Bill Nye on creationism: "Your world view just becomes crazy"

Bill Nye makes a plea for teaching our children science and preparing them to make good choices for the future.


  1. Seems to be a lot of confusion on this subject.
    It is actually quite simple: God created evolution.

    1. I always wondered why this never seemed to be an acceptable answer for many Christians in this country.

      I mean, if you’re a Christian you must accept that God created gravity, right? 

      Or the process by which electrical power is created?

      Or magnetism? (cue ICP “Miracles”)

      And so on. God created the process by which chemicals break down food in our stomachs to provide us nutrients. God created the electrical patterns in our brains, etc etc.

      Why can’t they reconcile these ideas?

      1.  Because if you believe that the Bible is God talking directly to us, and the Bible says it was done a different way, then it was done a different way.  The Bible doesn’t talk about gravity or electricity, so we are free to discover on our own how they work.  But if it’s in the Bible, and you believe the Bible, then it’s settled.

        1. That doesn’t work. The Bible has two different versions of the creation story, both in the book of Genesis.  The two accounts say that things were created in a different order. If you believe the Bible, and you’ve actually read it, you are very confused indeed.  Any Bible literalists out there should go back and read the first three chapters of Genesis again, carefully.

          1. actually, it has three. There’s the the two in Genesis, and another in Psams 74:12-17, where we get the fundamental conflict between a sky god and a sea god that leads to an ordered creation. See also Psalm 89:10-11, same story, one that was SUPER common in ancient Mesopotamia.

      2. That actually is the Roman Catholic answer. In fact, once they realized how bad they screwed the pooch on the who heliocentric thing, the party line has been that laws of the universe are all God’s creation and that discovering them is never contrary to faith, since you’re just working out what God did.

        1. Whereas many creationists have decided that the Catholic church was wrong to give in on the whole heliocentric thing and adopt a position of Geocentrism.  They aren’t so sure about the gravity thing, either, in other words.

      3. Because it introduces an even bigger ‘problem of evil’ than the usual problem of evil. God didn’t create a GOOD, non-violent world, into which a fall occurred as a result of man’s disobedience and free will.

        He created an inherently violent world and did not create a rational creature in perfect communion with him from the start.

        Its a very different perspective.

        1. Once you call a creator “he” it changes the whole perspective and moves the discussion into ridiculousness.

          1. The Biblical writers who talk about encountering God generally use “he” when talking about what they experienced, though some of the terms that get used are gender-neutral or feminine or pluralish.  So if you’re talking about Jewish views of creation, the Creator is generally referred to as “he”, though Genesis actually refers to “Elohim”, which would normally be plural but also seems to be used as a collective singular thing. (It gets more confusing if you look at Canaanite issues about the relationships between the gods; that golden calf and those shrines to Asherah didn’t come out of nowhere.)

            But the nature of Deity is really a different issue from Creationism vs. Evolution. It makes a difference whether sickness happened before the Fall, and whether the lion is only lying down with the lamb because he just finished eating the goat (and yes, I know that’s Revelation, not Genesis.) And considering the amount of human DNA that’s recycled from other animals or seems to be bits of spliced-in virus, the evolutionary arguments really can’t be ignored.

      4. I always wondered why they give the science behind cell phones, the internet, cars, airplanes, their gun collections, etc a pass but evolution sticks in their craws.

        1. I think it’s just a party line they got stuck with, and now they cannot back out of it.

          I’m sure once the augmented reality displays gets more common they will start issuing filters that will filter out all troublesome sciency stuff.

          1. For the political right-wingers, it’s not just because they want to get the religious right-wingers to be politically active (and to give them something to pay attention to that doesn’t include feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or providing hospitality to strangers.) 

            It’s also because getting people to rabidly Believe The Party Line is politically useful, and the more opposition they get for believing it, the more tightly they identify with the party, their community, and their leaders.

            And it’s because getting them to Not Believe in Evolutionary Science makes it easier for them to Not Believe In Climate Change Science.  And unlike evolution, climate change is a critical issue for the Republican party’s corporate sponsors, because any legislation about climate change is going to interfere with their business.

        2. Do any of those technologies run directly counter to entries in the Bible?  If not, then why would they have a problem with them?  

          Evolution is an issue because the bible very specifically discusses how man and woman came to exist…and evolutionary evidence says that its not true.  And some Christians believe that if you let that particular account be wrong, then it could undermine the whole of the work or even their entire faith, so they can’t let it pass.

          1. Yet most fundamentalists will accept that the earth is round and orbits around the sun, which is certainly not what Genesis describes, and still insist that the bible is literally true.

      5.  Because if you really think about your religion you realize, the only real “evidence”  you have is the supposed accounts from the past written in a book.  You can choose to believe the book is full of flaws and believe your own thing, but then you have a belief that lacks any “evidence”  and really any structure, and therefore lacks the social support structure that you get from the clannish monolith of most religious beliefs.

      6. Even as an atheist, I figured that God created stuff, and science just explains how it works. I mean, even if you MADE something, it still have some kind of internal working. Can’t God create the universe via the Big Bang? 

    2. That, is actually the argument I go to when a bible nut starts their “I’m not a monkey” anti-evolution talk :).

      If god created man, if god created -every- creature big and small on this planet, what more elegant and beautiful way could god have achieved this than through evolution? God tweaks the most basic of things, the very elements of life, and out of this “dust” arises the first living thing. Call it, Adam. Evolution carries this creature forward through time as it adapts, evolves, and branches off into new creatures to fill new habitat. Eventually this gives rise to everything from bacteria to monkeys to men. How is that any less miraculous and incredible than the “god scooped up some dirt and BAM, man”.  You didn’t come from a monkey, you came from a common ancestor. We are just one branch on this incredible tree of life as are monkeys and fungus, all made possible in the most improbable way through the intervention of dumb luck, or perhaps, the hand of a supreme being fiddling with the most basic of ingredients at a single nearly infinitely small point in our shared history.

      Evolution could absolutely be ‘god’s plan’. Our existence could easily stem from the most intricate and inconceivably complex design for the creation of man upon this earth, a plan still in motion as it drives us ever closer to the perfect rendition of god’s image. We evolve, we grow, we expand our lifespan reaching toward god’s immortality and expand our minds to achieve god’s infinite wisdom. All of this is possible through evolution, and continued through the advancement of science.

      I’m a faithless man of science of course, but I fail to see how faith can’t jibe with our advancement of human understanding.

      1. Faith always jives with our advancement of human understanding.  It doesn’t necessarily jibe with it, however.

        1.  We share a common ancestor to both apes, and monkeys :).

          Closer relation to apes, sure, but the point stands.

          1. Since we are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas or orangutans, it makes no sense to claim that chimpanzees and gorillas are apes, and we are not. Jared Diamond argues in his book that we are “the third chimpanzee”, because we are on the evolutionary branch that contains chimps, bonobos, ourselves and nothing else.

      2. This way of framing the issue is actually pretty common in non-fundamentalist branches of religions, in my experience.

        Most mainstream Christians see the bible as more of a poetic description than a literal one, for instance. My parents (Episcopalian ministers) draw much of their spirituality from their science-based appreciation of the intricacies of  “Creation”.

      3. “I’m a faithless man of science of course, but I fail to see how faith can’t jibe with our advancement of human understanding.”

        Umm how about by nuking whole countries under the leadership of Zionist Freaks or Jihadists or even Irish Catholics… Yeah religious and ethic differences don’t jibe anything in countries like Yugoslavia. I bet dem kids got lots of science learning done when they were being ripped out of their homes and murdered… I bet they sure did dudes.. just like the Palestinian children are doing a great job of learning in schools that are exploding.. yeah faith doesn’t jibe anything now does it?

    3. God is evolving.  God no longer needs human sacrifices to make the sun rise every morning.

      1. I’m pretty sure that almost all (of the remaining myth-systems treated as) religions agree that no one understands how God works (though my  personal bet is on smarter, not harder)…

          1. But is it not written, my sister Rachel, in the Book of the Rubber Soul,

            “WE can work it out and get it straight, or say good night.
            “WE can work it out,
            “WE can work it out.”

            Yea, verily.

        1. Its not impossible to understand how he works. Wouldn’t relying on a supernatural God with the power to do anything and all knowledge be working smarter and not harder, in your own strength and ability. Just saying…

          1. Its not impossible to understand how he works.

            Unless someone can explain how an omniscient, omnipotent being can stand by and watch daily children suffering and dying (in the most brutal, excruciating ways), then I would say, that, yes, it is impossible to understand how he works.

      1. In order to run he’d have to sell out. That’s part of the problem. The system is broken. I wish we could nominate him, organize a nationwide write-in campaign, and get him elected anyway.

        1. I would gladly look forward to a technocracy with Bill Nye or at least a similar charismatic scientist as a spearhead. Might put some intelligence back into politics. Might.

          1. Bill Nye *or* a similar charismatic scientist? Why not both?

            Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson for the win.

