The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

The Futility of the Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate on Creationism

The illustrious debate between Bill Nye and Creationist Ken Ham occurred on February 4, 2014 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky and was streamed over the internet.  Why?  Because apparently there is this large contingent of people who hold scientifically, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.  Where is this supposed widespread guild of irrationality and why are they even important?  Apparently they are all hidden by the evil people at Fox News. I have personally never met anyone who has expressed this belief to me, in my entire life.  Why do we persist in these types of useless and misleading dyadic debates, and why do we spin these debates between the religions of Nihilism and Bible-ism as contentions of ‘science?’


Ken HamPrologue:  I grew up in a household and youth where god was shoved down my throat daily.  I understand the temptation to anger. I am NOT a creationist by any means, I contend for science based evolution. However I do not subscribe to Bill Nye’s self admitted Humanist Nihilism as my religion of choosing. Nor will I stoop to public charades to promote conflation of the science of evolution with my religious beliefs, as has been done with this debate; lest anyone spin this article else-wise.  I am an ignostic, and a true skeptic.  Social popularity and intimidation are insufficient basis from which to accept Bill Nye’s premise (much less Ken Ham’s).

Pseudoscience – The deceptive or deluded act of claiming to use or represent the scientific method or science in attaining conclusions, when in fact such contentions are false.

The wealth of ridiculous propaganda which pumps out of the Social Skepticism machine is endless.  I am absolutely swamped with drivel and doctrine of such a ludicrous and manipulatively transparent nature that I seldom can even put a scratch in my candidate worklist for posts. Today, I simply loved the Skeptical Inquirer’s spin on the infamous Nye-Ham debate on ‘Science versus Creationism’ (Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 38.3, May/June 2014, “Bill Nye’s Take on the Nye-Ham Debate”, http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bill_nyes_take_on_the_nye-ham_debate/).  Some of the gems promulgated in this all-to-common propaganda spectacle include:

  • scientists are generally advised not to debate creationists” – We begin with the mandatory manipulation through fallacy of bifurcation, implying that there exist only two arguments, “science” and creationism.
  • “…just such a debate about origins” – This is not a debate about origins it is a debate between two competing religions.  One which cites an Ark, the Bible and faith, and one which says that only the ‘material’ realm exists, and boasts through implication that science has proven this. Two religions, nothing more nothing less.  If we were discussing origins then we should be discussing the three nucleotide codon basis of the first protein (Glutamic/Aspartic Acids) expressed by mRNA, or the frequency distributions of alleles common to former cladistically bound phyla.
  • The debate …was streamed live worldwide.” – It was live on the internet.  Yawn.
  • “…if you, as an adult, want to hold on to a completely unreasonable explanation of the Earth’s natural history…” – Again equivocating between this large group of people out there who hold that the Earth is 6000 years old, and the broad footprint of ‘creationism’ which are two entirely different things.  But hoping that you infer that anything besides Nihilism, is irrational nonsense.
  • [Ken Ham is] head of a congregation in Kentucky that holds doggedly to the idea that the world is somehow merely 6,000 years old” – There you have it, Tradecraft in action. The lead-in strawman characterization by the extreme, via hasty generalization from a formal Fallacy of Composition.  They are hoping you take the bait and bite.  If you are not a Nihilist, you are a part of this crazy crowd.

Creationism     ≡      6,000 Year Earth      ≡      Anything Besides Nihilism                            OK Got it 😉

  • Bill Nye framed the debate context: “I was willing to come to his facility if the topic was: “Is creation a viable model of origins in the modern scientific era?”  Wait, what happened to the 6000 year old Earth argument?  So now we have shifted to the idea that the entire cosmos, our solar system and man, were all a crafting of some undefined being.  This is a totally different context than the 6000 year old variant of the same; one which is, contrary to Bill Nye’s context of “viable scientific model,” wholly unapproachable by science with empirical study, unlike the 6000 year old Earth argument. Why this change, from something that is wholly measurable and falsifiable in nature by science, into a broader context of something that cannot be approached by science at all?  Was this a sleight of hand to frame the debate as ‘science’ and then context shift so as to conduct it inside an argument realm which was solely religion?

