TFN's Cameo in Tuesday Night's Bill Nye-Ken Ham 'Debate'

We were pleased to hear the Texas Freedom Network come up in Tuesday night’s “debate” between science advocate Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Ham brings TFN into the discussion in the clip above, but the full debate video is here. Here’s what Ham had to say about TFN:

“Kathy Miller is president of the Texas Freedom Network, and she’s vocally spoken out about this textbook battle there in Texas. And the mission statement of the organization she is president of says: ‘The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.’ Religious freedom. Individual liberties. Hmmm…

And then she makes this statement: ‘Science education [what does she mean by science?] should be based on mainstream science education, not on personal ideological beliefs of unqualified reviewers.’

Wait a minute. They want religious liberty and not personal ideological beliefs? I assert this. Public school textbooks are using the same word ‘science’ for observational and historical science. They arbitrarily define ‘science’ as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural. They present molecules-to-man evolution as fact. And they are imposing the religion of naturalism/atheism on generations of students. They are imposing their ideology on the students, that everything is described by natural processes. That is a religion. What does she mean by religious liberty? They tolerate their religion.”

First, a minor quibble. Ham might be a biblical literalist, but he isn’t very good at transcribing. Houston television station KHOU, which aired the story to which Ham was referring, also didn’t get Kathy’s quote right in its transcription. Kathy actually says in the accompanying video: “Science education should be based on mainstream established science,” not “on mainstream science education.” As we said, just a quibble.

More importantly, let’s be clear about what Ham is saying. Ham thinks science should be redefined to include the supernatural. Former Texas State Board of Education chair Don “Somebody’s Gotta Stand Up to Experts” McLeroy made essentially the same argument during the state board’s debate over new science curriculum standards in 2009. He even suggested that supernatural explanations are “testable.”

But supernatural explanations are inherently untestable. That’s why we call beliefs about them “faith.” Science, on the other hand, is testable. That’s a critical distinction and certainly not “arbitrary.”

Ham repeatedly suggested Tuesday night that scientists are hostile to religious faith. Nye reminded him that many scientists are also deeply religious. Indeed, Francis Collins, currently the director of the National Institutes of Health and formerly head of the Human Genome Research Institute, is an evangelical Christian and one of the world’s most prominent scientists. Moreover, many Christian denominations and other religions have no problem with accepting the science of evolution.

Ham asks what TFN means by “religious liberty.” It’s pretty simple. Religious liberty is the freedom to believe as one chooses, to live according to those beliefs, and to teach them to one’s own children and to others. Using government and public schools to promote religious beliefs or to favor some religious beliefs over all others isn’t religious liberty. Neither is seeking to redefine science.

34 thoughts on “TFN's Cameo in Tuesday Night's Bill Nye-Ken Ham 'Debate'

  1. Please address:
    Public school textbooks are using the same word ‘science’ for observational and historical science.

    And also:

    “They are imposing their ideology on the students, that everything is described by natural processes. That is a religion.”

  2. He wants the supernatural taught in science books? How out-of-touch with reality is that? Ghosts. Fairies. Astrology. Numerology. Alchemy. Zombies. Magic. Charms. And all the other superstitions have a place in the science classroom? There won’t be enough time to cover real science. Maybe that’s the idea.

    1. A number of these things at least had to get checked before dismissing them. According to historical anecdote Demokritos, ‘inventor’ of atoms went to the cemetry in the night in order to check, whether ghosts consisted of atoms too. On the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended) Newton had to deal with the problem that gravity seemed to work by ‘ghost-like’ forces without a material contact between objects attracting each other (in essence we are still looking for a solution).
      The ‘supernatural’ has the coice of becoming either natural (i.e. a natural explanation is found by means of science) or getting dismissed (because either the phenomena turn out to be nonexistent or at least lack solid ground for the application of the scientific method). well, at least until HE* (whover HE turns out to be) decides to drop HIS policy of acting from behind the screen. The we can discuss, whether HE is natural.

      *no gender assumption which would be ridiculous anyway.

  3. As a person of faith, thank you all for your work.

    And thanks for mentioning Francis Collins. He is awesome, just like you folk are.

