A minimum of 3 million viewers watched last night's evolution/creation debate between Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, which was the location of the much-discussed event.
In what some observers have dubbed "Scopes II," Nye and Ham sparred in a cordial yet spirited debate in front of a live audience that braved a winter storm. At least 10,000 groups watched a live stream of the debate in a public venue, and about 750,000 computers logged on to the debate.
With the thousands of groups viewing the debate in churches, schools and other places, and with families watching at home, it is reasonable to estimate that a minimum of four people were watching per single log in via debatelive.org. One location, Liberty University, reported 1,500 debate viewers on its campus.
Facebook reported the debate was the No. 1 trending topic for many hours before the event began. On Twitter, #creationdebate and Ken Ham occupied the worldwide Twitter trending topic during and after the debate. For a time, the event was half of Twitter's trending topics.
The debate was moderated by the capable Tom Foreman of CNN. Right after the debate, Nye and Ham were interviewed on CNN's Piers Morgan Live and then by Dan Harris, a correspondent with ABC's Nightline program. Also last night, MSNBC's The Last Word interviewed Mr. Nye by himself inside the Creation Museum. About 70 media representatives were able to beat the incoming storm to attend.
The topic for the debate was "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?" Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, which owns the Creation Museum, presented the argument for creation. Ham based his arguments on what he said was a misrepresentation of the definition of the word science, particularly in the differences between observational and historical science.
"There is a distinct difference in what you observe and what has taken place in the past," Ham said. "Creationists and evolutionists disagree on how to interpret data regarding the origins of our universe, and we can't prove either way observationally, because all we've got is the present. When it comes down to it, this is a battle over philosophical worldviews."
The argument against creation was presented by Nye, the Emmy-winning host and producer of the popular Bill Nye the Science Guy PBS program for children. Many of Nye's arguments were based on an advanced age of the Earth, pointing, for example, to the layers in the Grand Canyon.
One of the high points of the debate occurred when Ham showed short clips of prominent creationists who are involved in high-tech science and medicine, in order to counter Mr. Nye's contention that science advances when society becomes more evolution-based. One of the creationists was Dr. Raymond Damadian of New York, inventor of the MRI scanner, who is an outspoken creationist and whose invention has saved countless lives.
In addition, thousands of people watched the debate as it was signed by nationally certified American Sign Language interpreters at a special website, debateliveASL.org.
At 8 p.m. tonight on the same debate stage, Ken Ham and museum scientist Dr. Georgia Purdom will hold a 25-30 minute post-debate analysis. It will be live streamed (also at no cost) through debatelive.org. The live streams are powered by Google+ Hangouts On Air, through YouTube. The debate last night was available in HD for large-screen viewing in schools, churches or other public venues at no cost.
The debate has been archived at debatelive.org and will remain there for several days for viewing. C-SPAN will air the debate on TV on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. ET.
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