Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quick Notes on the Nye-Ham Debate

Finished watching the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate at the Creation Museum  (see also Ken Ham and the Failures of Creation Science).

I'll have more to write later, but here's my quick notes.

I think Bill Nye did pretty darn good against Ken Ham.  Ham started sounding a little nervous around the latter half of the debate, but Nye kept beating on major points, namely:
  • science as a bread-and-butter issue.  There are jobs and an economy at stake.
  • Nye definitely made the point that a young universe is valid in Ken Ham's and followers interpretation of the Bible, and not necessarily for everyone else.
  • emphasis on the power of prediction in science.  Ham's 'predictions' were tiny compared to the global view of evolution.  Ham's dog evolution tree was particularly bad as Ham doesn't remind his audience that dog evolution was driven by a LOT of human selection.
Ken Ham's major failures:
  • Ham conceded that christian salvation is based on a belief in Christ, NOT in a young universe. 
  • Ham at a couple of points seemed to say that natural laws don't change.  Nye could have nailed him with the point that they would HAVE to change to make a big universe appear young.  Yet observational astronomy suggests decay rates, atomic and nuclear spectra, gravitational constant, etc. have stayed pretty constant (beta decay can be slightly altered by chemical means) even in distant parts of the cosmos.  The 'assumption' that a number of natural laws  are constant is a large part of 'observational' science.
  • In a video presented by Ken Ham, Danny Faulkner claimed there is no observational evidence that the universe is young.  To fit a 6000 year old universe in something billions of light years across requires some type of scaling of distance and/or time.  It's not too difficult to show that periodic things like binary stars (which Faulkner studies - see this link from recent AAS meeting) would show significant changes in binary periods, spectral lines, etc.  I've given robust demonstrations of this for the case of claims of changing speed of light (CrankAstro: A Changing Speed of Light?).  However, any such scaling by other methods (relativity, etc.) could probably be mapped to an apparent change in the speed of light so this probably applies to many creationist alternatives as well.  Once you try to get around this, you hit the 'deceiver god' problem.
  • Ken Ham tries to defend the starlight problem in creation science by invoking the horizon problem in cosmology.  But the cosmological horizon problem doesn't become an issue until BILLIONS of light years out, while creationist models have a problem right in our own Milky Way galaxy!
Update: May 4, 2014
Billy Nye writes about the experience: CSICOP: Bill Nye's Take on the Nye-Ham Debate

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