          2. A brilliant scientist who wants to rule the world? What could go wrong? Have you watched no movies ever?

          3. wonder what a Bill Nye/Neil Degrasse Tyson administration would look like?

            Ohhh… think I just had a nerd-gasam

          4. Yes, but these are brilliant scientists who don’t want to rule the world, and are probably too smart to be tricked into doing so.  It’s kind of like becoming Department Chairman at a university – you get stuck doing lots of bureaucracy instead of research or teaching.

  2. I’ll be happy if religion follows two rules: Accept what is provable, and don’t expect others to accept what isn’t.

  3. As a Roman Catholic who has studied theology, I see absolutely no inconsistency between evolution and scripture.
    The really scary movement is Creation Science, whose proponents want to teach it as an alternative view to evolution (as science) in schools. 

        1. Pity there isn’t anything to understand then.

          The Word of God has Contradictory Messages. Nuff said.

          1. Fourth Commandment: Thall shall not kill.

            Leviticus 20:16 : “If a woman presents herself to a male animal to have intercourse with
            it, she and the animal must both be put to death. You must kill both, for they are guilty of a capital offense.

          2. @retepslleurb:disqus Phrasing it that way renders it meaningless, however.  Murder is unlawful killing.  A law stating “thou shalt not murder” is simply an instruction to follow the laws relating to killing; it does not tell you what those laws are.

        2. Okay Donny. Explain how the first few chapters or Deuteronomy (which detail at least two acts of complete cultural genocide committed in the name of the Hebrews’ holy journey to the promised land) don’t contradict most of the gospels (turn the other cheek and whatnot). I want to understand, really I do.

          1. Old covenant and New Covenant. Under the old covenant the only way to punish sin was death or animal sacrifice. Under the new Covenant Jesus Dies for all sins thus eliminating the need to for a who civilization to die for disobedience. Remember man started all of this in Eden not God.

          2. “Under the new Covenant Jesus Dies for all sins thus eliminating the need to for a who civilization to die for disobedience.”

            By the way Donny, this is the craziest shit I’ve ever read. So instead of killing entire civilizations to atone for sins, God impregnated a woman with himself and then arranged for himself to be killed to atone for the sins committed by fallible humans that he is responsible for creating. It’s bananas.

          3. Yeah, original sin, that’s another incredibly pessimistic and dehumanizing belief. I’m guilty of Eve’s sin, from the moment of conception, thanks God.

            So under the old covenant, sin was punished by terrible penalties and, for some reason that defies logic, cleansed through animal sacrifices. In the new covenant we’re all forgiven for the sins we did or did not commit (original sin) because we tortured and murdered someone else who also did not commit them (Jesus). And before we tortured and murdered this guy whole civilizations “needed” to be murdered for their disobedience to a God who never spoke to them in the first place.

            You got one thing right. Man definitely started all of this. 

          4. Umm @jsd and Matt Popke, to put it simple. God created the earth and man put him in a nice place call Eden with everything he could ever need and want. Man disobeys God and eats the fruit. Man gets kicked out of Eden so he does not eat more fruit to make sin permanent. God comes back and tries to make and awesome convenant with man to bless beyond belief. Fallen Man says no bless me based on how good I am (The Law, 10 commandments, sacrifices etc.). The states if you obey you get blessed if not you get cursed(Man’s idea). Jesus comes later says I’ll take the punishment for all your sins, you get my righteousness and all these blessings too, only if you believe on me (thats all). It seems to me that God is not the one to blame here. Man was created with free will to as he pleases becuase God wanted a real relationship with another living speaking being not robots. Sin makes things complicated and hard to figure out. And more things get complicated over generations.

          5. @twitter-11458292:disqus 
            , Oh and you are not guilty Of Adam and Eve’s sin. You are responsible for your own sin. But since Jesus died for your sins you no longer have to pay for them. Those who don’t go to heaven, don’t go because they simply don’t choose to go by believing on Jesus to be Justified.

            Sin was cleansed through animal sacrifies because to pay for blood must be shed, so instead of requiring Human blood, animal blood would be enough. But animal blood only covered sins, Jesus’s blood actually removes sin, making the sinner pure in God’s sight. Jesus takes your sin en exchange for his righteousness or right standing before God.

            Those civilizations that were wiped out came against the Children of Israel. And in war whoever is stronger wins. When parted the red sea and drowned all of Pharaoh’s soldiers, news of that incedent spread everywhere so it was well known the power God in the land. If these people chose to go up against a God like that, it was their decision. They were warned, they are always warned.

            Also foreigners we also welcomed among the jews who wanted to become jews, It wasn’t us 4 and no more. God even told the Jews not to mistreat the foreigners among you, but they too would recieve the same blessings.

          1. The people that can’t explain the ” thousands of inconsistencies” don’t know enough about God or his word either. Usually the scriptures are taken out of context thus creating so called inconsistencies.

          2. @yahoo-3O6XF3CENWX3CSHACYASDQISGI:disqus  I dunno, man. Seems like the only way to keep Jews from eating cheeseburgers and let Christians eat cheeseburgers is to lawyer the hell out of the Bible. Or, just don’t read it literally. Read it with some historical and cultural context.

          1. Also these contradictions, have reasons for why they are not contradictions at the end of each example. I think come people don’t believe in God because they just choose not to, regardless of they others may say to convince them otherwise.

          2. @yahoo-3O6XF3CENWX3CSHACYASDQISGI:disqus  I think people don’t believe in Zeus because they choose not to.
            See how silly your argument sounds? Do you have some kind of empirical evidence for why your particular brand of religion is any more valid than the thousands of others out there?
            Just an educated guess*, but was it just luck that you happened to be born in a family and culture that had stumbled upon the one true faith?

            *That you have not converted to a faith that is radically different than that in which you were raised.  In other words, do you honestly delude yourself that if you had been born a Hindu, that you would have converted to Christianity once you saw how much more ‘valid’ it was?

          3. Its a shame this only lets me reply to DrNobelDynamite but this is meant for nowimnothing. I was refering to Jehovah not Zeus. Do I have some Empirical Evidence? Well I think almost every religion will say yes to that. The Gospel has been around for ages and I’m not a Born Jew. I’m from the Caribbean actually. The eveidence I have that God is real and his word is true is simple. I spoke to God and he answered back. I studied his word and proved true on many occasions. I didn’t walk into Christianity believing everything hook line and sinker. God has proved himself to me over and over again for 20 years. Evrytime i start to doubt him, he shows up and lets me know in some way, he is real and he has the power to fix whatever situation thats wrong in my life. Give him a chance, be honest. You can say “God, I don’t believe in you or this book called the bible, but if your real show me in some way that I’ll know for sure its you.” The says its the goodness of God that draws man to repentance, not theory or a good argument. God touches the heart of man.

        3.  Usually people who profess devout Christianity haven’t read the Bible in the first place.  It doesn’t take much reading: the first major contradiction is on the first page.  Genesis contradicts itself within the first few chapters.

        4. @yahoo-3O6XF3CENWX3CSHACYASDQISGI:disqus “Man was created with free will to as he pleases becuase God wanted a real relationship with another living speaking being not robots.”

          Ah, the robots. Cheers mate.

        5. I see plenty of inconsistency in the bible, as well and I’ve read and studied the bible extensively. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons that I became an atheist. Since the god of the bible refuses to make an personal appearance and clear up the controversy, any claim that your understanding is somehow superior to any other person’s understanding is dubious at best.

    1. “I’ve done the mental contortion and backflips necessary to reconcile a god that created man from nothing (in one day, the sixth day after the universe was created) with evolution.”

      1. Not really mental backflips because Catholics don’t read the Bible literally. The Gospels are read a little differently because the nature of the document is supposed to be different, but Genesis is certainly not literal to Catholics.

  4. Of course Newton was bat-shit crazy; he believed all manner of nonsense.  Aristotle too.  Didn’t stop them making critical advances in our understanding of the world.

    The difficulty that believers have is that it is generally assumed that we must all believe the most bat-shit crazy stuff, however ridiculous or extreme it is.  It doesn’t matter how often I say that evolution is the only reasonable explanation for life on earth, or that “miracles” are hardly a basis for faith, or that the Bible is just literature (great literature but still only that) rather than a text book… as soon as I say I believe in God then I am lumped in with the crackpots.

    1. I acknowledge you. I’m as atheist as they come, but it keeps me moderate to be reminded that people like you exist and the success of religion doesn’t necessarily mean the destruction of everything I value. Thank you sincerely for the reality check.

    2. The difference between Newton’s crazy beliefs and creationists is that, at the time, there wasn’t masses of evidence against them.  

    3. While it is true that Newton and Aristotle were important thinkers (note that I didn’t say important believers) they made their advances despite the overpowering weight of institutionalized religious belief.  What might they have achieved had their exceptional minds been released from those strictures? 

      Despite your protestations of reasonableness such as evolution is real, miracles are not, and the Bible is a literary work, you share the primary belief system of those you call crackpots.   You may not like to hear it, but to a rational mind there is very little difference between the ideas that there is a god and that fossils are satanic trickery.

