Since “science guy” Bill Nye’s upcoming Feb. 4 debate with anti-evolutionist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., was made public a few weeks ago, atheist activists have spoken out fervently against the initiative.

Nye responded to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, among other critics this week, and explained why, despite their frustration, he’s still planning to go head-to-head with Ham.

While atheists like Dawkins have warned that scientists engaging with creationists is ideologically dangerous and gives undue publicity to those who oppose evolution, Nye said that he wants to battle the anti-evolution sentiment that is still held by many Americans — a view that he believes could hamper the nation’s progression.

“Well I don’t think I’m going to win Mr. Ham over any more than Mr. Ham thinks he’s going to win me over, if I understand that expression ‘win over,’” he told HuffPost Live’s Josh Zepps in an interview this week. “Instead, I want to show people that this belief is still among us … it finds its way onto school boards in the United States.”

Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Hes Debating Creationist Ken Ham on Evolution and Creationism

Image source: Answers in Genesis

Nye, who once hosted PBS’s “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” said that he isn’t going into the debate with Ham as a scientist, but that he plans to debate evolution and creationism as “a reasonable man.”

“I’m not going in really as a scientist as such. I want to remind everybody — I’m a mechanical engineer,” Nye said. “I’m going in as a reasonable man and I think that to just call attention to this belief system has value.”

So rather than seeing his participation in the sold-out event as a detriment, Nye believes it is important to step into the debate to help the public better see his perspective.

“The guy challenged me to a duel. What am I gonna do?” he quipped.

On a more serious note, Nye said that he is “frightened” by the push for creationism in science textbooks and instruction.

“If the United States produces a generation of science students who don’t believe in science, that’s troublesome,” he said, reflecting past statements he’s made on the matter. “We want to raise the most scientifically literate students that we can.”

Watch Nye’s HuffPost Live interview here.

Ham has also praised the debate opportunity, telling TheBlaze earlier this month that he believes the event will offer the public a rare and unique opportunity to hear a prominent creationist and a famed evolutionary theorist fully air their views on life’s origins — something that doesn’t often happen in one place.

Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Hes Debating Creationist Ken Ham on Evolution and Creationism

Presenter Bill Nye speaks on stage at “Hub Network’s First Annual Halloween Bash” (Invision for the Hub Network)

“I just think it’s really healthy for the public to actually hear two people like this that are really polar opposites in many ways, because what you believe about who you are [and] where you came from affects your whole worldview,” Ham said, pledging to show Nye “love and respect” when he heads to Kentucky for the debate.

The roots for the sold-out debate were apparently set in 2012 when, as TheBlaze previously reported, Nye lambasted creationists in a Big Think video and proclaimed that teaching ideas contrary to evolutionary theory is damaging to both children and society.

At the time, Ham and his organization, Answers in Genesis, responded with video critiques of their own. And when an Associated Press reporter contact both Ham and Nye to discuss the back-and-forth, Answers in Genesis asked the reporter to inquire whether the “science guy” would be interested in going head-to-head with Ham.

Nye inevitably agreed — and more than a year later that debate is slated to become a reality.

(H/T: Huffington Post)