April 14, 2024

Hey Bill, show ’em that Science Rules!

Of all the places I ever planned to visit, Kentucky never made my list.  It’s also surprising to me that I would ever visit a creationist museum -and give them money on top of that!  But I have to do that if I am to document the historic confrontation between Ken Ham, kingpin of creationism and Bill Nye the Science Guy.


This will doubtless be another decent into madness, and I’m sure the debate will be infuriating.  I’m not sure what to expect from Nye in this debate, but every time I’ve seen Ham speak, it has been an outrageous parade of deliberate deceptions and holy hogwash.  But I have to respect Bill for what he is doing.  I was there when Hitchens walked into a Dallas megachurch and won the day against Demski.  I will be there to witness this too.

Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Science Rules!

38 thoughts on “Hey Bill, show ’em that Science Rules!

  1. Aron,

    February 4th is just around the corner. Do you know if it will be simulcast? I wonder if Zach Koppelin will be there. He is the future…well, the present and the future.

  2. If the debate in on the 4th of February, we really need to have Bill spend the weekends from now until the debate on Skype with Aron getting practice debating creationists.

    If Aron gives him the appropriate coaching, Ham won’t stand a chance.

    1. That might not be a bad idea; another thing that Nye could do is maybe start out his segment by asking:

      “What physical evidence would convince you that the universe and the earth is only 6000 years old, if you had no knowledge of the bible”?

      Then point out that it’s not from astronomy that they can get 6000 years, what with the problems that starlight distance gives, and how they have to shoehorn that into a pre-determined age of 6000 years, instead of just going along with what the facts indicate.

        1. I actually came up with the same argument myself a while back, but I figured out it’s actually not quite bulletproof. You make a mistake in that you assume the speed of light to be constant the whole way through the process, from the supernova exploding to the light reaching our eyeballs, as shown in your trig. Or perhaps you didn’t make the assumption but didn’t correctly account for it. However, this can’t be possible, since we knew the speed of light when we were seeing the light from SN 1879A, it had to be c.

          So we need to look at the idea that the speed of light changed while it was travelling from SN 1879A to Earth. How does that affect the calculation?

          It’s quite simple really. Just look at the path lengths. Let’s call the three positions S (supernova), D (a point on the dust ring), E (earth). The difference in the length of the path that the light took is the distance between the supernova and the dust ring (SD). You can ignore the difference between SE and DE since it is negligable at that angle. This means that when the light from the supernova reached Earth, the light from the dust ring must have been pretty much a distance of SD behind it. No matter how fast light was travelling, and how its speed may have changed in the intervening time, the distance between the leading photons from the supernova and from the dust ring would have remained the same, always SD. The dust light then took 8 months to reach us, but remember, this was 8 months in 1897. So therefore, SD must be c * 8 months.

          SD is therefore not reliant on c’ but ONLY reliant on c. you can use your trig to calculate the distance to the star, and you find that since we know SD, we can calculate SE, and the answer will be the same regardless of the speed of c’, which is c * 170523 years. This situation relies on the idea that the supernova exploded just before the c decay event (often attributed to the flood or the fall), the light travelled at c’ to Earth, and mere moments before it reached us, c decayed to its current rate (this decay had to be instant across the entire universe, or at a minimum propagate FROM Earth at c’ which would have an effect of halving the time difference and apparently halving the distance SD).

          So there are three variables we have, the date the supernova actually exploded, the value of c’, and the time that c’ decayed to c. Given that the third is pretty set, a creationist can play with the other two all they want. E.g., one simple solution is that the supernova actually happened in 4001BC, the c decay at 4000BC, and c’=164626c. So in the one year up to 4000BC the light travelled 164626 light years, then covered the remaining 5897 light years in the intervening period to 1897.

          This relies on a remarkable coincidence of timing, but it is theoretically possible. If a second similar event happened, then our creationist could use this to solve a pair of simultaneous equations and put a value on c’. Only once a third event happened, would there be no solution (unless the creationist was remarkably lucky, there might still be some wiggle room in the equations with the date of the c decay event).

