Tonight (Tuesday, February 4) many will tune in to a debate between the humanist scientist, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the fundamentalist Christian, Ken Ham. The debate will draw interest from Christians and atheists, alike, because the subject matter represents an important fault line in our culture.
For what it is worth, here is my prediction: The debate will be highly entertaining but in the same way that professional wrestling is entertaining. I know what you’re thinking: “What do the high-stakes, highly charged, and socially relevant arguments between science and religion have to do with the rather bizarre, garish, and seemingly sophomoric world of pro wrestling?” Namely, tonight’s debate will be more theatre and less actual intellectual argumentation.
Just go with me…
IN THIS CORNER,
HAILING FROM QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA, WEIGHING IN AT 204LBS AND RASSLIN’ FOR RELIGION, ITS THAT SIMPLE MAN OF FAITH, JESUS’ MAN: KEEEEEEENNNNNNN HAAAAAAAAM
AND IN THIS CORNER,
HAILING FROM OUR NATION’S CAPITAL, STANDING AT JUST OVER 6 FEET TALL, ITS THAT BOW TIED SCIENCE GUY: BIIIIILLLLLL NYYYYEEEEE.
Just as wrestlers pose and flex in the ring, Nye and Ham are sure to strike rhetorical poses, provoking cheers from the admiring gaze of their devotees. Nye and Ham both specialize in atomic elbows and acute brevity. However, both lack the tools to actually wrestle with the tension of science and religion.
Because Ham doesn’t understand science (though he claims to) and Nye doesn’t understand theology (though he’ll probably claim to) the two think they are locked in a cosmic heavyweight battle with the championship on the line. While posing as wrestlers, what they will present is merely a stylized imitation of the actual intellectual grappling already done by scholars like that late Harvard biologist, Stephen J. Gould, who wrote:
“Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain those facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings, and values—subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve.”
Translation: Science and religion are separate — not competing –projects.
In short, the Bible doesn’t say what Ham thinks it says and science isn’t the end-all-be-all that Nye thinks it is. This will be an entertaining shouting match and Ham will likely emerge victorious because like professional wrestling, the outcome is fixed. As Peter Enns points out, “Nye is strolling into a well-tuned, battle tested, apologetic war-machine” and the battle royal will take place on “Ham’s home turf where he controls the terms and the crowd” — but that doesn’t make Ham’s position defensible.
So get your popcorn ready, tune in, and be entertained. But please do not mistake tonight’s entertainment for actual wrestling.
**For more on Genesis 1, watch this video, here.