Finally, I come to my analysis of Bill Nye’s main presentation.
Nye began with a point-by-point attack on the young-earth thesis. In support of an ancient earth, he offered the following arguments:
Using Kentucky as an example, Nye pointed out there there is an enormous number of layers containing mature animal life, such as corals, and 4,000 years (since the alleged global flood) would not be nearly enough time for these fossil-rich limestone layers to have been laid down. Furthermore, the coral fossils show evidence of having lived their entire (20-year-ish) life cycles in the location they have been discovered, indicating that each layer spans decades, at least, not just one year of flood sediment accumulation. Then, you have to multiply that by the number of layers stacked on top of one another.
Nye uses the example of living trees, bristlecone pines, that demonstrate ages of “some 6,800 years old,” and one tree that’s “around 9,000 years old.” I did a little digging on this, and here’s what I was able to find: As of the fall of 2013, the oldest living NON-CLONAL tree to ever be discovered is a 5,062-year-old P. longaeva, living in the White Mountains of California. The oldest living CLONAL tree is a Norway spruce growing in Sweden. The actual spruce tree is a late “clone” of the original tree (new clones grow out of the root stock of its predecessors), the latter of which was carbon-dated by the root system material and dated at 9,550 years old.
Nye gave several more examples of phenomena that defy a young-age of the earth, such as ice core data, including trapped ancient atmosphere bubbles, rock layers that demonstrate very slow formation, fossils in distinct patterns of succession, lack of evidence of water turbulence in rock layers, and animals on continents very distant from the ark’s historical resting place (not enough time for migration to happen). One example I thought was particularly problematic for the young-earth view is the fact that there is zero evidence of an old land bridge to Australia, and there is no evidence whatsoever for a migration of the animals we now see on that continent. For example, there are no kangaroo fossils to show a path of migration from the Middle East to Australia. (Note: This is not a problem for most old-earth creationism models.)
Next, Nye gave what he believes to be good evidence for the common descent of animal life. He mentions the fossil Tiktaalik, an alleged transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods (four-legged creatures), that was found in the exact place in the geological time column evolutionary theorists expected it to be.
Now, at first glance that sounds pretty convincing in favor of macroevolution. But, the Tiktaalik fossil specimen isn’t that cut-and-dry. For one thing, discovery of tetrapod tracks dating to 395 million years ago significantly precede Tiktaalik (which dates to 375 million years ago). The point being, the transitional form can’t come AFTER the product of the transition. Here’s the article from Nature. For another thing, the interpretation of the bone structure of Tiktaalik is controversial.
Nye then launched into a bizarre discussion of the sexual vs. asexual reproduction of topminnows. Nye’s point here was that evolutionary theory predicts that sexual reproduction would be more beneficial than asexual reproduction in terms of things like parasite and germ resistance. I thought this was a ridiculous argument, to be honest. An intelligence behind the design of life is just as explanatory for why such a beneficial reproduction mechanism exists in nature.
Next, Nye discussed evidence for Big Bang cosmology, including the discovery made by Edwin Hubble, that the galaxies are moving away from each other (imagine that in reverse), and Wilson and Penzias’ discovery of the cosmic background radiation, which was predicted by Big Bang cosmologists. Adding to this evidence is the fact that there are billions upon billions of stars that are more than 6,000 light-years away. This is called the “distant starlight problem,” because the light from the stars wouldn’t have had enough time to travel here (to our best telescopes) at light speed in only 6,000 years. Young-earth cosmologists have come up with various theories about how the light got here so fast, but thus far, the physics and the mathematics don’t work out.
Nye lapsed into absurdity after that by strongly insinuating (but not stating out-right) that the widespread belief in young-earth creationism in Kentucky is responsible for the fact that there’s no nuclear medicine manufacturing in the state, and that you have to go out of state to get it if you need nuclear medicine for a heart condition. This was a rather strange scare-tactic, not to mention completely fallacious. I’d like to see his data demonstrating the causal connection here.
Nye also singled out the states of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas and (watch out, now) Texas, for problems in science education standards, but he didn’t elaborate. Some of these states, such as Texas, have discussed adding protection for teachers who wish to explain the weaknesses of neo-Darwinian theory in the science classroom. This does NOT, in any way, shape or form, include discussion of creationism or intelligent design, nor a denial of common descent. Being able to examine the weaknesses of a theory is superior science education (and critical thinking), not inferior. (But the Darwin lobbyists got their shorts in a wad over it nonetheless, of course.)
In my next post, I’ll take a look at the closing rebuttals of each debate participant. I will give you one sneak peek: Nye’s biggest verifiable error of the entire night happened in his 5-minute closing. Stay tuned.