PETERSBURG, Ky. - Why are we here?
That simple but seemingly unanswerable question was be the central topic of discussion Tuesday night in Petersburg, Ky. as two of the most outspoken participants in the evolution vs. creationism debate took part in a special conversation at the Creation Museum.
Museum founder Ken Ham and famed pop scientist Bill Nye "The Science Guy" agreed on the prompt "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?" CNN correspondent Tom Foreman will moderate the debate.
Ham is a leading creation apologist, best-selling Christian author and president/CEO of Answers in Genesis (AiG) , the Bible-defending organization behind the museum and sponsor of the event.
A former science instructor who immigrated to the United States from Australia 27 years ago, he and other creationists contend the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account found in the Book of Genesis , rather than by natural processes such as evolution.
Nye, a former host of the popular "Bill Nye the Science Guy" TV program for children, supports the idea of evolution , the belief that different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth. The theory of evolution was popularized by Charles Darwin in 1859 by way of his book, " On the Origin of Species ."
Nye is also the current executive director of the Planetary Society and a frequent guest on TV and radio interview programs on science topics like evolution and creation.
"A debate with Mr. Nye, nationally known for his children's TV program and for promoting evolution, will be one of our major 2014 events that will highlight how children and teens are being influenced by evolutionary thinking," declared Ham in a statement.
"This year our AiG theme is 'standing our ground, rescuing our kids.' Having the opportunity to have a cordial but spirited debate with a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation/evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters."
Ham, who took part in a series of similar talks at Harvard University in the 1990s, says he and his organization are willing to hold public evolution-creation debates with serious evolutionists because they are rare these days.
However, while some willing opponents have come forward in past, they are often "mocking, strident evolutionists" who don't take the creationist point of view seriously so their requests were not considered, Ham said.
Nye's challenge was accepted, Ham said, because he is a "serious advocate for his beliefs" and his "opinions carry weight in society."
"I hope to show Mr. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution," Ham said of Nye, who developed a cult following in the ‘90s for preaching the scientific method and reason to a generation of American children.
An email inquiry to Nye's assistant was not immediately returned. The museum had been hoping to attract bow-tied celebrity scientist after he said in a YouTube video that teaching creationism was bad for children.
"I say to the grown-ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them," Nye said in the video posted in August 2012, which has amassed nearly 6 million views.