There were a lot of people in the pro-science corner who were dubious about the value of Bill Nye debating Aussie creationist clown Ken Ham. Nobody's mind will be changed, they grumbled. It just gives oxygen to bad science.
How wrong could they be?
Polling shows that most Christians who viewed the debate judged Nye - not Ham - the winner. That's because most self-identified Christians are not stupid enough to embrace 7-day, 6000-year creationism. Ham is way out on the brain-dead fringe.
And let's understand something about debates. They do make a difference. Sure, the "committeds" won't be swayed. Debates influence those who are uncommitted, as any political junkie knows. Some of us were once, to all appearances, firmly committed to a version of creationism (in my case, the so-called Gap Theory... tohu and bohu anyone?) Then the uncomfortable facts start niggling away, creating the theological equivalent of a "swinging voter". Suddenly you're open to a reassessment that could lead either back to a desperate, delusional apologetic defence - or a genuine about face. And guess what? The younger you are the easier it is to unlearn nonsense.
So how brilliant was it to have a gifted science communicator like Bill Nye - a guy who knows how to challenge and inspire younger people - to put on the gloves for this debate?
Nobody's mind will be changed? Hogwash! This is a massive loss of face for Young Earth Creationism and it's supporters, including whole denominational groups like the Seventh-day Adventists.
Anything that opens up a ghetto to a fresh breeze is good. People who hold to Bible literalism tend to live a vacuum-sealed intellectual life. They watch fundamentalist TV shows, listen to fundamentalist radio, read fundamentalist magazines and books, socialise almost exclusively with fellow true-believers. Give them a decent science text and they don't want to read it, just get it removed from sight. If it isn't "faith enhancing" they don't want to know.
The Ham/Nye debate was supposed to be "faith building".
I suspect Ham won't even make money out of this little enterprise. The set-up costs were apparently substantial, and he was the one paying. The intention was to recoup the shekels by selling DVDs. But who, pray tell, will want to buy one from him? The market was intended to be gloating fellow fundamentalists. Sadly for Ken, he lost the debate... big time.