  4. It is unproductive to have discussions with the creationists/Id crowd whose fundamentals are 180 degress of polarity to those of science. They know that they are on the thinnest of ice because with the exceptions of a very few experiences bfore southern courts they have lost miserabley and will continue to do so. Their undoing is that they can’t get to first base when trying to meet the standards of science reviews of their cockamayme ideas despite efforts using fake credentials, outright lies in their implausible documentation, failure to provide testablity or repeatability. Their stuff is still religion in a poor disguise. After Judge Jones( Dover Pa.)sent them home in 2005 with their case in tatters and their experts humiliated they have turned to desperate accusations such as redefinitions, freedom of speech violations, teaching the “other side,” and what ever crap they can dream up to stay alive. The more opportunities they have to “debate”and challenges in education to get more exposure is about the only positive action available. So the best approach is to deny any commitments to debate until they have succeeded in meeting the same credentialing that science has done and then “bring it on, baby.” In the meantime we can only expect their fire ant mentality to drive them on desperately trying to get a foothold.

    1. “180 degress of polarity to those of science” My definition of science is that it is the observation of nature. Are you 180 degrees from that?
      To continue, in short, science does not include the interpretation of those observations. It is obvious that different people have different interpretations, none of which may be the truth.
      An interpretation of science is not an observation of nature, therefore it is not pure science, it is informed theory.
      If you do include interpretation to be science, why don’t you teach how to develop interpretation and encourage thought in schools?

      So, I believe our difference is not in the use and value of science.

      1. Ron, I’m not perfectly sure what you are driving at, but let’s try something. It is an observation of science, made during my lifetime, that there are no radioactive isotopes apart from those that are formed by decay of things like uranium with half-lives less than eighty million years in the Earth’s crust. Plenty of things like potassium-40 and uranium-238 with longer half-lives, though.

        Nice fact. Would you offer any interpretation of it at all? Any comment on it? Why would that be the case? Are you really saying that only that naked fact can belong to “pure science,” and nothing explaining the fact can?

          1. Ron says: “Yes, only that naked fact belongs to pure science. When you give an explanation of that fact, it is simply your interpretation which may or may not be the truth.”

            That’s such a bizarre definition of “pure science” that it’s hard to imagine you actually believe it. And if you really do believe it, then further conversation hardly seems worthwhile.

          2. Which would you rather have? Truth or facts?
            Why is it so difficult to understand that facts can be misinterpreted? Do you believe the facts of every court case have been interpretted correctly and that the correct verdit was given?
            Meriam Webster doesn’t mention the concept of interpretation in its definition of science.
            The purpose of interpretation is to develop new experiments that observe.

          3. Ron: Isotopes occurring in the Earth’s crust – not man-made – are what I was referring to. It is a scientific, verifiable fact that they aren’t here. And I maintain that there is a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation why that is so, say, for aluminum-26: the Earth has been here long enough for all of it to decay into magnesium-26.

          4. I will answer your question, but expect that you will respect my answer enough to answer a question I have for you. To show my trust, I will go first:

            The fact behind your question is that the half life of AL-26 is 717,000 years and that there is none of it on the earth today. (I don’t know the validity of these facts but will assume they are correct.)
            Fact: Today, we measure its half life and observe that there is none. However, you fail to show any fact that the half life was constant before our lifetime. It is an interpretation that may or may not be correct. Without the fact that it is constant, I cannot say what the truth is.

            My question (I’ll give you an Extra Credit question if you aren’t able to answer the first):

            1) Describe something that is not observed in this universe without relating it to something that is of this universe and without using the word ‘like’ or any synonym of ‘like.’

            EC) We are only able to describe things by the knowledge we have of things that we observe, meaning there is pre-existing information in matter. The smallest particle has the information to make the larger object. I.e. Water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. Oxygen is made of 8 protons, 8 electrons, and 8 neutrons. These are made of Quarks. And, of course, space between many of these parts.
            Question: Describe conscientiousness in this way. I.e. Where did the knowledge for this come from?

          5. Astronomers can observe supernovae in galaxies millions of light years away (measured, in at least a couple of cases, by purely trigonometric methods) and can see that the radioactive decay that makes them glow proceeds at the identical rate that is measured here on Earth. And they are looking back up into the billions of years ago – the light has taken that long to get here.

            No “knowledge” was required to make an oxygen atom, and no “information” is required to make water from H2 and O2 – certainly not any information that a hydrogen molecule contains. Hydrogen is just as “happy” to react with chlorine as with oxygen. And I have no idea how quarks “know” how to make protons – perhaps, in this universe, that is just the way thing are.

          6. But Coragyps. You are ignoring the possibility that some special circumstance caused the radioactive decay of Aluminum-26 on Earth to be different than elsewhere in the universe.

