A Fight for the Young Creationist Mind

Nov 11, 2014

Jeffery DelViscio/The New York Times

By Jeffery DelViscio

In February, William Sanford Nye, better known as Bill Nye the science guy, stepped onto a stage in Kentucky and faced down a hostile crowd in a debate that pitted evolution against creationism. It wasn’t his first time in the ring in science’s corner. In recent years, Mr. Nye has transitioned from the zany, on-screen face of an educational show on PBS, which ran from 1993 to 1998, to a hardened warrior for science on cable news programs and speaking tours of colleges and universities around the United States.

In the news media, the final scorecard at the end of the science versus creationism debate was itself debated. Some said Mr. Nye won. Some suggested the in just showing up, he lost. One certainty did come from it: Mr. Nye said that it compelled him to drop everything he was doing to write a book. That book, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” has just been released.

I talked to Mr. Nye, 58, last month about bumblebees, the debate and why it made him think of death and the need to write the book. Here is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Q: Talk about the title, “The Science of Creation.” It seems like clever wordplay with creation science. Is that what you meant?

A: Well, creation for me is all that we can see. It’s the universe, all the stars, and I guess now the dark matterand dark energy and you and me. And I would claim that it’s an older, more traditional use of the word creation. It’s nature.


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23 comments on “A Fight for the Young Creationist Mind

  • 1
    Light Wave says:

    He’s got a great way of explaining reality and at last he’s ‘evolved’ from wearing a bow tie to wearing a trendy untied bowtie…a really daring fashionista scientist….



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  • A Fight for the Young Creationist Mind

    We are all born atheists, so no one starts life with a “creationist mind”!

    It is only after indoctrination in creationist ignorance in their early years, that the rationally retarded ” “creationist mind”, remains locked in childhood superstitions copied from (allegedly) adult role models.



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  • He’s absolutely correct about children; “save the children” takes on a new alarming connotation.

    I submit that for the most part adult creationists have been rendered incapable of reasoning and debate by the stupid notions they were fed as youngsters, and by which they’re are now ensnared, or perhaps are too frightened to jettison.

    Steven Weinberg has said that it’s impossible to reason with belief.

    And apropos of evolution, an astonishingly large number of people still talk about teaching the “alternative”; I’ve heard it said at a middle class dinner party, by an individual who was afforded an expensive “education”.

    I’ve even heard someone of that ilk say that Darwin has a lot to answer for.

    And to think that many people understood evolution right from the beginning – Russell of course being among them – and the first edition of Darwin’s seminal slim volume sold out within days.

    Anyway, thank goodness for people like Bill Nye; it’s just a disgrace that people like him have to waste their time defending the truth.



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  • If Mahommad had been born to Christian creationists he would have been a Christian creationist. If the Pope had Hindu parents he would have been a Hindu. If Mother Theresa had been born to Jewish parents she would have been Jewish. We need more Atheist parents!!



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  • 8
    Light Wave says:

    My dad was catholic and my mum was protestant…I’ve been atheist since age 8….but I was allowed to form my own opinions by my progressive parents and aided by my state secular school who never forced me to believe anything…I enquired freely till I understood the world and realised you don’t need religious beliefs…..It doesn’t matter what your parents are ? we’re all human and have the same individual potential to be different – most of us….



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  • Darwin “has a lot to answer for”? That’s rich, considering that Darwin did more for the human race than the mythical Jesus Christ.

    The next time you hear that, ask that person if Gregor Mendel also has “a lot to answer for.” Chances are, they have never heard of the gentle monk who articulated the mechanisms of heredity – which Darwin searched for so long, and somewhat glimpsed.

    I can relate to your frustration: I overhead (at a science museum, no less) some dork say, “Well, I just don’t believe that oil is made from dead dinosaurs! There just weren’t enough dinosaurs for that!” Yeah, I don’t believe that petroleum was made from the Tyrannosaurus Rex, either! Gah!



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  • 13
    Michael says:

    I agree except that its not just early years. They make sure their kkds go to high schools and colleges tjat reinforce the indoctrination.



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  • A few months ago I attended a “Creation vs Evolution” talk (not really a talk, more of a sermon) at a local Lutheran church given by this guy: Peter Sparrow.

    The evening was sparsely attended. The cluster of atheist and agnostic friends that I had invited almost equaled the adherents. And it went as expected with Sparrow spewing young earth creationist nonsense. Drawings of Triceratops trudging up the ramp onto Noah’s Ark, human beings arising from dust, all that.

    Pretty harmless stuff. Hey, he and his ilk can believe whatever they want, no matter how irrational.

    But it stopped being harmless when Sparrow said that it was incumbent upon parents to “evolution-proof” their children. When I and my fellow freethinkers took him to task on that, we were shouted down and refused further opportunity to speak.

    I’m thankful that learned people like Bill Nye have he inclination, the personality and the patience to tackle ignorance head-on. We need more like him.



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  • Morgan Nov 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    But it stopped being harmless when Sparrow said that it was incumbent upon parents to “evolution-proof” their children. When I and my fellow freethinkers took him to task on that, we were shouted down and refused further opportunity to speak.

    You can understand the problems of those who are dependent on “faith” as they lack the capability to engage in reasoned debate!

    http://www.atheistmemebase.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/035-How-to-Use-the-Bible.jpg



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  • “By the time you’re 18, you’ve made up your mind. It’s going to be really hard for you, as they say in the Mormon tradition, to “lose your testimony.” But if you’re 7 or 8, we got a shot.” – Bill Nye

    I remember sitting in a catholic church when I was about seven, or eight. I remember my mother telling me that some people actually did not believe in god. It was probably the subject of the sermon I was no paying attention to. That was my first introduction to the notion that there may actually be no god. god bless you Fr. Koslowski.

