February 4, 2014
Earlier this evening, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham had a debate over creation as a valid model for the origin of man. The recorded debate can be viewed online; the remainder of this assumes that you have seen it. I felt that, all in all, the debate went well. Nothing is perfect, though, and Monday-morning quarterbacking - well, that’s probably what a good portion of the Internet is for, so here we go.
(Full disclosure - I have rather strong beliefs on this topic, which will probably come out in these thoughts. I’m doing my best to be impartial, but that’s kind of how bias works; you don’t know you’re doing it.)
- I was glad that the debate occurred at all. For a long time, mainstream science has marginalized or even ridiculed anyone who dares to disagree with Darwin. While, toward the end of the debate, I feel that both men missed opportunities to answer each other’s questions or assertions, the debate itself was a great first step towards understanding. Personally, I learned something from both men. I hope the model is repeated, maybe on stage again, but in the day-to-day lives of all those who love learning about our world and universe.
- The question of the debate (I guess it can’t be called a resolution, as it wasn’t a declarative statement) was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Were I scoring the debate the way we were scored back in high school, they’d both get a few dings for topicality, but they’d probably also get a pass on them, as most of their discussion was at least tangentially related. Also, the Ken Ham presentations of the gospel and Bill Nye’s appeals to voters and taxpayers seemed to balance out.
- Building off my first thought - Bill Nye almost kept the snark turned off. Somehow, “creation” became “Ken Ham’s model” that was from “the Bible as it was translated into American English”; both these were repeated often, and are where the snark came through just a bit. Both of these are also distortions; the model being debated is the Biblical model, not the “Ken Ham Theory of the Origins of Species”, and I’m pretty sure that creationism (as opposed to evolution) was developed based on a Bible that had been translated to Shakespearean English. I completely get that Bill may not understand the whole “history as history, poetry as poetry, prophecy as prophecy” thing; a good number of Christians don’t understand that! Those two changes, though, struck me as unnecessary spin.
- Ken Ham made a moderately convincing argument. Yes, the Bible is the source for the model whose viability was being debated, but for those who do not recognize it as absolute truth, I feel that a stronger scientific argument should have been made. He failed to address two key arguments made by Bill Nye, the main one being the predictive capabilities of creation science. There are arguments to be made here, the easiest of which is that creation as the origin of life does not contradict natural laws, so creation has no effect on the predictive nature of currently-observable science. Every time Bill asked for predictive science, Ken responded with confirmational science. It’s kinda cool, if you’ve ever studied it, but it doesn’t answer the question.
- The age thing gets its own thought. One of Bill’s main arguments is that what we observe today couldn’t have come to be in 4,000 years, and Ken never really answered that either. This, too, has a pretty easy explanation (that requires no more faith than creation already requires); if God created Adam as an adult, does it not make sense that He would also create the earth with age? Created 6,000 years ago is not the same thing as 6,000 years old. And, several times Ken said that the dating process was flawed, but he never provided a specific example of one that he felt was better, and why that is. What reason do we have to believe that the atoms behaved differently then than they do now?
- Presentation-wise, and particularly during the Q&A, I believe Bill had the edge. His responses were more directed at the actual questions. Ken gets dinged here for completely avoiding one question. He spent the first 1:30 of his two minutes dissecting the assumption behind the question, then stopped talking; what’s the answer? This was also where they started talking past each other, when I felt that they could have addressed the others’ assertions more directly.
- Bill Nye’s explanation of science was pretty awesome, IMO. I loved his description of the search for knowledge, trying to fill in the gaps, eager to find something that contradicts what we thought. I hope the climate “scientists” were watching. (Disclosure - even I can tell that the preceding sentence contains a little bias.)
I understand the format, so I understand why some of the detail I was looking for wasn’t there. But, as I mentioned above, while Ken’s line “You know, there’s a Book…” was funny, mainstream science is not going to be convinced with “because God said so.”
(More disclosure - this is the part where I stop trying to be objective.)
