Thoughts on MLK Day

MLK at the White House

Martin Luther King at the White House

Martin Luther King Jr. has been and continues to be a polarizing figure in American history. Some praise him and others despise him. He is viewed by some as a civil rights hero, by others as a communist sympathizer and a hypocritical adulterer. Ironically, his calls for a color-blind society seem to be quoted as much by conservatives as by affirmative-action-minded liberals. I don’t pretend to know the whole truth about his life; some important details are still locked away in the FBI vaults until 2027, and some questions provoke suspicion for the mere asking.

I do know that we make a mistake in sorting historical figures into a good and bad list. Real life is more nuanced than that, and all of us are a mix of good and bad. A quick and easy classification eliminates the need for study and thought to distinguish the good from the bad, or to identify the degree of goodness or badness. Hebrews 5:14 explains that it takes both maturity and practice to be able to distinguish good from evil; that distinction is apparently not as obvious as we imagine it to be.

To that end, I suggest an exercise today for people thoughtful about the meaning of MLK Day. Read his “letter from a Birmingham jail,” which is easily found online. Unlike so much commentary on his life which is colored by the bias of the commentator, these are his own words. Many of the “facts” of King’s life are in dispute, but not this letter. See if you find in it unmixed good or unmixed bad. Perhaps more likely, in the end you might discern some of both. You cannot judge his whole life by this one letter, but it might take you step beyond a mere stereotype if you give it some careful thought.

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Thoughts on the Debate

Thoughts on the Feb 13 Republican Debate

The_Debate_Of_Socrates_And_Aspasia

The Debate Of Socrates And Aspasia

I haven’t decided yet who to vote for, and I am not political expert, but as an ex-debater and someone who intends to vote in a few days I followed the recent Republican primary debate in Greenville, SC with a high level of interest. Here are some of my personal reactions.

On Replacing Scalia

John Dickerson the moderator seems to have an agenda and seems to be debating with the candidates rather than moderating a debate between them.

He tried to press several candidates about their suggestion that Obama should not nominate a successor, hinting that it was the president’s responsibility to do so.

Trump said pragmatically that Obama would nominate a successor no matter what he thought. Part of Trump’s popularity is this bluntness, in contrast to someone like Kasich who seemed to say in effect “I wish he wouldn’t.”

Bush gave exactly the right answer, in my opinion. “Of course, the president, by the way, has every right to nominate Supreme Court justices. I’m an Article II guy in the Constitution. We’re running for the president of the United States. We want a strong executive for sure. But in return for that, there should be a consensus orientation on that nomination…”

Dickerson: So, Senator Cruz, the Constitution says the president “shall appoint with advice and consent from the Senate,” just to clear that up.

And I thought, what is there to clear up, and why do you feel obligated to interject that? Isn’t that what Bush just said?

Dickerson: So he has the constitutional power. But you don’t think he should.

Dickerson then had a confusing exchange with Cruz over the issue.

Cruz: we have 80 years precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year.

I think this is factually incorrect – Anthony Kennedy was confirmed on Feb. 3, 1988, an election year. It could be that Cruz meant “not appointing,” I am not sure. In any case, Dickerson, who apparently had done his homework, interrupted:

Dickerson: “Just can I — I’m sorry to interrupt, were any appointed in an election year or is that just…”
Cruz: Eighty years of not confirming. For example, LBJ nominated Abe Fortas. Fortas did not get confirmed. He was defeated.
Dickerson: But Kennedy was confirmed in ’88.
Cruz: No, Kennedy was confirmed in ’87…
Dickerson: He was appointed in ’87.
Cruz: He was appointed in…

I wish Dickerson would have let Cruz finish his sentence here. It would have been very helpful to hear what he was going to say.

Dickerson: … confirmed in ’88. That’s the question, is it appointing or confirming, what’s the difference?
Cruz: In this case it’s both. But if I could answer the question…
Dickerson: Sorry, I just want to get the facts straight for the audience. But I apologize.

The audience boos at this point. I am not sure why, perhaps a Republican audience is wondering (as I am) why this seemingly hostile moderator has taken over the debate and is actively debating with one of the candidates.

Ironically, that one election year confirmation was eight months after the retirement of Justice Powell whom Kennedy replaced. The process took eight months because Reagan’s original nominee, Robert Bork, was “borked” by the Democrats and the media and was not confirmed. Bork is indeed a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary which defines it as “to defame or vilify (a person) systematically, esp. in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way. “

The whole Scalia exchange leaves me without much insight into who to vote for.

On National Security

I like Dickerson’s next question.

Dickerson: It’s your first day in the situation room. What three questions do you ask your national security experts about the world?

Trump: What we want to do, when we want to do it, and how hard do we want to hit? Because we are going to have to hit very, very hard to knock out ISIS.

I am not impressed with this answer. Too narrowly focused on ISIS and it assumes he knows what is the best thing to do and he just wants details. What follows is a rambling reference to Iran and Russia that I don’t follow.

I like Rubio’s answer a lot:

Dickerson: Senator Rubio — just 30 seconds on this question, Senator Rubio. Are those the questions you would ask?
Rubio: No. I think there are three major threats that you want to immediately get on top of. No. 1 is, what are we doing in the Asia-Pacific region, where both North Korea and China pose threats to the national security of the United States.
No. 2 is, what are we doing in the Middle East with the combination of the Sunni-Shia conflict driven by the Shia arc that Iran is now trying to establish in the Middle East, also the growing threat of ISIS.
And the third is rebuilding and reinvigorating NATO in the European theater…

Dickerson then changes subjects and asks Carson about his preparedness to be president with no political experience.

Carson: As far as those two a.m. phone calls are concerned, judgment is what is required. And the kinds of things that you come up with are some sometimes very, very difficult and very unique. One of the things that I was known for is doing things that have not been done before. So no amount of experience really prepares you to do something that has never been done before. That’s where judgment comes in.

I don’t like this answer. Carson may have done some things surgically that had never been done before, but in that arena he draws on a vast background of medical knowledge in order to do that. I am not sure he has the background of knowledge to deal with the challenges of the presidency. I would have preferred to hear something about surrounding himself with experts.

Dickerson then turns to Kasich and back to national security:

Dickerson: Russia is being credited with bombing U.S.-backed rebels on behalf of Assad in Aleppo and Syria. They’ve also moved into the Crimea, eastern Ukraine. You’ve said you want to punch them in the nose. What does that mean? What are you going to do?
KASICH: First of all — yes. First of all, look, we have to make it clear to Russia what we expect. We don’t have to declare an enemy, rattle a sword or threaten, but we need to make it clear what we expect.

