Do you agree with the Creation Museum’s Ken Ham, that the earth was created in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago, or with Bill Nye the Science Guy, that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and its creatures have evolved?
PETERSBERG, KY. (WHAS11) -- With a CNN moderator, an expected online audience of more than one million people and credentialed media from across the country, Tuesday night's creationism debate between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy has taken on the aura of a presidential-level event.
"We didn't know it would go viral," Ham told WHAS11. "It's become a media sensation far beyond our expectations."
"Isn't it extraordinary how much attention it's gained?" Nye agreed.
The debate at the Petersberg, Kentucky Creation Museum culminates a public debate triggered two years ago when Nye released a video critical of creationism being taught to some children.
"We need people to be scientifically literate so that we can continue to innovate," Nye told WHAS11. "It's very important for the economy of the U.S. that we continue to come up with new ideas and new things, that's what keeps us in the game."
"We can't have a generation of science students who don't understand science," Nye said.
Ham responded with a video of his own. The exchange ultimately leading to the Creation Museum debate. Nye is being compensated an undisclosed stipend for his appearance. Celebrity Talent International lists Nye's appearance fee at $50,000 to $75,000.
"Give me an example where molecules for evolution are necessary to build technology," Ham said. "That has nothing to do with putting rocket ships up around the earth, it has nothing to do with drugs that we use in our hospitals. it has nothing to do with building motorcars or airplanes or whatever. Because that's talking about origins, that's talking about history."
"There is a difference between a history class and a class where you develop your technology," Ham argued.
A literal reading of the first book of the bible comes to life at the Creation Museum, 70,000 square feet of Disney-caliber exhibits at the seven year old, $27 million facility built by Ham's parent corporation, Answers in Genesis.
To Ham and other "young earth" creationists, the Book of Genesis can be read only one way - the way it was written, that God created the earth in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago.
Everything learned about the earth and the origins of life have to fit inside that biblical truth. So, what science says about a four and a half billion year old earth and evolution does not fit and, Ham says - threatens Christianity itself.
"If you reinterpret that to fit evolution in, you're really saying the Bible doesn't mean what it says," Ham explained, "and it does unlock that door to doubt and that could put people on a slippery slide of doubt leading to unbelief. So, we see it as an issue of authority, as undermining the authority of the Bible."
To Nye, the push to teach creationism threatens America's educational, technological and economic well-being.
"when we expose young people to this, their science education is stymied, or misdirected," Nye said.
Nye said he hopes to raise awareness of Kentucky voters of the "serious concern that everyone should have for having this facility in our midst."
"It's not unique to Kentucky, but we have a surprising number of people who don't accept the process of science and make their way on to school boards," Nye said, "and want to influence science curricula in - for lack of a better term - the worst way."
Ham said the debate offers an opportunity for a marginalized view to be heard.
"What you would call the theologically conservative Christians tend to be the ones who haven't really had opportunity to speak publicly in a big way in recent times," Ham said.
The museum presents the debate as a battle of beliefs -- two philosophical assumptions -- because no one alive today was actually there.
One museum exhibit depicts two archaeologists unearthing the same fossil, one subscribes to evolution and the other to creationism.
"He says he believes this was buried in Noah's flood four and a half thousand years ago," Ham explained, "and the other guy says, 'No - it was buried millions of years ago.' But the point is they both have the same fossil, and it doesn't have a label on it."
"Of course, evidence is stuff that happened before you got there," Nye scoffed. "and that's sort of a profound misunderstanding of reason or logic. It's really a striking feature of Mr. Ham's followers."
Science points to the 1974 discovery of Lucy, the 3.2 million year old fossil of a female ancestor of humans believed to have walked upright as irrefutable evidence of evolution.
The Creation Museum dismisses such conclusions. Its reconstruction of the fossil model suggests "it was some sort of ape, some sort of chimp," Ham said.
Science says dinosaurs lived at least 60 million years before humans, yet a Creation Museum exhibit teaches that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs, because Genesis says "God made Adam and Eve on the same day as land animals (day 6) so that means dinosaurs and people lived at the same time."
About fifty species of dinosaurs were among the animals on Noah's Ark, the museum also posits.
"That's just what I'm concerned about," Nye said, "having kids go to a place that looks very much like a bonafide museum and being exposed to these extraordinary and inappropriate ideas."
Some scientists have criticized Nye for putting creationists on an equal stage.
"We have to weigh that danger versus the danger of letting this guy and his followers continue to bring up a generation of young people that doesn't understand science," Nye responded.
With the 900 seat auditorium selling out within two minutes of ticket availability, according to museum officials, Nye expects to be outnumbered.
"I thrive apparently on being in the belly of the beast, Nye said.
"Underneath it all I'm a little stressed, a little scared about it all," Ham said.