Bill Nye the Naturalist Guy

I grew up, like many of us, watching Bill Nye the Science Guy in school. In fact, I have many good memories of watching Bill Nye as a youth. As long as I could remember, my friends and I always preferred to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy rather than doing other schoolwork during class if given the opportunity. It was both funny and educational. I’ve even allowed my own kids to watch some of Bill Nye’s programs because they are genuinely informative in many regards. The truth is, regardless of whether Christians want to admit it; Bill Nye is a good communicator of science. Some people may disown me after reading this but I sincerely feel he has genuinely done many children a valuable service by making science fun and possibly provoking an interest in science that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. So, in that regard, I tip my hat to Bill Nye as a science educator.

Bill Nye has expressed some opinions about creationism that has upset a lot of people, mainly Christians. Above is the video that stirred up a fuss among the Christian community because he said the following,

And 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. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.

Clearly, he places an extraordinary amount stock in the evolutionary theory. He made the following comment concerning how strongly he feels towards evolution and how completely lost we would be without it,

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You’re just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

He’s been explicit in his critique of young earth creationism during the debate he had with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. However, Nye hasn’t made any explicit critiques of any other creation models (Old Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, etc…) outside of his broad stroke endorsement of naturalism. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he stated that he considers himself an agnostic and responded to the question, ‘Do you believe in God?’ with ‘as we say, you can’t know!’ I’m not sure who the ‘we’ is in his response but he obviously believes that he’s in a club with other scientists who share the same sentiment. When questioned on the matter further Nye stated, “the idea that there is a plan for everyone and this deity has this all worked out and is really directing things is an extraordinary claim that I find troublesome.”

Knowing Nye a little further from these dialogues, we begin to discover more about his worldview and why he may be so passionate in his endorsement of evolution. If he’s committed himself to naturalism because he’s convinced that we “can’t know” whether a God exists or not, then all creation models would sound ridiculous and unscientific to him. Even if Nye were to debate a more credible opponent who could persuasively present a legitimate scientific model of creation, such as Stephen Meyer, John Lennox, or Hugh Ross, Nye would be forced to reject the theistic implications of the scientific evidence on the basis of his commitment to philosophical naturalism.

As it turns out, Nye’s claim that creationism stunts the scientific development of children is an unsupported claim. The rules of the scientific method do no change for theists. The practice of science is the same for people of all philosophical persuasions. Nye presupposes that if a scientist believes the universe was created that their scientific findings will be unscientific. Does this presupposition accurately reflect the reality of the way science is done? The answer is no, history and philosophy do not support the conclusion that Christians (or other theists) cannot perform high-quality science because they believe the universe was created.

The Discovery Institute has compiled a increasingly growing list of Ph.Ds in scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computer science as well as M.D.s that serve as professors of medicine that have expressed their dissatisfaction with the efficacy of evolutionary theory by signing the, “Scientific Dissent from Darwin.” All Ph.Ds and M.D.s who sign this document agree with the following,

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian Theory should be encouraged.

When you view the list of twenty two jam-packed pages of names of impressively educated scientists, more educated than Bill Nye may I add, from highly-respected universities, are you convinced of his ‘troublesome’ claim that an individual who doesn’t strictly adhere to the theory of evolution and philosophical naturalism cannot perform reliable science? I know I’m not.

Conclusion

I didn’t write this to trash Bill Nye. However, it is tiresome to continually watch those like Bill Nye praising evolution as though the acceptance of it is the litmus test for being a legitimate scientist. Sadly, like many naturalistic scientists, he’s philosophically challenged. Conducting science is one thing but interpreting the science and drawing philosophical conclusions is another. When Nye says, “we can’t know” whether there is a God, he would be opposing many brilliant minds throughout history.  

If he expects God to visibly show up in a microscope or a telescope, he’s going to be disappointed. Maybe that is why he believes he can’t know. He’s not the only scientist who is guilty of scientism. Those who worship science as the only legitimate method of gathering information often feel the same way as Nye. This is the Achilles heel of many naturalistic scientists, especially when they’re trying to comment on matters of philosophy. Below is one of my favorite clips of Christian philosopher William Lane Craig debating atheist chemist Peter Atkins explaining the limitations of science…

Scientists like Peter Atkins, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye, etc… let their unfaltering commitment to naturalism and their general ignorance of philosophy needlessly diminish all supernatural explanations even when all of the scientific and philosophical evidence points in favor of a supernatural explanation. Ironically, these are the same guys (and gals) that accuse theists of being scientifically and philosophically illiterate while praising themselves for being among the elite in modern day scientific scholarship because they allege that they’ve been open to ‘all the evidence.’ After a close examination, it appears that they are the ones who are eager to dismiss philosophical explanations supporting theism; not because reliable theistic explanations don’t align with the scientific evidence, but because these explanations don’t align with the status quo of philosophical naturalism.

At the end of the day, Bill Nye is entitled to his opinion and we should respect him. He’s not the only one who maintains this opinion but there are a growing number of scientists that are beginning to see that the extraordinary claims of evolution with much greater skepticism. We shouldn’t continually maintain acceptance of a scientific theory without constant critique of the theory’s imperfections simply because of a dogmatic commitment to upholding its tenets regardless of the evidence against it. For example, eventually the geocentric model became scientifically untenable in light of the heliocentric model. The Galileo incident illustrated how a predetermined commitment to a certain position in the opposition of objective evidence will always result in negative consequences in our pursuit of knowledge.

Regardless of how strong Nye and his band of naturalist buddies believe that Darwinian evolution is an empirical fact, the critical evidence against evolution (specifically macroevolution) is massively mounting, so much so that it doesn’t resemble anything truly tenable for much longer. With enough honest and objective scientists who are truly committed to following the evidence where it leads scientifically and philosophically (such as the scientists who signed “Scientific Dissent from Darwin” list), Darwinian evolution will be the next heliocentrism.

To end on a humorous note, let’s watch Bill Nye the Naturalist Guy dance…

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