I don’t like this answer either. Yes, what? I don’t know what he is saying yes to. Yes, I want to punch them in the nose? OK, what does that mean. “Make it clear what we expect.” What do we expect? I don’t know. And it is not clear that is enough. This sounds like politician speech to me. Sounds like a painful punch in the nose, for sure, to be told what we expect.

Dickerson then asks Bush about Syria. Bush replies in part:

Bush: I would have a strategy to destroy ISIS, and I would immediately create a policy of containment as it relates to Iran’s ambitions, and to make it make clear that we are not going to allow for Iran to do what it’s doing, which is to move towards a nuclear weapon.

I don’t like this answer either. “Have a strategy… create a policy… make it clear.” Those seem like empty words to me. What strategy What policy? Make what clear?

Trump then rudely interrupts for one of the more chaotic and confusing exchanges of the night. You can look up the transcript if you are curious. Trump demeans SC senator Lindsey Graham, derisively calls the audience “lobbyists,” and repeatedly interrupts over the objections of Dickerson and Bush. I cannot imagine voting for someone so rude.

Dickerson then questions Cruz about Syria. Cruz responds with a lengthy and substantive discussion of the situation. I don’t know enough to analyze it in detail, but I like that there is often substance to Cruz’s answers.

Dickerson then baits Trump with a question about George W. Bush and his comment that Bush should have been impeached. This leads to another chaotic exchange, including the now famous “the World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign.”

9/11 was very early in the Bush presidency, and like him or not I think few people would blame him for it.

Dickerson belatedly takes control and says:

Dickerson: Governor Kasich, please weigh in.
Kasich: I’ve got to tell you, this is just crazy, huh?
(LAUGHTER)
Kasich: This is just nuts, OK? Jeez, oh, man. I’m sorry, John.

I agree. A poll today says 50% of respondents think Trump won the debate. If that is true we are in big trouble.

Kasich then comments on Iraq, Rubio defends George W. Bush, and Trump interrupts again to repeat his accusation about 9/11.

Dickerson then shifts to Carson and gives him a chance to comment on Syria and ISIS. I found his comments rather vague, he said “you know” three times in one sentence, and I was disappointed by his reference to Obama’s rules of engagement as “asinine thinking.”

On Economics

At this point Kimberly Strassel and Major Garrett take over the questioning and turn the topic to economics.

First she addresses Trump. I didn’t follow his answer, and have little motivation to dig in and try to understand it.

Then she has a lengthy exchange with Cruz over his flat business tax plan. The details of the different tax plans are over my head, but I like the basic idea. You can read a good overview at taxfoundation.org. These tax plans are not a large issue in my mind because the president doesn’t legislate taxes. I think the president’s influence on tax policy is minimal.

Strassel then questions Rubio about his tax plan and particularly higher tax rates to offer a higher child tax credit. The details are a bit over my head but the discussion is substantive and helpful. I like this about both Cruz and Rubio that there is substance to their discussions.

Strassel then engages Kasich about Medicaid reform in his state of Ohio. I have heard that this is conservatives’ major concern about Kasich. He replies that her figures are incorrect. Kaisch often includes an appeal for compassion in his economic discussions, something that I expect appeals to a lot of younger republicans and helps explain his success in New Hampshire. Compassion is a virtue and is important to me, though perhaps not enough to sway me to vote for Kasich. Fact checking the Ohio budged is complicated and difficult. I did find a Cato Institute 2014 “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors” which gave Kasich a D. FactCheck.org is a little kinder, and notes that Jeb Bush received a “C” from the same report in 2006.

This leads to a chaotic exchange between Kasich, Bush, and the moderators. I come away not particularly impressed with either.

Dickerson then gives Carson an opportunity to respond on taxes. Carson has only a minute to highlight his tax plan. One unique feature is a minimum $100 tax for everyone regardless of income “because everybody has to have skin in the game.” Carson then gets cut off for commercial break. I am interested and would like to have heard more.

On Immigration

Dickerson then turns the conversation to immigration. I will inject some personal opinion here. I think much of the immigration discussion is shallow and simplistic – are you for or against amnesty? It is not that simple. I think we should obviously secure our border and we must be a nation of laws. However, the fact is we should not and probably cannot deport 12 million people overnight, especially people who have lived here for decades and established families. Nor can we give blanket citizenship or legal status (two very different things) to 12 million people. Any way out of the current mess is going to take time and be complicated.

I don’t have time to go line by line through the convoluted discussion of the famous immigration bill in this and previous debates, and how Cruz and Rubio did or did not support it. Both men seemed to support it at the time and now both are criticizing it and each other. Several websites fact-check this one and come to opposite conclusions. After some hours of trying to get to the bottom of it, I feel like Rubio is more honest in expressing the complexities of the immigration issue and looking for a path forward, while Cruz is trying to define and defend a black-and-white line which is in fact impossible.

Same Sex Marriage

On same-sex marriage, Rubio praised Scalia’s dissent in the Obergefell marriage case and then mentioned it again emphatically in his closing. Cruz mentioned marriage in his closing as well.

However, this issue was part of a heated exchange between Cruz and Rubio. First Cruz said this:

Cruz: In addition to that, Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office…

Rubio: Well, first of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Cruz responded in some reportedly broken Spanish, demonstrating that he does know a little. From what I hear Rubio is fluent and Cruz is not. Then Rubio followed with this:

Rubio: Look, this is a disturbing pattern now, because for a number of weeks now, Ted Cruz has just been telling lies. He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa.
(APPLAUSE)
Rubio: He lies about Planned Parenthood. He lies about marriage. He’s lying about all sorts of things. And now he makes things up. The bottom line is this is a campaign and people are watching it. And they see the truth behind all these issues.

This is a disturbing charge. If Rubio is right, I don’t want to vote for Cruz. If this is all exaggerated or made up, I don’t want to vote for Rubio. It is hard to fact-check it all, but I have discovered this:

1. Cruz’s campaign although probably not Cruz himself, did send an unfortunate email on the night of the primary that probably hurt Carson’s campaign. I think it was based on a misunderstanding and Cruz apologized.

2. More seriously, Cruz, clearly referring to Trump and Rubio, recently said “There is something profoundly wrong when Republican presidential candidates are repeating Barack Obama’s talking points on gay marriage… [saying that] we must accept it, surrender, and move on” (ChristianPost.com). This does seem to be a serious misrepresentation of Rubio’s position.

