Sunday, 1 June 2014

Ken Ham's two questions to Bill Nye

Are there really two Science guys on stage here?

Back in February 2014, Ken Ham engaged in one of the hottest debates of the year, against world renowned science educator Bill Nye the Science Guy. I must admit, his cheery veneer of affability first drew me to his, with his presentation of alternative viewpoints. He appeared smart, eloquent, well dressed, so unlike the stereotypes of the average creationist. Which only reinforced my convictions of the failure of the creationist cause as the debate dragged on. At the end, after savouring the conflict, I was left with its bitter aftertaste.

Nevertheless, before I digress, let us get to the crux of this topic. He asked Bill Nye two questions, of which as of now he has not received a reply. I suspect Mr Nye is an extraordinarily busy person, being president of the Planetary Society and all that. What I found interesting is, that the nature of these two questions offers extraordinary insight into Ken Ham's worldview and its  arrogant claims to knowledge. I dont claim to be a proxy to Mr Nye, but having been asked similar questions before, I can hope to answer them to the best of my knowledge, and in return ask  more questions pertaining to his worldview:

1. How do you account for the laws of logic and laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God? 

The roots of this argument in presuppositional apologetics cannot be overlooked. Bill Nye, in a strange way, actually answered this question in an indirect way during the Q&A session when asked "Where did matter & consciousness come from?" He professed that he didnt know, that we should find out via science. You answered the question "Bill, there is a book out there...." to me, this was at the point I was absolutely  convinced, beyond a doubt of the pretentiousness of the fundamental axioms of "creation science". I will explain more next time.

 Of course, to the average non-religious person, like me, he or she professes lack of knowledge of the origins of the world, or gravity, or atoms for the matter. The Big Bang may explain the origin of atoms, if the BB is true, but it merely begs the question what was the origin of the Big Bang.  Electrostatic fields dont need philosophical justifications for their existence. Either way, we ultimately strive to understand the phenomena behind nature and most of us, whether religious or not, seek empirical data as confirmation of where we came from, rather than relying on dogma alone. Surely you cant fault us for not jumping to conclusions?
So, the answer is: I don't know-lets find out someday.

And now for the rebuttal.....

Ken Ham and his ilk, on the other hand, operate on the assumption that the only satisfactory explanation for natural laws is supernatural causation, in the form of "God". This of course is plagued with numerous problems of its own. Defining the reference frame for logic and nature, even if it presupposes God, does not imply His existence. Where this the justification for the existence of this God, this "timeless, eternal being" then? he has basically invoked the proverbial "goddidit" to explain nature, without explaining the nature of God, His creative power, of which His ways are mysterious and unknown to us. In essence, you have used an unknowable means to explain the existence of the knowable. I dont know if He exists, but I would certainly not come to the conclusion that God wrote the laws of nature based on understanding the laws of nature alone.

2. Can you name one piece of technology that could have only been developed starting with a belief in molecules-to-man evolution?

This of course, shows how off-topic the question is: belief in where we came from doesnt build technology.   One must advance science by gathering empirical data and evidence, regardless of one's beliefs about origins.  In fact, many of them put their beliefs aside for the duration of their work. And the main crux of the debate is about science, not engineering. Scientists dont build technology. They study the world, develop hypotheses to explain their observations, and test them against additional evidence they gather. Formulation of natural laws allow us to further develop technology, and in turn, technology help us better understand natural laws.

Of course, the key is: does belief in origins motivate people to study science? The answer is yes, it does but in not all cases. There are many reasons to go into science: passion, money etc. some do go  into science because of their religious convictions, but I could even argue that atheists are motivated to develop technology/study science/whatever, since they believe that you only live once, they should strive to improve the quality of this ephemeral, fleeting life of ours. Do you see the red herring this question implies?

And now for something else entirely......

Many of the early scientists, whom were touted as "famous creationist scientists" were indeed devoutly religious. They saw the study of the natural world as a means of understanding their God's creation. Most importantly, they sought to understand how their Creator might have designed the natural laws of the Universe, and how these natural laws might have resulted in natural creation. From their view, the Creator used natural laws to create as testament to His own power, rather than continuously violating the own laws He wrote.  Why this feeble attempt to refute scientific explanations of the formation of stars, or of our Earth, or the evolution of animals and plants, of anything that contradicts their hermeneutic interpretation of scripture? Ugh.

More to come.

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