One of the oldest-running debates in the history of the modern world, Creation vs. Evolution, is set to take center stage again.
Bill Nye, more popularly known as "Bill Nye The Science Guy," will be debating publicly with Ken Ham, the CEO of the twenty year-old creationist ministry Answers in Genesis.
Nye, who studied under Carl Sagan at Cornell University, is a scientist with several scientific accomplishments to his name. He helped develop the MarsDial, a small sundial that was used in the missions of the Mars Exploration Rover. He supported the International Astronomical Union's reclassification of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet. He also holds the patent for an educational magnifying glass, a digital abacus, and ballet pointe shoes. He began his career in entertainment as a sketch comedian on TV, and then moved on to appear in segments of Back to the Future: The Animated Series. He is the star of the well-loved television show, "Bill Nye the Science Guy," in which he explains and demonstrates scientific principles in a simple, friendly manner. He has also written several books on science as Bill Nye the Science Guy,
Ham has a degree in Environmental Biology from the Queensland Institute of Technology. In the late 1970s, he co-founded the Creation Science Foundation in Australia. Later on, he set up Creation Science Ministries, which went on to became Answers in Genesis, which advocates that the initial chapters of The Book of Genesis in the Bible hold literal truth and historical accuracy. In 2007, his ministry opened the Creation Museum. Ham is a Christian apologist, and speaks to tens of thousands of schoolchildren about the advocacies of creationism and the reliability of the Bible.
The event will be streamed online, live from the Creation Museum, which is owned by Answers in Genesis.
Two weeks before the event, registration for the live online stream already reached 800,000. Registration is expected to peak as the event draws near, and about 1 million people are estimated to be watching, way beyond the museum's actual capacity of 900 people. A DVD is already available on pre-order. The museum will also be paying for Nye's expenses and fee, which could be anything between $50,000 and $75,000.
Both Nye and Ham claim that they are not doing this debate expecting to convert the other guy. More than winning the debate, Ham is more concerned about censorship, after a ruling in 2005 by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones shut down the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
"One of the reasons we're doing this is to overcome censorship," said Ham in an interview. "The naturalists say, 'Do not debate creationists.' They want to shut down discussion. In the public schools, there's been legislation to protect the teaching of naturalism. Students aren't even allowed to critically analyze evolution."
Nye also seems to hold a similar opinion on the importance of education, citing as special mention the schoolchildren of Kentucky, which is the host state of the debate.
"My concern is for the future of Kentucky schoolchildren, and then the future of U.S. schoolchildren," said Nye "There are billions of religious people in the world who accept and embrace the natural history of the Earth, and our descent from other beings who had DNA."
Kentucky is home to the Creation Museum, where the debate will be held. The museum has long been a source of controversy, largely because of its depictions of a world that is only about 6,000 years old, and which, at one point, saw the coexistence of dinosaurs and human beings.
The controversy, however, seems to be doing the museum a lot of financial good. The museum employs over 300 people, and is visited by an average of about 250,000 visitors a year. Ham, who is the CEO of Answers in Genesis, which owns the museum, was reported to have earned almost $180,000 in 2012 alone. Staff members, which include several members of Ham's family, reportedly earn salaries of about $20,000 to $67,000 a year. The museum itself spends an estimated $30 million a year just to keep everything operational. However, it does earn about $1.4 million a year from seminars and speaking engagements alone, drawing almost 130,000 people to attend.