      You have chosen to believe in a supernatural being.  While this is certainly your right, does it really surprise you to hear that those of us in the reality-based community consider you no different than someone who professes a belief in unicorns, leprechauns, fairies or any other being that is a product only of human imagination?  Of course, that statement is a product of my rational mind so you may find it suspect.  Oops, there I go again.

      1. Could you describe what “weight of institutionalized religious belief” Aristotle was laboring against? Are you sure you’re not thinking of Galileo?

        1. Aristotle lived in a time where it was perfectly normal to believe that lightning bolts wear spears thrown from the sky by an angry (or just bored) deity who occasionally got a little randy and decided to spend a night with a human woman.

          As for it being institutionalized, large percentages of the economic wealth of ancient Greek states (and private enterprise) were spent on the construction, maintenance and tribute to temples for this god and many others. Decisions of major national importance were made based on the incoherent ramblings of oracles or the random chance of omens and portents. An entire class of society existed to interpret these signs from the heavens and rulers at the time ignored these interpretations, no matter how senseless, at the risk of open rebellion from their people. While it is true that many intellectuals of the time questioned the religious traditions of their society, few were very open about it for fear of persecution that could come in many forms including execution or banishment (but usually just involved being ostracized).

          That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Greeks were incredibly superstitious people by and large as were the Romans.

          1. few were very open about it for fear of persecution that could come in many forms including execution or banishment (but usually just involved being ostracized)

            That’s…I’m not sure where you’re getting your information on religion in the classical world, but that’s either massively simplified or really, really wrong. Yes, classical peoples were superstitious; no, there was not an orthodoxy that the state persecuted you for deviation from.

          2. @twitter-14053449:disqus At the risk of undermining my own atheist materialist prejudices, it’s a little more complicated than that.  Socrates was put to death for turning the young of Athens away from the traditional gods.  On the other hand, Socrates wasn’t the only Hellenic or Roman philosopher questioning the existence of the gods and the vast majority of them weren’t put to death. 

            @twitter-11458292:disqus , you should look into Epicurus Lucretius (but you should probably check out Epicurus as a similar example).  Atheist/skeptic/rationalist/atomist Latin poet who was very popular among the intelligentsia of Rome in his time and the intelligentsia of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.  You should also try looking into the science and engineering of ancient Greek and Rome.  There’s no denying that superstition has been rife in all human societies for all of history, but you’re also oversimplifying.

          3. wysinwig: Yeah, there’s only so much we can get into in a comment thread, though you did a better job than me. As I commented below, my wife (the classics PhD) brought up Socrates, but also said his trial was about much more than the actual charges brought against him. My basic point was that classical religion is a fundamentally different thing than the institutionalized religions of today, and you can’t really think about them in the same way without running into trouble.

        2. Aristotle engaged in many hours of mental gymnastics to explain the existence of gods.  He might not have done so if non-belief in the gods of his time was tolerated. 

          As for your second question, only an uneducated twit would confuse Aristotle and Galileo.

          1. He might not have done so if non-belief in the gods of his time was tolerated.

            Um, you might want to read up on classical religion, if you think deviation from orthodoxy, or even outright non-belief, was persecuted in the classical world. Per my wife, the brilliant professor of ancient religion: “No, you couldn’t be persecuted in any meaningful sense. Socrates is a special case, which had to do with a lot of things other than what he was charged with.”

          2. Yeah, classical religion is pretty similar in many ways to current (and past) Hinduism. There’s a smaller class of people for whom it’s a philosophy and the gods are metaphors and a larger class for whom it’s all literal.

          3. Actually replying to jere7my, but hey, disqus…

            If you are going to cite your “wife, the brilliant professor of ancient religion” you really should cite her.  What’s her name, which of her publications did she write that in, where does she teach.

            -abs doesn’t like appeals to authority unless you cite said authority so that they may be evaluated

          4. absimiliard: She teaches at Boston College, her initials are KE, and a few minutes of Googling should link her name to my username. I’m not going to spell it out here because I don’t want the Google-link to my BoingBoing comments to be trivial (I may be being overly cautious). She has a book coming out from Cambridge this fall, though not on Aristotle specifically.

            But this is not something that really needs citation, or rather the citation would be as broad as “Evolution happens. —All scientists.” It’s Ancient Religions 101 that classical religions didn’t have the same rigid orthodoxy that, say, the Catholic Church did/does. Saying “Aristotle was a great thinker, and he would’ve been a great atheist if it weren’t for that nasty church” is the same kind of revisionist, apologetic fable-construction that some Christians perform when they say “Great Man X would’ve been a Christian, if only he’d known about Jesus.” It’s ahistorical bull-doo. Aristotle was who he was, and he believed what he believed, with no shadowy Pontifex Maximus holding a gun to his head to make him profess a belief in gods; take him or leave him.

          5. @twitter-14053449:disqus 
            Thanks, I’ll go check her out.

            I must admit to some skepticism as what she has told you directly conflicts with some of what I was taught as an undergrad at Harvard (albeit a long time ago, and even historical theory changes in twenty years).  Specifically that religious persecution wasn’t prevalent.

            I agree that it’s fairly common knowledge that there was no universal “Church” structure. However I don’t believe history would support a claim that without such a structure there was no state persecution of religious though that the local state disapproved of. The Greeks have plenty of examples of people being prosecuted for dissing the gods, Socrates being only the most well known. And while the Romans were remarkably tolerant of most religions they definitely persecuted some. (look to their laws regarding soothsaying/fortune-telling/witchcraft in Rome during the Republican Period for good examples.)

            Thanks for being willing to not appeal to an un-knowable authority, it’s kind of like saying “Because God told me so”.

            -abs has some googling to do now

          6. absimiliard: Yes, she and I would agree that religious persecution existed, particularly of disruptive religions (most obviously Christianity, but also the cult of Cybele, and plenty of other examples). It’s an extensive stretch of time, and a subject too deep to explore in a BoingBoing comment thread; certainly religion was used as a tool by the powerful, as was everything else. But in the case of Aristotle specifically, there is no reason to think he would’ve been persecuted for promoting atheist ideas, if he’d gotten it into his head to do so. He wrote about religion because he believed it, as just about everybody did, not because he was laboring under the watchful eye of some religious or civil authority.

            K wanted to give me a longer response, but I had to leave for work, so I forced her into the sound bite version. She’s promised me a longer discussion over dinner.

          7. @twitter-14053449:disqus 

            I suspect you have a fascinating discussion ahead of you at dinner tonight…..  (I absolutely love the period, it’s why my degree was in archaeology, even if it’s utterly useless in the modern world)

            I think I’m going to have to continue to disagree on Aristotle though.  I don’t want to assert that there was some powerful state authority he feared, but he wasn’t stupid either.  He had to have known that teaching atheism was a good way to get ostracised, especially since ostracism was basically for anything that irked enough people in the city.  In not-Athens cities not practicing ostracism still believed in exile as a concept, and no citizen wanted that.   Of course some city-states were absolutely brutal and fanatically religious (*cough* Sparta *cough*) and they surely would execute you for the wrong beliefs, hell they enslaved Greeks.  (which no other Greek state considered acceptable)

            Frankly, in that day and age I wouldn’t have been preaching atheism and I’m not nearly as smart as Aristotle.  (I also don’t like Aristotle very much either for what it’s worth)

            That said I don’t know what he personally believed.  Most educated people of the day didn’t believe in anthropomorphic gods any more, most were also smart enough not to say that too loudly in public.

            Anyhow, you definitely have a good conversation in front of you.

            -abs hasn’t quite managed the google-fu yet, sorry, work, but he will, he promises

            {edit} Okay, google-fu employed. I’m glad to see she’s working specifically with undergrads in the field. Bringing more minds to classical studies is pretty awesome in my book. I must admit her specific interest is a little later than mine though, I’m less Roman and more Egyption/Mesopotamian, generally you lose my interest entirely from the Imperial period onwards. {/edit}

          8. I’ll probably be more educated after dinner, but right now I’m going to draw a comparison to nudism. There are, today, social taboos against nudism, and you’ll get into trouble if you’re a teacher and you try to teach nudism to your students. There are plenty of happy nudists, but it’s not a stretch to say that nudists suffer some degree of persecution. If the powerful are looking for a reason to make trouble for you, it’s probably easier if you’re a nudist.

            It’s a big, evidence-free leap from there to “Great Man X might’ve been a nudist if nudism were tolerated.” Well, okay, maybe. But all the evidence we have points to Aristotle being really intellectually engaged with the divine, not suffering through thoughts of the divine because he felt social pressure to do so. His mental model of the world incorporated the divine, and he made an honest and heroic effort to explain it in those terms.

            I don’t know if modern nudism and ancient atheism are comparable; I suspect that atheists in the 4th century had an easier time than nudists in the 21st. But my point stands.

