Why the Nye vs. Ham Debate is one of the worst ideas ever…Sigh.

The first time I saw it while scrolling my newsfeed, I instinctively reacted with a groan. Ugh. Science vs. religion. Evolutionists vs. Creationists. Those who would question vs. those who would accept it at face value. Bill Nye the famous Science Guy vs. Ken Ham, the president and founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. The great debate that isn’t and never should be. February 4th at 7 PM. (Yes, you can even tune in here.)

www.debatelive.org

Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good debate. Absolutely love it. I relish the opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation in which both “sides” hash out a topic or issue. I find it entirely invigorating discussing sociopolitical issues with those who don’t agree with my viewpoint or tackling controversial topics with those who already have it all thought out. And while I love teaching and speaking to Christians, I am truly in my element when I get to sit down and engage with the skeptics, the naysayers, the thinkers who dive into the unknowns and aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Though my own faith in the Creator of this Universe is unwavering and absolutely fixed, I find comfort in the tension between faith and all that we don’t yet know, and I relish any chance I get to engage in conversation right in the middle of that tension.

So while I would normally applaud any effort for two sides to come together with listening ears and open minds in a Great Discussion, I find the Nye vs. Ham debate to be the one of the Worst Ideas Ever. Why? Because, while I could be 100% wrong, I don’t think there will be many listening ears or open minds. (In fact, the idea of an open mind is scary to many people of faith and often dismissed as a liberal attempt to accept all new scientific theories as fact and reject God at the core. As for me, I’ve learned the most when my mind isn’t shut. Funny how that works, huh?)

And while I have your attention, let me tell you what this blog post is NOT. This is not an attempt to prove that the Universe is billions of years old (though I certainly believe that it is). This is not an effort to examine the evidence that the Universe was not made in six actual days (though I adhere to theories that it was not). This is not a diatribe on dinosaurs or Darwin or anything else that that would seek to divide. This blog post is an invitation to simply THINK about the Great Debate and why it shouldn’t be.

A Little Background

Way back in my first semester of college at Rice University, I took a science course in the study of space. Besides being a total Space Nerd’s dream, this was a real privilege to do at a university with an entire department dedicated to Space Science. (Yes, an ENTIRE DEPARTMENT, you guys. Ahhhhh…) At a time in my life in which I was reconsidering everything I ever knew about God and Faith and Reality (never losing my faith, but searching out more meaning in it), this course was pivotal in absolutely BLOWING MY MIND. Later that year I took Human Biology, and more MIND-BLOWING ensued.

Of all the decisions in my life, few have been more instrumental in increasing my awe-factor of God than choosing to study science in college. Though it took awhile to settle on a major (ultimately I chose two: English and Biology), having the opportunity to dive into the details of science elevated my faith in the God of the Universe more than almost any other endeavor.

And though there I was, engaging in learning among those Big Bad Scary Unbelievers (oh no!)—those who scoffed and rejected the idea of a Creator, I found a sense of camaraderie unlike I had experienced before in Academia. There’s something quite special, even quite mystical, that happens when minds come together in the pursuit of truth—whether it’s the pursuit of the origins of the Universe, the quest to discover how we came to be, or seeking out the science behind the way the whole world works. And it’s that kind of pursuit that led me not just to answers to all of the above or questions just the same, but to a greater, deeper, and more intimate fascination with this Magnificent and Majestic God who authored it all, is in all, and is all.

The Great Paradox

And that’s the funny paradox about the co-pursuit of scientific study and faith in our Creator: The more we understand about science, the more we understand about God. And yet, the more we realize how little we understand at all! And it’s that realization itself that both compels me to discover more and reveals to me how much more there is to know. Because God? Well, He’s mind-blowing! Absolutely mind-blowing! And so I want to know more and dig more and discover more…more than I knew before, and more than I knew I could ever know before. My mind is being blown even now.

The Great Mistake

As Ecclesiastes tells us, there’s nothing new under the sun. And there’s certainly nothing new about the Great Divide between those who believe in science and those who believe in faith. But I think that very chasm is the biggest mistake of all, for I have never found good reason to divide the two.

