How do we know that Bill Nye won the creationism debate with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis earlier this month? Simple: The Christian Right is now airing its grievances over the outcome publicly, with one of its top leaders saying the debate made Christians look completely out of touch.
Via Right Wing Watch, here’s a video from last week of televangelist Pat Robertson blasting the idea that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old, as Young Earth creationists like Ham assert. “There ‘aint no way that’s possible,” explains Robertson, noting that anyone working in the oil industry can see as much as they drill through layer after geological layer to extract ancient hydrocarbons. “You can’t just totally deny the geological formations that are out there,” Robertson continued. “Let’s be real. Let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”
Watch Robertson’s comments above.
But that’s just the beginning: Ham then responded to Robertson and raised the stakes further on Facebook. “Pat Robertson is so misinformed and deceived,” Ham lamented. “Sad that so many will believe him.” Ham later continued:
Oh, that God would convict and open the eyes of Christian leaders and Christian college and seminary professors, so many of whom are as uninformed and deceived as Pat Robertson. God have mercy.
The truth is that Ham did make a joke of himself, actually arguing at one point that lions were vegetarians before Noah’s Flood. Such are the intellectual contortions required of Young Earth creationists who seriously want to insist, against not just biological but also geological and physical evidence, on an Earth that is younger than its oldest living tree.
Robertson, meanwhile, is no paragon of rationality: This is the same guy who asserted, in response to Walt Disney World’s “Gay Days,” that “I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you … It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.” And yet here, he comes off as the voice of moderation. Indeed, Robertson even seems to embrace a form of theistic or “progressive” evolution that is not necessarily incompatible with scientific understanding.
This suggests that, if nothing else, the creationism debate was highly disruptive of the evolution-creationism status quo. Just maybe, there will be enough upheaval on the Christian right to trigger a serious reconsideration of their attacks on science education across the country. (Wishful thinking, we know.)