          9. Post-dinner, I can say I misspoke about the Cult of Cybele — they were actually brought to Rome by the powers that be. I was thinking of the Cult of Bacchus, which (along with Christians) is one of the two major Roman instances of religious persecution. (Fun fact: in ancient Rome, Christians were labelled “atheists” because they didn’t believe in enough gods!)

            As for Socrates (she tells me), he was a victim of social conservatism and post-Peloponnesian War scapegoating. He was friends with Alcibiades, and after the disastrous war friends of Alcibiades attracted a lot of resentment. Since he was already considered weird and bohemian and progressive for his teaching methods, he made an easy outlet for post-civil-war tensions. But that was social conservatism — his only religious crime was “introducing new gods”, which was a bullshit excuse (he anthropomorphized his internal dialogues as “daimones”). They didn’t even want to kill him, but he forced them to it at his trial. (I’m sure I’m oversimplifying here.)

            Nowadays, beliefs are central — atheists, theists, are defined by their beliefs. Back then, nobody cared what people believed — it was all about religious performance. Atheists, per se, didn’t exist, because “lack of belief” was not a marked state. There was certainly a long intellectual tradition of reframing and recasting and debating the nature of the gods, and nobody got ostracized. Socrates is interesting because he’s unique. (And, as my wife says, there is an evidentiary problem for people who were too scared to speak out about their beliefs. If they existed, we ipso facto don’t have evidence for them. If atheists want to posit their existence, that’s fine — just keep in mind you’re believing in something without evidence. ;) )

            And to Matt:

            Aristotle lived in a time where it was perfectly normal to believe that lightning bolts wear spears thrown from the sky by an angry (or just bored) deity who occasionally got a little randy and decided to spend a night with a human woman.

            “Ancient people were not stupid, contrary to modern thought,” says my wife. They were capable of distinguishing between stories and legends and beliefs. In Aristotle’s day, the idea that lightning bolts were Zeus’s spears held about as much credence as today’s notion that thunder is angels bowling. It was a colorful metaphor.

      2. One could also argue that the acceptance of a religious belief frees up ones time to answer other questions in life. A true rationalist could spend all their days trying to answer life’s greatest riddles and end up like Nietzsche or worse Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot…

        1. One could indeed make this argument.  However, your ad hominem attack of comparing atheists to mass murderers betrays the bankruptcy of your reasoning and your limited critical thinking skills. 

        2. I think that’s a valid argument. But there comes a time when you collect enough evidence that refutes every extant religion that taking that stance is no longer tenable. Your left with the options of either starting a new religion (or a new interpretation of one of the old ones which is equivalent to a new religion) that works within the framework of what we know about the universe (for now until the next scientific discovery that challenges our perception of reality) or finding another way to get through your life without the crutch of dogma.

          Seeing as the first option is only temporary at best, I think the second option bears some consideration.

        3.  Really? Because it seems that those that are deeply religious spend most of their time reenforcing and preaching their religion. To say that those that accept belief in a creator have more time to research other ideas is ludicrous to me and that their behavior is exactly the opposite. That they spend so much time trying to convince themselves and others to believe as well instead of moving on.

        4. Or maybe it just frees up one’s time to commit child abuse and rape.

          The list of religious leaders for whom this is a true statement is a lot longer than your list of so-called atheists committing atrocities.

          1. Yeah, because the police, the medical profession and politicians have never been involved in that (as the most obvious “trusted professionals” in our society – well, maybe not the last…) 

        5. Nietzsche’s fate includes ending up being widely and rabidly quoted and misquoted by lots of people who don’t understand what he was talking about, and having consonants and vowels randomly rearranged in his name.  On the other hand, a lot of his crazier stuff near the end of his life was because of the mental effects of syphilis (though some will argue that it’s also the result of bad lifestyle choices.)

          One of my German classes in high school included translating short passages from a wide range of German-speaking authors.  Goethe was fine, Beethoven was a bit tough, but Nietzsche?  (“Let’s see, he seems to be talking about the destruction of the human race as a good thing here; did I mistranslate one of the words, or is it just Nietzsche?”)  Really shouldn’t do that to high school students…

      3. Atheist comment threads on BoingBoing always serve to remind me that sanctimony is not the exclusive domain of Christians.

        Me, I try to respect all people, and judge them on what they do rather than what they believe; how much of this comes from my Quaker belief in “God in everyone” and how much is just my basic moral upbringing I can’t say. But some minority of atheists (like some minority of Christians) are perfectly happy to insult and belittle huge swaths of humanity, and when they’re called on it they say either “My cause is so righteous that insulting people is a small price to pay” or “I’m not insulting anyone; I’m just sharing The Truth.” Which is the textbook definition of sanctimonious proselytizing.

        In a way, it undermines the militant atheist message that religion is the root of human evil. By engaging in the same obnoxious behaviors that their foes do, they demonstrate that human nature is stronger than any single belief system; sanctimony will find a way, the way vaccinophobia demonstrates that anti-science sentiment only uses religion as a prop.

        Judge people on their actions. Their beliefs neither excuse nor taint what they do.

        1. I think you are confusing sanctimony with defense. After all it is not the atheists who are trying to get “In no god we trust” printed on money.  Even if they are being belligerent in their words, they are still advocating for a neutral stance instead of a pro-religion one.

          1. I’m really not. I’m judging some atheist commenters, here and in other BoingBoing threads, by their actions — specifically, by their willingness to mock and belittle people based on what they believe. I don’t care what they’re advocating, that’s high-horse rationaler-than-thou sanctimonious behavior.

            I would be perfectly happy taking “In God we trust” off the money. So would oodles of other Christians — heck, it’s arguably more in line with “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Many Christians (like myself) advocate for gay marriage, environmentalism, legalizing pot, and cute kittens. But when a militant atheist says “All believers are fools, and we are the true rational minds” they’re including all of us as well. That’s sanctimony.

        2. So, because I disagree with your belief in god and have the audacity to state it publicly, I am sanctimonious, militant, obnoxious, insulting, belittling, immoral, and self-righteous.  Did I miss anything?  How very christian of you to assume any disagreement with your beliefs is an attack, or an attempt to proselytize (which is ridiculous).  

          It never fails to amaze how thin skinned theists are, especially given their power in US society and culture.  You feel insulted.  I’m sorry that you do, but I honestly fail to see the insult in what I said.  I said believers in god believe in a supernatural being.   You do, don’t you?  If you do believe in a supernatural god, how is this statement of fact an insult?  Is it the word supernatural?  Supernatural means attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.  Does that not describe a god?  Again, how is that insulting?

          I also grouped your god with other supernatural beings.  I fail to see the insult here as well.  You choose to believe in god just as ancient people chose to believe in Zeus or Ra.  Just as some people choose to believe in unicorns or leprechauns.  It is your choice to believe in god just as it is anyone’s choice to believe whatever it is they choose to believe.  That your beliefs make you feel special does not make it so.  You are not part of a special group or a class of people who the rest of us may not question. 

          It was you who called my rational ideas concerning god “The Truth.”  I certainly said nothing of the kind.  Why does the fact that I do not share your beliefs make you so defensive?

          1. Well, one of us appears defensive here, and he doesn’t have a number in his name. If you honestly aren’t aware of the way your sneering, dismissive tone and your use of terms like “reality-based community” make you come across, I can’t say much to you. If you think sentences like “that statement is a product of my rational mind so you may find it suspect” aren’t insulting to rational theists, you’ve got blinders on that I can’t remove. But I suggest you step back and actually look at the way you interact with believers in this thread, and see which of us has our hackles up. Compare the rhetorical tools you use with those proselytizing Christians use. You actually say that you can’t distinguish between crackpot fundamentalists and people like myself and Scurra (“to a rational mind there is very little difference between the ideas that there is a god and that fossils are satanic trickery”) — while stating, flat-out, that theists can’t have rational minds. That’s not dismissive, in your view?

            You dismiss your opponents with mockery and self-elevation. You display no respect for their viewpoints. You try to convert others to your cause by haranguing them. You cast yourself as a member of the “reality-based community.” That’s sanctimony, and that’s proselytizing. I stand by that.

            It has nothing to do with you expounding on your atheism (which is no doubt a very “audacious” thing to do here on Boing Boing). Go you! Express yourself! I don’t mind that you don’t share my beliefs. The world’s full of people with a glorious range of beliefs — but the fact that you think that would bother me says a lot about the way you view Christians. If you tell me you have respect for Christians and other believers, that you respect their beliefs and feel no desire to cure them of them, I’ll believe you. But your posts so far make it difficult to believe on the face of it. Celebrate your own beliefs without mocking others’.

          2. To jere7my:

             Okay.  I cop to a snarky tone in the last two sentences of my original comment.  I adopted that tone because the original commenter (and you) want to be described as “rational theists.”  Not like those “crackpots” as in the original comment.  Again, I’m sorry it offends you but I find the term rational theist to be an oxymoron.  I’m also sorry that you take my objective description of your belief in a supernatural being to be mockery.  I assure you it is not intended as such.  You may be a reasonable, decent person, someone I might like, but when you choose to believe in a supernatural being you give up the right to be described as rational. Again, I’m sorry if this objective description offends you.