For far too long (millennia, really), people of faith have made enemies of people of science (and vice versa). And if history is any good indication of the future, those people of faith eventually accept what the people of science were telling them long ago.

I’ve always found it peculiar and sad that Christians—those who on Sunday mornings sing praises to the “God of Wonders Beyond our Galaxy”—condescend those who by their profession or passion would seek out those very wonders. How can we say we applaud the God of the Universe yet condemn those who are fascinated by a lifelong study of that same universe? How can we praise a God whom we admittedly can’t fully comprehend—whose ways are not our own—yet patronize those who seek to comprehend that what we don’t care to?

It’s the Great Mistake and the Great Divide. Forget Democrats vs. Republicans. Liberals vs. Conservatives. The pseudo division between Science and Faith does more damage to both sides than any of our politicking ever could.

Everybody Loses, Nobody Wins

So the question is, what is there to gain in a debate that once again pits scientists against Christians? The very desire for such a debate demonstrates an us vs. them mentality that the unbelieving world has witnessed far too much of.

And also? That us vs. them mentality ignores the reality that there are many of us believers in the God of the Universe who also admittedly don’t entirely know its origins and don’t think Genesis says it all. We affirm the Creator, while also affirming that the Bible is not a book of science. We revere the Author of Life, while also inquiring where that life began…and how.

The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 139 admires the God who “knit me together in my mother’s womb” and praises Him “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” but he doesn’t dictate how God knit him together or how exactly he was made. Because the point of Scripture isn’t how but WhoLet me repeat that. The point of Scripture isn’t how but Who.

And in the same way, the first few chapters of Genesis don’t explain how; no, instead they simply explain Who. We wouldn’t chastise or criticize a person of science who would seek out the scientific intricacies behind human life from conception to birth. No, we would not condemn them for “rejecting Scripture,” and we certainly would not fold our arms and tap our foot and tell them, “Well, God said he made me in my mother’s womb. He said it, I believe it, and that’s all that matters.” No, no, no! Instead we are collectively and individually awed by discoveries that would help us to understand—even down to the intra-cellular level—just how that life came to be. And when we do that, it makes Psalm 139 all the more amazing, right?

So when the author of Genesis, in the opening sentence of the entire Bible, dictates that “In the beginning, God created,” we need not scoff at those who would seek to find out how he in fact did that very thing, even if they do not give credit where credit is due. No, in fact we should welcome it all the more, for as the Psalmist describes in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech:
night after night they reveal knowledge.

And so do we not believe that if a doubting person should study science—the heavens, the skies, the work of his hands—that maybe, just perhaps maybe, God will reveal to them knowledge? And ultimately, that knowledge will reveal to them Himself? For as Paul explains in Romans 1:20, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Did you catch that, you guys? If we study what has been made, it will reveal to us God! So let’s applaud the studying. Let’s encourage the searching. Let’s cheer on those inquisitive souls who would dedicate their lives to these pursuits. For in such quests God reveals! How little we trust Him to do so.

See, I have this conviction—based on my own experience and conversations with so many other lovers of science—that pitting Science against Faith is a Great Mistake in which everyone loses and no one wins. Don’t believe me?

Let’s just imagine for a minute: If Ken Ham (the Creationist) “wins” this debate (whatever that looks like to you), Christians will rally and cheer and say I Told You So to the big, unbelieving scientists, when really they said nothing beneficial at all. Creationists—which, by the way, is a misnomer that leaves little room for those who believe both in a Creator and an evolutionary process by which to create—will continue to look down their nose at Science, treating it with continued skepticism and even outright disdain. It will still be us vs. them, and everyone will go back to their own self-constructed boxes, crawl inside, and stay there until the next Great Debate that accomplishes nothing. {And, still, after all these years of following Jesus, I’ve yet to meet a single follower of Christianity who came to know God because they finally relented and admitted that the Earth is only 5,000 years old. I have, however, met many who have less desire to follow Him because Christians gave them little room to believe anything but.}

And now let’s pretend that Bill Nye “wins” this one (though I doubt Ham’s fans would ever concede to such). What does that profit the Faith? For Science to win, Faith has to lose? So you see, if Bill Nye wins the debate, he still loses after all. He’ll either be the enemy of Creationists, or the butt of all their jokes. But he certainly won’t be on their team. And that means he loses in the end, and that, my friends, is a worse tragedy than whether or not we ever know how long it took God to make this planet.

