A note from Al:
I got a kick out of this piece. Nye was warned by his crusading atheist colleagues not to dignify Ken Ham with a debate. Ham’s Answers in Genesis promised to promote the heck out of the event and revive Nye’s “brand”. Maybe that was too tempting to resist. Maybe he really thought he would come out the victor and educate everyone along the way.
He apparently didn’t know that the champions of materialistic evolutionism learned in the 1970s and into the 1980s that Creationists like the late Dr. Henry Morris, the late Dr. Duane Gish and now Ken Ham had listened to thousands of Church sermons all their lives. They knew their audience, were expert with the popular touch and how to sharpen their arguments and find great illustrations. The Creationists came off as skilled polemicists. Often the evolutionists came off as plodding college professors. A general consensus developed among materialist scientists: “Stop debating these creationists. It only gives these Neanderthals credibility. Every debate makes them look better than they deserve. They quote out of context and abuse evidence. Let’s stop legitimating these guys by debating them and giving them huge platforms.”
Nye didn’t get the memo or had other more personal reasons to get in the skillet with Ham. Nye ended up fried with egg all over his face. The debate is available at Answers in Genesis.
I listened to dozens of these debates when I first started following Christ as an adult while at Michigan State in the mid 70s. My natural science professor Dr. John Moore was a modified Creationist and editor of the Creation Science Research Quarterly.
At that time, the Creationists were, hands down, the more effective debators. Skill at debate is not necessarily the same as skill in theorizing or actually doing science and, after a few years, I came to disagree with their approach to Genesis. However, they knew what was at stake in the argument over theism and atheism. Unfortunately, they obscured the philosophic questions with their anti-evolution arguments. They never proposed a successful “creation” model that handled all the scientific data as well as the more “theistic” evolution.
[They weren’t always effective. Duane Gish put in an especially embarrassing performance in Ann Arbor in the early eighties.]
The materialist scientists always mistakenly claimed that science compelled them to be atheistic evolutionists. The fundamentalists claimed that science compelled them to reject both atheistic and theistic evolution.
I eventually concluded that a strict approach to science didn’t compel or demand a logical conclusion one way or the other. Science wasn’t asking ultimate philosophical or theological questions. In his recent memoir, An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shows that he entered science not because he loved science with all its wonders. He entered science because he thought it would answer his existential questions about the nature of the human, life’s meaning and purpose, etc. No wonder he’s ended up leaving science to be an atheist evangelist. Ask the wrong questions of science and you’ll get the answers from the data that you project rather than accepting the more modest conclusions that come from strict scientific theorizing. Even Darwin didn’t think science should be used to answer those questions.
However, scientists, because they are human beings made in God’s image, inevitably do ask those big existential questions and end up drawing their conclusion from evidence largely outside the natural sciences. Personally, I think science shows the earth as a “privileged planet” and biological systems as “stunningly complex” and certainly appearing to be designed. But I also know that not all are driven to those conclusions. I suspect it has something to do with the gift of faith and the ambiguity of certain features of the evidence.
I’ve spent time interviewing Mr. Ham. He is quick on his feet, an excellent polemicist who keeps a smile and tries to be faithful to Scripture Not that he needs my approval, but I’ve always regarded Mr. Ham as a serious, thoughtful Christian who just expects too much science from the Scriptures.
Catholics should be aware that St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pius XII, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis reject Mr. Ham’s attempt to harmonize Genesis with science. He does,however, make an important apologetic point. He argues that maxi-evolutionists like Nye are really substituting faith in matter for faith in God. That is a point that can’t be made too often.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the piece.
– Al Kresta
Real Science vs. Bill Nye’s Undeniable
If you grew up among Generation Xers and Millennials like I did, then you probably loved watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. His quirky, off-beat, after school PBS show achieved no small feat: it sparked laughs and got kids appreciating science — and they didn’t even realize they were learning.
While most Nye-fans enjoyed his wacky experiments and corny jokes, few of us kids realized he had another side: Nye advocates a hardline materialistic worldview view that is hostile to the views held by most Americans.
In 2010 he was named “Humanist of the Year” by the American Humanist Association, and during his acceptance speech, he claimed that humanity is “insignificant” because we’re just “a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks among still other specks in the middle of specklessness.” According to Nye, we “suck.”
Nye again made headlines in 2012, after declaring that parents who “deny” evolution should not instill in their children their own beliefs about origins. When it comes to doubting Darwin, Nye demands, “Don’t make your kids do it because we need them.”
In 2014, and Nye achieved more notoriety by debating a famous young earth creationist, Ken Ham. While Nye deftly argued that the universe is billions of years old, he paraded his materialistic view that life is the result of blind causes. He then set to capitalize on that publicity by releasing a book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.