            I also disagree with your characterization of “reality-based community.”  When I say it that phrase describes people who do not hold supernatural beliefs — those of us who base our opinions only on our shared physical reality.  Again, you have chosen to believe in a supernatural being.  A being that by definition exists outside our physical reality.  I am not a part of that community.  I am a part of a different community.  Perhaps reality-only-based community would be better.

            I do think you were offended and defensive but maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe the words that you used to describe me, sanctimonious, militant, obnoxious, insulting, belittling, immoral, and self-righteous, are compliments.

            Two more points and then I’m done.  Disagreement is not proselytizing.  This may be hard for you to accept but I actually, truly don’t expect you to give up your beliefs because I disagree with them. 

            And lastly, I never said I respected your beliefs.  In fact, I don’t.  Since I don’t share them this should not be a surprise.  I do, in accordance with the Constitution, unequivocally respect your right to hold those beliefs  and to practice your beliefs as you see fit so long as you don’t try to impose them on me through the law.  I have no expectation that you will respect my atheism and indeed I have no right to hold such an expectation.  I do expect that you will respect my right to be an atheist. 

            For some reason I don’t understand, that never seems good enough to believers.

          3. when you choose to believe in a supernatural being you give up the right to be described as rational. Again, I’m sorry if this objective description offends you.

            So you are pigeonholing yourself in the “It’s not an insult, it’s the truth” of the two boxes I described. Fair enough. Most rational people would agree that calling someone irrational is an insult, but for you it’s just the plain truth. The Good Word, if you will.

            And lastly, I never said I respected your beliefs.  In fact, I don’t.

            Well, that’s the difference between you and me. I respect your beliefs as an atheist, even though I don’t hold them. I don’t believe in leprechauns, but if I met a little old lady in Ireland who gravely told me that she had seen leprechauns as a girl I wouldn’t believe her, but I wouldn’t mock her either. I think respecting others’ beliefs is a moral cornerstone of society, and now that I know you don’t agree I understand better where your sanctimony comes from.

      4. Now you see your response is a good example of what I was saying.  You are drawing conclusions about me without knowing anything about me beyond the fact that I have said that I believe in God*.  You are imposing your own interpretation and/or expectation of what that statement means, presuming that it is self-evidently correct, and then proceeding to a conclusion of your own (including a little bit of personal abuse, although it’s fairly minor) that pleases you but has no real connection with what I said.  
        I might say that you’re the one who sounds a little irrational, pressing a case against a simple statement that is surely hardly threatening to your solid rational understanding?This is why internet arguments end up as flamewars of course.*well, I’m excluding things you might know about me based on postings on other BB threads or, indeed, elsewhere on the interwebs.  I’m fairly sure you don’t know me personally though.

    4. I know there are some fairly rational religious people out there, but think for a moment about the atheist side:
      Say someone comes up to you and very rationally says that they think that leprechauns are real. They further state that their actions may be influenced by their belief in the existence of said leprechauns. The only evidence they offer is vague mythology and anecdotal ‘feelings’. At the very least don’t you think you would skeptically evaluate all their other ideas for evidence before taking them at face value?
      This does not mean that religious or supernaturally inclined people cannot have valid ideas or that we should not critically evaluate everyone’s ideas regardless of belief, but once you open that door to non-evidence based thinking, it is sometimes difficult to keep it closed.

      1. You criticize Scurra the ‘reasonable believer’ with the argument that his ‘non-evidence-based thought’ puts him on some kind of vague slippery slope. But can anyone say that their own thought is purely evidence based and reasonable?
        Is your creativity based on evidence-based algorithms? No sudden flashes of inspiration? How about your sense of humour?  Your emotions? All are irrational — and, I would argue, valuable. 
        We all use, and value, irrational and non-evidence based thinking in our daily lives. I don’t think you’ve made a case for treating Scurra’s admitted ‘non-evidence based thinking’ any differently.

        1. But there is nothing supernatural about any of your examples. Scurra is making a supernatural claim. 

          How can you say any of your examples are not based on evidence? It may not be evidence that we can easily quantify, but I can assure you that a one’s sense of humor for example would greatly depend upon past experiences.

          1. I’ll address your last point first: I’m asserting that humour is irrational. If it were rational, it should be reducible to a repeatable set of instructions, that would reliably and consistently produce funny original material. So to the extent that we all value humour, we all use and value irrational thinking. (I use the term ‘evidence-based thought’ as an example of ‘reason’, and distinguish it from evidence used in an irrational process like humour.)

            To your first point, ‘But Scurra is making a supernatural claim,’ I say that you have to forgive Scurra’s irrational thought, because you yourself must be sometimes irrational. If Scurra says something provably false like ‘the earth is 6000 years old’ then thats different, because we can see the harm in that. But he says he believes in God, which can’t be proven. I have to consider Scurra’s belief  harmlessly irrational until I see evidence that it causes harm.

          2. @boingboing-33587c98122b153cedeeaeb3ac5e6488:disqus I think we may be conflating irrational, evidence and supernatural too much here. Part of that may be my fault in the OP. 
            Scurra seemed to be asking why a God belief would lump him in with other supernatural beliefs. You seem to be trying to say all irrational beliefs are equally irrational. My counterclaim is that the examples you gave were not completely irrational. They may have elements of the irrational, but supernatural claims, by their very definition are without natural evidence and therefore completely irrational.

          3. @boingboing-33587c98122b153cedeeaeb3ac5e6488:disqus Here’s an argument that suggests spreading uncertainties as facts or downplaying the arguments against a proposition is often harmful, and still immoral even when not (contingently) harmful. 

            Since this is a moral argument, evidence is irrelevant.  (ought/is)

      2. One of the valuable things I learned from Objectivism (yeah, yeah, but I got better!) was how much of our belief system we consider to be perfectly Rational and Reasonable and Obviously True when it isn’t, and we’re just telling ourselves that the stuff we like or want must be right because we like it or want it.  Ayn Rand’s tastes in music, art, and drugs were Obviously Rationally Based, because She said so, so her followers were expected to agree or get excommunicated.

        So while I really like philosophies that are based on evidence and reason, I’m also skeptical about them and some of their followers.  And after all, if you don’t have a supernatural being telling you how to be a decent human being, you have to figure it out for yourself, and a lot of people really aren’t very good at it, even if they know they’re not going to get a second chance to fix their mistakes.  So we end up with most atheists who can have a perfectly decent conversation with people who believe in irrational things, and others who like the attention they get from loudly proclaiming that anybody who disagrees with them are Fools!  Who are Ruining The World!  Including any atheists who aren’t as loudly anti-world-ruiner as they are!   They really sound a lot like the more annoying preachers they’re complaining about. 

    5. You also seem to assume that a belief in a god (however you define that) is somehow less outlandish than a 6,000 year old earth, talking snakes, magic zombie jews, etc. in an atheist’s mind.

      It is not.

      1. Well, we have scientific evidence for the age of the earth. We have no scientific evidence for the existence or non-existence of God. In my eyes, that puts a belief in God more in line with belief in life on other planets (which is, I suppose, where your talking snakes might live) than a belief in a young earth.

        1. We have an example of life existing, we have no such example for a god. Belief in life on other planets is based on the fact that life already exists and what we know about the universe that may make it possible for life to exist elsewhere based on those same observations about the life that we know of. 

          God has no such basis, so no I would not consider them to be in line at all.

  5. Good stuff but I think he underestimates the human tendency for denial in the face of evidence. Assessing evidence is harder work than just believing what you want as it requires skill and practice. People with high curiosity can be bothered to learn this and override their heuristic instincts but many don’t.

    Evolution is a very slow process, we are still just clever apes, and I do wonder if humans can even last long enough to get a chance to weed out some of these built in defects before self destruction ensues.

  6. Bill Nye as usual always hits the nail on the head.  Living here in the bible belt it is amazing the crazy crap that gets pushed as policy.  I do wonder sometimes if the saner folks will actually come out on top sometimes.

    1. I’m definitely feeling the bible belt crazy. Check this guy out:

      Until he was removed from the ballot a few days ago, he was the Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of Alabama, so it was him vs. Roy Moore. Believe it or not, he has removed some of his crazier posts. Fortunately it looks like they’re fielding someone much better now.

        1. That was Bill Cosby’s best role, and also my favorite airbender, so you should drop those names.

          Me? my boss was an astronaut.

          1. You win the internets today. 

            Also, Perry Rhodan was the first astronaut on the human, not that biker guy.

        2. My wife and I were at Cornell around the same time Bill Nye was, but we didn’t know him, and of course he hadn’t become The Science Guy yet.  Neither of us took Carl Sagan’s course (too popular, so it was hard to get into, and there were lots of other cool courses to take as well), but she took one summer  seminar from one of Sagan’s department heads who was named something like Tenzin. 

