By Ben Paquini
On Feb. 4, the Cal Poly Pomona Secular Student Alliance held a viewing party for the much anticipated evolution versus creationism debate between scientist and science educator Bill Nye and young-Earth creationist Ken Ham.
The debate was broadcast live over many media outlets and in the case of CPP’s SSA viewing party, over a live NPR.org stream in a Building 5 classroom.
The SSA organized the viewing party primarily for its members; however, open invitations were offered.
The CPP chapter of the SSA is a fairly new club that just got chartered and recognized by the national SSA in the last few weeks.
“We have only been around for one month and have about 15 current members,” said third-year finance student and SSA treasurer Pete Martinez. “We started this secular student organization to allow skeptics, agnostics and atheists on campus to meet regularly and watch debates like this. Although I do not believe there is a middle ground on this issue, this club allows the smaller minority of “secular” students a place to feel welcomed to meet others with similar beliefs.”
The debate began at 4 p.m. at Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. It was mediated by CNN broadcast journalist Tom Foreman who led the procession of questions, presentations and rebuttals for what ended up being a two and half hour affair.
The opening segments introduced the debaters to the 1,500 in attendance and the tens of thousands viewing online. The event became so popular it became the number one trending item on Twitter for several hours and garnered the attention of over 70 news outlets.
The age old question of science versus religion was the cornerstone of a debate that covered everything from the radiometric dating of ancient rock to the prevalence of the bacterium E.coli in citric acid.
The debaters, who both boast vast scientific knowledge, questioned each other’s claims as each man intended to prove his own belief.
Nye, who hosted the popular 1990’s television show, “Bill Nye The Science Guy,” argued on the basis of science being the foundational discipline of the physical and observable world. His arguments aimed at disproving Ham’s notion that the world was no older than a few thousand years and that everything in existence was indeed the product of intelligent design.
Ham, who founded the non-profit organization Answers in Genesis, argued that dating techniques were not 100 percent accurate, and that what is not directly explained in science does not mean it could not have happened in the distant past.
Ham argued the notion that science and religion cannot be married and that most young-Earth creationists like himself are never labeled “academic,” although they are by definition.
Psychology Professor and Academic Advisor to the SSA, Larry Goldman was present with the newly formed club to view the debate.
“I think it’s great that these young people have come out and created a secular student club,” said Goldman. “As a professor and as an academic, I too have found it difficult to touch base on issues like these with my religious colleagues.”
Goldman continued by stating that his position on evolution versus creationism is obvious as advisor to the SSA, however it is a respectful position without the need of what he and other members called “new atheism.”
Goldman facilitated a discussion with SSA members directly following the debate in which the students voiced their opinions about the debate itself and the larger questions of science and religion.
Club screens Nye, Ham evolution debate
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