On February 4, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, and 1990s television host Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") will debate creationism. Tickets to the event at the museum's 900-seat theater sold out minutes after they became available. (Responses below are listed on a spectrum, with "Yes" answers at the top and "No" answers at the bottom.)
"Debates like the Ham–Nye one are indeed helpful, even though I don't fully agree (or fully disagree) with either man. The event at least got people talking and thinking and maybe even exploring the topic more fully on their own. That is the best outcome."
~ Michael Behe, biochemist, Lehigh University
"Debates, badly done, are of no use to anyone. But quite a few Christians need to be persuaded that debating or public disputes can ever be of any profit. With the proviso that you have an able debater representing the truth, the cause of kingdom work can be greatly advanced through debates."
~ Doug Wilson, senior minister, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho
"Before all the media competition of today, these debates created more buzz and found a large audience, especially in small-town America where entertainment and substantive public discussions were scarce. In more recent times, they tend to attract church audiences."
~ Edith Blumhofer, historian, Wheaton College
"Debates between Christian spokespeople and various agnostic, atheistic, or secular foes have a long history in America, and evolution has often been the featured topic. They often serve as an exercise in reinforcing already held beliefs and conceptions."
~ Larry Eskridge, associate director, Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals
"I've always been suspicious of apologetic pugilism. Frankly, I've yet to meet anyone who was argued into the kingdom—which is not to say that it hasn't or doesn't happen."
~ Randall Balmer, religion chair, Dartmouth University
"Persuasion is central to sharing the Good News, but persuasion is not manipulation. Speakers are not all-powerful, and audiences often resist being persuaded if they already disagree with the argument. So the debate may have created spectacle, but it may not win any new converts."
~ Christine Gardner, visiting assistant professor of rhetoric and media studies, Willamette University
"A debate on creation and evolution is almost sure to shed more heat than light.... and before an audience of laypeople, debaters almost always revert to applause lines. If you find presidential debates illuminating on the issues facing America, you are bound to have loved this debate."
~ Tim Stafford, author, The Adam Quest
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