googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Ham v. Nye Debate: Millions of Species

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Ham v. Nye Debate: Millions of Species

The debate of the decade happens while I am on a hiatus from blogging. Go figure. I'm talking about the Ken Ham v. Bill Nye debate, of course. You can still watch it on YouTube here in case you missed it.

I did watch the debate live online and there was a lot I wanted to say about it but I didn't have the opportunity then. I feared that once I was back online that I the information would no longer seem timely or relevant. However, there's still a lot of buzz about the debate so I'm going to weigh in on a few points. I don't really intend to make this a series. Instead, I'm going to blog as usual but will use material from the debate from time to time as inspiration.

One point raised by Bill Nye was that if there were 14K or so animals on the Ark (7K kinds) then there would need to be an average of 11 new species created every day from then until now to account for the 16 million species that exist today. That sounds like a lot. As a matter of fact, it's only because it sounds like a lot that the argument seems to have weight. When you get right down to it, this is nothing more than an argument of incredulity, where the speaker tries to assert something is untrue on the flimsy grounds that it just sounds incredible. After all, 11 new species per day is only around 4,000 new species per year which is only .025% of 16 million. I don't know if that even seems unreasonable. If we look at the opposite end of the spectrum, we have been warned for years that between 1,000-10,000 species are going extinct every year. The Center for Biological Diversity says there are, literally dozens going extinct every day.

Also, I'm not sure exactly where Nye got his “16 million species” number. Does he mean 16 million is an estimate of the number believed to exist or that 16 million have been identified? I've read varying estimates but the number of identified, extant species of creatures is closer to 1.5-1.9 million. Of course, there are more species that are certain to exist but just haven't been discovered. How many more there might be is somewhat subjective.

A key point in the evolutionary theory is that life has been evolving for billions of years. Over that vast time, countless generations of creatures would have evolved from species to species. Each transitional form technically would be a different species. Darwin expected the geological column to be full of these intermittent species but the innumerable forms he predicted are curiously absent from the fossil record. The lack of abundant, transitional fossils doesn't discourage evolutionists, though. They still believe they existed but simply weren't preserved as fossils. Because of their faith in their theory, evolutionists estimate an absurdly high number of species to have existed. An interesting article explaining evolutionary math can be found on Answers in Genesis. Extreme guesses by evolutionists are upwards of 150 million species – even though only about 250,000 extinct species have been identified in the fossils.

Nye's “16 million” figure is about 10 times the actual number of identified, extant species. If the actual number were less, then of course the number of new species required each day to account for that figure would be much less as well. 400 new species each year (only 1-2 per day) would total 1.6 million new species in only 4,000 years. There are probably more than 1.6 million species but, hopefully, you can see my point. Assuming a more conservative number of species, even a modest speciation rate could have reached that number in the time since the Flood.

But what if the higher number is the estimate is correct? What if there truly are 16 million or even 30 million as some scientists estimate? Here is the key flaw in Nye's point – a flaw I wish Ham would have pounced on immediately: The overwhelming majority of identified species are insects, bacteria, fungi, and plants. Noah did not have to accommodate any of these species (though many of them probably made it on board the Ark, either as food or carried by animals). The actual number of vertebrate species is closer to 80,000 but even ½ of these are marine animals. There are only about 40K species of terrestrial, vertebrate animals. That's a lot smaller than the “16 million species” straw man that Nye presented.

Now, a species is a little more narrow than a “kind.” There are currently 32 species of cats but Noah only had 2 cats on the Ark. There are 8 species of bear but Noah only had 2 bears on the Ark. You get the idea. We're not exactly sure how many kinds Noah had on the Ark, but probably less than 6,000 animals needed to be on the Ark to account for the 40K terrestrial, vertebrate species estimated to exist today. That's only around 9 new species per year for 4,000 years. Suddenly, it's not unreasonable at all.

In my opinion, Bill Nye failed miserably in this debate. One of his key points, a point that has been touted by some as one of his hardest hitting, is a complete bust. Seven thousand kinds did not have to become 16 million species. Bill Nye either doesn't understand the creation argument or has deliberately misrepresented it.


Lu MontyZ said...

Glad to see you back! I picked this out during the debate as well but didn't know everything you put forth here. I'd say in addition to what you've said, since evolutionists say "we're here, therefore evolution," I don't find it unreasonable that "there were so X species, we're here, they must have evolved anyways, regardless of number."

Carvin said...

I feel like this was a little weak on his part, but mostly because the definition of 'kinds' is so nebulous that it's hard to dispute.

This is really an unimportant part of the defense of evolution because all it is is a argument against Noah's Ark. Remove it and Ham still has no evidence to stand on because he doesn't work with science.

Please source anyone who feels the species/kind is the hardest hitting. No points if they show that two animals is not a viable population for a gene pool.

Anyway, to some general errors about those who recognize the theory of evolution...

