Evolution debate plays out on creationism's home turf
Alan Boyle, Science Editor
PETERSBURG, Ky. — More than a million viewers are expected to tune in
online Tuesday night for what may be the most-watched debate over
evolution since the Tennessee "Monkey Trial" of 1925.
Other showdowns between evolution and creationism may have had more impact — for example, the federal court case
that went against intelligent-design advocates in 2005. But for pure
spectacle, complete with slide presentations, it's hard to beat the
face-off here at the Creation Museum between Bill Nye the Science Guy and creationist Ken Ham.
debater expects to convert the other one onstage. "I really don't want
people looking at it as who won and who lost," said Ham, who heads the
museum as well as Answers in Genesis, a Christian outreach organization.
also downplays the expectations. "I don't think I'm going to win Mr.
Ham over, any more than Mr. Ham thinks he's going to win me over," he told HuffPost Live last month.
visitors to the $25 million-plus Creation Museum, which is a
half-hour's drive south of Cincinnati, are rooting for the home team. "I
don't know the other guy, but I know Ken Ham, and he's pretty good,"
said Heather Coker, who was going through the museum with her family
from Jackson, Miss. She said she thinks Ham could outdo Nye, which led
her 14-year-old son Jacob to add: "'Think?' I know."
How the debate works It took months to work out
all of the details of the 7 p.m. ET debate, starting with the official
topic: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern
The two men will take turns, first with
five-minute opening statements, then with 30-minute presentations, then
with two rounds of five-minute rebuttals. About 45 minutes' worth of
questions will be taken from the audience filling the museum's 900-seat
auditorium. CNN correspondent Tom Foreman will be the moderator.
in Genesis says more than 10,000 churches and other groups are planning
to carry the debate's free live video stream — and says "many more than
one million people will be watching."
Among those who may well be watching is Brian Weaver, who stopped by
the museum with friends and family on Monday. He's familiar with both
sides of the debate, in part thanks to Nye's long-running science TV
show for kids.
"We home-school our kids, and we use Bill Nye quite
a bit," Weaver told NBC News. "We love his videos from an educational
standpoint, but from our Christian perspective, we just gloss over the
parts where he gets into an evolutionary perspective."
Where creationism reigns The
Creation Museum definitely glosses over the mainstream evolutionary
perspective, and depicts natural history in accordance with a literal
interpretation of the Bible.
In this museum, all the dinosaur displays date back to roughly 2348 B.C. — the time of the Great Flood, as calculated by Bishop James Ussher
in the 17th century. Other displays cast doubt on radioisotope dating
and the mainstream view of the fossil record. Still others show how it
is that the universe has been around for just a little more than 6,000
years rather than 13.8 billion years as posited by scientists.
Creation Museum helps support the Christian world view, right down to
the dioramas showing humans and dinosaurs sharing a young Earth.
want to make it as professional as possible, as first class as
possible, cutting edge," Ham said. "Of the people who come here,
probably a majority of them would support our position on Genesis, and
they're thrilled with the quality. Usually the comment I get is that it
exceeds their expectations. They love having a family-friendly place
that they can bring their children to in particular, and not worry about
what they see and what they read. It teaches what they're teaching
Viable or not? So is creation a viable model of
origins in today's scientific era? For the debaters, that's the key
question at issue on Tuesday night. But for the believers, the answer is
already there: It's viable enough.
"There are two ways of looking at the world. You have the same
information, the same facts — but two ways of organizing them, two world
views," said Michael Pells, a museumgoer who took his 8-year-old son
through the dinosaur displays on Monday. "As Christians, we're called on
to pass our faith along to our children, and I'm trying to pass that
along to our kids. This helps — it's something that's interactive,
graphic and exciting for the kids."
Theology student Roger
Browning said he favored a live-and-let-live approach to the
evolution-vs.-creation debate. "It's not necessary to say that one is
right or wrong," he said, as he stood at an exhibit explaining what's
wrong with Darwinism. "Both are viable."
Whatever happens on
Tuesday, Sid Latham — a friend of Weaver's who is a preacher at the
Fayette Church of Christ in Lexington — said he hopes evolutionists and
creationists will find a way to get along. "I think we'd get a lot more
done if we didn't get offended over what the other side says," he said.