3. On the Univision interview, Here is what Rubio said according to a Univision English translation: “[the policy] is going to have to end at some point. I wouldn’t undo it immediately… I don’t think it would be fair to cancel it suddenly.” So Cruz is technically right, Rubio wouldn’t rescind it “on his first day in office.” However, I am bothered by two things. One, that the comment was worded to make Rubio sound worse than he really is. Many listeners would miss the point about “first day in office” and come to a wrong conclusion. Second, that I think Rubio has a point. I am not sure that issue merits presidential attention on the first day in office, and I think some kind of transition might be appropriate.

4. On Planned Parenthood, Cruz has criticized Rubio’s refusal to support his plan to shut down the government over the planned parenthood funding. I think this is highly misleading. Carol Tobias, National Right to Life Committee President, reportedly called Cruz’s comments “inaccurate and misleading… Marco Rubio voted to defund Planned Parenthood before Ted Cruz ever got to the U.S. Senate. Since Ted Cruz joined the U.S. Senate, both he and Sen. Rubio have voted the same on every roll call that National Right to Life regards as pertinent to defunding Planned Parenthood.” (politico.com).

That is quite a muddle of issues, but in my mind Rubio comes out looking better. There does seem to be a pattern of Cruz comments that are technically true but highly misleading.

On What they Didn’t Talk About

Abortion came up only briefly. Cruz mentioned it in his comments about Scalia (and I think his position is well known) and criticized Trump on the issue. A moderator challenged Trump and included it in a list of issues he has changed his position on. Rubio included it in his strong closing speech and Cruz mentioned it in his.

Social security was scarcely mentioned, except for one exchange with Trump and a closing comment by Kasich. I like the advertisements the AARP has been running during the debates suggesting that this is a pretty big issue and should be getting more attention. I agree.

Conclusion

At the end of the debate I still don’t know who to vote for, but thinking through these issues was helpful to me.

Image: The Debate of Socrates and Aspasia by Nicolas-André Monsiau.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

June 2015 was declared to be “national LGBT pride month” by no less than the president of the United States.  Large parts of the nation celebrated including the retail giant Target, Inc. Target launched a rainbow version of their logo, a special line of pride month clothing, and they also ran advertisements like the one pictured below.

Two mend and a baby

A pair of men, presumably a homosexual couple, enjoy a walk with their son. In contrast to the shocking exhibitionism that sometimes characterizes pride events, the men are conservatively dressed, are not engaged in any questionable activity, and look very happy. What could possibly be wrong with this scene? By design, it attempts to establish the normalcy of same-sex marriage and family.

1. A Missing Mother

But all is not well. Consider first that the boy’s mother is missing. Of course he has a biological mother, every living person does. The Supreme Court has immense power but they cannot overrule the basic facts of biology. This boy is going to grow up without his mother.

Mother With Child
(Mother with her Child by Zemplényi Tivadar)

Such a situation has been common throughout world history, often due to the death of the mother. More often in modern times it is due to the choice of the mother. Regardless of the reason, it is a tragedy; we should not accept this as normal.

The two-father scenario raises a third possibility: a surrogate mother. The father may have paid a woman to carry the child for him. She may or may not be the biological mother. “Gestational surrogacy,” where an egg donor is the biological mother but not the birth mother, is especially complicated. Mix a genetic mother, a birth mother, a father, a stepfather, a large exchange of money, possible pregnancy complications and birth defects, and you have what can only be described as a legal quagmire.

Pregnant woman
(Photo USDA, public domain.)

“But a majority of states… have no laws directly addressing surrogacy, leaving many such arrangements in legal limbo and raising a number of vexing social, legal and ethical issues involving parenthood, the best interests of children, and the rights of same-sex couples and other nontraditional families for the courts to resolve. (Mark Hansen, “As Surrogacy Becomes More Popular, Legal Problems Proliferate,” ABA Journal.com). Legal issues can be modified and clarified, but the social and ethical issues are not so easily dismissed.

2. No Stepmother

Throughout history many a stepmother has come to fill the role of missing mother. However, the boy in this photo tragically is not going to have a stepmother either. He will have to do with two “fathers.” For people proud of diversity this is an ironic loss of parental diversity.

The Bible confirms the common-sense notion that a mother and father bring a helpful diversity to parenting. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).

Secular authorities agree. For example, “This unfortunate absence [of a mother figure] may leave room for countless problems, including negative influences on gender development.” (“Gender Development of Boys Without Their Mothers,” Angeliki Coconi, ModernMom.com)

3. Immorality

So the lack of a mother in this boy’s life is troubling. But the trouble goes deeper. The photo could be same-sex friendship, a father and his friend. It could be traditional family, a father and an uncle. But surely in the context of pride month it indicates more; it indicates same sex marriage. In what ways is marriage more that merely a friendship? Surely a central component is same-sex sex. What these men do on the street is not the central problem; it is, to be blunt, what they do in bed.

The Bible encourages same-sex friendship but it strongly forbids same-sex sex. The details of the Bible’s teaching are too much to explore in detail in this article, but a quick word cloud based on the relevant passages establishes the clear tone of the teaching:

Word Cloud

The passages are uniformly negative, using terms like abomination, immoral, and unnatural. People looking for a positive spin can quibble over the details; for example, other things, some seemingly minor things, are also called an abomination. Exploring that word would take another blog post, but no amount of rhetoric can obscure the fact that, whatever abomination means exactly, it is clearly bad.

4. The Race Parallel

Race

Finally, this picture is wrong to inject race into the discussion. It is common to represent same-sex couples as interracial. This is an attempt to preempt the moral argument by suggesting that “homophobia” and racism are parallel. Historically some people argued a moral basis for racism, the argument goes, and they were wrong. Hence the people now arguing a moral argument against same-sex marriage will some day admit they are wrong. It is not a moral issue, we are told, it is simply a phobia.

This parallel is wrong, for several reasons. Race is a human construct that is largely cultural; there is no clear scientific dividing line between “races” of people. Sex, on the other hand, is unambiguously binary and biological, determined by X- and Y-chromosomes.  The rare and complicated genetic abnormalities that occasionally occur are beyond the scope this article but serve to emphasize the norm, not to deny it. The shift to the term “gender” instead of “sex” confirms this point. Gender is a human construct and may be defined in a way that is fluid and not binary. Such definitions do not change the facts of biology – you have a working Y-chromosome or you don’t. Biologically, race and gender are not parallel.