            Christian fundamentalists like Ron try to protect the failure of their dying faith by the terribly convenient notion that anything he believes happened in the past can be right because no one can go back in time and prove him wrong—therefore—he always gets to hold onto whatever piece of nonsense he has chosen to believe. He can sit here all day and call into doubt anything and everything you might say simply because you cannot go back in time to check it out firsthand. Trouble is, Ron has the same problem. He cannot go back in time and check out firsthand whether there really was an Eve and whether she really did eat some weird fruit that caused her to suddenly know the difference between good and evil. The point Ron is reaching for here is:

            “Well, since I cannot go back in time and you cannot go back in time to personally verify our points, then our thoughts are all just beliefs with no one being anymore certain than the other—so why don’t we teach both in science class?

            The reason we do not teach both in science class is because it is highly unlikely that the basic operative laws of the physical universe would have been suspended just for Ron’s personal religious convenience.

            Face it Ron. Evolution happened. Now that you know that, Christian fundamentalist dogma officially requires you to turn your back on Jesus Christ and walk away forever because he has lied to you. It is a basic requirement of your faith—that the pastor at your nitwit church says that YOU MUST DO if you ever see a flaw in the Bible.

            Has it never occurred as odd to you that a form of the Christian faith would contain a specific doctrinal stipulation that a certain unfortunate turn of affairs with regard to the Bible REQUIRES that you reject Jesus and walk away forever? It sounds damn peculiar to me if you really do believe in a loving God.

            If your own child misplaced your car keys, would you then turn your back on her and walk away forever?

            Wake up Ron. You are trapped in a sea of religious silliness that was pounded into the head of your great granddaddy by a half-literate country preacher that did not know his religious anus from a hole in the ground.

            Buck the system Ron. Walk away from Christian fundamentalism and straight INTO the arms of Jesus. It is not Jesus that has failed you. The false Christian fundamentalist system created by men has failed you—not Jesus. Your last act in a dying system that is wrong should not be to obey that system by REJECTING Jesus. What you do instead is the last great act of DEFIANCE against the men who have deceived you. You rub dirt and sand into their eyes by disobeying them and going straight to Jesus instead—in another Christian context that is different from the one you are leaving.

            Christian fundamentalist preachers feel all fat, self-righteous, and personally satisfied when a member of their congregation decides that the Bible is not inerrant and makes a declaration of atheism of agnoticism. They want you to burn in those flames for daring to defy their personal pharasaic authority. They hope you will. The thing that kills their ego, slashes their consciousness, and pulls the rug out from under all their spiritual pride is to do this:

            “Oh, Jan and I are worshipping Jesus down at the Lutheran Church now (or substitute any other church).

            If you really want to stomp their guts good, tell them:

            “Oh, Jan and I are Roman Catholic now!!!”

            Do not obey men who have failed you with a failed system that they created. You let them know in spades that they have failed utterly and completely.

          7. I bet you’re right, Charles! Sin may be jacking with the Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces, and altering decay rates proportionately with distance from Eden!

          8. Hey!!! Sounds about as good as anything else I have heard out of Ron.

            By the way, I was not aware of the Aluminum-26 isotope not being present on Earth. Thanks for bringing it up. I mostly deal with more Eartly stuff like Cesium-137, Strontium-90, and Uranium-235.

          9. Face it Charles. Creation happened. Turn your back to evolution and face Jesus, the Creator. Then you will gain wisdom in the workings of nature. Pull your head out of your natural world and realize there is a much greater power in the universe.
            Evolution conveniently leaves out any explanation for the origin of life so that you don’t have to argue it, since you can’t argue it. I have a book, inspired by the Creator, that explains life.
            There is room at the cross for even you. Come while there is time. Jesus is waiting patiently before he destroys nature with fire.

          10. Jesus is the creator. I never said He wasn’t. The question is HOW He did it.

            Science has worked out a great deal of that, and evolution was clearly a principal player in the science that God created and put into it. After all, the Maker (all makers in fact) leave messages about themselves behind in what they make. If the geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, etc. have gotten their reading of the science that went into creation all wrong, I think what the people here at TFN Insider would like to see from YOU is the full library of peer-reviewed reference sources setting forth the details of the ALTERNATIVE SCIENCE that Jesus REALLY DID USE INSTEAD to create all that is within this realm of existence. You could fill a whole library with the information and data on the evolution, big bang, etc. side. Where is your library? As the old saying goes, “put up or shut up.”

      2. ” My definition of science is that it is the observation of nature. ”
        Well, that’s not how scientists define science. Perhaps, when it comes to discussing science it’s better to define it in the way scientist define it rather than one you’ve just invented?

        “To continue, in short, science does not include the interpretation of those observations. I”
        Complete and utter bunkum.
        What scientists do is to gather evidence, formulate hypotheses (which are, of course, and interpretation of the evidence) and test those hypotheses by acquiring further evidence. Hypotheses are revised or rejected if that is what the evidence demands.
        It’s called the scientific method. Perhaps you should find out something about it rather than trying to redefine science to suit your argument.

