'Science Guy' Bill Nye takes aim at evolution deniers

In a video by the online knowledge forum Big Think, science educator Bill Nye urged parents to let their children's schools teach evolutionary biology. 

Youtube screenshot
In a video for the Big Think, 'Science Guy' Bill Nye says that it is essential to understand evolution in order to make sense of the natural world.

That all known life shares a common ancestor is just about as well-established a scientific observation as you're going to get. It's right up there with ice floating on water and the moon not being made of cheese. And the scientific explanation for all the complexity and diversity of life on Earth – first outlined by Charles Darwin some 150 years ago and continually refined since then – remains the linchpin of the life sciences. 

Of course none of this prevents staggering numbers of Americans from rejecting evolution. According to a 2007 Gallup survey, about four in 10 Americans believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," an assertion that is, by any reasonable standard of evidence, nonsense. 

But creationism isn't just ordinary nonsense. It's politicized nonsense. Nonsense that prompts TV shouting matches and comment-thread flame wars. Nonsense that bids rise to multimillion-dollar think tanks. Nonsense that makes journalists see a scientific controversy where none exists. Nonsense that ruins Thanksgiving dinner, causes childhood pals to defriend each other on Facebook, and eventually leads someone to stand up and make an exasperated call to Think Of The Children.

Which is what Bill Nye did. In a video for the Big Think, an online knowledge forum, the popular science educator notes that Darwin's theory is essential for anyone who wants to make sense of the natural world, and that it is vitally important that kids accept it.

"We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future," he says. "We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems." 

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

But simply asking people to stop passing their beliefs on to their kids probably isn't going to do the trick. Even as scientists are busily mapping the genomes of humankind's closest relatives, creationists are only getting more brazen. Witness the taxpayer-financed Christian schools in Louisiana whose biology textbooks cite the Loch Ness Monster as 'evidence' against Darwin.

Nye predicts that creationism will be dead in a few hundred years. But, as he is surely aware, that's pure conjecture. Nobody knows what people living centuries from now will think of Darwin, natural selection, and the hexameron. It's far too early in the game to start placing bets against nonsense. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.