Was Nye's Time Wasted?
Recently there was a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on creationism. You can find a plethora of commentary out there in blogs, tweets, etc. without a lot of effort, so I won't add any links here. For what it's worth I stand firmly on the side of Nye and science in general. Ham is pushing a false model of the world to anyone who will listen to him. One would think in this day and age of incredible advances in scientific knowledge that it would be obvious that the universe is billions of years old. Unfortunately, there are more than a handful of people who believe that the earth is thousands of years old, and their voice hasn't gone away.
But that's not what I want to dive into with this post. My issue lies somewhere else. As I watched the debate and read other's opinions of the event, the point was raised that trying to debate or reason with creationists is a worthless endeavour. Those who have turned a blind eye to facts and evidence simply cannot be swayed. Spending any time trying to remove their confusion is like trying to push against the ground to make the earth move. It simply won't make any difference.
I beg to differ. You never know what may make a person start to see things differently.
When I was growing up, I developed a huge love for astronomy. I remember finding the book "Our Universe" from National Geographic in the local library, and I was hooked. I checked that book out so much because I loved the pictures, but I also started to discover just how huge the universe really is. Later on I found Asimov's "The Collapsing Universe" and I paged through that book countless times. Neutron stars, black holes ... our universe was a violent, crazy, amazing place to be in! And all through this time the notion that the universe was just created 6000 years ago never dawned on me.
That is, until I became a Christian at the age of 16.
I realize that a fair amount of people who confess to being believers in Christ have no issues with an old earth or evolution. That's not the route I ended up taking. The deeper I got into my faith, the more literal my interpretations became. In a nutshell, it came down to this: if the Bible was the "Word of God", and it was infallible, then one must take it as-is. That means, the world must be young. It embarrasses me now to state that I used to think the same way Ham did, but I did. I bought his book, "Evolution: The Lie" (amongst other creationist literature), and I soaked it all in. I rejected the beauty and wonder that I had as a kid and accepted Genesis as literal truth. And I made sure that people that I met knew that.
By the time I entered graduate school, the world wide web was starting to become a thing. One of the computers in an electrical lab that I had to oversee as a teaching assistant got a network connection with Netscape installed, and I was hooked. Suddenly there was a torrent of information available that didn't exist before, and I dived in. I also found newsgroups to subscribe to, and it wasn't long until I found groups that dealt with creationism and evolution. At some point, I made a post defending the creationism view. I stated things that people like Ham and others spew constantly: plutonium halos, lots of scientists believe in creationism, the speed of light is not a constant, etc. And someone responded. I don't remember who it was or what they specifically stated in response, but ... it stopped me in my tracks.
Not because he was rude.
Not because he called me stupid.
It's because he responded with kind, yet forceful, inquiries. He challenged me on every single one of my points. He cut to the chase and demanded hard evidence for my statements. And he did it in a way that was not demeaning or confrontational.
Truth be told ... I was stumped.
I couldn't back up my position beyond the tripe that I had let my mind be spoon-fed with from all the creationist material I had read before. I tried. I really tried to find more details around the evidence I stated. But I didn't have any.
Now, I didn't become a raving evolutionist at that moment in time. It took a little bit for me to start seeing the creationist argument for what it is: a bunch of words that have no weight. But I eventually came around. I started reading books like "Did the Devil Make Darwin Do It?", which I found at a book store within a huge evangelical church in a Chicago suburb. I started reading more on astronomy again. I rediscovered just how beautiful, how terrifying and how amazing our universe it. And, I realized that it was not thousands of years old, but billions.
My point is, we don't know what impact Nye had on some individuals. Maybe he's lightly pushed some people off of their fence to embrace science again. Maybe he's made some people jump off of their creationist turf and get on the fence. We don't really know. But we shouldn't assume his time was wasted. With his displayed passion to get the youth of America to embrace science, maybe he's turned the tide for an individual that will make wondrous contributions in the future.
It's hard to justify debating creationists. Some people, like Dawkins, simply refuse to do it for good reasons. However, there are time where we have to shine light in the darkness. Nye did a great job of not necessarily defending evolution, but rather putting the spotlight directly on Ham's views. I think that light was rather bright, and showed Ham for what he really is. I hope others who may not have seen that before, now have the shadows lifted off of creationism and embrace a better way based on thought and reason.
* Posted at 02.11.2014 10:55:57 AM CST | Link *
I've been offline for about a year now. It wasn't a planned outage by any means. At some point early last year, I tried to do some minor tweaks, which busted a fair amount of things, and other things in life took priority over getting the fixes in. Nothing bad or serious in my life, just ... different priorities :). Like doing family things, becoming a Practice Lead at Magenic, speaking at conferences, and so on. But late last year I finally put some time away to get things back in order, and things are (mostly) back in a normal state.
So what did I do?
- The site is using MVC 5. No more web forms with view state - w00t!
- I've made an effort to use asynchronous controllers where possible. Not that I think my site needs to be super web scale or something; it was mostly an experiment. It's nice to see just how easy it is to make asynchronous server side processing now.
- Legacy links (e.g. ending with .aspx) ... should work. No guarantees that everything will re-route correctly, but I think I've covered most cases.
There are some things I turned off, like comments and a contact page. I'm not fond of comments, and if you want to contact me, the e-mail link on that page should be sufficient. I also need to get a good content editor in place again. Yes, I write everything on my own on this site. One may think that's crazy, but it's my way to play with things and see what works and what doesn't. Of course then I have to write my own tools, but again, that's the intent.
Hopefully in 2014 I start adding more content to my site again. We'll see how things go!
* Posted at 01.20.2014 10:08:11 AM CST | Link *
This past week has been a hard one. My mom passed away last Saturday.
There are a lot of good memories I have of her, but one quality about her that stands out right now was her quiet strength. She never complained about any aches or pains she was going through, even if she had valid reasons to do so. I think as a child she had some very hard times, and she did not want that carried on to her children or anyone else she knew. She encouraged me to pursue my interests without being overbearing, she comforted me when I was scared without smothering - in short, she helped me when I needed it, and stepped back and let me live my life (and make mistakes along the way). I feel very fortunate to have the parents that I did.
RIP Mom - I love you.
* Posted at 01.20.2013 02:06:49 PM CST | Link *