Both men are asking the wrong question.  The next question in a ‘hypothesis’ reduction hierarchy is “Can I detect a single case violation of allele common descent which falsifies our current understanding of the mechanisms underpinning evolution?’  The reason evolution is science, is because it is standing in that crucible of falsification and enduring the test.  Everything else is predictive/anecdotal at best, and at worst, argumentative and religious.

  • evidence for nihilismAs you may know, once in a while I am invited to offer my thoughts on Fox News. And I love it—I love being in the studio right there with those reporters with the opportunity to look them in the eyes (or lens). As you may infer, I’m not much for their style, and I usually disagree with just about everything a Fox commentator has to say, but I relish the confrontation.”  What the fuck?  What does Fox News have to do with a 6000 year old Earth or the wholly unapproachable argument that an undefined being who zapped the cosmos into order?  I don’t know the personal beliefs of the producers, writers, on screen personalities and operations at Fox News.  Does Bill Nye have some kind of advanced intel which he is not sharing with us?  I think this is a de rigueur expression, one which is mandatory to certify to the powers that be, that Bill Nye is in the acceptable club.

So, thus far we have established that we are arguing two religions, before a worldwide audience, between a member of a socially acceptable religion and one which is not socially acceptable.  We have established the players with the propaganda strawman, fallacy of composition, improper scientific method and earmarks of a pep rally.

Now we have contended, falsely, that all this is based upon “science.”  That job done, let us continue reading this hilariousness:

  • I wanted to be in the belly of the beast. I drove by there when I was on other business in Cincinnati a few years ago. The building was closed, but driving around the grounds I saw numerous depictions of ancient dinosaurs. One infamous sculpture featured humans of apparent European descent astride a triceratops-style ancient animal adorned with Christmas lights. I wanted to see the inside someday.” – Oh my gosh, this is not science, this is rallying the troops. This is the speech you give before a basketball game, or when forcing your military billet holders and contractors to work all weekend. Yes, I fully understand how evil the competing religion is.  The competing religion is always evil. I get it.
  • I do about a dozen college appearances every year. It’s a privilege that I enjoy immensely. At first, I figured this appearance and this encounter would get about the same amount of notice as a nice college gig. There’d be a buzz on Twitter and Facebook, but the world would go on spinning without much notice on the outside.” – No, the latter belies the former; that along with the appearances on The Big Bang Theory, your “agents and publicist” as you put it, and the “worldwide audience” spin. You were looking for explosive celebrity publicity, as always, in order to promote your professional status and beliefs.  This is no different than any preacher, replete with the implications of grandeur, high regard and false humility.  At least preachers admit they are acting on faith; you on the other hand are promoting a religious choice, and falsely advertising that it is somehow ‘science.’ Are we writing for a skeptical audience here, or a credulous one?
  • Not here: the creationists promoted it like crazy, and soon it seemed like everyone I met was talking about it” – Oh I see, it was the bad guys who did it. You are intelligent enough to be circumspect as to how this might appear.  I got it.
  • Many of you, by that I mean many of my skeptic and humanist colleagues…” – OK, so we have conflated a personal religion with a principle of scientific thinking. This is a core Tradecraft of Social Skepticism.  Try and get people to consider the two, one in the same, and representative of science.
  • “…my skeptic and humanist colleagues, expressed deep concern and anger that I would be so foolish as to accept a debate with a creationist, as this would promote him and them more than it would promote me and us.” – You known, the real way to discredit this movement is to actually execute the scientific method, not to disallow sponsors of a concept access to it, nor usher the debate surreptitiously into a context of religion each time the topic comes up.  If it is all bullshit, let them publish papers and receive critical review.  Squelching only produces artificial polarization and serves to martyr the cause of the other side.
  • But, I held strongly to the view that it was an opportunity to expose the well-intending Ken Ham and the support he receives from his followers as being bad for Kentucky, bad for science education…” – Now I do agree with this.  The problem is, that this does not exonerate your position.  Pious fraud and a formal fallacy of argument from opponent error.
  • [In my strategy preparations I employed/visited] with …Genie Scott, …Josh Roseneau, …the staff at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), …Don Prothero, …Michael Shermer, …Richard Dawkins, …Carl Sagan, …[and] Neil deGrasse Tyson [all noted celebrity skeptics] …that’s what gave me confidence.” – So not once did you study the underpinning evidence bases, such as they are, which are contemplated researched by the other side.  Nor did you visit in a neutral context any of these opponents in order to gain a clarity on the details of their epistemological structure (there is not simply ONE idea here).  You did not seek to educate, only spin a spectacle and employ spectacle-oriented resources in the process. This is a self-aggrandizing characteristic of a crucifixion, a crusade and a campaign, not an action of science.  It is not a feature of Ethical Skepticism, which demands Value and Clarity from its adherents.