Historically, Bible arguments against interracial marriage were based on questionable chains of inference. To the contrary, the Bible explicitly takes us back to the beginning when we all came from a single set of parents (think Noah, not just Adam, making Cain irrelevant). It takes us to the end of time, when “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” are together in heaven.

In contrast to interracial marriage, which is never directly addressed, the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships is unambiguous. Considered scientifically or biblically, the issues are simply not parallel.

Rachel DolezalYoung Rachel Dolezal
(Recent photo of Rachel by Aaron Robert Kathman, CCAS 4.0. Childhood photo from a handout released by her family.)

The Rachel Dolezal case made the difference abundantly clear. A disgraced civil rights activist, Rachel said “I identify as black,” even though she is clearly not. ABC news summarized,

“Dolezal’s story had not only led to international headlines but generated a stream of social media comments about so-called ‘transracialism,’ comparing Dolezal’s case to that of a transgender person.  But some experts say such an analogy makes no sense. Anita Thomas, associate professor of counseling psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said there are genetic differences between genders that don’t exist for races. ‘Biological sex has biological physical components and we know race does not’ in the same way, Thomas said.” (Gillian Mohney,  “Why some Experts Debunk ‘Transracial’ to Explain Rachel Dolezal Case,” ABCNews.go.com).

In other words, race and gender are not parallel. It is wrong to inject race into the same-sex marriage discussion.

5. A Word About Marriage

Signing the register
(Signing the Register by Edmund Blair Leighton)

Speaking of marriage, there is of course more to marriage than merely sex. However, the Bible’s teaching on marriage is equally unambiguous. Consider Jesus’ summary statement in Matthew 19:4, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [gender], and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother [family], and shall cleave to his wife [marriage]: and they twain shall be one flesh [sexuality]?’” The Bible does not tolerate same-sex sex. It similarly leaves no room for same-sex “marriage.”

6. Concluding Thoughts

Do not take the above criticisms as encouragement to move to another extreme. Unconditional acceptance of homosexuality is not an option for the Bible believer; hatred, persecution, and harassment are equally unchristian reactions. A right response starts with “love your neighbor” (one of the two “great commandments,” Matthew 22:39). It extends to “do good to all men” (Galatians 6:10). It even includes love for someone who persecutes you (Matthew 5:44).

None of that means to tolerate sin. We are taught to “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128). Some people struggle with love and hate both being in the Bible, but there is no contradiction. The love is directed at people and the hate at the false way.

The Bible openly encourages not pride but humility; this is a good starting point. How about a “humility month” during which we all admit that we have rebelled against God in our own way? And then we’ll have a “redemption month” during which we explain the rescue that God has accomplished in our lives, a redemption he offers to anyone willing to give up their rebellion. Then we need a “Bible study month” or more to explore all the topics that this article has only touched on. If you have no respect for the Bible you may not find any of this very persuasive (and it wasn’t targeted at you anyway). If you value the Bible, consider these things.

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Ham on Nye

The question: Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?

I along with several million other people watched with great interest the debate on this question between Ken Ham and Bill Nye on February 4, 2014. As a former debater I was disappointed in the format, which allowed only five-minute rebuttals to thirty-minute speeches. In the interest of more complete rebuttal I offer here my personal reactions and responses to the case made by Bill Nye against a creation model of origins.

First I offer an important disclaimer. I am an engineer, not a credentialed scientist. However, I am encouraged to write by the fact that Bill Nye is in the same situation. He too is an engineer, and in a sense unqualified to speak about fossils, cosmology, evolution, radiometric dating, and a host of other scientific topics discussed during the debate. We must recognize that no single person in the whole world is simultaneously an expert in all of those subject areas. No one is fully qualified to engage in this debate, but engineers are applied scientists with a broad background of scientific knowledge. While scientists can sometimes become isolated in their ivory towers or stuck in their science labs, engineers are required to make things work effectively in the real world. This is not to minimize scientists, whose discoveries are the basis for all engineering advances. Nevertheless engineers have often been the ones to pursue the topic of origins broadly and to take the debate to the public in layman’s terminology.

1. Historical science

Bill Nye’s opening point was a denial of a distinction between observational and historical science. He said, “These are constructs unique to Ken Ham.” This became a theme of his throughout the debate, but it is demonstrably false. Ham in response quoted an Earth Science textbook, “In contrast to physical geology, the aim of historical geology is to understand Earth’s long history” (Earth Science by Tarbuck and Lutgens, Prentice Hall, 2006). My own quick search on Google revealed 212 thousand results for the phrase “historical science.” These range from the Wikipedia article on paleontology to the book Basic Questions in Paleontology by Otto H. Schindewolf (U. of Chicago Press), which says, “Paleontology is, then, a historical science.” Historical science can talk about possibilities and probabilities. Sometimes those probabilities are high enough to send people to jail and those impossibilities to set people free. However, historical science cannot ever repeat the experiment and observe the results.

By way of application, creationists hotly dispute whether evolution is even possible. However, establishing that something is possible does not prove that it happened. There is a world of difference between “He could have committed the crime,” and “He did commit the crime.” Even if evolution is possible, which I doubt, that doesn’t prove it is the actual history of life.

2. The Kentucky fossil

Bill Nye’s second opening argument involved sedimentary rocks and fossils. He brought to the debate a piece of local Kentucky limestone containing a fossil. By this he implies that creationists are ignoring the evidence that is sometimes right before their eyes. For creationists at large and me in particular this is false. I am deeply interested in fossils and see them as very important in the creation/evolution debate. I have in fact collected fossils in my state, including some nice shark’s teeth and an extinct Ecphora (sea snail) from South Carolina limestone. More importantly I have pondered the overall fossil record and noted with interest that the general pattern is one of sudden appearance, minimal change, and then sudden disappearance.

Stephen Jay Gould, the legendary evolutionist, wrote in his book Panda’s Thumb that

The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

  1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.
  2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and “fully formed.”

Certainly there are details of the fossil record that are a puzzle from a creation model, but taken as a whole it is remarkably consistent with creation and a flood.

3. Fossil crossover

In one of the most misunderstood moments of the debate, Bill Nye discussed Grand Canyon fossils. He said, “There is not a single place in the Grand Canyon where the fossils of one type of animal cross over into the fossils of another.” Several people immediately tweeted about polystrate fossils. Such fossils are interesting and important, and the Internet contains discussions of multiple examples. They are common and are clearly buried by rapid catastrophic sedimentation, passing through multiple layers of sediment. As such they are a potent argument in favor of a catastrophic flood. However, such fossils were not what Bill Nye had in mind. He said “cross over into the fossils of another,” not “cross over into other strata.”