          On the other hand, Nye is sort of name-dropping there, since according to Wikipedia, he was a MechE, not an astronomer…

  7. Why does everyone put so much into what an “ACTOR” with a BS in Mechanical Engineering thinks about evolution. He started out as a comic skit actor. He’ll always be a superhero named “Speedwalker” to me.
    Search out your feelings, then Wikipedia, then, IMDB, then YouTube. :)

    1. The point is not that he is an authority – the whole point of science is that we do not receive truth from a priestly class whose authority derives from their station or credentials.  Bill Nye is an effective science communicator.  And the value of this post is that it clearly and publicly communicates something that is true.

      1. …the whole point of science is that we do not receive truth from a priestly class whose authority derives from their station or credentials.

        You’ve actually split an atom yourself and directly observed subatomic particles? Cool!

        What? You haven’t? You just read about some other people doing it and accepted it as fact?

        1. I think you missed the point.

          Also, you’re bringing an unjustifiable and dickish amount of snark to the table

          I don’t need to personally split an atom, but I have faith in experiments that have been repeatedly duplicated by many people, because to do otherwise would require belief in an improbable conspiracy for which there is no evidence.

          If someone disagrees with Bill Nye, fine, let them disagree and have it out on the merits, rather than disparaging his argument purely on the basis of his profession.  My point was that science stands on the strength of evidence, not on the credentials of the investigator.

          1. I have faith in experiments that have been repeatedly duplicated by many people, because to do otherwise would require belief in an improbable conspiracy for which there is no evidence.

            In other words, you have chosen to believe in things because they fit in with things that you already believe and because you hear them from people who fit your narrative about what to believe.  Not unreasonable, but by your own admission, it’s still “faith.”

    2. Well, because Bill Nye is a name most Americans recognize? If an intelligent but uncharismatic PhD with poor communication skills tries delivering the same message, most people would ignore him.

      Evolution is a fairly simple and elegant concept and you don’t need a Biology degree, let alone a doctorate, to understand the basics.

      Why would anyone put so much weight on what a reverend or priest thinks about evolution? They haven’t even got a BS.

      -2 for use of unnecessary quotation marks.

    3. He’s a force for good.  Unlike most of us, he developed a part that’s still used on airplanes.  Most engineers don’t get PhD’s, but, like  him, still are able to work finding real world applications and solutions based on science.  He’s devoted a lot of his career to  teaching kids about science.  He speaks out on topics he passionately believes in.  If you’ve caught him speaking incorrectly about science, feel free to illuminate us.

    4. He was also The Science Guy, then, too.  Some of us are old enough to remember when that show was on the Comedy Channel every day (since I didn’t live in Seattle, where it originated from).

      But as the start of a PBS series about science that was shown to many, many kids in the 1990s, he holds a high seat in the realm of Science Educators and Populists.  His name is of the recognizable household variety and to many people, it is synonymous with science and education, like Carl Sagan, Neil de Grasse-Tyson and Stephen Hawking.

      Being an entertainer doesn’t invalidate the message.

    5. I looked at his Wikipedia entry. “Nye began his career in Seattle at Boeing, where, among other things, he starred in training films and developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor still used in the 747. Later, he worked as a consultant in the aeronautics industry.” I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit for his science and engineering chops.

  8. He really is starting to look like Abe Lincoln, isn’t he?  Maybe you get him elected by convincing the bible beaters that he’s the second coming of Honest Abe? 

  9. I tend to agree with Nye here, but wonder why we ‘need’ to not be creationist, since, as he admits/claims we still have the greatest scientific innovation in the world even though we have the highest credence for creationism in the world.

    He says we’re ‘held back’ but what’s the evidence if we’re still number one in science? We’d be even more #1 in science?

    1. As he said, if adults want to believe that, fine. No problem. But don’t make your kids believe it. We need them. Without them coming up and understanding and appreciating science, we won’t stay #1.

      1. That’s not really an explanation.  We aren’t going to be “#1” for much longer, and China isn’t the only country that has greater scientific growth, that said, despite this nebulous corruption (which apparently we are free of), they still have put much money and resources toward improving their scientific output.

    2.  Back in the day, the USSR did pretty well science-wise, but I believe it’s pretty much a consensus view that Lysenkoism didn’t do them any favors.

      It’s relevant to note that rejection of evolution, like Lysenko’s rejection of Mendelian genetics, doesn’t cripple all scientific endeavor – just the bits that are related to biology.

      1. Yeah, the field of “Biology” really is a backwater of scientific endeavor when you get right down to it.

        1. Pfft. You chemists are so obvious.

          (EDIT: Sorry. XKCD joke (; less obvious than I’d hoped.)

    3. I’m sorry, but if you’re thinking of the problems here in terms of being #1, you’re part of the problem.  As a society, we’ve got a huge number of problems that need to be dealt with, and people constantly have to make decisions, and while not all of them require specific skills in the Life Sciences, but most of them require critical thinking, and it matters whether you’ve spent your education in school and beyond learning how to do that, or learning how to Not Do That.

  10. I assume Bill Nye deals with a lot of crap from the belligerent.  So I’d give him, personally, a lot of slack.  And this video may be taken out of context or aimed at a particular audience.  Plus, he covered Nirvana on a kids’ show.

    But, I don’t think he’s up on the latest science on this issue.  It’s been a while since I taught comparative world religions, but recent surveys show that at least 75% of U.S. Christians believe in evolution, in some form or another.  

    Why? There are all sorts of differences from there.  

    – Some keep their science separate from their religion, and have no problems with that.  There is always a big difference between the official religion and the folk religion anyway, and this is just one of those things.

    – Fewer and fewer believe that the Bible is absolutely perfect, in general, because your definition of what’s perfect and incontrovertible about it will differ from someone else’s so that often becomes an argument to absurdity.  So those remaining folks — most Christians — generally have fewer problems with evolution, if any.   

    – Some believe that God is far removed from the goings-on on this planet.  God as “First Cause,” the Bette Midler theory (“from a distance”), etc., so evolution is generally no big deal for them, either.

    – Others point to Genesis, and how the order in which things were created mirrors what we now have discovered about evolution.  Not, to be clear, those two didn’t match up very well until science caught up with Genesis, and realized dinosaurs led to birds.  

    So, for the vast majority of Christians — and I think its very, very likely that this trend will continue — most Christians are cool with science, cool with evolution, cool, cool.  

    The problem that a lot of scientists (especially public spokespeople) run into is that they tend to lump all Christians into a certain group of beliefs, which simply isn’t the case.  And they tend to reinforce those misconceptions when Christians bristle at being lumped in with the belligerent, which perpetuates THEIR whole science vs. God perspective.

    And in this case, a little more science can help to smooth things over.

    1. Not so. A recent Gallup poll found 46% of Americans believed that humans were created in their current form some time in the last 10,000 years.

      It’s just one poll, and we could argue for days about its legitimacy. However, it asked a pretty straightforward question and the results are in stark contrast to the number you gave above. I’m interested to know where these other surveys that find 75% support for evolution among Christians come from.

      1. Colin, thanks for the comment.  That’s an interesting study.  I went and looked for the one I’d seen — 3 weeks ago, as I recall — and couldn’t find it.  I’m sorry.  I would have liked to compare methodology, etc.  Since I couldn’t find it again, I realize that may invalidate that claim in the minds of many; again, my apologies.

        Wysinwyg, thanks for your comment also.  To be clear, I’m not trying to advocate or “spread” any particular point of view.  Given my background, I personally see issues, problems, and inconsistencies with most peoples’ views on religions — including the “religions” of science, of money, of work, of what-have-you — but frankly, it’s not my job to shoot down other’s worldviews, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that people *really* don’t like their worldviews overthrown.  

        Thus, it’s quite interesting for me to watch the progression of worldviews as life keeps ever-changing throughout the vast range of human experience, even while some things  *never* seem to change.  
        So, in that light, please allow me to say that you seem to be ascribing specific interpretations to various religious beliefs, some of which are widely held, and others not so much.  That’s cool and all.  It’s your take on things, and has a lot of value as such.  And you offer some strong, arguable insights, yet what are ultimately “straw man” approaches to argument are rarely conclusive, however helpful they may be for the sake of discussion…  provided that they aren’t offered as conclusive proof.  Which is kind of what you seem to be trying to do, dude.  And which was kind of my original point about Dr. Nye.  

        FWIW, many religious interpretations respond to these specific challenges, taking the same words you cite to mean many, many things.  Some of those interpretations appear to be informed by science, and those people apparently see no conflict in doing so.  Religions, these days, are less and less about a monolithic, uniform set of beliefs, and more about herds of individuals, each with their own thoughts, based more or less around a few shared concepts.  I’m not pro or con of any of that, other than a general assumption that if many people are taking on a sea change of that sort, there must be some value to it.  I’m just trying to describe what’s happening, at least from my point of view.  Peace.

    2. A large majority of that 75% believe that “God guided evolution.” I noticed you didn’t mention this harmonization in your list. Note that if evolution needs God’s guidance then the theory of evolution isn’t left with a whole lot of explanatory power.