          Anyway… this was a very long devil’s advocate post. So I’ll make up for ruining this argument by giving you another one, derived from the same concept. As we just discussed, the distance between photons will not change once the c decay event occurs. However, if the speed of light decreases, then the time taken for the photons to cover the distance between them increases. What this means is that at the point of the c decay event, suddenly less photons would be hitting your eye from any particular source per second. This would of course translate to a VERY noticeable dimming of everything. The bigger c’ is, the more everything would have dimmed. Light would still be emitted at the same rate from the light source, however, so once this new light made it to us, it would go back to its old brightness. Which means the Sun would be bright again after 8 minutes, Alpha Centauri after 4 years, etc. We should still see the effects to this day, as Stars about 6000 light years away suddenly get brighter. So why don’t we?

          The only solution is that stars simultaneously actually physically got dimmer by the same amount during this event. But if that is the case, we would see a difference between the emissions of stars within a 6000 light year radius, and stars outside that radius. There would be a very noticeable difference between their emissions. Also this would mean that Earth received millions of times more energy from the Sun in the past, which would introduce all sorts of repercussions. I don’t think there is an answer to this one, but happy to hear from anyone else who enjoys playing devil’s advocate 🙂

          1. Well. Shit. You’re absolutely right. I just ran it through again, and I spotted my error.

            Thank you.

            Let me go add a big disclaimer. Also, Aronra, can you add something to both posts in that other thread saying I’m wrong? Maybe just scrub them with a note saying the content was wrong?

            Sorry for getting your hopes up. (The bit about radioactive decay is still good, just not the geometry.)

            Well, shit.

          2. Why won’t it let me reply to your post?

            Hehe I remember having the exact same feeling when I came up with the argument and then refuted it myself…

            Although this does raise another issue with the c-decay hypothesis I just thought of. Basically, the distance between the light from the start of the supernova and the end of the supernova would be separated by a few light months distance. But that would be c’ light months, because that’s how fast light would be travelling at the time. When the light slows, though, it would still be the same distance but take much longer to travel that distance.

            This would have the effect of slowing down the appearance of the event by a factor of c’/c. However, since it appeared to take a few months on Earth, in reality the entire event must have been over in a couple of seconds in reality. This seems pretty far-fetched for a supernova. Moreover, this would make the light cone from the moment of the decay event (about 4/6000 light years in radius) incredibly obvious, as everything outside it should be travelling much faster than everything inside it.

            I think the biggest problem with the c-decay hypothesis is the existence of this light cone. Everything outside this light cone, we would still be seeing based on old light that was emitted at c’ some time between the creation and the c decay event, and of course everything we ever see in this volume of space must have occurred in this short timeframe. I don’t see any way of implementing a c decay event without this light cone becoming immediately obvious in some way, and the fact that it doesn’t exist in any way should make this hypothesis unworkable.

            Of course, that makes the assumption that creationists care about things such as “evidence”, “reality” and other such silly ideas. 😉

          3. There is a max nesting depth, and that is why you cannot reply to my post directly.

            As for the age of the universe. Yeah, there’s more than enough evidence I know of offhand, but it’s not something as crystal clear and simple as my earlier bad argument.

            As for radioactive decay, I was obliquely referring to the light display over time of supernovas. After the initial event, all of the light is from radioactive decay. We modeled which elements and isotopes would be present, and light display over time – or light curve – implies certain half-lifes, which matches quite well our models. Of course, if decay rates were also different in the past…

            Also millisecond pulsars.


            And everything on this page:


  3. Best of luck Bill!

    Despite my thoughts against this whole thing (I wont call it a debate, because there just is no debate), I still support Bill and his mission to help educate the locals about science. With that intellectual-blackhole of a museum stationed in Kentucky, it is fantastic to have someone try to bring some knowledge and common sense there.

    And I hope after this debate, that the Creation Museum continues to experience a nose-dive in number of visitors as well as a loss in finances ’til the day they have no choice but to close their doors.

      1. Hmm… I don’t see any “message pending moderation” thingies, and yet it won’t post my post. No error messages or anything. I assume it’s because of the URL, so let me mangle it.

        My advice can be found at the same website:


        Any chance Nye is going to read that, or did I write that just for my own amusement?

  4. You have to PAY to go in there? If it was a “ministry” they should collect donations for the event in assurance that they will gain converts by having it. This makes me think that Ham is not at all as confident about his argument or ability to state his case as he tries to portray. There is also the possibility that he is just in it for the money.