Bill Nye refers to the fact that (oversimplifying a bit) trilobite fossils are often found deep and mammal fossils near the surface, and they are never mixed. This is a broad pattern around the world. In the particular case of the Grand Canyon, Bill Nye mentions trilobites at the bottom and sloth fossils (in caves actually, not in the sediment of the canyon walls) at the top.

A single undeniable counterexample would be powerful evidence. Bill Nye said emphatically, “If you could find evidence of that, my friends, you could change the world.”

The word undeniable above is part of the problem, because any such out-of-place fossils are instinctively rejected by mainstream scientists. Who knows how many fossils might have been discovered but never reported simply because they were so out of place that they could not possibly be legitimate from an evolutionary model? Given the strength of these world views, and the current rarity of counterexamples, I double there is any single fossil that would change Bill Nye’s mind.

Creationists do have a small set of counterexamples. They are rare, making this question a subject of much debate among creationists. There is a pattern to the fossil record that is perhaps explained by ecological zonation (sea animals buried together, of course), mobility (more mobile animals escape the early flood waters), etc.

In the case of Grand Canyon fossils, the majority are marine fossils. The trilobites that Bill Nye mentioned are in fact complex organisms with highly complex eyes, an evolutionary mystery to be so early in the record. Perhaps most importantly, there is no evolution in the Grand Canyon fossil record. For example, there is no trace of an organism the trilobite might have evolved from, or into. The details are sometimes confusing, but the big picture does not support evolution.

4. Natural laws

Bill Nye repeatedly pressed the false dichotomy between natural laws and theism. “Natural laws that applied in the past apply now,” he said, implying that creationism is a rejection of natural law. Creationists certainly accept natural laws, although we would perhaps call them divine laws. The God of the Bible is not like the fickle meddlers of pagan mythology who cause a constant stream of unpredictable events. He promises rather that “while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). However, the God of the Bible also occasionally interrupts the natural order of things with a dramatic supernatural miracle. It is precisely because of the regularity of nature that we recognize these events as unusual miracles. These miracles are rare and purposeful. Being exceptions, they prove the general rule of natural law.

5. Danger of losing our technological edge

Based on a faulty understanding of creation and natural law, Bill Nye repeatedly presses the viewpoint that belief in creation will stifle discovery and innovation. Ham in response presents several counter-examples. In fact the history of technology is full of examples of theists, including many creationists, making contributions to science and engineering. I would like to think that I serve as a modest counterexample. Although I am a teacher rather than a practicing engineer, I have managed to get my name on a couple of patents and implement some modestly useful technological inventions.

The reason behind Bill Nye’s argument is the suspected rejection of natural law by creationists. Given that creationists like me accept and use natural law in our engineering work, this argument is simply incorrect.

6. Billions of believers

Bill Nye asserts that billions of believers do not accept young-earth creationism. By saying so he intends to marginalize creationism as an eccentric minority view. The word billions has shock value, but the statement is suspect. In the first place, no religion except Bible Christianity leads to the earth history held by Ham. The number of people worldwide who claim to follow the Bible is hard to determine but probably not more than a billion. Of those billion, only a minority accept the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Among that subset, belief in creation is fairly high. A June 2012 Gallup poll reported that “forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” The atheistic answer received only fifteen percent. Results vary widely depending on how the question is framed, but a consistently high percentage accept some form of creation.

I would assert the matching fact that billions of people doubt the naturalistic evolution story and suspect that a divine being is somehow involved, making atheism the eccentric minority view.

All of the above was contained in Bill Nye’s five-minute opening speech. I now turn to his thirty-minute main speech.

7. Zooxanthellae

Bill Nye began by returning to the Kentucky limestone. In particular, he mentioned the presence of fossil corals, which he confusingly called Zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae are in fact the algae that live with corals in a symbiotic relationship. (As an aside, the evolution of symbiosis is a mystery from an evolutionary point of view.) I don’t believe that we find fossil Zooxanthellae; I think Bill Nye is referring to the corals themselves.

Nevertheless he offers these coral fossils as evidence that “we are standing on millions of layers of ancient life.” Millions of layers is surely an exaggeration. The exact number of layers in any location in Kentucky is difficult to determine, but my reading suggests the limestone is only a few hundred feet thick.

The second point is that sediments can be deposited very rapidly during catastrophic events like floods. A large accumulation of sediment is not necessarily an indication of long time. The corals, though, are an issue. Bill Nye mentioned that they lived “normal lives,” implying that the layers must have been laid down slowly. This is a complex topic, but these fossil corals have been widely discussed in the creation literature. A common suggestion is that they are pre-flood coral reefs buried in the flood, possibly transported and deposited on top of each other.

8. Ice cores

Bill Nye cited the counting of 680,000 snow-ice layers in ice cores in Greenland, the Arctic, and Antarctica as evidence of 680,000 years of snow accumulation. To begin with, I don’t know of any ice cores taken in the Arctic. Unlike the glaciers on the continent of Antarctica, there is only sea ice at the North Pole.

In fact nowhere have so many layers actually been counted. The famous Greenland core known as NGRIP has claimed only 110,000 layers, and that involves questionable multiple measurement techniques.

The Vostok core from Antarctica claims 420,000 years, but this is not based on an actual count of layers. Instead it is based primarily on a count of four supposed “glacial cycles” which are assumed to be 100,000 years each.

The EPICA core supposedly extends the record back to 700,000 years. These are not individually counted layers either. The age is “derived from the depth scale by a model” and the “earliest 100,000 years … are in the bottom 100 meters,” meaning the supposed ice layers are only 1 mm thick.

The suggestion that anyone has actually counted 680,000 layers is factually incorrect. Most importantly, the assumption of only one layer per year in all of these cores is highly questionable. Flood models predict an ice age right after the flood with dramatically higher snowfall and glacier growth. The layers might in fact be per storm, not per year. 4,500 years is enough to accumulate these glaciers with reasonable snowfall limits.

9. Old Tjikko

Next Bill Nye claims that “if we go to California, we find enormous stands of Bristlecone pines. Some of them are over 6,000 years old… 6,800 years old. There is a famous tree in Sweden, Old Tjikko… 9,550 years old.”

Again Bill Nye exaggerates the evidence. Old Tjikko is not that old. Wikipedia writes that “the trunk itself is estimated to be only a few hundred years old.” The 9,550 age comes from Carbon-14 dating of the roots, which are supposed to have survived the death and regrowth of the trunk. Flood models cast doubt on Carbon-14 dates like this, which depend on assumptions about the carbon content of the atmosphere.