    2. Next Ron will be telling us that there is no such thing as “interpretation” of the Bible,which is one of the long-term bull-doody bulwarks of the dying Christian fundamentalist tradition in the United States.

      1. Ah, but there is interpretation of the Bible from which comes religion. However, religion does not equate to truth. If you were to understand the Bible as it was inspired, you would know the truth. There is, however, enough fundamental information to understand more truth than what science can provide. The problem is, most people don’t take the time to comprehend it.

        1. What Ron means is that if the Holy Spirit really did live in us, like He does in Ron, then the scales woulf fall from our spiritual eyes and we would know the truth that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The Holy Spirit is neither stupid nor a liar Ron, which is precisely why He has never told you that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Your granddaddy heard that from an ignorant man who specializes in ignorant country-hick religion and passed it on down to you. Try having a little respect for the Holy Spirit. After all, He did invent the science that He used to make Heaven and Earth and took his own long ime in doing it too. Sheesh!!! These guys even want to dictate their ignorance to God himself.

        2. “If you were to understand the Bible as it was inspired, you would know the truth.” Details, if you don’t mind.

  5. One thing Nye missed that he should have contradicted is Ham’s false assertion that evolution is atheistic. The theory of evolution does not deny a god exists. Because the supernatural is outside the bounds of science, scientific theories can say nothing about god. It is neither atheist nor theistic.

    1. Right you are Ed. Evolution does not even deny that a deity (God) could have been the creative progenitor of life. It just indicates (rightly) that life changes over time.

      The important thing to remember is that many disciplines within the sciences (physical and social sciences) have demonstrated clearly that many aspects of the creation account in the Book of Genesis are neither science nor history, meaning that the events in question simply did not happen. For example, one such event is that all death on planet Earth first came into being only after Eve and Adam ate the fruit. The truth of the matter is that death was on this plant in the plant and animal kingdoms for many hundreds of millions of years before Adam and Eve ever existed.

      Christian fundamentalists today hate science because it (in so many different ways) puts the lie to their misinformed, literalist reading and understanding of the Bible. Not the Bible itself, but rather their flawed reading and understanding of it, form the rotten, man-made foundation on which the whole Christian fundamentalist belief system rests. Therefore, quite rightly, they perceive that the discoveries of science are undermining their whole belief system and putting it in danger of extinction. Right they are!!! Christian fundamentalism is already in regression and headed rapidly towards extinction. This “dying away” will accelerate as more and more scientific discoveries are made and contradict their unique and poor understanding of the Bible.

      There is a good reason for this and a very Christian reason. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. All truth is his truth, including scientific truth. The Christian fundamentalist belief system is a house of cards made of MAN-CREATED LIES. Jesus is unlikely to long-tolerate or support a so-called “Christian” belief system that is held together by falsehoods, deceit, ignorance, and sheer silliness. Christian fundamentalism is not failing because evil is abundant and set against it in this world. It is failing and declining because the only things left holding it together are chewing gum, a little rotting string, and maybe a rusty bobby pin. It and most of the people who believe in it will be almost completely dead and gone within the next 100 years. With it gone, finally gone, dead, and out of the way, a Christian faith closer to what the Disciples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul originally envisioned (one that accounts for all truth, including scientific truth) will emerge and the person of Jesus, the things he said, and the things he did will again become the center of the Christian faith.

      A verse in the Bible says that there is a name that is above every name. It refers specifically to the name “Jesus.” More than one Christian fundamentalist has said to me:

      “No. That’s not true. There is a name that is even above the name of Jesus. That name is Bible.” Apparently, the black book they choose to thump rather than read and apply lovingly is more important to them than the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

      Like I said—a house of cards ready to fall. Then Jesus and his love will be set free for all.

      1. I think you are too optimistic. There are one heck of a lot of folks that don’t read that bible because they cannot read well enough to do so. They understand no science, because they have never read above about a fifth grade level and they avoid reading anything at all, especially anything technical in nature.

        And these are high school graduates I’m talking about. I’m trying to help one person out of a deep hole, but it is quite hard when the person cannot read well enough to understand things questions on a drivers license test, or how to fill out basically any government form.

        The more time goes on the more I think maybe we should teach kids only reading writing and math up to algebra I. If you can read and write well and do basic math the door is open to anything in life and you can easily self educate about anything else and fact check your beliefs or what you are told.. If you can’t do those things it is shut tight and dead bolted.

        With so many at such a low education level, falling farther behind their entire lives, religious fundamentalists will always have a population of ignorant easy rubes to draw in with their manipulative diatribe.