  5. Of course you have to pay to watch Ham perform. He’s got a multimillion dollar Ark Park to build and nobody’s interested in financing it. Ham is scrambling for nickles and dimes, especially now when attendance at his “museum” is slowing.

    1. Puh…. he definitely is not a debater, you are right.

      But I will say this, he will explain the science and get his point across no matter what Ham says or does. His point about the national interest in good science education is well-chosen because it pits patriotism against mindless belief. I predict it will go over ok, and he will change some minds in the long run.

    2. Meh when he says that he’s not there to attack anyone’s religion. IMHO, that kind of accommodationism means he’s already lost. Of course you’re there to attack the religion which says the Earth is only 6,000 years old!

    1. That’s how FreethoughtBlogs works: post a naked YouTube URL, and the video gets embedded. Hide the URL in an <a> tag next time.

  6. Aron, I heard you do something that I keep seeing all over the place…. you’re equating home schooling with all those other nuts. I know that the vast majority of parents who home-school their children are right-wing nutjobs that want to skip the science parts and replace them with religious stuff.

    Still, I know of at least one group of home schoolers in Texas who are trying to provide a better education for their children. They teach the truth about evolution, the history of racism in this country, and the role of secularism in the Bill of Rights. One of my friends looked for several months to find a secular home-schooling curriculum.

    I just think it’s unfair to group ALL home schoolers together. My own daughter went to public school, and came home often with stories about the textbooks calling us savages (we’re Cherokee) or phrases like “decides to” appearing frequently in explanations of evolution, plus teachers who strongly favored the Christian mythos in their teachings. This is the sort of thing that some home schoolers stay away from Texas schools (and probably in other states, too) in order to avoid.

    For the record, I’ve tried to supplement my daughter’s public education with “outside” information, and have found some of your videos to be invaluable resources. If I could make her sit still long enough, there are enough resources available online that I could have her ready to graduate college by the time she starts.

    Just my $0.02 US.

    1. I believe that they’ve made clear that they more or less hold to your position. Loosely: not all homeschooling is bad. Just most people are not qualified, and do a worse job than the public school, and most homeschooling parents are doing so in order to worsen their children’s education ala young Earth creationism and such.

    2. That public school system sounds like it sucks. It also sounds like an exception depending on your state.

      Home-schooling parents who band together and put together home-school curricula and pretty much have their own independent schools with other families are generally excellent. I have several friends in this category. Unfortunately, the term “home-schooling” carries baggage because so many parents do it for bad reasons and are terrible at it.

  7. Ham’s empire is about to come crashing down as he can’t sell enough of the bonds to finance his “Ark Encounter” theme park and may have to redeem the $25 million already sold so he is desperate for cash. I think that he is using the debate as a last ditch fund raising ploy and I think Bill Nye should back out and not let himself be used for fundraising that POS Ham. Not to mention that Ham will claim he took on the Science Guy and won no matter what the outcome–not that O’l Kenny boy would ever tell a lie. Small upside, big downside for Bill.

  8. I think someone other than Ham’s people should record this so there is a complete, non edited copy. Ham may well edit it so it best suits his agenda.

    Hopefully, Bill Nye prepares himself well and gets some advice from those who know Ken Ham better than he does.


    I cheer for his courage, both for standing up to a thoroughly dishonest rhetorist on his own turf, and for bucking the fashion of non-involvement among evolutionary science promoters.

    Of course it’s a trap. Of course, most of them will blindly rooting, and claiming victory, for Ham no matter what. So what? Nothing will have changed for them but a boost in donations for their doomed Xanadu; and their YouTube diatribes about it will be glorious fodder for the far more competent cadre of atheist vloggers.

    The point of the debate isn’t to “win” it. For many of Ham’s followers, this could be the first time they’ve ever had the motive or opportunity to seriously consider a scientific point of view. It isn’t about changing the minds of diehard believers. This is about reaching out to all the incipient doubters and rationalists who’ve had the misfortune of being born into fanatical families. For those to whom he shows the path of science and reason, Bill will be a saint.