There have been gaps in the fossil record. We regularly have new discovery that are predicted in form and function that fill gaps. Are there still gaps? Yeah, what of it? Only a tiny fraction of life gets fossilized, so it's not surprising that gaps exist. That said, evolution is recognized because it is what fits the data the best, but because it is a belief or faith. Anyone who would deny credible evidence that would discredit the theory is not a scientist. Nye even said so: he said his mind could be changed if evidence exists.

I know I probably would have bought Ham's rubbish years ago, but it's still hard to see someone completely ignore someone as bright as Nye. The Creation theory can not predict anything (or, at least, it hasn't) and does not reasonably consider the whole of data on the subject. The fossil record is not consistent with Noah's flood. Genetics doesn't support that the Ark could carry viable gene pools.

You want to believe that God did all this, that's fine. I'm not personally sure what I do believe. But science finds no evidence that this happened.
To Lu MontyZ

'Evolutionists' (though that is only a term used by creationists, really) do not think 'we're here, therefore evolution'. They think 'the fossil record indicates evolution, therefore we will work with that model till evidence shows otherwise.'

RKBentley said...


If you're interested in a source that has trumpeted this point, here's a quote and link below.

“That is a fantastic point. I have not seen it made before. The point is that if there were only 7,000 "kinds" on Noah's Arc [sic], then with the conservative estimate of 16 million species today, then an average of 11 new species should have evolved (even in Ham's creationist model) every day. There should have, in Bill Nye's words, a daily newspaper column listing the new species. Yet nothing like that has ever been observed. ¶So that was one thing that made this whole debate really enjoyable or me.”

Concerning the term, “kind,” it's at least a rigorously defined word as “species.” I dare say it is even more so.

You have echoed the sentiments of most evolutionists when you said there is “no evidence” for creation. Most people make that comment without considering what is the objective of a theory. Evidence is neutral. It's not “for” any theory. Neither is it against any theory. Evidence just “is” and the purpose of a theory is to explain the evidence. Therefore, fossils aren't evidence “for” evolution any more than they're evidence “for” creation. You don't have a single shred more evidence than I have.

The question becomes: which theory do we believe explains all the evidence best? I believe Ham nailed it in his opening remarks when he talked about all of the variations within a kind; how this is OBSERVED and explained in the creation model. The idea that a single dog-kind produced dogs, wolves, foxes, and dingoes fits what we OBSERVE very well. The idea that dogs were once something like a fish is NOT OBSERVED. It cannot be tested or repeated. It's generous to even call evolution “science” since it cannot be studied according to the scientific method.

Finally, “science” does not ever :find” anything. Science is a methodology or discipline. It's people who practice science that reach conclusions and those who conclude that evolution best explains the evidence are the same people who believe there can only ever be a natural explanation for any phenomenon.

Thanks for visiting and for your comments. God bless!!


RKBentley said...

Lu MontyZ,

You've struck upon a good point. When a species has adapted to its environment, I would not expect any sudden change in the species unless there were some sudden change in the environment. Immediately after the Flood, species had to rapidly adapt to new environments. Speciation must necessarily have been a more common event.

BTW, don't fret over Carvin's quibble of the term "evolutionists." Evolutionists are the same people who don't seem to know how to correctly use the term "creationism." I've heard many of them ask silly questions like, "what is the evidence for creationism?"

Carvin said...

Gonna have to say, I don't think your quote proves how this is a 'key point' when the person said they'd never heard of it before the debate. I think it shows that Nye found a rather novel argument. The author merely says they enjoyed it, not that it was strong.

As for a theory, the point of a theory is that it takes all evidence and finds a pattern. A viable theory is one that doesn't contradict evidence. I'll admit that my speaking of it was sloppy, but the point remains. The hypothesis of Creation (as in, the concept held by fundamentalist Christianity, involving the World Flood and Young Earth) contradicts most evidence we have about our world.

Of course, a hypothesis is not really correct either, because a hypothesis is looking at evidence and guessing at a pattern. It is what happens before a theory. Creationism has no guessing or speculation. It is merely an attempt to prove a statement (the Bible is accurate when literally interpreted). To illustrate the difference, Creationism dictates that all humans descended from Noah because the Bible says so, and here is stuff we found that agrees with that statement and stuff we found that might make other statements false. Scientific theory states that humans, the species homo sapiens, likely descended from a group in Africa: we came to that conclusion after looking at fossils all over the world and working out the pattern; we could be wrong and will continue seeking evidence to refine that hypothesis.

But, to the point. They aren't really competing theories because Creationism isn't a theory: the central statements do not allow for it to be wrong. Ham echoed this. I suppose they may be competing models, though. Anyway, at best Ham presented evidence that might allow for the idea of Creationism. He never showed any validity to the model: it can't predict, it never has.

