54:00: (2) How did the atoms that created the Big Bang get there?

  • Nye: We don’t know yet, but it compels us to find out. Same thing for the accelerating rate of expansion of the universe.
  • Ham: The Bible tells us that God created all matter. He then says that language and information cannot come from matter, only an intelligence [an unsupported claim].

1:57:15: What evidence besides the literal world of the Bible supports creationism?

  • Ham: Just because the majority accepts evolution does not make it true. God made “kinds” is evidence, as is the fact that all of the “races” are really one “kind”.
  • Nye: Science embraces dissent if properly supported. Evolution is the system by which complexity grows, complexity does not spawn randomly.

2:00:20: How did consciousness arise from matter?

  • Nye: We don’t know! But we want to find out, and there need not only be one way it could happen. [Nye keeps imploring people to pursue science/engineering for the sake of America.]
  • Ham: The Bible says it comes from God. He then asks what the point of discovery is without the prospect of an afterlife.

2:04:35: (5) What, if anything, would ever change your mind?

  • Ham: You can predict from the Bible: check its statements/claims. “No one is ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true.”
  • Nye: One piece of evidence! “Mr. Ham, what can you prove?” Everything creationism talks about is in the past; predict the future!

2:07:25: (6) Outside of radiometric dating, what evidence supports the [commonly held] age of the earth?

  • Nye: The age of the stars, deposition rates, radioactive decay, evolution, and they all interlock and support one another.
  • Ham: No earth rock was dated to get 4.5 billion years, only meteorites. Dating methods – 90% - contradict the 4.5 billion year age.

2:10:30: (7) Can you reconcile the change in the rate of continental drift:

  • Ham: This assumes the rate has not been changing. Catastrophic plate tectonics is necessary, what we see are the remnants of those changes.
  • Nye: The changing poles leave tell-tale marks on the rocks at spreading locations on the sea-floor that help verify rates.

2:14:00: (8) Favorite color?

  • Nye: Green
  • Ham: Blue

2:15:00: (9) How do you balance evolution with the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

  • Nye: The earth is not a closed system so there is no violation. The sun constantly puts energy into the system.
  • Ham: Energy and matter will never produce life.

2:18:00: (10) If evidence was produced that shoed the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe in God/Jesus?

  • Ham: That’s an impossible hypothetical, as it is “historical science”. Nothing in observational science contradicts the young-earth model.
  • Nye: You can prove it through observation. Ham wants us to, in effect, take his word for his interpretation of the Bible.

2:21:10: (11) Is there room for God in science?

  • Nye: Yes! Science is a body of knowledge and a methodology. Only literalism (like Ham’s) has a real problem with science.
  • Ham: God is necessary for science. You need to have God to assume the laws of logic/nature.

2:24:20: (12) Do you believe the entire Bible is to be taken literally?

  • Ham: We have to define our terms. The Bible should be read “naturally” – historical narrative as literal, psalms as poetry, etc. We can ignore the old testament laws because their application today would be a misunderstanding. [What?! Ham just arbitrarily decides what he gets to interpret as what, freeing him from any possible form of criticism from other Christians, as well as non-believers.]
  • Nye: By interpreting, you are choosing what to take literally. Does it seem possible that the body of evidence against creationism should be discarded when you allow for different interpretations of the Bible?

2:27:40: (13) Have you ever believed that evolution was achieved through a higher power (intelligent design)?

  • Nye: You cannot prove or disprove a designer’s influence. This belief stems from a profound misunderstanding of evolution, a process that adds complexity [which seems to need to have bee consciously designed by those unfamiliar with how evolution works – think of Dennett’s skyhooks v. cranes]. The perception of design does not mean that design is necessarily the best interpretation of the evidence.
  • Ham: Ham challenges that no new genetic information can be introduced. No new function can be added, only reasserted.

2:31:20: (14) Name one institution, other than churches, that are using aspects of creationism to produce its product.

  • Ham: As God is necessary for the laws of logic and nature, all science borrows from the Christian worldview.
  • Nye: Creationism has no predictive quality. What became of all the people who did not have access to Ham’s model, without which it seems Ham believes they would be totally lost?

2:34:40: (15) How can you explain how man’s intelligence has continued to evolve, yet there were instances of great intelligence in the past?

  • Nye: There is no evidence that humans are getting smarter. Evolution lets us adapt to best fit our environment – intelligence has been a good tool, but it is not the ‘end-goal’ of evolution. It’s all about how you fit in with your environment.
  • Ham: Blind cave fish have lost functionality, which undermines survival of the fittest. No new functions are added through evolution.

2:37:58: (16) What is the one thing above anything else on which you place your belief?

  • Ham: The Bible, because it is unique in what it tells us. It’s very specific, and if the historical accounts are true then the rest should be accepted as well. If it is true, it should explain the world around us. [Which Ham obviously thinks it does.]
  • Nye: I base my beliefs on the information and methods of science. It gives Nye joy. We are one of the ways the universe knows itself. We are driven to pursue that, and the deep questions. If we abandon the processes that have given us out knowledge, we will lose our lead as a nation. 

Featured images used with permission of Flickr users eschipul and ellenm1.

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