I’d like to preface by saying I admire Bill Nye. He’s one of those rare personalities who inspires us to learn more about the world and his contributions to education are indispensable.
That said, I’m not quite sure why he agreed to debate Australian “young Earth” creationism believer Ken Ham (watch the debate here). In fact, I have no idea why any scientist would bother to debate someone who believes the book of Genesis is a literal telling of how the universe was created. To conduct and participate in a debate between science and creationism suggests that there’s, in fact, a valid counterpoint to science — two equal sides to the issue.
This isn’t a debatable issue. There’s one side and science won a long time ago. Genesis is a metaphor. It’s over.
The other day, I read an article about a gaggle of weirdos who believe that militant atheists are using chemtrails to murder angels. This isn’t Alex Jones territory, it’s Alex Jones fever dream territory — a perfect storm of derangement, paranoia and religious fanaticism. Shall we commence a two-sided debate about this? No way. There’s one side that’s real and… nothing else. Atheists aren’t in any universe committing genocide against angels using chemtrails and, yes, evolution is reality.
Incidentally, just because a group of people believes something to be true doesn’t make them liars, and, likewise, it doesn’t mean those beliefs are worthy of representation in a debate parallel to empirical reality. Offering these unprovable, and in some cases ludicrous beliefs equal standing only serves to ordain these beliefs as equally valid with scientific consensus. This is precisely the same argument against allowing creationism to be taught in public school science classes. Tuesday night, Bill Nye inadvertently allowed creationism to be taught in what should’ve been merely a science class.
Unlike the political debate, this isn’t a matter of right versus left, or equality versus inequality, or pragmatic versus radical. This is about an understanding of reality, and one of the primary functions of an educator or a scientist is to instruct us about what’s real. Wasting time batting down far-fetched theories or biblical metaphors is an exercise in futility (anyone think Ken Ham changed his mind?), while it also sends the message that we can pick and choose what’s objectively real.
Chemtrails are, in reality, harmless contrails; Earth is round (technically an oblate spheroid — science!); all species continuously evolve via adaptations and natural selection; and humans have a common ancestor with apes. If you or anyone else wants to believe there’s another explanation for these things, that’s fine, but it doesn’t make it debatable on the same stage as science, nor does it make it observably and measurably real.
To be clear, this isn’t intended to be another “religion is stupid” rant. It’s not. Being a former practicing Catholic, I don’t believe religious people are stupid or naive or ignorant. I also recognize that not all religious people believe in the rather extreme literal interpretation of the Bible. To that point, I happened to have learned about evolution (and even did a presentation about Charles Darwin) in Catholic school. Religion was reserved for Church or religion class, as it should’ve been.
But if you happen to believe the universe is 4,000 years old and that humans existed with dinosaurs, you don’t need my approval or Bill Nye’s permission to believe it. Believe whatever you want; the same goes for Ken Ham, too. I have no idea whether there’s a higher power watching over us, but for more than a century the world’s greatest minds have gathered volumes of data, painstakingly studied it via the scientific method and reached a generally agreed-upon conclusion that explains how organisms evolve. The same goes for the geology of Earth and how it was formed. That’s reality, there’s no equally viable alternative and we should stop pretending there is.