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Science Guy Bill Nye Debates Creationist Ken Ham


A famous trial in the 1920s tested the question of creationism. That question is still open for many people, and an argument over creationism versus evolution can sell a lot of seats. Last night at the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky, its president, Ken Ham, was pitted in debate against TV personality and science educator Bill Nye. The event sold out in a matter of minutes. As Devin Katayama, from member station WFPL in Louisville, reports, a debate is not likely to change many minds.

DEVIN KATAYAMA, BYLINE: Jonathan Reiter is a Christian who says he used to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy when he was a kid. At the same time, he was attending private school.

JONATHAN REITER: So I was being taught one thing at school and then hearing his stuff on his show, which is totally different. So it made me really think, OK, I really have to choose what I'm going to believe.

KATAYAMA: Reiter chose to believe creationism and that the world was made in six days, as the Bible says. And psychologists tell us he likely won't change his mind since our minds like to reinforce what it already believes.


KATAYAMA: Ken Ham argues the creationist belief is more likely than evolution because humans weren't around to observe the evolutionary process. But he says the Bible tells the story of the Earth. Bill Nye says that's no substitute for science; and says science requires predictions based on our understanding of the world, like calculating the time it takes starlight to reach Earth.


KATAYAMA: Evolution is the scientific concept that Nye and a majority of scientists agree with. It's also being taught in schools; and when you get older, studies show, the more education you have, the less likely you are to believe in creationism. Will Gervais is a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky. He's studied the relationship between evolution and religion, and says it's tempting to look to a higher power on complex issues.

WILL GERVAIS: That's kind of a trick of how our brains work. But the more and more we learn about the world, the more we're finding that our intuitions, as compelling as they are, they're not always right.


KATAYAMA: That's CNN's Tom Foreman, asking Ham a question from the audience. Ham didn't say he would ever change his mind but instead, simply replied he's a Christian.


KATAYAMA: While the arguments were respectful, Nye repeatedly asked for evidence.


KATAYAMA: Some experts who study how people think don't expect any winner or loser from Tuesday's event. Michigan State University professor Rand Spiro says the real question this raises is, are children being taught to think critically>

RAND SPIRO: We wonder why kids get out into the world, and they can't apply the knowledge from school in the world. It's because the world isn't like what we do in school. The world is more complex. The world doesn't go in a line; it's not organized in chapters; it doesn't have a single right answer.

KATAYAMA: Back at the Creation Museum, Calvin Perry, from Ohio, says he believed in God until he started taking science classes in college.

CALVIN PERRY: The concepts that the Earth can only be 6,000 years old didn't make sense to me and everything I learned about evolution.

KATAYAMA: At the same time, Jonathan Reiter says he's currently taking college science classes, and says while the class debates have been heated, it's not enough to change his beliefs.

Are you still open to changing your mind?

REITER: No, not at this point.

KATAYAMA: For NPR News, I'm Devin Katayama.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Devin Katayama
Devin Katayama joined WFPL News in summer 2011. He adds to the newsroom a diverse perspective having lived and reported in major cities across the U.S. and spending time in Peru reporting on human trafficking. Devin earned the 2011 Studs Terkel Community Media Scholarship Award for his report on homeless youth in Chicago. He reports on education affairs in Kentucky and Indiana.
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