Bill Nye and Ken Ham face off over sin, morality and the 'basis for why people wear clothes'

Posted August 16

Scientist Bill Nye and creationist leader Ken Ham recently debated a seemingly curious subject during Nye's much-publicized tour of Ham's new Noah's ark theme park: the "basis for why people wear clothes."

Their debate, which is captured in a newly released video published on Ham's Facebook page, follows their widely viewed, three-hour showdown about creation and evolution that unfolded back in 2014.

Nye's visit to the Ark Encounter — a new attraction that features a life-size Noah's ark replica and countless Bible-themed exhibits — marked the first time that the two have gone head-to-head since that debate.

"You don't have a basis for [why we wear clothes]," Ham said at the opening of the clip, using the example to speak to the relationship that he believes exists between God and man.

Nye responded by explaining how he believes science would answer questions about human feeling and behavior, dismissing the notion that these sentiments come from a higher, top-down power.

"People in the scientific community claim that what we feel is a result of evolution, so that we have sympathy for each other, that we get angry with each other, that we work very hard to raise our children … is deep within us," he said. "It's part of who we are. It is not a result of a top-down issuance of laws."

Watch the debate here.

Nye said that scientists see these dynamics in other species as well, but Ham pushed back, appealing to the Bible to take a more theological approach to explaining why human beings wear clothing.

"God gave clothes because of sin," he explained. "The fact that we're wearing clothes is a reminder that God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve, the first blood sacrifice — a covering for their sin, pointing towards the fact that someday one would come to die for our sin — die for your sin, Bill — and die for mine, be raised from the dead and offer a free gift of salvation."

Nye, though, said that he's skeptical that it was sin that caused human beings to begin donning clothing.

The video concluded with a discussion over what it means to be "born again" — common language used in many Christian circles to describe the spiritual rebirth that comes when one decides to follow Jesus.

"We're born by a woman and then we're born again by the spirit of God," Ham told Nye, saying that he wanted the scientist to accept the Christian gospel.

Nye's response? "I would prefer that you weren't indoctrinating young people with anti-science."

Another clip shows the two men debating over how they each decide what's right and what's wrong. As you can imagine that, too, sparked some disagreement.

Ham later called Nye's visit and the debates that unfolded during it "a clash of world views," with Nye saying in a separate statement that he chose to visit the Ark Encounter to assess how it would influence young people.

"Through its dioramas and signage, the organization promotes ideas that are absolutely wrong scientifically, while suppressing critical thinking in our students — which is in no one’s best interest, conservative or progressive," Nye said.

Since their 2014 debate, Nye and Ham have publicly commented about one another's beliefs, volleying back and forth on a number of scientific and theological issues. For example, when Nye put out a video that was critical of the impact of religious beliefs on abortion rights, Ham responded.

"When it comes to women’s rights with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women," Nye said in a 2015 clip released by Big Think. "Sorry guys, I know it was written — or your interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago makes you think that when a man and woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby. That’s wrong. And so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature."

Ham, though, responded by saying that Nye unfairly attacked the Bible.

"He just couldn’t help himself as he has to ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ as Romans 1 states such people do, and justify his own rebellion against God," Ham wrote on his blog.

Both men see the other as attempting to indoctrinate children and adults into their worldview, though something must be said of their continued willingness to engage one another on such contested issues.

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