THE DYESSERTATION: Conversation, not debates, is the way to change minds

Ashley Dye is a senior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘The Dyessertation’ for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Ashley at

There is no clear winner in a verbal death match between two hardcore believers with opposite perspectives.

That was pretty evident in the "Creationism debate": between Bill Nye and Ken Ham — one known as the educational Science Guy and one known as the founder of the Creation Museum. After more than two hours of debating, neither admitted defeat.

In the eyes of those who believe in science, Nye won. In the eyes of those who believe in creationism, Ham won. It’s doubtful anyone watching was devoid of strong opinions.

And in a debate setting, it’s hard to change someone’s beliefs. You can change thoughts, but beliefs are held tighter.

What’s worse is that it pitted a scientific stance against a religious, philosophical stance. Creationism is not scientific; it’s based on religious text.

And there’s the problem. How is it possible to argue science against religion and actually change someone’s mind, to show them they’re wrong? How can you fight deeply-ingrained fantasy?

While it can happen, it doesn’t occur in one debate. It happens in conversations where the participants aren’t attacking each other’s point of view.

Nye stated in his "CNN column": that he chose to accept the invitation to the debate at Ham’s Creation Museum, because he hoped it would bring attention to the U.S.’s science education. He wrote that in the debate, he would like to see if Ham’s creationism model would stand up to the traditional scientific inquiry, to see if creationism has a place in modern science.

But it can’t fully fit to a scientific inquiry. While Ham can pick and choose scientific theories to support creationism, it isn’t rooted in science. Religion and philosophy are different fields from science and cannot be tested properly within scientific guidelines. Nye’s attempt to judge creationism this way only gave it legitimacy, as it was put against evolution.

The immediate impact of the debate is publicity for Ham and his Creation Museum. It’s been a while since Ham was under the national spotlight. And for the most part, Ham didn’t sound absolutely insane. He wasn’t foaming at the mouth, waving the Bible in the air. He wasn’t making any sense scientifically, but that didn’t matter to his audience. If you can hold together an oratorical presence, you can win a debate.

Ham isn’t the kind of guy you can debate and change. It’s sort of like not feeding the trolls — you need to ignore him, not give him a national stage. His “You don’t know that; you weren’t there” lines are tiring.

It was practically futile. Ham played with fiction while Nye tried to fight with facts. And Nye did perfectly fine backing up his arguments and acknowledging the faults, but he still gave Ham a stage.

While the debate can bring discussion of how science is taught in school, it was the wrong forum to really bring about any change.

That happens in civil conversations where both parties are willing to listen.


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