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Thanks to Bill Nye, Creationists Raised Enough Money to Build an Anti-Science Theme Park

The science guy won a debate—and subsidized the enemy

Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

I’m not saying “I told you so” (in fact I am, of course), but the main upshot of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate appears to have tipped the final balance in favor of Ham.

The debate, as you’ll recall, was held in Kentucky’s Creation Museum, was on the validity of creationism as a model of biological origins and diversity, and the proceeds from the DVDs went to Ham and other creationists.

Now, according to the Guardian and other venues, Ham has announced that proceeds from the debate have apparently revived the dormant “Ark Park” project, which will contain a “life-sized” replica of Noah’s Ark.

This is precisely what I predicted in a pre-debate post on January 5, “Ark Park near collapse; will Bill Nye help finance it?” At the time I wrote this:

What outweighs everything, though, is the possibility that Nye will lose by simply showing up, and thereby raising big bucks for the Creation Museum or the troubled Ark Park. And no matter what he says, or how good he is, if he is raising money that helps promulgate lies to the children he loves, Nye is making a very serious mistake.

The Ark Park had been in financial trouble because people weren’t buying its bonds, but if Ham isn’t lying—and one has to worry about that given his creationist mission—the debate got the needed interest to revive the park. As the Guardian reports:

Creation Museum founder Ken Ham announced Thursday that a municipal bond offering has raised enough money to begin construction on the Ark Encounter project, estimated to cost about $73m. Groundbreaking is planned for May and the ark is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016.

Ham said a high-profile evolution debate he had with “Science Guy” Bill Nye on 4 February helped boost support for the project.

And Nye’s reponse:

Nye said he was “heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky” after learning that the project would move forward. He said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham’s ministry, which preaches that the Bible’s creation story is a true account, and as a result, “voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest.”

Well, he’s heartbroken and sickened because of his own actions. By agreeing to show up and debate Ham—something I suspect Nye did (at least in part) to keep himself in the media spotlight—he’s allowed Ham to further his project. The result, even if you think Nye gained a transitory victory in the debate, is that Ham will build yet another popular tourist attraction, one designed to promulgate lies to kids. Nye, of course, devoted his career as The Science Guy to precisely the opposite: teaching and exciting kids about science. In other words, Nye scuppered himself.

This is why evolutionists should not debate creationists. It looks good on Ham’s c.v.; not so good on Nye’s.  And now it looks great on Ham’s balance sheet as well. 

Nye lost—big time.

Jerry A. Coyne is a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago and author of Why Evolution is True, as well as the eponymous website. A version of this post originally appeared there.