Darwin Day is Feb. 12. Let’s not call it a holiday—the “holy” association could tick a few people off. But it is an observance expressing appreciation for evolution and for the person who put that theory in print, Charles Darwin, born Feb. 12, 1809, author of On the Origin of Species.
The big news of the past week with a tie to evolution was the debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy, representing evolution, and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, speaking for creationism, at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., near Cincinnati, on Tuesday, addressing the question, “Is creation a viable model of origin in today’s modern scientific era?” The museum is operated by Mr. Ham’s organization.
I went to a local livestream of the event, sponsored by Christian radio station YES FM at Calvary Church in Maumee. There were more than 150 people in the audience; Emmanuel Baptist Church also hosted a livestream and reported 50 in attending attendance, and Emmanuel lent a projector to University Bible Fellowship at the University of Toledo for a screening. The livestream was available for free, so many others in the area might have watched in groups or at home. Video of the debate is available for an unspecified period of time on debatelive.org and YouTube.
The Creation Museum contacted YES FM offering the debate for a free livestream, said YES’s Jeff Howe. Chad Gilligan, the lead pastor at Calvary, said, “We simply just opened the doors for YES FM. We’ve had a partnership with YES since their inception. They approached us about being the host site and we were honored to do it.”
YES FM’s Mr. Howe pointed out, “If you need to work on your debating skills, you’ll see how good two professional men will go about it, and respectfully. So this will be real good.”
I doubt that the debate, though it was strong at times in each side’s presentation, changed any minds. There was no dividing marker at Calvary for those taking sides and the undecided to sit in separate sections, and the audience seemed pretty cohesive about supporting creationism, even if they might not agree with Mr. Ham that Earth is only 6,000 years old, with Noah’s flood happening 4,000 years ago.
Luther Rupp drove in from Bryan to watch the debate, which is “my cup of tea,” he said. In discussion with some people at a coffee shop in Bryan, he heard about Calvary’s livestream. When asked before the debate if he had a particular side, Mr. Rupp said, “Oh, I’m a Christian. I got saved when I was 20, 21 years old, and I’ve studied creationism in college. I looked at evolution as well. So do I have a particular side? Sure.
“I guess I have to put it this way, and I’m not the first one to say this, but the Bible is true through and through. It has been proven throughout history,” he said. “All the ‘disprovals’ of the Bible fell flat on their face, and I think [evolution] will, too, because I’ll stand by God’s word more than any word man says. And science should prove the Bible; we should never be ashamed of science.”
Mr. Rupp said that he believes the Genesis six-day creation story happened in six 24-hour days. “Am I convinced 100 percent? Well, I’m not saying my belief is correct. God didn’t show me if it’s one day or 1,000 days; he didn’t tell me that yet. I haven’t asked him yet, either. He usually tells you when you ask him. I believe it’s one literal day, but if it’s not, that’s not going to burst any bubble on me.”
Few readers will be surprised that I’m on the side of evolution. The questions Mr. Nye asked that Mr. Ham didn’t answer had to do with his reliance on the Bible’s English translation, and his ignoring the scientific approach of predicting future events. Mr. Ham spoke about “historical science,” which those living today can’t observe, he said. His historical label discounts the scientific method. And some creationists in the audience took critical pleasure in Mr. Nye answering “I don’t know” based on questions that science has not yet explained; in my thought, he was being responsible to science.
Mr. Ham’s answer, more than once, was “I have this book,” the Bible, and all the answers can be found there according to him. A good phrase, but not a strong argument.
But “you have some really heavy hitters in science who believe in creation,” Mr. Rupp said, “and to say that all the smart people are evolutionists is poppycock. Good old word, isn’t it, but it’s true.” There are also many religious people, though, even devout Christians, who accept evolution, trust science, and look to scripture as story more than an accurate historical account. This will remain an eternal difference, I think.
Neither debater fell flat. I appreciate that Mr. Nye went to the Creation Museum, not neutral territory, to make his argument and to advocate the need for science education. And I like the timing of this to be near Darwin Day. Though in many ways science has moved beyond Darwin’s early exploration of evolution, his scientific and religious story continues.