CITY HALL, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/11/29: Educator and TV personality Bill Nye ('The Science Guy') speaks to the press at a pre-march press conference on the steps of City Hall. On the eve of the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), environmental advocates rallied near New York City's City Hall for a rendition of the Global Climate March during which participants called for the Mayor de Blasio, who will be attending the talks, to commit to a stringent and comprehensive platform of environmental initiatives. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 13: Bill Nye signs copies of 'Unstoppable: Harnessing Science To Change The World' at Barnes & Noble Union Square on November 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Educator Bill Nye speaks onstage during 'How Creativity Fuels Science With Steve Aoki And Bill Nye' at The Fast Company Innovation Festival on November 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Actress, Connie Britton (L) and educator, Bill Nye speak on stage at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 in Central Park on September 26, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Scientist/educator Bill Nye attends 'The Science Guy: Science Can Save The World!' at National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation on August 6, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/Getty Images)
MILES FROM TOMORROWLAND EVENT - 'Miles from Tomorrowland' voice actors Adrian Grenier and Bill Nye, NASA astronauts Dr. Mike Massimino and Dr. Yvonne Cagle, and 'Good Morning America' chief meteorologist Ginger Zee joined Disney Junior and XPRIZE to launch 'Miles from Tomorrowland: Space Missions,' at New York Hall of Science. The learning-focused nationwide summer initiative encourages young children to engage in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) inspired activities. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Disney Jr. via Getty Images) BILL NYE
TV's "Science Guy" Bill Nye stand speaks during a debate on evolution with Creation Museum head Ken Ham, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at the Petersburg, Ky. museum. Ham believes the Earth was created 6,000 years ago by God and is told strictly through the Bible. Nye says he is worried the U.S. will not move forward if creationism is taught to children. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: Bill Nye makes a few remarks at a Celebration Of Carl Sagan at The Library of Congress on November 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Television personality Bill Nye attends the 'Dancing With The Stars' Wrap Party at Sofitel Hotel on November 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - OCTOBER 20: Actor / TV personality Bill Nye arrives at Hub Network's 1st annual Halloween bash at Barker Hangar on October 20, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 1703' - It was Hollywood night on 'Dancing with the Stars,' as 11 remaining couples took to the ballroom floor, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET), on ABC. Featuring a spectacular opening number with the entire cast, each couple took on a dance style that they had not previously performed including the Quickstep, Foxtrot, Charleston, Cha Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
TYNE STECKLEIN, BILL NYE
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Television personality Bill Nye attends the green carpet launch for the Evox TV debut of Ed Begley's new family show, 'On Begley Street' on September 15, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Scientist Bill Nye attends the 'Man Of Steel' world premiere at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Bill Nye visits the SiriusXM Studio on June 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 09: Scientist Bill Nye attends Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X on February 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Bill Nye the Science Guy attends the Inaugural S.E.T. Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel on November 17, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greets Bill Nye 'the Science Guy' during an event in the East Room at the White House on October 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. President Obama hosted the White House?s first Science Fair celebrating the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math competitions. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08: Actor Bill Nye 'the Science Guy' reads to children at Jumpstart?s Read for the Record at the LA Public Library on October 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Jumpstart)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
PETERSBURG, Ky. (AP) - True to his passionate and animated TV persona, "Science Guy" Bill Nye tapped on the podium, threw up his hands and noted that science shows the Earth is "billions and billions" of years old in a debate at a Kentucky museum known for teaching that the planet's age is only 6,000.
Nye was debating Creation Museum founder Ken Ham and promoting science in the snappy way that made him a pop culture staple as host of "Bill Nye The Science Guy" in the 1990s.
The event was meant to explore the age old question, "How did we get here?" from the perspectives of faith and science.
Ham, an Australian native who has built a thriving ministry in Kentucky, said he trusts the story of creation presented by the Bible.
"The Bible is the word of God," Ham said. "I admit that's where I start from."
Nye delivered a passionate speech on science and challenged the museum's teachings on the age of the earth and the Bible's flood story. Like most scientists, Nye believes there is no credible evidence that the world is only 6,000 years old.
"If we accept Mr. Ham's point of view ... that the Bible serves as a science text and he and his followers will interpret that for you, I want you to consider what that means," Nye said. "It means that Mr. Ham's word is to be more respected than what you can observe in nature, what you can find in your backyard in Kentucky."
The event drew dozens of national media outlets and about 800 tickets sold out in minutes. Ham said ahead of the debate that the Creation Museum was having a peak day on its social media sites.
"I think it shows you that the majority of people out there, they're interested in this topic, they want to know about this, they don't want debate shut down," Ham said before the debate.
At times, the debate had the feel of a university lecture, with slides and long-form presentations.
Responding to an audience question about where atoms and matter come from, Nye said scientists are continuing to find out.
Ham said he already knows the answer.
"Bill, I want to tell you, there is a book that tells where atoms come from, and its starts out, 'In the beginning ...,'" Ham said.
Nye said there are plenty of religious people around the world who don't question evolution science.
"I just want to remind us all there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion," said Nye, who wore his trademark bow tie. "But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old."
The debate drew a few Nye disciples in the audience, including Aaron Swomley, who wore a red bowtie and white lab coat. Swomley said he was impressed by Ham's presentation and the debate's respectful tone.
"I think they did a good job outlining their own arguments without getting too heated, as these debates tend to get," he said.
Some scientists had been critical of Nye for agreeing to debate the head of a Christian ministry that is dismissive of evolution.
Jerry Coyne, an evolution professor at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog that "Nye's appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids." Coyne pointed out that the Creation Museum will be selling DVDs of the event.
The debate was hatched after Nye appeared in an online video in 2012 that urged parents not to pass their religious-based doubts about evolution on to their children. Ham rebutted Nye's statements with his own online video and the two later agreed to share a stage.