A belief in Creation as the origin of the universe is not incompatible with science. Ken started to make this point, but didn’t really see it through, and if Bill had made the point, it would have contradicted his dire characterizations of what would happen if we teach people about it. There is a lot in our world that scientists of all beliefs have in common; theologically, we call this common grace. “The sun shines on the just and on the unjust.” I’ve said before that I do not have enough faith to believe in evolution as an answer for the origin of the universe. There are things for which we simply cannot find physical proof in this world; what mainstream science often cites as proof is extrapolation, which assumes facts not always in evidence. (I’m not against extrapolation as a technique; I’m against the belief that gives a 100% answer.) My praise for Bill’s description of science applies here as well. Yes, as Christians, we believe we know what’s coming at the end; but, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the same curiosity about His creation that the rest of the world has.
To be sure, this is one of the big worldview issues, from which many other issues proceed. Take abortion as an example. If we are created by God as creatures in His image, and He makes laws for His people that state that anyone who causes a miscarriage through striking a woman should be killed (Exodus 21:22-24), we probably shouldn’t kill babies in the womb. If we evolved by chance from a big bang, though, abortion is just “survival of the fittest” (particularly as Bill described it, in a way I’d never heard it described before) - the baby didn’t fit.
As I said at the top, I’m glad the debate was held; I hope this is the first of many dialogues with people of faith around many issues. I’m convinced that neither “side” has an accurate idea of the arguments on the other “side,” and changing that is an important first step in turning back the polarization and coarsening we’ve been witnessing for decades.
October 1, 2013
To my friends blaming the Democrats for the shutdown - you’re right. To my friends blaming the Republicans for the shutdown - you’re right. We should not still be operating on a 5-year series of continuing resolutions; all this does is prove that we earned our credit downgrade.
Both sides were elected, and virulent dissent is not incompatible with our system of government; both sides have their talking points down pretty well. It truly is a shame that arguing these back and forth is what passes for debate. It certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence for the future.
In a way, though, this just reflects our society. Schools don’t teach reasoning and logic, they are simple regurgitation centers. Instead of encouraging debate and outside-the-box thinking, the only questions allowed are those that question the institutions and traditions on which our country is founded. We allowed people to say “Freedom from religion is the same as freedom of religion” without saying back “Uh, no, it’s not; prepositions have definite meanings and were selected based on those definitions.”
IMO, this was the beginning of the intellectual weakness that is now writ large on our society. The pseudo-intellectuals use derision and contempt as their go-to weapons when they do not want to deal with opposing viewpoints. In that way, the last week in Washington has been merely a mirror to show us how ugly we’ve become.
The only thing Idiocracy missed was how long it will take us to get there.
January 2, 2013
This is the first or last post of our “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. 2012 wasn’t all bad; let’s take a look at how.
The London Olympics
London got a third turn to host the modern Olympic Games in 2012, and they did an outstanding job. The facilities were all first-rate. The opening and closing ceremonies both set new high bars, being spectacular without being cheesy. Security was also successful, with no violence or terrorist acts being committed during the games. Of course, seeing USA sitting atop the medal board at the end was an added bonus.
The only thing about the games that I would change would be the coverage. I’m not going into full #NBCfail mode, but they should have found a way to televise the games as they occurred, while still preserving their prime time “here’s what we think you want to see” coverage. Rio lines up with the US, so that shouldn’t be an issue as much; evening events can be broadcast live if they wanted.
In July, Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, son of founder S. Truett Cathy, mentioned in a Baptist Press interview that the chain was supportive of the traditional definition of marriage. Judging from the reaction, you’d have thought that he had just introduced the new spicy sodomite sandwich! There were calls for all sorts of punitive actions against Chick-Fil-A, from boycotts to denying future permits. They also were attacked for giving charitable donations to “hate groups.”* So why is this on the good list?