Undeniable promotes the standard dumbed-down atheistic narrative about science, society, and evolution — except now his book is influencing younger thinkers who mistakenly think Nye is an objective source for scientific information.
On page one, we learn that for Nye, “evolution” answered his biggest questions about life, the universe and the meaning of everything: “As I learned about evolution and descent by natural selection, the answers fell into place.” He later explains, “After all, evolution made us who we are.”
Nye goes on to explain that his view that humans “suck” comes directly from his study of evolution: “As I learned more about evolution, I realized that from nature’s point of view, you and I ain’t such a big deal.” According to evolution, Nye says, “humankind may not be that special.”
And why aren’t we special? Because “evolution is not guided by a mind or a plan,” and nature shows a “lack of evidence of a plan.” For Nye, “Every other aspect of life that was once attributed to divine intent is now elegantly and completely explained in the context of evolutionary science.” In his view, even human altruism “is not a moral or religious ideal, no matter what some people might tell you.”
If you think Nye’s ideology is bad, wait until you see the “science” he uses to justify these claims.
On the origin of life, Nye maintains that the famous Miller-Urey experiments “simulate[d] the conditions on earth in primordial times,” and “produced the natural amino acids.” Yet the Miller-Urey experiments did not accurately simulate the earth’s early atmosphere. An article in Science explains why the experiments are irrelevant: “the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey situation.”
Nye also invokes the unsophisticated argument that humans and apes must share a common ancestor because our gene-coding DNA is only about 1% different. “This is striking evidence for chimps and chumps to have a common ancestor,” he writes.
This argument is not just simplistic, it’s also false.
An article in the journal Science challenged “the myth of 1%,” suggesting the statistic is a “truism [that] should be retired,” since “studies are showing that [humans and chimps] are not as similar as many tend to believe.” Geneticist Richard Buggs maintains that “the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.”
Even if we do share DNA with chimps, why should that demonstrate common ancestry? Intelligent agents regularly re-use parts that work in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and wheels for airplanes). Nye’s crude argument ignores the possibility of common design.
Undeniable also botches arguments that the fossil record shows “transitional forms.”
Nye cites Tiktaalik as a “‘fishapod’ (transition between fish and tetrapod, or land animal with four legs)” that is a fulfilled “prediction” of evolution because of when it was found in the fossil record. Nye is apparently unaware that this so-called evolutionary “prediction” went belly-up after scientists found tracks of true tetrapods with digits some 18 million years before Tiktaalik in the fossil record. As Nature put it, Tiktaalik cannot be a “direct transitional form.”
In another instance, Nye claims we’ve “found a whole range of human ancestors, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis,” apparently not realizing that an article in Nature reported there are “many … features that link the specimen with chimpanzees, gorillas or both,” since “Sahelanthropus was an ape.”
There are other scientific errors in Nye’s book, but one more will suffice. Throughout Undeniable, Nye demeans humanity by claiming our bodies are poorly designed, promoting the old canard that the human eye is wired backwards, and “not an optimal optical arrangement.” Nye apparently never saw a 2010 paper in Physical Review Letters which found that our eyes have special glial cells which sit over the retina, acting like fiber-optic cables to channel light through tissue directly onto our photoreceptor cells, showing the human retina is “an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images.”
Undeniable is one long attempt at wedding materialist philosophy with science. “The natural world is a package deal,” Nye insists at one point, “you don’t get to select which facts you like and which you don’t.” Yet he consistently ignores facts that contradict his arguments for Darwinian orthodoxy.
Mostly, however, Nye simply dismisses Darwin-critics as “creationists” and “science deniers” who have “stubborn ignorance,” lack “honesty,” and “want to suppress” evolution by teaching “fictitious alternatives” in schools. He adopts the customary scare-tactics of censors, arguing that allowing kids to question Darwinism amounts to an “assault on science,” and threatens to throw society back to the Dark Ages. Under Nye’s vision, humanity’s salvation comes from “celebrating evolution” so “we can open more minds and unlock more of our vast human potential.”
Yet it is Nye who is doing the disservice to society. By caricaturing the debate over Darwinian evolution as enlightened science vs. ignorant religion, he uses his position as a spokesperson for science to mislead readers about legitimate scientific challenges to evolutionary biology.
While mainstream scientists are raising serious scientific challenges to neo-Darwinian evolution, popularizers like Nye claim that giving any truck to to Darwin to send us back to the days before electricity. His divisive rhetoric discourages bright young Darwin-doubting students from pursuing careers in science.
Unfortunately, Bill Nye’s intolerance seems to be rubbing off on many of my Gen-X and Millennial friends. But if they want their views to correspond to reality, they need to appreciate how 21st century science is entering a post-Darwinian world and leaving Bill Nye behind.