The Bristlecone pines are better evidence, with dates based on actual tree-ring counts. However, it turns out that no single tree is that old. The National Park Service website states that “the oldest known living tree [is] about 4,600 years old.” The older dates come from correlations with fallen trees.

Creationists have been researching and writing about them for years, and a wealth of information is available.

Bill Nye repeatedly pressed Ken Ham for some predictions from a creation/flood model. Well, here is one. The flood model predicts that the oldest living things on the planet would date back to around the time of the flood. How does that work out?

Bill Nye asks, “How can these trees be that old if the earth is only 4,000 years old.” Note the double mistake which Bill Nye makes repeatedly in the debate. First, this is the supposed flood date, not the age of the earth. Ken Ham claims the earth is more than 6,000 years old. Some young earth creationists put it a few hundred or even thousand years earlier. Second, 4,000 years is a convenient rounding down. The youngest estimates put the flood at least 4,350 years ago. The difference is small but a few hundred years make a big difference with regard to the dating of these trees.

10. The Grand Canyon

Bill Nye then asks how the Grand Canyon sediments could have “settled out” in only one year. Under modern conditions, maybe not. Under catastrophic conditions, no problem. Modern limestones may slowly settle out, but the Grand Canyon limestones were more likely washed into place by erosion and deposition.

Speaking of modern observations, he says, “We can see that it takes a long, long time for sediments to turn to stone.” Bill Nye has abruptly switched from deposition of the sediment to lithification, a subject I am not very familiar with. There is however evidence that lithification can take place quickly under the right conditions.

Bill Nye then adds, “You can see where one type of sediment has intruded on another type.” It is hard to know what Bill Nye meant by this comment. Igneous rocks intrude into other types of rock; sedimentary rocks do not. If sediment fills a crack in another rock it is normally called a dike, not an intrusion. However, there are no igneous rocks or sedimentary dikes I can see in the accompanying photo.

Bill Nye adds that the Grand Canyon cuts through an ancient river bed. This raises the question of the origin of the canyon itself, not the sediments. The origin of the canyon is mysterious and controversial even among secular geologists. See the extensive creationist literature on the subject for full details. I believe the canyon is best explained by a catastrophic dam breech after the flood.

Bill Nye then asks, “If this great flood drained through the Grand Canyon, wouldn’t there have been a Grand Canyon on every continent?” Not all creationists see the canyon as carved by retreating flood waters. Erosion after the flood, perhaps from draining a large trapped lake, may be responsible. But why suppose it had to happen on every continent? Surely the topography of every continent was different.

And yet there are other large canyons, one recently discovered under the ice in Greenland that is larger than the Grand Canyon. The Copper Canyon group in Mexico is larger. The Yarlung Zangbo Canyon in China, the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal, and the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru are all huge as well. Furthermore, several huge submarine canyons exist under the oceans. If Bill Nye thinks giant canyons are a prediction of a flood model, then he has a problem, not us. The world has lots of giant canyons.

11. Those beautiful fossils

Bill Nye then returned to the “beautiful fossils” of the Grand Canyon, an issue discussed previously. Here he repeats the assertion that you “never find a lower one trying to swim its way to a higher one.” I think he again meant that they are never deposited in the higher layers. However, this assertion called to mind a well-known paper by creationist Kurt Wise in 2009. He describes finding trilobite tracks in one layer and trilobites themselves in a higher layer, as if the trilobites were climbing through successive layers of mud being deposited on top of them.

Bill Nye repeated his claim that “if you can find one example… the scientists of the world challenge you, they would embrace you, you would be a hero, you would change the world.” My experience with observing reactions to such finds suggests that Bill Nye does not accurately reflect the situation. Such finds are of course viewed with deep suspicion or reinterpreted as not out of place after all.

Here is one interesting example worth looking up if you are not familiar with it. Anomalocaris is a strange animal that is almost impossible to describe with words. It “belongs in” the Cambrian and was found in the famous Burgess Shale. It was assumed to have disappeared in the Cambrian until specimens were found in Ordovician rock in Morocco. Does this meet Bill Nye’s test of a fossil “swimming up to a higher layer?” No, this is merely a “surprising persistence” as are all fossils that show up too high in the record.

Complicating this issue is the presence of numerous false claims of out-of-place fossils by well-meaning but misinformed creationists.

12. Fossil Skulls

Bill Nye then shows a screen full of what are apparently hominid skulls. The point he is trying to make is not clear to me. He says “not any of them is a gorilla.” He asks, “Where would you put modern humans among these skulls?” This is an area I know little about, and his presentation leaves me more confused. I think chimpanzees are our supposed closest relatives, not gorillas.

Regardless, such a broad claim with no supporting details leaves little to respond to. My impression of the overall hominid fossil collection is that most of them are well within the natural variability of modern humans, especially when diseased humans are included. A creation model predicts an even larger variation in the past, for example the human giantism repeatedly mentioned in the Bible.

13. Kangaroo fossils

Bill Nye says that if kangaroos migrated from Mt. Ararat, where the ark landed, to Australia, we should find a trail of fossils in between. This is an astonishing assertion given that the starting population was only two (kangaroos on the ark) and the migration was rapid (well less than 4,000 years). The probability of leaving a fossil kangaroo along the way and of that fossil being found is vanishingly small.

Apply this logic to the claims of evolution. Bats supposedly evolved from some small ground-dwelling rodent-like mammal. This is a remarkable change that surely took millions of years to accomplish through the supposed slow process of evolution. Yet although we have many fossils of small mammals and many fossils of bats, there is no fossil of any significant intermediate. It is a dramatic gap in the fossil record that contradicts evolution. Bill Nye is wondering about kangaroo fossils, but he ought to be curious about bats. Kangaroos should be expected to leave some fossils in a 4,000 year migration, but shrews evolving into bats over millions of years do not?

14. The Land Bridge

More seriously, Bill Nye asks about the land bridge required for the kangaroos to migrate to Australia. A brief survey of the mainstream literature suggests a wide variety of opinions about if and when a land bridge existed. Land bridges around the world are believed to have existed during the ice age, which creationists place right after the flood. Obviously in a flood model sea levels are likely to be different from those in the mainstream model, so I don’t see any compelling reason there couldn’t be a land bridge. Lack of a land bridge now is certainly not compelling. Bill Nye says incredulously, “That land bridge has disappeared in the last 4,000 years.” Well indeed, as the glaciation of the ice age has disappeared. All the proposed land bridges in mainstream history have similarly disappeared. There is a shallow region known as the Torres Strait that would be the location of the land bridge.