      – Others point to Genesis, and how the order in which things were created mirrors what we now have discovered about evolution. Not, to be clear, those two didn’t match up very well until science caught up with Genesis, and realized dinosaurs led to birds.

      Not true:
      -light and darkness were created first, and God names them “day” and “night”. Note that light and day are distinct concepts as are night and darkness. This is before the earth was created (so day/night make no sense) and before the sun and stars (so light/dark makes no sense).
      -God creates the sky by separating the water from the water. First of all, where did this fucking water come from? Second of all, it’s widely acknowledged within the scientific community that there is not a large body of water which the sky separates from the ocean.
      -God creates land by gathering the water under the sky in the same place. This seems to imply there was already land below the water. As with the water, where did this fucking land come from? If it wasn’t already there, how does moving water around create land?
      -You should note the complete lack of acknowledgement of big bang cosmology, galactic and stellar evolution, etc. in the foregoing. God just fast-forwards 9 billion years to talk about earth, ignoring the 99.9999999999…% of His creation that was made before the earth ever existed.
      -“Let the land produce vegetation.” Vegetation evolved in the sea and migrated to land. “Trees that bear fruit with seed in it.” Actually evolved much later in history.
      -Only after the ocean, sky, earth, and plant-life (including fruit-bearing plants that did not exist before animals did) were created under highly dubious circumstances does God bother to create the stars. Which actually appeared a few billion years before the creation of earth.

      I could go on but I’m getting bored. Please stop spreading this ridiculous notion.

    3. Others point to Genesis, and how the order in which things were created mirrors what we now have discovered about evolution.

      And they’d be wrong.  The bible’s order in which things were created has no relation to what we have now discovered about evolution.  I’m sure you can tease meaning out it (knowing what the right answers are), but that’s about it.

  11. You see, it’s much easier to rape children, when you teach them that the world operates under absurd and arbitrary principles instituted by an angry and jealous invisible being.

    1. Let’s see, you’re trying to use that pick-up line to get people interested in a philosophy that says people will be nicer to each other if there aren’t any principles at all?  How’s that working out for you?  Because if you don’t have any supernatural entities telling people to be decent human beings, everybody’s going to have to figure out how to do it for themselves, and some just never will. 

    1. On this point, you and I agree. It would be nice though if they recognized their beliefs were “beliefs” and not “demonstrable facts” so that they would stop trying to coerce the government into pushing their beliefs on other people’s kids. I think that’s what Nye is trying to talk about here (rather ineloquently, though this is obviously heavily edited video so it may not be his fault). 

      If they want to proselytize by all means let them. If they want science teachers in biology classes to proselytize for them (the so-called “controversy”) they can take a hike, and I wish that more of our elected officials had the guts to say that to their faces.

      1. I have no proof to back this up but here is what I personally believe when it comes to evolution, or here’s how I reconcile evolution and Creationism as far as planets and space is concerned.

        6000 yrs ago God created the earth, space and stars (fully developed).
        God created man full grown. Meaning he was created in one day as a let’s say a 30 yr old man (an adult). If you didn’t know this and you met him you would naturally say, he’s about 30 yrs old and grew from a baby into a man you see now. All the scientific tests will prove it. The same for the earth and stars. Where naturally it would take billions of years to create a planet, solar system, space etc, God can do in a day, but if you tested what he has created in adult form so to speak it will come saying item is millions of years old becuase thats what comforms to the laws of nature. But God is not limited by those laws becuase he also created those laws to begin with.

        Though I have not come up with a theory for the evolving animals and so on. That I don’t believe, I lean more towards adaptation than evolution.

        1. Donny, you have independently come up with a theory attributed to Philip Gosse and discussed at great length in his book Omphalos (1857).  In a nutshell (so to speak) he believed trees were created full grown, and so had dozens of tree rings and  therefore *looked* to be many years old –  and similarly all sorts of newly created things appeared to be old.   I’m an biologist myself, and think it’s rubbish, but I’ve always liked the idea of it. 

        2. Or you could just accept the knowledge of millions of actual scientists who have a much simpler and proven explanation that does not require such mental gymnastics.

    2.  You think?  Proselytization is  hard-wired into any meme, or it wouldn’t continue to exist.  Evolution, you know ….

  12. evolution will extinguish the humans species as a matter of course if those specimens denying it get to make policy.

  13. Your world doesn’t become crazy (or crazier, even) if you choose not to believe in evolution. It just means you choose not to think logically. There are plenty of people who believe in creationism and agree with the sciences, they just think that god made it so. Most of you great minded atheists out there need to widen your perspective just as much as you know believers should. Being conditioned to believe has a profound affect on the mind, it’s almost impossible to conceive of things differently. It really is incredibly powerful, fundemental ‘knowledge’ that you can’t throw away. And that’s an issue that needs to be addressed, so I strongly agree with the science guy when he says to not pass these ideas on to your children. I wish I hadn’t been. But something needs to fill the void. Religion, in my opinion, exists in its most pure form as a general code in which to live by. Ironically enough it has evolved to what it is today, which is a similar thing, but it has reached the point where it starts to detract from the ideal method of prolonged existence. However, I can’t see many feasible alternatives. Especially coming from the west. I would place religious foundations higher on the list than the exploitive, selfish standards we have turned to thanks to common materialistic greed. So until we can come up with a universal way of life, a self sustainable healthy system with a high regard for personal happiness and well being, we will have to put up with difference of opinion until we go the way of the dodo.

    1. In particular, I’d say that the secular world is missing places where working adults with families – not just young singles between college and marriage – can meet and socialize for no other reason than because they enjoy the company of others. That is, churches.

      1. You mean like “out in public”? Parks, town centres, theatres, sports venues, all that public space stuff? What some of us think of as ‘the real world”?

      2. With the exception of sports, there isn’t really a good alternative to the church system, where a multitude of personalities and age groups can get together and have fun. The closest thing I can think of is the Internet… There are plenty of hobbyist clubs etc. around, but they get quite specialty and aren’t really open to wider communities. That is actually a really interesting issue.

        1. I really think you need to get out more.  Libraries, public parks, movie and stage theaters, shopping malls, museums, fairs and carnivals, conventions of every kind, amusement parks,  restaurants and more exist right outside your door, offering you interaction with people of different genders, age groups, nationalities, creeds and sexual orientations.

          Churches do offer a social structure for their members, but their are plenty of secular institutions that offer similar experiences.

          1. Not in the same way.

            For one thing, I reiterate that life is much different and necessarily less carefree for people raising families, and I bet most of the people saying “just get out more” aren’t raising kids. A lot of right-wing organizations revolve around the concept of family, and one reason for that may be that church has a near-monopoly on the socialization of people who don’t get out except with their kids.

            For another thing, the things you mentioned aren’t quite the same. Try approaching a random person at your local library, park, movie theater, mall, museum, fair, or carnival, and asking them to dinner. That kind of thing actually works at a church. Church, as a social institution, is a pretty good idea — but the catch is, you have to subscribe to a religion in order to join one!

          2. Church, as a social institution, is a pretty good idea — but the catch is, you have to subscribe to a religion in order to join one!

            Piffle. Lots of people here who aren’t in recovery go to AA or NA meetings to get laid.

          3. Responding to petertrepan:

            1) A large percentage of the editors and readers at BB are parents.  You know what they say about assuming….

            2) Walking up to another family who are total strangers and asking them to dinner is common at your church?  Where in the US are you talking about?  Walking up and saying “hi”, sure, but arranging family playdates on first meeting?

            3) To function as a community in the way you’re suggesting, the members of a congregation should have at least a cordial acquaintance with each other, which is impossible with the new megachurches (larger than many towns in the US).  Who wants to be surrounded by strangers, or make new friends each Sunday?  Certainly not any family I know.  We don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the extended family and friends we already have.

            4) You’ve described a benefit of being part of the UU community….where one does not have to subscribe to a religion.

            5) A lot of right-wing organizations use constant programming to keep their community members from going elsewhere and learning about the real world.  This is not everyone’s definition of “strong family values”.  I would consider myself to be an abusive parent if I were to make my children go to those sorts of places for our family socialization.

            This is what Fred at Slacktivist calls the good Jackie/bad Jackie situation.  You feel strongly about something.  You’ve now been informed by multiple people that what you thought is not entirely true.  You could be happy that you’ve learned something new, that non-religious people without a church to attend aren’t as lonely and lost as you thought, or you could continue to argue because you don’t want to know the truth.  So which is it going to be?

          4. I get out plenty. All the places you talk about aren’t really similar at all. When you go to the places you mention, unless you meet someone there, you won’t talk to anyone else. I said there are plenty of specialty hobbyist clubs, like theater, sports, RC cars, hacker spaces, way too many to mention, but they aren’t open to everyone, well they are, but you need specific interests to join. With a church all you need is some vaguely similar idea with the people around you, and that’s enough. It’s on a different level then going to a park and sharing a game of cricket or whatever with some other family. Maybe you should get out to more churches so you understand what we are talking about here.

