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PETERSBURG, Ky. (USA TODAY) -- For true believers of all stripes, Tuesday night was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Nine hundred people streamed into the Creation Museum for the debate between founder Ken Ham and Bill Nye, the "Science Guy" of television fame.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS:Bill Nye takes on Ken Hamm

There was little hint of the worldwide livestream that organizers were hoping would attract as many as 1 million viewers online.

Yetthe audience beyond Petersburg, Ky., apparently was large. The debatewas a hot topic online; at one point the top four trending topics onTwitter, the social media site, were related to it.

"Sciencerules" read one T-shirt worn by a 12-year-old in the museum, with thesound of mechanized dinosaurs braying in the background.

MistyBrewer of Tulsa, Okla., said she has "traveled my journey to atheism."She drove 12 hours to bring her son to the "debate" and was getting inthe car to drive back home immediately after it ended.

"I think the believers will stay believers," Brewer said. "No one'sgoing to walk out of here saying, 'I changed my mind.' That's not goingto work."

Tim and Diana Yokum of Akron, Ohio, listened quietly todissenting views, but weren't swayed. They've been to the museum nearlyhalf a dozen times.

"The Bible says God created man. It doesn'tsay evolved," said Diana Yokum. "I really believe those who believe inevolution will have their eyes opened tonight."

Ham and Nye stuck to their lines in prepared speeches that made this anything but a debate.

Afterfive-minute opening statements, Ham and Nye had 30 minutes to offerarguments backed with photos and charts. "I feel like I'm in scienceclass," WKRC-TV reporter Angenette Levy said on Twitter during Ham'spresentation.

CNN reporter Tom Foreman acted as the moderator, although he rarelystepped into the debate. The audience was mostly silent, except forapplause at the end of both presenter's arguments.

"Your assertionthat there is some difference between the natural laws that I observetoday and the natural laws of 4,000 years ago is extraordinary andunsettling," Nye told Ham.

He pointed out that kangaroos don'tlive in the Middle East, where Noah's Ark supposedly ran aground, or onthe way to Australia.

Ham focused on "observational science," saying Nye couldn't be so certain about events he didn't witness.

"I challenge the evolutionists to admit the belief aspects of their particular worldview," he said.

"The battle (over creationism) is really about authority. It's about who is the authority, man or God," Ham said.

Tuesday's"debate" was the biggest public splash in the two-decade history ofAnswers in Genesis, the creationist ministry that Ham helped start andstill leads. More than 800,000 had registered to watch the debateonline.

In the seven years since the museum opened, it hasattracted more than half a million visitors, and the ministry employs300 people with a $30 million budget.

It still plans to spend more than $60 million on a Noah's Ark biblical theme park in Grant County, Ky.

Hamand his followers have drawn scorn worldwide for insisting that theirinterpretation of the biblical story challenges the evolution of manaccepted by scientists generations ago.

To those critics, exhibits showing people frolicking among dinosaurs make it a cartoon, not a museum.

"Isay to the grown-ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in yourworld, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything weobserve in the universe, that's fine," Nye said last year in a videoposted online. "But don't make your kids do it, because we need them."

Themuseum is paying Nye's expenses plus a fee. It would not disclose thefee, but Nye's normal speaking fee is $50,000 to $75,000, according toCelebrity Talent International.

The two debaters had never metbefore Tuesday, although Creation Museum officials say Nye was seenoutside the museum a few years ago, stopping to take a photo but nevercoming inside.

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