This is the best which “Genie Scott, Josh Roseneau, the staff at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Don Prothero, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, your agents and publicist, and Neil deGrasse Tyson” had to offer?  Noah’s Ark, …6,000 year Earth?

  • Those of you familiar with creationism and its followers are familiar with the remarkable Duane Gish …He was infamous for jumping from one topic to another, introducing one spurious or specious fact or line of reasoning after another. A scientist debating Gish often got bogged down in details and, by all accounts, came across looking like the loser. It quickly occurred to me that I could do the same thing.” – This is not something which ‘quickly occurs’ to a scientist.  It is rather, something one does their entire life.  It is an ethical problem.  Once done, always done.
  • [On my drive to the debate] I easily picked up three nice specimens of rock revealing several fossilized small shelly ancient sea creatures. I held one up during my opening remarks. There’s an irony that the Creation Museum literally sits atop overwhelming evidence of the true age of our planet.“- Fine, so now we have switched back to the discussion of a young 6000 year old Earth construct.  Why?  I guess we need to spin the perception that we are discussing science, so this is the token science principle.  One cannot consider this a critical path argument, because most of the creationist argument does not hinge on a 6000 year old Earth.  Nor do most creationists believe this contention in the first place.  So this is trivia employed to spin the perception that one is conducting science.  In other words, it is pseudoscience.
  • To a man and woman, all of my advisors, NCSE staff and skeptics alike, strongly felt that the desirable position in a situation like this is to go first. This, many of you believe, puts the onus on the other guy or gal to refute your points.” – This is unmitigated bullshit. Not one person, politician, scientist, beta club member, beer drinking pontificate, or even man on the street wants to go first in a debate. You wanted to go last, so you went last, just like everyone else. Again, we are not addressing a skeptical audience in this drivel.
  • Tom Foreman, by long debate tradition, tossed a coin backstage. Ken Ham won the toss, and probably taking advice from his people, who were thinking a lot like my people, chose to go first. I was delighted.” – This makes no sense.  You previously touted the debate as “[questioning] creation as a viable scientific model for the modern era.” How were you going to accomplish this without presenting the model first? Again this is absolute twaddle meant for an audience of the faithful.
  • creationismI pointed out that not a single fossil form had tried to swim from one rock layer to another during his purported worldwide flood, only 4,000 years ago. …I did a bit of engineering, pointing out that no wooden boat has ever been built as big as Ham’s imagined ark.” – This is an argument set against the veracity of the Bible. Yawn. What does this have to do with creation as a construct?  Nothing, unless you are comparing/contrasting religions.  Again here we are slamming a religion, in order to promote one’s own religion.  This has nothing to do with the science of evolution as a refutation of the idea of creation. This is the best which your stellar strategy team of advisers could offer?

