PETERSBURG, Ky. Update 2/4/14:
Bill Nye, former host of the popular kids TV show "Bill Nye the Science Guy" went head to head Tuesday with "Answers in Genesis" CEO Ken Ham, offering competing understandings of the origin of species.
The debate took place at the controversial "Creation Museum" operated by Answers in Genesis in northern Kentucky.
Nye defended evolutionary theory, which is widely accepted in the scientific community, while Ham championed a literal understanding of the creation story found in the Bible.
Christians and non-Christians alike were invited to a viewing of the debate at First Baptist Church in Hazard.
"I know a lot of people will come into this thinking 'Well I don't believe in the Bible, it's just a book,' but that we really do have scientific basis for thoughts and beliefs in creationism," said churchgoer Melody Claussen.
Nye and Ham spoke to a packed auditorium; 900 tickets sold out in just two minutes, and countless more watched online through a live web stream.
Each was allowed a five minute introduction and then 30 minutes to make their case and answer the question "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?"
"We observe things in the present. Okay we're assuming that that's always happened in the past and we're going to try to figure out what happened. See there is a difference between what you observe and what happened in the past," said Ham.
"Your assertion that there's some difference between the natural laws that I use to observe the world today and the natural laws that existed four thousand years ago is extraordinary and unsettling," said Nye.
First Baptist's pastor, Daryl Cornett, says whatever side you agree with, there are plenty of misconceptions about both camps, and trying to learn from the other side is important.
"I don't know if anyone will be convinced and change their position, probably not, but at least they'll be better informed, even of the side they disagree with," he said.
The debate coincides with a recent Gallup survey, which ranks Kentucky as the 10th most religious state in the country.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, as the scientist has been known since his titular educational program aired on PBS in the 90's, is sitting down with a renowned creationist for a debate on evolution tonight in Kentucky.
But the day before Tuesday evening's debate, Nye spoke to students at Murray State University as part of the college's Presidential Lecture Series.
The debate with Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham takes place at the Creation Museum in Petersburg. Tickets to the event sold out almost immediately when they went on sale.
The AP reports that Christians who believe in evolution are likely to agree more with Nye than Ham when they hear their arguments.
Deborah Haarsma is president of the BioLogos Foundation, whose members "believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years."
Haarsma says that's consistent with believing the Bible is divinely inspired, but Ham disagrees. He says belief in evolution instead of a literal six-day creation undermines the authority of Scripture by changing its clear meaning.
Nye has argued that parents who teach creationism handicap their children and the nation's future.
Haarsma says children who are taught creationism often suffer an unnecessary crisis of faith when confronted with mainstream scientific teachings.
But Ham maintains that creationism is a scientifically viable explanation of the earth's origins.
You can watch the debate for free, live, at this website: http://debatelive.org/