Note also that a creation model doesn’t require a purely natural migration. Although modern creationists seem reluctant to invoke miracles out of fear of Bill Nye style accusations of scientific incompetence, the gathering and dispersion of the animals are two parts of the flood story likely to involve supernatural intervention.

15. Proliferation of species

Bill Nye compares the 16 million species (by his estimate) alive on the earth to a presumed 7,000 kinds on the ark and concludes that the creation model requires 11 new species a day.

Bill Nye is bothered by this rate. He says, “So you’d go out into your yard… you would find… every day a new species of fish, a new species of organism you can’t see.” This is silly; I am not likely to find fish in my yard and I certainly won’t observe organisms I can’t see. This points to an obvious part of the answer. New species may indeed have been appearing at a rapid rate over the last 4,000 years and much of it would be unobserved by humans.

I also question that 16 million estimate. That is a prediction, compared to only about a million actually identified so far. It is unreasonable to demand that creationists account for unobserved estimated species. A million species requires less than one new species a day. Not all of those needed to be on the ark, either. About a third are plants. The 30,000 species of fish could be from before the flood, along with the 81,000 mollusk species.

Note that creationists do not equate kinds with species. The scientific family Caninae is divided into over 30 recognized dog species. Biblically they would be called a single “kind.” Mainstream science agrees and accepts, according to the journal Science, “a common origin from a single gene pool for all dog populations.”

We have no problem with new species of animals developing as animals adapt to their post-flood world. This is not evolution, because all of the various traits being seen in those different species were present in the original pair in the ark.

I don’t see the problem here. 4,500 years seems like plenty of time to account for the current diversity, especially given the possibility of rapid adaptation after the flood.

16. The Lake Missoula flood

Creationists like the Lake Missoula flood because it is a dramatic illustration of the power of a large flood. Bill Nye questions how the large boulders transported by this flood could have ended up on the surface during Noah’s flood. However, it is obviously not Noah’s flood. It was caused by a failed glacial ice dam and fits nicely during a post-flood ice age. So there is nothing to explain here – Bill Nye simply doesn’t know the creation model of the Lake Missoula flood. The one point of contention is the possibility of repeated floods in the same location.

17. The Wyoming

Bill Nye questions the feasibility of the ark by describing the wooden six-masted sailing ship called the Wyoming. It was 330 feet long, somewhat smaller than the ark. He calls it the biggest wooden ship built. This strikes me as a confirmation that large wooden boats of that size are indeed possible, confirming the Bible’s story of the flood. In fact, some larger ships have been built that included a mixture of wood and metal. Some historical wooden ships, such as the Greek tessarakonteres and the Chinese treasure ships, may have been the size of the ark or larger. Of course boats much larger than the ark have been built out of metal.

Alas, says Bill Nye, the Wyoming was leaky and not seaworthy, proving that the ark probably would have been as well. Noah presumably had less skill than the Wyoming’s builders, so surely the ark was beyond his capability.

This is of course pure speculation. The ark wasn’t a sailing ship. We know nothing about Noah’s skill as a builder and what kind of help he might have had. Why must we assume he was unskilled and did it alone? Genesis 4:22 makes it clear that metalworking was known long before Noah. Noah likely has metal tools and perhaps reinforces parts of the ark with metal as well. Evolutionary thinking suggests that people living in ancient times must have been unskilled, but the Bible suggests otherwise, a point Ken Ham makes in rebuttal.

Additionally, the design of the ark was given to Noah by God. Add in the possibility of divine help and Bill Nye’s argument, like the Wyoming, doesn’t hold water.

Along the way Bill Nye suggests some additional problems, such as the feeding of the animals. He mentions that “Mr. Ham has some explanations for that,” which I will not rehearse here. We indeed have extensive creationist research into the feasibility of the ark account in the Bible.

18. Tiktallik

Bill Nye said, “What we want in science is an ability to predict.” He has in mind an outstanding example of a prediction based on evolution. He mentions the fossil record and admits the presence of gaps. He then cites as a prediction of evolution that those gaps will be filled in by transitional fossils. One of those gaps, he says, is between lung fish and amphibians. He then cites the Tiktallik, a 9-foot-long “fish lizard” as he calls it, as an example of just such a transitional fossil.

This fossil is thoroughly analyzed in several articles at the Answers in Genesis website. The paleontological details are complicated, but in summary Tiktallik is just a fish, albeit an unusual one. It is far from a dramatic missing link and still leaves a giant gap in the record. Perhaps most importantly, there is no sign of actual change at the Tiktallik site. Only by connecting it with unrelated fossils in other parts of the world can any kind of sequence be found. This is a dominant theme of the fossil record: astonishing variety but no evidence of change. A creation model has no problem with a fossil record full of variety.

19. The Red Queen

Deep into his talk, and facing audience fatigue, Bill Nye nevertheless launched into perhaps his most complex argument. Tweets suggested the audience didn’t follow this argument at all, so some background information is needed. Here is the core idea: Primitive life reproduces asexually (bacteria simply divide, for example). How sexual reproduction would ever evolve is one of the mysteries of evolution. Bill Nye here is responding to a creationist criticism of evolution, not attacking creation. If evolution is true, there must be some survival advantage to sexual reproduction. Evolutionists have two theories to explain this. One theory is that sexual reproduction is better at purging bad mutations. The second theory is that sexual reproduction enables organisms to fight disease better.

This second theory is known as the Red Queen Hypothesis, after the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Bill Nye didn’t use this phrase or explain his image, but on the screen was a drawing of the Red Queen and Alice.

Scientists found a test of the Red Queen Hypothesis in the topminnow, which is able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Research found that sexually reproducing topminnows had fewer parasites.

Creationists react to all of this with a shrug. Sexual reproduction is no problem from a creationist point of view. It’s the evolutionists who have a lot of explaining to do here. And disease resistance may provide an advantage to sexual reproduction, but it doesn’t begin to explain all that is required for an organism to evolve the mechanism of sexual reproduction in the first place.

Bill Nye’s point seems to be that this is a successful prediction of evolutionary theory. We predicted that the sexually reproducing fish would be healthier, and indeed they are, he asserts. I am not enough of a biologist to say what a creation model of topminnow health might predict, but I see this whole issue as having little impact on the question at hand.

