Last week several friends e-mailed me about a YouTube video-release featuring public television personality, Bill Nye. Many of you may remember his PBS spots known as “Bill Nye – The Science Guy.” His science lessons were brilliantly laced with wit and humor disarming the unsuspecting, after-school audience into embracing one more academic session for the day. The programs always left me fascinated with science and more inquisitive about the world around me.
You might imagine how disappointed I was viewing his recent video entitled “Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children.” It was difficult to watch for two reasons. First, he was no longer the jovial, master of timing that I came to appreciate as a teenager. In fact, his quasi-coherent rant portrayed a very annoyed and even, to a degree, agitated man.
And secondly, there was nothing scientific about his claim. Dr. Nye used his iconic status of champion of the scientific method as a warrantable basis for a philosophical diatribe against creationism. As is often the case with such attempts, he exposed the weaknesses of his very best objections.
Speaking of the long-term, national dangers that creationism poses, “The Science Guy” said, “The United Sates is where most of the innovation still happens. People still move to the United States. And that’s largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe that, it holds everybody back…really.”
He must be referencing the way Johann Kepler held back the field of astronomy, or Isaac Newton held back physics, or Carolus Linnaeus held back biology, or Louis Pasteur held back organic chemistry, or Gregory Mendel held back genetics.
In a follow-up radio interview with Scott Paulsen, a popular morning personality on WDVE in Pittsburgh, Bill reiterated his belief that “creationism stifles innovation and ingenuity.”
“Without innovation you’re not going to have jobs,” he explained. “Without science, you’re not going to have innovation – engineers and scientists. Creationism is not going to be able to help you with that. There is no information there.”
In the course of his lament, he mentioned several inventors and scientists from America’s strong, innovative past, failing to realize that half of them acknowledged God as the Creator of all things.
In the YouTube video he warns, “Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution. The idea of deep time, of this [sic] billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.”
Skeptics love to accuse creationists of not believing in evolution and then cite evidences of horizontal change (based on genetic predisposition for adaptability) within organisms. This type of change is what Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands and is scientifically verifiable. The problem comes at the point of the philosophical leap that proposes vertical change (based on the belief that anything is possible with enough time) from one organism into a distinct, new creature on the conceptual Tree of Life.
Those who regard the Genesis account as historical, embrace adaptation and speciation within the established boundaries of Creation’s Orchard of Life, with each trunk representing a distinct “kind.” So, in that sense, we do “believe in evolution,” but the opposition is certainly not inclined to debate within the frame of a clear definition of terms.
I’m glad that Bill Nye refers to “deep time” as an idea, because that is the extent of its legitimacy. According to Harvard professor, Stephen J. Gould (Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle), “When we finally discard the empiricist myth that turned (James) Hutton into his opposite (a field-work fraud), we can properly seek the discovery of deep time in those a priori concepts that Hutton viewed as the rational basis for his or any theory of the earth. He did not find deep time or cyclicity in rocks…deep time is the essential ingredient of unbounded cycles, established by logical necessity prior to confirmation in the field.”
So while (Charles) Lyell expanded on Hutton’s work under the assumption that it was genuinely empirical, Charles Darwin discovered in Lyell’s work (Principles of Geology) the deep time that would be required to lend credibility to his theory of the transmutation of species and his phylogenic “tree of life.”
In each case, observation was preceded by theory. Data was contextualized by assumptions. Science has not proven “deep time”; but proponents of evolution still embrace this notion as an indisputable, doctrinal authority (see Scripturosity articles “Deep Time Warp” Part 1 & Part 2).
The gulf between evolutionism and creationism is not over data or discovery. The great chasm is conceptual. Creationists approach the evidence on display around the world from the philosophical axiom of the ancient, Sacred Text. What most evolutionists don’t acknowledge is that they, similarly, have a contextual starting point – deep time. Any forensic summation of the evidence is inevitably filtered through the philosophical bias of the observer. The truth is representatives from both worldviews can advance good science. One’s origins paradigm does not influence their work in the science lab or the inventor’s bench.
Rather than “untenable” or “inconsistent,” the biblical worldview draws tremendous clarity to our observations and reveals unequivocal purpose for our existence (see Scripturosity article “The Gospel Message”). Perhaps Bill Nye’s vexation with creationism is more about the validity that any physical compatibility might convey on the spiritual lessons and prophetic claims of its documented source than anything else. From the standpoint of implied, personal vulnerability, his sense of alarm makes perfect sense.