Herein lies one of the many problems with scientist Bill Nye deciding to debate the disingenuous supreme leader of creationist sophistry Ken Ham: As I anticipated last year shortly after the debate, fruitless exercises like this with creationists, who have no interest in examining or considering any real evidence, serve no purpose and only legitimizes the fairy tales, such that a guy like Brandon Pettenger, a high school scientist teacher from Arroyo Grande (Calif.) High School, can point to the exchange between Nye and Ham and surmise that there must be a “debate” surrounding evolution and creationism after all. If there wasn’t a debate, why would a high-profile scientist like Nye even bother?
To his detriment, Nye did agree and go through with the debate, so it’s a fair question. In any case, Pettenger, who admits to being a Christian, showed the Nye-Ham debate to his students as a way to present “both sides of the argument,” as he said in this defense, after being called out by the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
I understand that you might be worried I am teaching religion in a public school science class which is not the case. There is debate within the scientific community about how to answer the question where did life come from (italics mine). I feel it would be a disservice to my students not to present both sides of the argument. We are investigating the main theories that are presented in this debate and the evidence used to support those claims. I am very clear beforehand that I am a Christian but I am trying to present the scientific evidence. It is up to each student to decide for themselves which side they believe based on the evidence. I will be asking each student to write an argumentative essay stating their position in the debate and to support their position with scientific evidence. I am trying to give students tools to use in their essays.
As Hemant Mehta points out, of course, the question of our origin from simpler forms only has one legitimate side, which is the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. All other “theories,” including creationism and intelligent design and all other origin tales from religion, are just that — theories in the most laymen-esque, conjectural sense of the word.
Pettenger can ask his students to write essays and support their positions all they want to, but if any of them happen to agree with Ham, the teacher will be waiting a long, long time for that “scientific evidence,” since none exists.