So there’s no real winner. And everyone loses. And I have nothing good to say about that.

Great Expectations

So instead I pray.

I pray for my fellow friends who are infatuated by science and all that entails, because I am right there in the realm of searching and re-searching with them. I pray that the eyes of Bill Nye would be opened, that his God-instilled inquiries into the unknowns of the universe, his desire and drive to delve into the mysteries, his passion to pursue the origins of this life, would not be squelched by those who would limit what God placed within him. I pray that the wonders Nye uncovers would uncover the wonders of the Creator. I pray that the truths he teaches would teach him the ultimate Truths. I pray.

And to those who would side with Nye, understanding that you don’t understand it all, but wanting to know all the more, I say keep on. Keep digging. Keep discovering. Keep dreaming that there is more. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by people who simply don’t know what they do not know. And keep an open mind, because in the end that is your greatest strength. And you never know what that open mind might lead to, whether it’s the origins of the Universe, or the Creator who originated it all. Keep that open mind. Keep on. Because I have Great Expectations of what you will uncover.

And to my fellow believers who stand on the sidelines to cheer on Ham and are ready to see Science Go Down Once and For All, let me beckon you to just.sit.down.and.listen. Science is no accident, and God isn’t out to confuse us. What are we afraid of? That our God can’t handle a little bit of doubt? That the Creator of the Universe—whose very ideas were subatomic particles, nuclear physics, and stellar birth and death—is put off by those who want an explanation and understanding of it all? That a group of critical thinkers with a healthy dose of skepticism could downplay the magnitude of our God? No, just no. Critical thinking—no matter whose brain is doing it—could never, ever diminish the brilliance of the Creator. In fact, I would suggest that it enhances it all the more.

And also to those on the side of Creationism (as far as it is defined by those who take on that label), let me also offer this. Every time you criticize those in scientific pursuit, every time you scoff at scientific discoveries, every time you belittle those who seek to know more, not only do you perpetuate the damaging perception that Christians are ignorant (and thus our religion the same), but you condemn the very passions placed there by the very Creator whose creation you claim to uphold. Maybe, just maybe, you are downplaying the very gifts and desires and inquisitive natures placed there by God Almighty.

But whatever you do, please don’t engage in this Great Debate in which everyone loses and nobody wins. Instead, let’s expect that God is greater than our diminished capacity to comprehend Him, and He’s far more generous with His revelations to all He created than our own willingness to share His majesties.

Let’s let Him blow our minds, and let’s not be too arrogant or close-minded to think that He can’t—and won’t—do that through some of the greatest thinking minds of our time.

And if you’re willing to sit down and engage with those who are motivated and compelled by Science, maybe they won’t be hesitant to sit down and engage with you. And a bridge is built, and no longer are Science and Faith across the Great Divide. Because after all, if God’s right there as the Creator of it all, He bridged that chasm long before any Big Bang ever could be. Boom. It is good.

{Oh, you wanted to engage right now? PERFECT. We can start right here. Let.Your.Mind.Be.Blown. WATCH THIS. It’s my new favorite.}

 

{Trust me in this. I sat reading an article on space one day and I was reduced to tears because of this photo. (I know. I warned you. Nerdiness abounds in me.) And so I keep this page from National Geographic Magazine on my bathroom mirror, because A) it’s super sexy, and B) to daily remind me of the ENORMITY of our God. How can I not trust THAT?}

Godofspace

14 thoughts on “The Great Debate in Which Everyone Loses and Nobody Wins

  1. Corrin

    I love this. Thank you!