This is here because of what happened next. A groundswell of support arose for the purveyors of fine non-cow products, culminating in “Chick-Fil-A Day,” where every single restaurant had lines around the block as people came out to show their support. The protests two days later paled in comparison to the outpouring of support for the stand the Cathy family was willing to take. Meanwhile, many in the gay community “came out” (sorry, couldn’t help it) in support of the restaurant, citing its employees’ respect for every customer, and others spoke highly of the environment as an employee. Chick-Fil-A fought back against the “you donate to hate groups” charge, and the official boycott effort went by the wayside.
In a year where “same-sex marriage” won at the ballot box, and religious groups failed to get the government to amend “health care” requirements that violate their religion, Chick-Fil-A was a nice bright spot of support for traditional marriage and the right of business people to share their beliefs.
* Just a note, activists – if you call Focus on the Family a hate group, you really should educate yourself, and close your mouth so you don’t completely destroy your credibility when you figure out how things actually are and start making sense.
Mark it down - 2012 proved that the mainstream media now makes no attempt at objective reporting. From the debate moderators, to the selective coverage of the party conventions, to the complete dearth of investigative reporting on Bengahzi, it’s like they just quit trying. When comedians other than Jay Leno are writing jokes about you, you’ve become a parody of yourself; and, when Jon “I can cuss, 'cause I’m edgy, but they can’t broadcast it” Stewart makes more sense than you do, you are an embarrassment to the craft. But, these two facts have become so self-evident that even the American people can’t miss it.
The bias is not the “good” part, but sunlight is the best disinfectant; the exposure of it (and embracing of it) is why this lands on the good list. Some journalists are starting to get it. While Jake Tapper (of ABC News in 2012, of CNN this year) has been the fairest MSMer for a while, this year saw many reporters, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, asking tough questions and refusing to allow dodging. Special recognition also goes to Univisión for their debate questions; the English-language moderators could learn from you.
Maybe we’re almost to the point where liberals will actually see why criticizing “Faux News” with supporting links from The Huffington Post and Mother Jones aren’t that convincing. And there lies the rub; you shouldn’t restrict your reading to either “side.” Read the editorials with which you disagree, as well as the ones you like. Compare story selection among several news sources, and if there is a story missing, find out why. We have the tools now to easily do it, which may be the best part of all of this. You can be as informed as you want to be.
This past year was a great year for our family. In January, February, and March, we were able to do quite a bit of snow skiing. I and my two oldest sons conquered several black diamond runs and couple of double-blacks; I learned the trick to moguls (ski the tops, not the groove in between them); and even my 7 year old found blue and a couple of black diamond runs he could do. We’re looking forward to more of that in the next few months, as our favorite ski area is ready!
In September, we were finally able to take a family cruise where one of our stops was letting our sons swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman. Michelle and I had done that back in 2006, and wanted them to experience it. We also visited Jamaica, where we had a surprisingly good time, and I celebrated my 39th birthday in Cozumel, Mexico. We got to cruise with the same couple with whom we cruised in 2006, and they also brought their family; it was great to spend time with them.
When we got back, we prepared to move. After living on a military base for nearly 10 years straight, we now have a place to live off base. Great friends here in Albuquerque got transferred overseas, and we are able to live in their house. It was a great blessing; we had begun to outgrow our current house. It is definitely nice to have a separation between “work” and “home” now; plus, now I’m not the guy who lives on base, who gets the calls to do stuff “because you’re already there.” Win-win!
Finally, in November and early December, our family was able to participate in Hoffmantown Church’s production of The Story, a dramatic musical presentation of the Christmas story, starting with creation and ending with the resurrection. We had never done anything like it; we usually were not around for it. But, since we were, we signed up. It was amazing! At the first rehearsal, I was not quite sure it was all going to come together, but each time, things got smoother, and by the time our final dress rehearsal came, we were ready. There were 450+ volunteers who worked, and over 6,500 people saw it. We are really looking forward to next year.
Of course, the 2013 production of The Story is still 11 months away; there’s a lot of 2013 between now and then. I hope that I have much trouble narrowing down the few things to include in this post next year. Happy New Year!