Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Thoughts on the Nye / Ham Debate ...
I did a lot of sighing. Of course, I am grateful for Ken Ham, his gifts and faithful ministry ... but anyone familiar with Greg Bahnsen or any Reformed debater downstream from him was sighing along with me. [*disclaimer: because I was also watching my children, I missed 10-20% of the debate, but most of it was from the Q&A at the end.]
Don't get me wrong. It wasn't like watching the Super bowl all over again. It was by no means a landslide victory for Nye. But I think it's safe to say that, in boxing terms, this one went to a decision. And as they say, the first rule of winning is, never let it go to a decision; never give it to the judges.
Here are 2 lessons I took away from the debate.
1. Doctrine Matters.
The fact that Ham is not self-consciously Reformed was a major handicap for his position. Presuppositional apologetics is king. Resistance is futile. The debate is never really the debate. The resolution always teeters precariously on top of a whole pile of assumptions and underlying presuppositions which have to be aggressively challenged. Don't argue details the whole time. Touch on them. But spend the bulk of your time deeper. It's like championship ping-pong. You have to back several steps away from the table to really get that spin and speed to win. You'll miss the bigger picture if you're not at least a few steps back.
Bill Nye debated for an hour with a Kentucky fossil rock sitting on top of his podium. He was locked into the debate on the myopic level of details, individual proofs, and datum. But as the holocaust, Margaret Sanger's eugenics, and Columbine have taught us, the most compelling problems with evolution are found on a worldview level. It's not the rattle that concerns me so much as the dripping fangs I found attached to the head on the other end when I traced the connection.
And while we're at it, does your worldview account for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the possibility of scientific advancement, not to mention the possibility of human morality, dignity, the reliability of empirical data, the existence of mind, human thought, and inquiry, etc.? No. As a matter of fact, your worldview directly undermines these things.
If I were Ken Ham, I would spend a lot more time talking about the Australian Aborigines, Adolf Eichmann, the law of noncontradiction and how evolutionary assumptions have hindered medical progress [vestigial organs; junk DNA; etc.] Go for the jugular. He did well to point out the difference between observational and historic science. I wish he'd kept running in that direction.
2. Debate, as a form of Rhetoric, is a Skill.
There were probably a dozen moments in last night's debate when I found myself thinking - right there - that is a critical assumption to jump on! Or conversely - right there - that is a threat to answer directly. But Ham seemed to let a bunch of stuff slide. Even when Nye broke it down for him and said: Here's my list - ice, rocks, trees, stars, and a sinking ark. These are the reasons I think Y.E. Creationism is untenable.
Each one of those objections was viable and needed to be directly countered. You can't faithfully contend for the truth and let big bombs slip by. Too much is at stake. Every thought must be taken captive. Of course, I'm spoiled. Bahnsen, Wilson, DeMar, North, Bruggencate ... these men are both gifted and skilled in debate. Most of the rest of us lack in both natural ability and practice. I remember watching R.C. Sproul, one of my favorite teachers of all time, really flounder in debate. How could such a great orator such as he struggle? It is because debate is different than lecture. Speaking, teaching, and debating, these are each unique and distinct skill sets.
What can I say? I am overwhelmingly grateful for Ken Ham, AIG, ICR, etc. I applaud him for his life's labors and his courage despite reviling. I am inspired by him and hopeful that when this debate takes place in the next generation, our children - standing on his shoulders - will argue with even more substance and skill.