    By the age of seventeen, I had read Vonnegut, Heinlein, and others, and was convinced that there is more that we don’t know, than there is that we know. The very existence of a guiding intelligence behind the creation of this universe is one of those things that I am certain we do not know.



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  • I’m intrigued as to why Creationism is so prevalent in the USA. Darwin, Wallace and the Huxleys aside, evolution is generally now taken for granted here in Britain. Our history shows (eg Pelagianism) that we Brits from ancient times have always questioned the various religions thrust upon us by those who sought to control our every thought, word and deed. I grew up in Dr Barnardo’s Homes where we were force-fed religion but I rejected it when I began to see how all the myriad religions operated worldwide. For me, it is impossible to be a genuine intellectual and not be an atheist. Given that much of American culture, beliefs etc is directly descended from British, I wonder why it is that so many still accept the childishly conceived notion that is creationism which surely must have started life as a story told by our prehistoric ancestors. All cultures have these myths and they are all equally childish. End of rant.



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  • 21
    Gabriel says:

    I love your response, Alan4discussion. Very well said, but I disagree with you about people being born atheists. I think (or I believe, but I don’t know for sure) that we are born agnostic. Obviously when we’re born we don’t disbelieve in a god or believe there is no god, because we don’t know anything, we have no baseline, and barely any capacity to know anything other our most primitive instincts.

    In adulthood, although I lean towards atheism, I must admit we can’t possibly know whether or not there’s a god. It’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a god. Define a god, first of all. To me if there is a god, it’s almost certainly going to be an alien species that came here and started the processes of life on this planet a billion years ago. The god in the bible, the supernatural god that lives in the sky and is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.. that’s far fetched to me because we’d all know if that were the case. We’d hear that god speaking to us all the time, it would be recorded, disseminated, and common knowledge.

    But, who the hell am I to know.
    For that reason I gotta go with agnosticism.



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  • Gabriel Nov 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I love your response, Alan4discussion. Very well said, but I disagree with you about people being born atheists. I think (or I believe, but I don’t know for sure) that we are born agnostic.

    Atheism is “an absence of belief in gods” so children are born with “an absence of belief in gods”. They are also agnostic (ie not knowing) but there is no conflict there.

    Obviously when we’re born we don’t disbelieve in a god or believe there is no god,

    It is usually a theist misconception of “atheism”, as being “a denial of their (default) god”, rather than the genuine definition of lack of belief – based on the default of scepticism in the absence of evidence, ( as for Leprechauns, tooth-fairies etc) – along with the improbabilities of theist claims.

    because we don’t know anything, we have no baseline, and barely any capacity to know anything other our most primitive instincts.

    Richard often describes himself as an atheist-agnostic. We can certainly be atheistic towards the theist gods which are described with whimsical supernatural properties doing miracles etc, but vague deist gods are improbable, but difficult to refute, because of their lack of defined properties, and the shifting shuffling positions of their adherents.

    In adulthood, although I lean towards atheism, I must admit we can’t possibly know whether or not there’s a god. It’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a god. Define a god, first of all.

    When people make vague undefined assertions about their god, I usually ask, “Which one?” (The Hindus alone have approximately 320 million of them). Theists don’t seem to have any problem with dismissing other people’s gods, but somehow expect atheists to accept theirs without evidence as a default.

    One of the best explanations I have found is here:-

    Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/the-evidence-against-god_b_682169.html



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  • Gabriel Nov 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    In adulthood, although I lean towards atheism, I must admit we can’t possibly know whether or not there’s a god. It’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a god.

    It is indeed impossible to DISprove every possible concept of a god, but we really do not need to follow that fallacious process.
    There are no “default gods”.

    Define a god, first of all.

    That is where theist claims fall apart. They either fail to produce any definition at all, or produce one which is incoherent semantic mumbo-jumbo, and too vague to even objectively evaluate.

    To me if there is a god, it’s almost certainly going to be an alien species that came here and started the processes of life on this planet a billion years ago. The god in the bible, the supernatural god that lives in the sky and is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.. that’s far fetched to me because we’d all know if that were the case.

    However, most of the people fetching that sort of claim, have their own particular variation of a particular god in mind.

    That particular Abrahamic god has a history which most of them have not studied, but has its origins in bronze-age brains and tribal disputes for which there is evidence.

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Canaanite_Religion

    .Canaanite religion describes the belief systems and ritual practices of the people living in the ancient Levant region throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Until recently, little was known of these traditions outside of the Hebrew Bible, which denigrated them as idolatrous and licentious. Twentieth century archaeological excavations, however, unearthed several texts, as well as many artifacts, which provided previously unknown details and insights into the nature of Canaanite religion.

    Although the literary sources are still scarce, the Canaanite religion seems to have involved a rich mythological tradition which served as a bridge between the more ancient Mesopotamian religions and the later Greek and Roman gods. Several of the most famous Greek gods, for example, clearly evolved from Canaanite antecedents, just as several of the Canaanite gods grew out of Mesopotamian roots.

    Like other ancient cultures, Canaanite society was largely concerned with agricultural themes. As a land dryer than either Egypt or the Fertile Crescent, which were blessed with large rivers, Canaanite traditions were particularly concerned with rain and drought. The supreme deity of the Canaanite pantheon was El, together with his consort, Asherah. As with the Greek tradition, these early gods were later supplanted by younger, more immediate presences, especially the rain/thunder god Ba’al and his consorts, such as the warrior goddess Anat and the love/fertility goddess Astarte. Early Israelite religion may once have shared the Canaanite belief in El and other gods, before the Jewish monotheistic tradition emerged.



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