As for the nonsense 'observational science', all science is based on observation, even evolution. And we can apply the scientific method to it. Hypothesis: dogs evolved from a fish like creature. Experiment: check the fossil record of a particular area, making note of all fossils and the various dates we get through multiple dating methods. If the hypothesis is correct, we can trace through the layers of the earth and see that over time dog fossil lead backwards towards a fish like creature. Observe: perform the excavations and date all fossils. Data: all the fossils, their structure, and the dates. Evaluation: take the data and see if it matches the hypothesis. Conclusion: the data supports or contends the hypothesis. Boom. Simplified, but that is 'observational science'.

Science can refer to a method, the body of the world's research as well as the community of history's researchers. Science doesn't make conclusions about things beyond the observable. It can't say there is a God or not, unless God conforms to measurable phenomenon. Science can't say that God did not create a planet to look 4.4 billion years old, just that our best observations indicate it is at least that old.
Speciation, though, requires quite a bit of time. 4000 years just isn't enough time, and a couple of animals just isn't enough gene pool, nor enough room for error. And that's while ignoring the time it would take for creatures to get to other continents... if that would be possible.

Lu MontyZ said...


Speciation is often the whipping boy of Evolution. Darwin's finches, as you've demonstrated admirably, only show changes to environment, though also quick ones! Single season, in most case, were enough for adaptation. I'd say 4000 years is plenty, though I think it's closer to 4500? Now I'm just quibbling, haha!

Indeed; I'm not interested in sniping over words. Perhaps I did generalize a bit, but the gist is true. Carvin's latest reply even betrays himself to my point: Dog in layers, fish-like below, fossils between, fish-like evolved into dog. That's literally "we're (dogs are) here, dog must have evolved this way (from fish-like), therefore evolution (is true, I forgot these last two words originally)."

RKBentley said...

Lu MontyZ

I wrote a piece several years ago about an experiment was done on a group of islands. Here's a quote I cited from Sciencedaily:

"Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime -- within months -- as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation, favoring first longer and then shorter hind legs."

Notice how they switch from from saying “evolution” to “natural selection” in the same sentence? It's another example of conflation like I was talking about. Anyway, my point in bringing it up now is to show that you're absolutely right. A sudden change in the environment can produce immediate change in a population. It's observed. Yet when it's observed, evolutionists act surprised because they're so committed to their “long age” paradigm.

In another example, where Russian scientists selectively bred foxes, rapid changes were observed in the foxes in as few as eight generations. Again we see that long ages weren't necessary to accomplish these changes and the scientists were once again surprised how quickly it happened.

You can read my original posts on these experiments at these links:

Thanks for visiting and for your comments! God bless!!


Carvin said...


You definitely missed my distinction. To put it into a better way, the scientific method would look at the dog fish things like this.

"Maybe dogs came from fish, perform experiments, adjust speculations, consider all evidence, dogs seem to have come from fish, will continue to seek a more clear answer." Anyone that uses 'truth' in regard to evolution is no scientist. It is most complete model we have, but it is, in fact, a theory. Science is the process of removing ignorance but learning facts about the world as well as making conclusions, hypothesis, theories, and models based on facts, so that we know how best to seek more facts. The dog fish thing isn't just to know about dogs and fish, but it leads to more questions like 'were bears also evolved from fish' or whatever.


Speedy evolution happens, though it is mostly micro-evolution. Almost all examples are caused by man's intervention, and there is quite a bit of evidence of that intervention.

This all still doesn't change the fact that at best this makes it not entirely impossible... this doesn't actually support the creation model.

RKBentley said...


You said earlier, "Speciation, though, requires quite a bit of time. 4000 years just isn't enough time."

I've shown you that populations respond quickly to changes in the environment. Whether or not the change was introduced by humans is of no consequence because it still demonstrates that animals have the genetic capacity to adapt rapidly.

God bless!!


Carvin said...

Well, sure... I mean, if everything happens perfectly (like with the foxes) you could pump out a micro-evolution in 50 years easily enough.

I dunno, I still feel like speciation is the weakest point of contention. I mean, let's consider the sloth. Are we to expect that the sloth got off the mountain safely (around the many predators and without massive forestation), survived in a habitat with too little trees for them to function, nor warm enough or wet enough, traveled to the ocean (the Mediterranean does not have significant currents out), rafted across the Atlantic (which I admit is a real speciation related event), rafting which requires a long time afloat, did all this with a large enough population to be genetically viable, then divergently evolved to not only have a two fingered version as well as a three fingered version but also have different neck vertebra counts (sloths have six or nine, all other mammals from giraffe to elephants have seven, other than manatees) all within six thousand years? All this without finding any sloth fossils other than in the Americas?

It just doesn't make sense. This is naturally possible. If you want to say that God made it all happen, then sure, but you aren't talking about science anymore, since God is not quantifiable. We also can't observe anything here. Saying 'I believe things are the way they are because God made them that way' isn't contradictory to the scientific method because it has nothing to do with science.

And this gets to the point. Creationism isn't science. It proposes something that isn't supported by evidence, isn't observable, and contradicts almost all data available. Ken Ham makes it the most clear when he says no information could ever sway him: this is how you can tell he is not a scientist. Nye is; he said he was welcome to the idea that he was wrong.