So this is all that Creationism is…, is a 6000 year old Earth and an Ark. Well shoot, sign me up for Humanist Nihilism right away.  Golly gee…

  • In keeping with the idea of getting the audience to like me, I spent my first minute and a half on a joke about bow ties. I’m not sure how many of my academic colleagues would have made that choice, but I stand by it.“- Well done.  Part of the goals of Ethical Skepticism: Clarity is to find “common ground with opponents as possible.”  Your colleagues give themselves away as religious proselytizers, by opposing this.
  • Yes, I said, “Sex—sex, sex, sex” to the auditorium audience. Many seemed to have their heads tossed back the way our heads move when we encounter an oncoming two-by-four.” – This is a clueless mis-characterization of Christian or religious people, and shows that you really do not comprehend where your opponents stand or what they think.
  • I was and am respectful of Ken Ham’s passion. At a cognitive level, he believes what he says. He really means it, when he says that he has “a book” that supersedes everything you and I and his parishioners can observe everywhere in nature…” – OK, so this “creationism” we are refuting is really “bible-ism,” and not the idea that potentially DNA stands as a technology or a stratagem, or something testable like that. Ideas which are currently and deceptively conflated inside this bible-ism condemned super-set of evil constructs.

So we have established clearly that this was a publicity stunt, an argument between the religions of the Bible and Bill Nye’s Humanist Nihilism, and that the employment of the word “Creationism” is a purposeful equivocation to target myriad ideas which might serve as a pathway through which to falsify the religion of Nihilism.  Let us continue:

  • After the debate, my agent and I were driven back to our hotel. We were, by agreement, accompanied by two of Ham’s security people. They were absolutely grim. I admit it made me feel good. They had the countenance of a team that had been beaten—beaten badly in their own stadium. Incidentally, if the situation were reversed, I am pretty sure they are trained to feel bad about feeling good.” – Another religious pep talk, and victory lap. A clueless framing of the opponent to make the faithful feel good.
  • They would manage to feel bad either way, which is consistent with Mr. Ham’s insistence on The Fall, when humankind took its first turn for the worse.” – A sound point; nonetheless still a theological argument.  As an ignostic, I find this to be useless argument between religions.  Just because it fits my beliefs, does not make this a scientific process.
  • I very much hope this whole business galvanizes the people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and in neighboring states to take the time to think critically about creationism and to vote to remove it from science classrooms and texts. I frankly hope that in the coming few years not a single student in Kentucky is indoctrinated by the Answers in Genesis facilities and staff. In this debate, we’ve already traveled a long way, but with projects like the Ark Park still in play, there is quite a journey yet ahead.” – It is illegal to promote a religion in a classroom.  The Ark is not an aspect of science, but rather a religion. You are arguing religion, not science.

I would hate to have Nihilism promoted in our classrooms, now that we have successfully eliminated the competing religion, simply because we have won and conflated our preferred religion with “science” through pseudo-scientific publicity charades such as this debate.  There exists a serious set of predictive science which hints that Nihilism may indeed be false. That body of science continues to grow. We do not know where it will head next.

The issue is – not that there is anything wrong with Nihilism and Earth only Primordial Ooze, as philosophies and ideas to test.  The pseudoscience resides in advertising the pretense that these ideas have been vetted and accepted by scientific method and science.  They have not. It should be understood, after misleading debates of this ilk that to force education to teach these two contentions of faith, is just as wrong as teaching Bibles and Arks.

Tally:

Attacks on the religion of Bible-ism:                                                        4

Actual points of Science/Engineering:                                                     1/1

Actual science which opposed the idea of a creative construct            0

Actual Social Enlightenment Achieved                                                     An Undefined Negative Set/Promotion of Humanist Nihilism

An Exercise in Futility of Grand Celebrated Proportions

April 19, 2014 - Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies, Institutional Mandates | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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