3 for Thursday: 3 Reactions to Bill Nye’s Creationism Comments

This last week, Bill Nye’s creationism comments for Big Think (see video above) drew some attention and criticism. Nye says that adults who want to live as creationists can do so, but it is “untenable” and “self-inconsistent” with everything we know about universe. The insistence upon creationism holds everybody back, he notes, and so he pleads with parents to not impose this view on their children since “we need them.”

As one might imagine, with 46% of Americans as creationists, this drew some criticism. In fact, it made Nye the target of a fake Twitter death and sent The Onion‘s article “Science Guy Bill Nye Killed In Massive Vinegar/Baking-Soda Explosion” trending.

The controversy forced Nye to clarify his comments, and so in an interview with CBS he responded by noting that he wasn’t attacking religion.

Young earth creationists see this as a challenge to the ultimate authority and, for some, a risk to the eternal status of their children. Scientists like Nye see this dispute as a matter of rejecting everything we can confirm about the natural world, or a denial of reality. The twain shall never meet.

For this week’s 3 for Thursday, I look at three reactions to Bill Nye’s creationism comments. Enjoy.

1) Answers in Genesis: The first reaction is not unexpected. AiG put out an immediate response arguing that Nye’s statements on evolution’s certainty are overblown, bringing in a couple of their own people to produce a response video that looks remarkably like an imitation of Big Think. Unfortunately, as Hemant Mehta notes, AiG always disables comments on their posts, which means less direct accountability on their part.

2) CNN’s Belief Blog: CNN went to the streets (or the nearest place for them these days, that is, the comments section) and posted an article on the five categories of responses that appeared there. After reaching over 10,000 comments on their original report of Nye’s video, boiling it down to five types is, admittedly, a service.

3) Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True (blog and book), does a quick examination of the five categories of responses presented by CNN and poses a sixth: “But there’s one category missing, which I’ll add here: 6.  Those who say that Nye is right, and that creationism should not be taught in the schools, or to children at all!

So what is your response? Our comments section is always open.



  • dangermom

    I thought it was a video bit designed to earn Nye pats on the back from his buddies, but not to actually communicate with YECs in any meaningful way.  I was somewhat disappointed by that.  If he wanted to really get through to YECs, he would first have to understand where they’re coming from and then craft a message that would be respectful.  Few seem to have any interest in doing something like that, and messages like Nye’s only make YECs mad and confirm them in their beliefs.  It’s the opposite of helpful.

    Not that *any* devout person would agree to refrain from teaching dearly held beliefs to her own children.  He doesn’t seem to realize that YEC parents, just like all others, want to teach truth to their children.  They truly believe that YECism is Truth, and Nye asking them not to tell their children so is just silly.  Would he tell his kids that they should make up their own minds about evolution when they grow up? 

    I am a Christian, and I believe that God created the world, and I have no problem with evolution and teach it to my kids.  I do not want creationism taught in schools; it’s religion, not science.  That is OK; I have no problem with YECs believing what they want to believe, but I think they should stick with teaching their POV at home rather than constantly trying to insinuate disguised versions of religious beliefs into schools.  I am all for religious freedom, but not at the expense of other folks’ religious freedom (you can bet they wouldn’t want *my* beliefs taught to their children).

    I also think that YECism is destructive to Christianity, to be honest.  It seems to me that they’ve fallen into a trap, the terms of which were set by others.  Some people said “Evolution proves there is no God.”  YECs responded with “You’re right!  Therefore we must at all costs prove evolution false.”  But (say I) evolution does not prove there is no God, and does not disprove the Bible.  Meanwhile, how many people grow up thinking that creationism is an integral, even a primary belief of Christianity, and then lose *all* faith when they realize that evolution has some pretty strong arguments?  Personally I think that it’s quite harmful; but many intelligent, good people believe it strongly and they must be free to do so.

    I’ve read Coyne’s book.  I enjoyed the parts about evolution very much indeed.  The parts about religion bugged me; he acts as though religious people are stupid.  Again, this is not an attitude that is ever going to get YECs to stop trying to teach creationism in schools, or accomplish anything useful at all.

  • I can see that. I think that part of the problem with short videos like this is that it doesn’t capture the depth of expression he could have had in a different scenario. I think that he’s demonstrating clearly that he’s definitely on one side of the issue and that he has strong feelings about it, but his message gets lost for the exact reasons you are saying above.

    I’m not a YEC person, but I was raised in a home where that was taught. I would never have understood (even now) what I was taught as anything other than my parents doing what they thought was best for me. YEC is not science and it does not correspond to the world as we know it, but I think how Nye comes across in the video is unfortunately delivering a message or tone that he probably didn’t intend. Instead of just concern for children, those who are YEC are likely to take it as an affirmation that their conclusions about science are correct (as you note).
    Then again, maybe his passion for teaching kids is just reaching a point where he feels he’s got to be blunt to change things.His point, though, is important. If kids are going to succeed in science, they need to study science as it corresponds to the world. As I see it, to read Genesis as a statement on modern science or to get it to correspond to modern science, is to miss the text’s inevitable tie to its historical context. It makes it fail to communicate to the period in which it was written and makes science fail to correspond to the world we live in and understand. 

    On Coyne: I thought his book was rather even-toned, particularly considering his more open expression of dislike for religion on his blog. 

    Thanks for your comments. 

  • dangermom

     I certainly agree with your point about teaching kids science.  But I don’t see any real way to ‘convert’ YECs to that viewpoint within the next 20 years or so.

    The problem with being blunt in order to change things is that there are a lot of people being blunt these days, and all it seems to do is further entrench each side.  Dawkins and Hitchens and co. are all very, very blunt.  It earns them a lot of applause from their own side, and nothing whatsoever from the YEC side except a firmer belief that persecution is a sign of righteousness.  Ken Ham *thrives* on it.  I’m sure he is downright gleeful when these things come along.  (And if you want my opinion on Ham…well, that would take a while and I’m sure you know more about him than I do anyway.) 

    I didn’t grow up YEC, and can’t really remember anyone caring about evolution/creation at all.  I’m from CA, though. 

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