    Tickets ostensibly went on sale this morning at 10:00 EST. Immediately after 10:00, when many of us from the surrounding freethought groups tried to buy tickets, we got an error message and the “SOLD OUT” message was displayed at the top of the page. I’ve confirmed that no one from either Louisville Atheists & Freethinkers or Lexington Atheists was able to get tickets. I haven’t heard from Tri-State Freethinkers, but I suspect no one up there was able to get tickets either.

    Before agreeing to the debate, Bill should have gotten it in writing that he would get a block of the tickets and that he would get a full recording immediately following the event.


    The below text just appeared on AIG’s website: (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/01/06/nye-ham-debate-tickets)

    “Update: All tickets sold out within minutes. Information will soon be available regarding a live streaming option as well as DVDs to preorder. Watch the debate event page for details. Due to the enormous interest in the Nye vs. Ham debate, the museum will soon announce the option of watching a live stream of the event via the Internet. Information will be released on this website; watch the debate event page for details. For the moment, consider having your church’s small groups hold a debate viewing on that Tuesday evening, February 4, or think about having a live stream of the debate showing inside your church—on a big screen—as a free outreach.”

    The event page to watch is at http://www.answersingenesis.org/outreach/event/Nye-Ham-Debate/

  12. I hope Aron Ra got a ticket clearly Ham did everything he can to tip the scale in his favor and the event selling out so quickly is just another move on his part.

  13. Bill Nye is going to lose the debate, no doubt about that, so he should take a leaf out of Sam Harris’ book when he debated WL Craig. Harris lost the debate because he ignored Craig’s arguments and instead spent the time much more productively, conclusively building a case that Craig is a psychopath.

    If I were in Nye’s shoes I’d be preparing a dummy’s guide to evolution with emphasis on how deluded you have to be to ignore the evidence for it, taking some of the best examples from Dawkins, Prothero and Coyne and shoving it down the audience’s throats, completely ignoring whatever dreck Ham comes out with. The idea would be to plant the seed of doubt in religious minds, principally those watching on Youtube. Evolution, properly explained, can undo religion all by itself. That’s why it’s so hated by the religulous. All the other cosmological, logical, philosophical, theological etc arguments can come later!

  14. Harris lost the debate because he ignored Craig’s arguments and instead spent the time much more productively, conclusively building a case that Craig is a psychopath.

    I chuckled. I saw that debate on youtube. I think this is a fair description of the debate.

  15. “Bill Nye is going to lose the debate, no doubt about that.” (Scoobie – a man or woman of little faith.)

    I sincerely hope that Nye ignores your advice should he see it. The debate is NOT about whether evolution is valid, it is about the validity or otherwise for understanding origins of the ‘creation model’ (whatever that is) – in a modern scientific era. Ham must make the case not Nye. Should Ham fail to do so (or simply bluster about unrelated matters), then Nye can highlight this reality and then explain WHY in fact science (not ‘creation science’) has the best model of origins – even if God exists – and exactly how we now know from scientific study and analysis eg that the universe cannot be just 6,000 years’ old. Thus undermining the essentials of Ham’s argument.

    1. Ham must make the case not Nye

      Try to convince the average creationist about that.

      It’s a basic problem that we face: We care about what’s true. So, we expect that if we’ve got the truth on our side, we’ve got a strong case. However, that’s not how it works, because they don’t care about the truth. They care about defending their position and if they have to throw out several centuries’ worth of scientific progress to do it, then that’s what they’ll do.

      We have to first convince them that the truth is important, then that it needs to be taken seriously, then that we need a reliable method for getting at it, then that simply trusting whatever you’re told as a kid isn’t a reliable method, then about logic and the scientific method, and then we can get around to discussing evidence and the burden of proof.

      We need to do all that before a rational discussion is even possible, never mind actually changing their minds on this subject. We need to give them the education that they’ve been denied.

  16. Try to convince the average creationist about that.” I don’t really care what creationists in the audience might think, as long as Ham loses in the sight of everyone else by failing to make a convincing case to support the proposition considered in the debate topic. The point is that if Ham tries to attack science or tries to complain about Christians exiting churches because of people like Nye, instead of describing exactly what his creation ‘model’ is, then Nye should point this failure out to the moderator and the audience.

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