    Also, as a science-loving, homeschooling mom, do you have recommendations for materials/curriculum for my highly intelligent 9-year old self-proclaimed scientist? He loves science, loves Jesus, and I’ve been searching to provide him with some rockin’ enrichment opportunities.

    Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. Heidi Weimer Post author

      Hi, Corrin! I have the same dilemma with my 8-year-old scientist. I’ve found that most homeschooling science curricula is unfortunately very limiting. We skip entire sections that would limit the unknowns of God and confine Him to one theory or another. One thing I do with my 8-year-old is let him do his own research (with supervision). He will Google topics of interest to him and doing so has led him to be an expert on aviation and astronomy. It satisfies his curiosity (though temporarily!) and allows him to uncover topics that interest him the most.

      I’ve also picked up some science experiment books and Question & Answer books for gifted kids. He uses those at will and loves them.

      It’s fascinating to see what our kids (and we, too!) are inquisitive about when there are no parameters to our pursuits! Keep on! 😉

      Reply

      1. Corrin

        Thanks Heidi. That’s sounds similar to what we do. Was just hoping maybe you knew of something I hadn’t found yet. His current areas of focus are geology and marine biology. We’ve just grown accustomed to him teaching us constantly. His grade level curriculum (and even advanced/gifted material) literally bores him to tears, so we are supplementing a lot and getting creative in how to fan his love for learning. It is not always easy!

        Reply

  2. Nancy H

    Wow! BRILLIANT! My favorite quote “Because the point of Scripture isn’t how but Who. Let me repeat that. The point of Scripture isn’t how but Who.” We worship the God of the Universe, the God of Science, the God of all Brilliant Minds (whether they realize it or not) and the God and Keeper of all Knowledge. Do we really think that He is surprised and “thrown” when scientists discover something knew? No. He is the One Who revealed it and the One Who allowed it to be revealed in the first place. It has always made me frustrated and sad when Christians scoff at science. Science proves God to be infinitely more vast than our human minds can hold. I loved on the video where the scientist said that our human minds can’t even hold all this knowledge and how it is mind-blowing. Wow. GOD. Let us listen to scientists, not with disdain, but with open minds, acknowledging that just because I can’t comprehend what they are talking about or maybe not even interested, they can and do because our God created them with those minds. Let us pray that as their minds are being blown by this infinite knowledge that their eyes will be opened to and blown by our Infinite God. Let us worship this God of the Infinite Vastness and close that Great Divide so that everyone wins.

    Reply

  3. Marjorie

    I did not finish my comment… I cringe a little when I see debates like this too. No matter who “wins,” I have never seen one of these debates change anybody’s mind. It just stirs people up. And like you pointed out so eloquently it is not how, but who.

    Reply

  4. Heidi G

    So wonderfully articulated, Heidi. No good ever comes of putting and keeping God in human sized boxes.
    .

    Reply

  5. Mike Ruiz

    What a great job in effectively presenting the argument! My favs:
    “I’ve always found it peculiar and sad that Christians—those who on Sunday mornings sing praises to the “God of Wonders Beyond our Galaxy”—condescend those who by their profession or passion would seek out those very wonders. How can we say we applaud the God of the Universe yet condemn those who are fascinated by a lifelong study of that same universe? How can we praise a God whom we admittedly can’t fully comprehend—whose ways are not our own—yet patronize those who seek to comprehend that what we don’t care to?”

    “Science is no accident, and God isn’t out to confuse us. What are we afraid of? That our God can’t handle a little bit of doubt? That the Creator of the Universe—whose very ideas were subatomic particles, nuclear physics, and stellar birth and death—is put off by those who want an explanation and understanding of it all? That a group of critical thinkers with a healthy dose of skepticism could downplay the magnitude of our God? No, just no. Critical thinking—no matter whose brain is doing it—could never, ever diminish the brilliance of the Creator. In fact, I would suggest that it enhances it all the more.”

    Thank you for sharing your gift of critical thinking, Heidi!

    Reply

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