        2. It’s on a different level then going to a park and sharing a game of cricket or whatever with some other family. Maybe you should get out to more churches so you understand what we are talking about here.

          Some of us have been to churches plenty of times and have raised kids as well and STILL disagree with you.  Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are not special snowflakes of social gatherings.  Just because you don’t envision people making friends at 5K runs for Autism Awareness or at the local community day doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  Are these really cohesive groups that promote socialization within their community?  Of course they are.  But if you don’t think there aren’t similar communities is secular social constructs, you’re deluding yourself.

          I have been in these situations, made friends and invited them out to dinner or a date.  I have been in these situations and met people like my wife, the best man at my wedding, a former roommate and lifelong friend, my best friend and others in EXACTLY these situations.  I met one friend at a freshman mixer where we found we could finish Monty Python sketches from memory together: we’ve been friends for 25 years now.  Another I met during a fire drill.  My wife I met at a club meeting.  And so on.

          The point is this: we understand that you find your experience with your church to be spiritually fulfilling, rewarding and a safe place to socialize.  No one wants to take that away from you.  What we’re telling you is that these experiences are not the exclusive purview of religious institutions and that many of us HAVE experienced them and found that they did not offer us what they offer you, but that we have secular institutions and situations that DO offer those things to us.

    2.  fundies insist on boiling our planet alive since their god will bail them out at the last minute no matter how stupidly they have behaved.  I prefer to not die with  idiots and think they should get a world of their own somewhere else.

    3. If you want to explain anything involving biology, not having evolution as a tool really makes things tough – it’s a lot worse than having to do planetary astronomy using epicycles to explain why planets sometimes move backwards in the sky because you think they’re revolving around the Earth instead of the sun.  Sometimes evolution is a pretty crude tool, e.g. “This animal has this trait because some random cosmic ray hit one of its ancestors, causing a mutation that changed this gene to make that protein instead of the other one, and nobody ate the ancestor before it got around to reproducing”, while other times it gives you a lot more detailed explanation.

  14. Evolution and natural selection are to me beautiful and true; yet I find Bill Nye, on occasion, sanctimonious and tiresome.

    For example, he says “The United States is where most of the innovation still happens.” If this is true then many people disbelieving evolution is compatible with innovation and science.

    He also implies that there was no good geology done before plate tectonics was generally accepted about fifty years ago.

    Loved him on Almost Live.

    1. But how many of those scientific innovators do not believe in evolution?  My guess is that most of those that don’t believe aren’t the ones in the lab.

  15. What’s with the tie, Bill?

    I appreciate Bill Nye’s efforts, but I always cringe when he shows up because the character of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” seems more a creation of dumbed-down teen-TV writers (“scientists are always geeky, right?”) than real representation of working scientists.

    One thing I liked about the recent buzz over the Mars landing is that we saw working scientists who did not conform to TV sitcom rules.

    1.  They looked kinda nerdy to me.  I guess they didn’t have bow ties on.

      And he is like a genuine science guy.  From the Wiki:

      “He studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University (where one of his professors was Carl Sagan[8]) and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977.[9] In May 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by The Johns Hopkins University. In May 2011, he received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Willamette University, where he was the keynote speaker for that year’s commencement exercises.[10]
      Nye began his career in Seattle at Boeing, where, among other things, he starred in training films and developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor still used in the 747. Later, he worked as a consultant in the aeronautics industry. In 1999, he told the St. Petersburg Times that he applied to be a NASA astronaut every few years, but was always rejected.[11]”

  16. I don’t mind people believing in various fables whether similar to or different from my fables.  We know very little about what’s really real, and can prove less.  What bothers me is people who are willing to oppress or kill me because my fables are different from theirs.   The records of Christianity and Islam are pretty bad on this account.  It seems like simple self-interest to do what one can to impede them, as long as one does not succumb to the prejudice, hatred and violence they purvey.  It’s a simple matter of self-defense, hopefully non-violent self-defense.

  17. Evolution does not disprove god, it may disprove the god of the Hebrews/Christians/Muslims (among others) but perhaps that’s part of god’s test– we have all the info we need to figure out which of the worlds religions is true/truest, based on actual evidence, rather than deliberate ignorance and stubbornness.  Buddhism for example has no qualms whatsoever with evolution, in fact it fits in perfectly.  (It’s an interesting idea to me anyway, though I’m not claiming to be a Buddhist.)

    1. Evolution does not disprove God, but it raises some awfully uncomfortable questions. A central tenet of many religions (maybe not buddhism, I don’t know) is that God has a plan. If humans exist, it is because God willed it – whether by a snap of the fingers or God’s invention of a process that led to humans. It suggests that God aligned all those biotic and abiotic forces were in just the right way to produce us. Here is the problem though – evolution as conceived by scientists is not a directed process. There is no ultimate goal, and random events continually send the process off in different directions. If you accept evolution, then you also have to accept that humankind was not inevitable.

  18. hmm:

    “Yes! A monstrous creature from the pit of hell with scything teeth ten thousand miles long, breath that would boil oceans, claws that could tear continents from their roots, a thousand eyes that burned like the sun, slavering jaws a million miles across, a monster such as you have never … never … ever …”

    it strikes me that that could have come from Revelations or any number of other “holy” texts.

    Our course is clear: we must construct three great space arks, the “B” of which shall carry all those who voluntarily choose to believe in gods. This time though, the telephone sanitizers are going in the C Ark.

  19. Bill is right to believe in evolution, but he is wrong to think that creationism will disappear.
    Creationism and the other kinds of thinking that conflict with ideas that make our society a largely free and democratic one can gain strength given enough effort.
    Look at fundamentalist Islam.  The ideas behind Islam’s most extreme beliefs – not the ones that make you establish a relationship with God, but the ones that oppress women and make people want to kill non believers – those ideas persist despite any effort to enlighten, despite the existence of evidence that peaceful coexistence is the best way, despite available options.

    So I think Bill is wrong, unfortunately, because from what I have learned, hatred and intolerance exist and will survive.  “Creationism” is just the polyanna-eyed cherub-faced demonstration of a deeper and far more destructive set of beliefs, dressed up in sheep’s clothing if you will. 

  20. Love Bill Nye and couldn’t agree more, but I’m surprised that he isn’t able to see it from the creationist’s perspective.  For the creationist, it’s evolution that throws their world into chaos, because it calls the bible into question. 

      1. Because if you pick and choose those rules that make you seem waaay more awesome than you are, and put you in power, and maintain your status – you tend to get upset when someone throws them out the window.

  21. I stand at awe,
    at natural law,
    from tiny tunneling quarks in uncertain times and places,
    to raging jets of black hole plasma,
    and I am thankful that I have enough to eat,
    and a house as well and land to keep,
    and I see Christ in my neighbor helping someone get enough food to eat,
    in visiting the sick,
    in visiting those in prison,
    giving shoes to someone who needs them.
    I see a world seemingly devoid of God,
    and yet I manage to see God all around me… even in the void.
    My Science is for asking how? and what?
    My Belief asks who? and why?
    While I am thankful, and try to have others see Christ in me,
    lifting a load off the truck,
    at the food pantry.

  22. Tip for religious folks: the more you explain your religion in detail to demonstrate how reasonable it is, the less reasonable it sounds.

      1. Good answer. I chuckled. Here are two differences between religion and QM: 1. QM is falsifiable, IOW it’s possible for you to find evidence that refutes it. Religions (most, anyway) are non-falsifiable, because people believe them regardless of evidence, and 2. nobody’s making laws to give preferential treatment to Quantum Mechanians or limit people’s personal behavior to conform to the preferences of QM clergy.

        1. Right back at ya! 

          With regards to your first point – there are a few scientific theories being tossed around that are also non-falsifiable at the moment.  There are a probably a few people here who dismiss the idea of a supreme being who are happy enough to talk about M-theory.  (Although there is some nice math to look at in the latter case, as opposed to a lot of religious text to slog through, for the former).  

          As for your second point – awesome.  QM clergy would be awesome.

  23. I enjoy mocking the religious faithful.

    I take pleasure in watching them bend over backwards to make the natural world fit into the fables of their fantasy book by employing excuse and compromise! 
    They weep and rave into the void, longing for their god that will never come to save them.

    Consider that it serves our evolved human sense of humor.

  24. A bunch of illiterate desert dwellers made the crap up. Believing in god is simply stupid. You want to believe in god, fine, but don’t tell me that I have to live my life based on some rules you make up in an effort to kiss your god’s ass

  25. We’re talking about taking life-instruction from a FICTIONAL BOOK, here people.  The Bible has absolutely NOTHING factual to support it’s story and is frankly ridiculous in it’s content.  If you have a mental disorder or were indoctrined at a very young age and believe that tripe, then seek help now.  You cannot argue with Science – YOU HAVE NOTHING TO ARGUE WITH.  (e.g. if God created everything… WHO CREATED GOD?) 

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