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This event has already received a lot of press, but I should mention it here just in case anyone isn't aware of it: On February 4th, Bill Nye (yes, that Bill Nye) will be holding a public debate with Answers in Genesis' president Ken Ham.  The debate will take place at the Creation Museum, and will be about whether or not evolution is a viable biological model.

Even though Bill Nye has the facts on his side in this debate, many people have expressed concern that he's still going to do poorly.  I share this concern.  I know from experience that debating with creationists requires more than just a familiarity with evolutionary science in general—it also requires a familiarity with the other side's arguments, and the arguments used by sophisticated creationist organizations such as Answers in Genesis are often quite technical.  Ken Ham has devoted most of his career to arguing against the evolutionary perspective, while Bill Nye does not have a similar amount of experience arguing against creationism.

This video, a 2003 debate between Kent Hovind and Matthew Rainbow, should be a cautionary tale for anyone who believes that knowledge about evolutionary biology is the only thing needed to win a debate against a creationist.  This video is linked to much more often by creationists than by supporters of evolution, and it's easy to understand why.  Despite Rainbow's obvious knowledge about biology, he clearly was not as well-prepared for the debate as Hovind was, and watching the video it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it was Hovind who presented his ideas more effectively.

Some people commenting on the upcoming debate, such as Jerry Coyne, have argued that it doesn't really matter whether Bill Nye or Ken Ham ends up being the winner, because the scientific question of evolution versus creationism is already settled.  But this perspective seems to overlook the debate's real purpose.  The reason Bill Nye agreed to this debate isn't because evolution needs additional scientific support; it's because around half of people living in the United States are creationists.  Many creationists will be watching this debate, and if Bill Nye argues his case effectively, he will have a greater opportunity to win their support than anyone has had in a long time.  On the other hand, if Ken Ham is able to effectively counter Nye's arguments, people watching the debate who have not yet made up their minds will be far less likely to eventually accept evolution.

As someone who used to work for a natural history museum that was perpetually short on money, I have an especially intimate understanding of the fact that science does not operate in a vacuum.  In the long term, the survival of any field of science depends on its public support.  The children and teenagers who will be watching this debate are the same people who, in thirty of forty years, will be deciding whether to donate money to fund evolutionary biologists' research; who will be serving on school boards that decide whether or not to include evolution in their curriculums; or who will be serving on juries when curriculums that include creationism are challenged in the courts.  It's entirely possible for an area of research to simply be starved when its public support runs dry, regardless of its scientific status, as happened to research about the heritability of intelligence in the 1950s and 1960s.

About a month ago, I offered Bill Nye some of the unpublished material from Emily's and my book, which is focused on criticizing the arguments used by Answers in Genesis.  However, he never got back to me, and someone else I know who's more closely involved in the debate has told me that Bill Nye isn't interested in receiving help from outsiders.  I apparently don't have the opportunity to offer him help myself, so all I can do is hope he's aware of how high the stakes are in his debate, and what the consequences will be if he fails.
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2014
and in the end, nothing was achieved 

the Evolutionist side made it's point clear, and the creationist side did not understand a single word 
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:icontheubbergeek2:
theubbergeek2 Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014
The problem is also missunderstanding of what IS evolution, like the pseudoscientifical crap on races, intelligence, social darwinism, etc...

Good luck though, Bill Nye. Science is needed in an era where Carl Sagan pointed that may darkens in shadows...
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:icont-subgenius:
t-subgenius Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014
As much as I like Bill Nye and the fact that he is willing to do this debate, I really think it was a bad idea and if he is not willing to accept outside help then he has shot himself in the foot.  He is capable, but the problem is that Ham is not limited to using just the truth and has already demonstrated that he can, and will outright lie to win the hearts and minds battle.  And even if Bill does "win" the debate, the money from this event will still be funneled into the AIG coffers and the win will likely have the whole event swept under the rung as quickly as possible so the victory could very well be pyrrhic.
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:icondoctormo:
doctormo Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
You don't debate the deluded, especially not well equipped mass-delusions like American creationism. They are aggressively and assertively "right about everything"(tm) and to hold an opposing view is to be "wrong by default"(tm). What possible rhetoric could be deployed against such arrogance?
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014
let's face it, the US is a last cause 
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:icondoctormo:
doctormo Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
last cause? Let's be honest, it's usually the first cause ;-)
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014
sorry, I wanted to say "lost"
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:iconkeesey:
keesey Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014
Au contraire, the younger generations are more likely to accept science than literalist creationism. There's a good trend in motion -- too late and slow, perhaps, but going in the right direction.
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2014
not sure my self 

from what I've heard, the results of the debate were dubious, as most of the audience did not understand what was said in the first place 
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:iconart5ec:
ART5EC Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't understand why Nye even agreed to do this. Frankly, there is no debate to be had. Belief does not change fact.
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:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Student General Artist
A pretty sad affair over all. If Nye "loses" the debate, it will give Ham and AiG a huge boost in publicity, and that horrible Genesis 3D project.
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:icondarquewanderer:
darquewanderer Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
While I'm interested in this debate and do plan to watch it, I share the same concerns as you. Bill Nye is good, no very good at science, but I don't think he'll fare well against a snake oil salesman. I watched him in a debate with UFOlogists on Larry King. He wasn't able to carry over his position of doubt convincingly. He was argumentative and unyielding.  If he's to win this debate, he needs to learn tact.
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:iconpeteridish:
PeteriDish Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
so glad I live outside of the US.
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
I hope to God he wins. Most of the people at Answers In Genesis are dicks
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:iconsinornithosaurus:
Sinornithosaurus Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah... I don't either will win. Nye stands a higher chance though, he knows more about science and evolution than Ham, so my money's on him.
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:icont-subgenius:
t-subgenius Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014
Bill is good with the facts but Ham is good with the lies and manipulation.
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