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Creation/Evolution, science

Fact-checking Bill Nye

You’ve probably heard about how Bill Nye (the Science guy) recently released a 2-minute rant on YouTube about how creationism is not appropriate for children.  Many rebuttals have been made, including these three from leading creationist organization Answers in Genesis: 1, 2, 3.  They have also issued a formal appeal to Nye for a public debate, interesting idea! 

Whether you agree with him or not, I thought we could take a moment to fact check Bill Nye’s claims…

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“Denial of evolution is unique to the United States.”

FALSE – First this statement blatantly ignore several religions outside Christianity all over the world that have their own creation origin stories.  Second there are Christians all over the world that share a literal view of Genesis.  Answers in Genesis have offices in the United Kingdom, and have done very popular seminars all over the world, most recently in Indonesia.  It would be more correct to state that creationism is most popular in the US, not that it is “unique” to the US.

“I mean, we’re the world’s most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens.  People still move to the United States. And that’s largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science.“

TRUE – but I find this statement extremely ironic given the previous claim that we are the biggest evolution-deniers.  Well if believing evolution is so critical to scientific advancement (as Nye is claiming in this whole video), then how are we the “most advanced”?  It almost seems to follow that denying evolution leads to better innovation!

“When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that (evolution), it holds everybody back, really.”

Not giving you that one Bill, gonna need a source or some evidence please?
“Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology.”

Possibly true, but not necessarily needed to operate in those realms.   See this quote from The Scientist:  pennicilin co-inventor Philip Skell wrote: 

Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No. … When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery. … Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit. None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs.”

“It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates.”

I see his point here, but I wonder if he is suggesting that creationists do not believe in tectonic plates.  The creation model provides a perfect understanding of tectonic plates.  During the flood, the Bible says that the “fountains of the great deep burst forth”.  Creationists see this as the onset of tectonic activity all over the planet.  We also see any continuing tectonic activity as “aftershocks” from the flood, and further proof that it happened.

“As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said (name-dropping), “When you’re in love you want to tell the world.”

Careful Bill, you’re sounding practically religious here.  Why would he be religious about evolution?  Perhaps it’s because he does realize he has to convince people to believe in something they cannot see.  Kind of the definition of faith, right?

“I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they’re at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.“

FALSE.  Even if the world is billions of years old, and the universe older, that does not prove an ounce of evolution.  Deep time is necessary for evolution, but does not prove it occurred.  Creationists who have done their homework should be able to accurately explain dinosaur bones, distant starlight, and radiometric dating.  It has nothing to do with “ignoring” anything.

“And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them.”

Well, Bill, technically everything we observe in the universe tends to tell us that matter does not come from non-matter, that information doesn’t come from non-information, that things move from order to disorder, that animals reproduce into their same kind of animal, and on and on and on.  So, no everything we observe in the universe does a very poor job of confirming evolution; in fact it seems to confirm the exact opposite.  It takes speculation, assumption, and interpretation to move from those modern-day observances to the overall idea of evolution.  Personally I think we should probably be keeping those three items (speculation, assumption, interpretation) out of the scientist’s toolbox!

“We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

TRUE!  I hope you are not suggesting that those who disagree with evolution cannot be successful scientists because then you may need to take that up with Faraday, Kelvin, Kepler, Linnaeus, Morse, Newton, Pascal, and many more.  Bill needs to see the difference between observational science (repeatable in the modern world) and historical science (interpretations about past events no longer repeatable).

“It’s just really hard a thing, it’s really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I’m sure, will be, it just won’t exist. There’s no evidence for it.”

I’m not sure here.  I certainly hope that the creation world view will not fade away.  It is simple untrue to state that there is “no evidence for it”.  This is not an argument over evidence.  Creationists and evolutionists have the exact same evidence (same bones, same rocks, same stars, etc), but different conclusions based on a different set of starting assumptions.  We both have unproveable starting assumptions we bring to the evidence.  That’s why this debate will never end.   The evidence for evolution does not invalidate creationism because we are using the exact same evidence.  You can’t dispel our conclusions because neither of us have observed what actually happened.  Both are faith systems.  We’re not even talking about science here!

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In the end a critically thinking person will quickly realize that Bill Nye did not offer a single evidence for evolution in his attack on creationism.  There’s a very good reason for that.  I think Nye knows that the evidence is actually up for interpretation, that’s why he says this “is a really hard thing”.  It’s not clear cut.  I loved watching the Science Guy on TV as a youngster.  Nye is incredibly good at observational science, and for teaching kids and getting them excited about it.  He just needs to learn where observation ceases and interpretation takes over.

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About Tim

http://www.gracewithsalt.com

Discussion

One thought on “Fact-checking Bill Nye

  1. “it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates.”

    Funny. Until about 1970, accepting plate tectonics was akin to denying a darwinian origin of the species:

    “The geosynclinal theory is one of the great unifying principles of geology. In many ways its role in geology is similar to that of evolution that serves to integrate the many branches of biological sciences. The geosynclinal theory is of fundamental importance to sedimentation, petrology, geomorphology, ore deposits, structural geology, geophysics, and practically all the minor branches of geological science. Just as the doctrine of organic evolution is universally accepted among thinking biologists, so also the geosynclinal origin of the major mountain ranges is an established principle in geology.” Thomas Clark and Colin Stearn, The Geological Evolution of North America: A Regional Approach to Historical Geology, p.43 (Ronald Press, 1960).

    The geosyncline theory is now an obsolete concept involving vertical crustal movement that has been replaced by plate tectonics.

    Posted by joecoder7 | September 10, 2012, 6:00 pm

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