Occam’s Blender

This week’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, was predictably uneventful, with the participants talking past each other most of the time. This was not surprising at all. Nye is a scientist, and Ham is a mystic. Their world views are incompatible.

A wise person reexamines long-cherished assumptions when presented with new evidence. A fool clings to beliefs in spite of the facts. At the close of the debate, the participants made clear to which group they belonged. When asked what it would take to convince either man to change his mind, Nye said ‘just one piece of evidence.’ Mr. Ham said nothing could convince him to change his mind.

Confirmation bias is a well-researched phenomenon within psychology, and it can affect scientists as well as laypeople. The advantage of the scientific worldview is that it is designed to actively fight the pernicious and truth-corrupting influence of bias. Fundamentalists institutionalize confirmation bias, apparently unaware that it’s even a problem.

There was a time when the seasons, earthquakes, lightning, and celestial events were considered supernatural phenomena. Ancient men had no better explanations than the myths they invented. Today we have the benefit of centuries of advancement of knowledge, and the modern person no longer need resort to supernatural explanations. The devout however, are emotionally dependent on a worldview wherein supernatural causes are still important. These are erstwhile modern people, encumbered by a Stone Age mindset.

Occam’s razor states that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Ham and his ilk do not appear to follow the principle of parsimony. On the contrary, they ascribe to what I’ll call Occam’s Blender:
No explanation is too complicated, provided it confirms pre-existing beliefs.

It was clear to anyone who is familiar with Mr. Ham that he is simply incapable of entertaining ideas that do not conform to his pre-existing beliefs. I actually found it rather ridiculous that Nye stooped to debunking the glaring physical impossibilities of the Flood, Noah’s Ark, and so on. To a thinking person, these arguments are obvious; to a believer, factual defects in scripture can always be answered with magic. Not enough room on the boat for all the species? Magic. Not enough time for rock layers to have formed? Magic. For every impossibility in Ham’s account of Biblical history, the answer is always the same: God.

I’m not sure what Bill Nye thought he could achieve during the debate. Perhaps he hoped to reach out to an audience of young people who might not otherwise be exposed to an enthusiastic proponent of the scientific worldview. I hope that he accomplished this goal. It’s clear though that he wasn’t able to reach everyone. These hilariously ignorant comments from self-identifying creationists are a staggering display of purposeful and prideful stupidity. They exemplify the backward anti-knowledge worldview that is holding back an otherwise great nation.

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