Bill Nye, the famed "Science Guy," found himself the center of attention this week after a video in which he said creationism should not be taught to children went viral.
"I say to the grownups, 'If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we've observed in the universe that's fine," Nye says in the video. "But don't make your kids do it.'"
Of course, the Twitterverse and many viewers had a strong response. The Huffington Post reached out to Nye to ask him more about science, religion and teaching creationism in school.
What's the best scientific argument against creationism?
Unlike science, creationism cannot predict anything, and it cannot provide satisfactory answers about the past. The examples would be nearly limitless. Why does radioactive dating indicate that the world is 4.54 billion years old, if radioactivity is not a feature of nature?
Should teaching creationism be against the law?
Teaching creationism in science class as an alternative to evolution is inappropriate.
Tax dollars intended for science education must not be used to teach creationism as any sort of real explanation of nature, because any observation or process of inference about our origin and the nature of the universe disproves creationism in every respect. Creationism provides no insight whatsoever into nature. Creationism might be taught in a philosophy, psychology, or history of science class, for example.
Is religion inconsistent with science?
If your religion is inconsistent with science, consider tempering your beliefs. For me, the claims of creationism are completely unreasonable.
Judge Jones in Dover, Pennsylvania, used the expression "breathtaking inanity," meaning so empty, so silly that it took his breath away. The age of the Earth is very close to 4.54 billion years rather than a millionth of that time. The idea that fossils were buried in the Earth by some hidden deity to test ones faith is completely unsatisfactory. We can observe the processes of evolution, physics and especially geology everywhere every day. To deny what I see around me is unacceptable to me. Science is the acceptance of what you observe and seeking the natural laws that cause these effects.
How can science-minded people make it "safe" for believers to acknowledge that evolution is real?
The bible that is often cited as a guide to natural law has been translated from other ancient languages. There must be countless subtleties and nuances that are literally lost in translation. I got into good bit of controversy, when I showed an audience in Waco, Texas, USA that the bible, as translated into English, claims that the Sun lights the day, and the Moon lights the night. I pointed out that this translation is unsettling. To my ear, it doesn't seem as though the author realized that the Moon's light is reflected sunlight. It seems to me that many ancient people may have realized that the Moon casts reflected light, but it's lost in translation. This being but one example.
Will anything good be lost if creationism disappears?
Because of the robustness of our historical records, creationism will probably never disappear as such; instead, creationism can be used in classrooms and conversations to illustrate the process of science.
To wit, people once accepted an idea that the Earth was built in a week. In recent centuries, we have discovered the actual nature of nature. The process of science debunked and disproved the old idea, so it was cast aside for a better idea.
Did you ever believe in creationism? If so, what changed your mind?
The biblical stories were presented to me, but they never seemed reasonable.
I remember asking about Noah's ark. Did he look after the invertebrates: the bees, for example? What about the yellow-jackets? And, the black wasps that stung me a few times? All those ants? There's no mention of the most numerous organisms in my world. As a kid, I remember imagining a series of barges full of soil to be pulled like trailers behind this big boat. Grownups explained that it was just a story (whatever that meant). I remember asking, what was the point of the story? What was this guy's idea to get animals two-by-two? What did he hope to accomplish, if all the bees, worms, oak trees, and rosebushes were gone? Let alone the question: why did he let the poison ivy come back? He missed a huge opportunity, etc. It was never satisfying to my mind.
If you could speak directly to the children of creationists, what would you say?
Hang in there.
There is another amazing, exciting, inspiring way to know the world, one that will fill you with joy and reverence. Pick your battles with grownups. These creation ideas are important to the grownups in your life right now. Accept that.
Do your views place your personal safety in jeopardy?
We'll see. You don't get shot down, if you're not flying.
We are at a turning point, a crossroads in human history. Climate change or an asteroid impact can only be addressed with science. Shooting the messenger is not going to make creationism able to explain anything in the natural world. It still will be completely unsatisfactory and useless to anyone trying to solve an engineering problem in the real world. No science; no asteroid deflection.
Do you have any superstitions?
None that I know of. I change my socks often, because I had bad bouts of athelete's foot fungus infections as a kid. I may be able to change socks less frequently and not get the fungus. But, I'd rather not run the test to determine just how infrequently I could change socks. I don't feel superstitious about it.
Who is your favorite scientist?
Don't make me pick.
Michael Faraday was amazing. He clearly realized that his discovery of a means to generate electricity, would change the world. I have great admiration for my physics teacher George Lang and my old professor Carl Sagan; he changed the world. My dad was no slouch, either. My older brother Darby continually showed me wonderful scientific principles.
The big step comes when you can convince yourself of the truth of a natural law. It changes the way you think of everything around you.