He asks rhetorically, “How else would you explain it?” I don’t understand his question. If he means, “How else would you explain the evolution of sex,” that is his problem to explain, not mine. If he means, “How else would you explain that sexually reproducing minnows are healthier,” I would say that is simple observational biology. It has nothing to do with the question of origins.

20. The Big Bang

Bill Nye mentioned a church sign about the big bang and expressed his incredulity that anyone could question the big bang. He offered two classic pieces of evidence for the big bang.

First, he said that the universe is expanding. This is an observational fact, one that creationists readily accept. It is the extrapolation back into the past that we disagree with. In a creation model, the universe has been expanding ever since creation. The current expansion can’t be used to test which model is true – it fits in both models.

Second, he describes the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation in space. This is a complex topic covered at length in the creationist literature. My impression is that the background radiation fits as well in creationist models as it does in big bang models. It is important to secular scientists because it supports a big bang over other competing naturalistic theories, not because it disproves creation or a young universe.

21. Radiometric Dating

Bill Nye raised the most significant old-earth proof, that of radiometric dating of rocks. This familiar argument has been debated for decades. The classic creationist response is to question the assumptions (initial conditions, constant decay, closed systems) and to point to examples of unreliable results. Ken Ham’s rebuttal description of wood in basalt is one such example.

Bill Nye’s particular example, rubidium-strontium, is a complicated one. It supposedly solves the problem of unknown initial conditions through a process known as isochron dating. Bill Nye hints at this with his description of how the elements are “locked in place” when the rock solidifies.

In recent decades some creationists have felt that the answers above, while true, are not a complete answer. As a result, the Institute for Creation Research in 1997 launched an eight-year research effort known as R.A.T.E. (Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth). They published two technical books and a non-technical summary called Thousands … not Billions. The primary contributions are some new young-earth evidences and some evidence of higher decay rates in the past.

Interested readers are encouraged to consult the extensive creationist literature on this topic for more information.

Bill Nye mentions fossils in the Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. This is an important example for two reasons. First, it illustrates that we date igneous (volcanic) rocks, not sedimentary rocks. These fossils are candidates to date using a rubidium-strontium method because they are buried in volcanic ash rather than sediment. Second, Bill Nye may be hinting that volcanoes, not the flood, are responsible for some fossilization. The Creation Research Society Quarterly Fall 2009 contains a lengthy technical article with a creationist interpretation of the Ashfall Fossil Beds.

22. Education in Kentucky

Bill Nye explains that another isotope of rubidium is used in nuclear medicine. In one of several slights to the state of Kentucky, Bill Nye states that there is no school in Kentucky at which you can obtain a degree in nuclear medical technology. An Internet search immediately tells me that Jefferson Community College in Louisville has a Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Program. Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington has a Nuclear Medicine Technology program. Bill Nye appears to be misinformed on this point. I am dismayed at how few reporters writing about the debate performed this simple fact checking. Ironically, Bill Nye’s home state of Washington appears to have only one such program on the same list (nmtcb.org).

23. Distant Starlight

Bill Nye says that we measure the distance to stars by triangulation. This is true, but only for nearby stars. The Hipparcos satellite, designed to make these measurements with high accuracy, can estimate distances to only a few hundred light years. Thus Bill Nye’s graphic, implying that stars further than 6,000 light years away are measured this way, is factually incorrect. The way we measure distances to further stars is a complicated but very interesting story.

Despite this factual error, as a creationist I don’t deny those distance measurements. I think the stars are indeed vast distances away, the vastness of space glorifying God as explained in Psalm 19:1.

Explaining how we can see them is the issue. How did the light get here in only 6,000 years? This is another decades-old argument that has a classic simple answer and a more sophisticated modern answer. The classic simple answer is that God created light on the way, an example of “apparent age” in creation. Apparent age is an inherent part of a creation event, but many creationists think there is more to the story than simply apparent age. A recent Answers in Genesis paper lists seven different possible explanations and proposes an eighth (miraculous acceleration of the speed of light during day four of creation).

24. The Bible in English

Bill Nye repeatedly made the accusation that the Bible is not trustworthy because it is the result of a long sequence of faulty translations. Here Bill Nye shows a misunderstanding of the history of the Bible. I would invite him to find a Hebrew expert and go visit the Isaiah scroll in Jerusalem. Mainstream science dates it back halfway to the flood, if you will. A comparison with a modern English translation reveals that the Bibles we read in English are remarkably accurate. The “Dead Sea Scrolls” from which the Isaiah scroll came contain only fragments of Genesis, but abundant manuscripts from a few centuries later testify that Genesis is also well preserved and faithfully translated.

25. Rebuttals and questions and answers

At this point I have addressed only Bill Nye’s opening two speeches. Some other issues were raised in the rebuttals and question time, but those will have to wait for another time.

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The Arirang Mass Games

Tonight we attended the famous Arirang “mass games.” I didn’t have a good camera but took a few photos including this one. The background image is famously formed by thousands of school children holding up colored cards. The show also includes quite a bit of technology including lasers and video projection and pyrotechnics.
I think the words mean “take up the banner of Japanese resistance,” as the program recounts the history of Korea.
Mass Games Soldiers

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Visit to the Kumgang mountains

This weekend we visited the scenic Kumgangsan mountain area. It’s just a few miles from the rugged mountains to the rocky seashore, where you can see fishing boats in the distance and South Korea on the hazy horizon.

Bill hiking Kumgangsan

East sea toward south

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Foggy morning

After several days of rain, this morning was cool and foggy. I went for a walk and took the video panorama of the campus linked below. I also saw dozens of these small frogs who had hopped down into the roadway and couldn’t hop high enough to get back out.

Panorama of PUST

Small frogs

 

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Lunch with students

Faculty members at PUST eat most meals with the students. This day we had an interesting conversation about the classic North Korean movie “The Tale of Chun Hyang” (춘향전) and how it portrays the belief system of North Koreans in the past.
Students at lunch

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Touring Pyongyang

The reunification monument spans the road toward Seoul. I share with the North Koreans a desire for the country to be reunified, although we disagree about how it could happen.

The Arch of Triumph was build to commemorate the resistance to the Japanese occupation. It and the Juche Tower are two of the many massive monuments built around the city.
Reunification monument

Arch of Triumph

Juche tower

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Parking Lot Monument

This monument was built next to the school parking lot since last year. Similar monuments can be found all across the DPRK. I think the rough meaning of the words on this one is, “Onward to the final victory!”
Parking lot monument

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