Real Science vs. Bill Nye’s Undeniable
If you grew up among Generation Xers and Millennials like I did, then you probably loved watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. His quirky, off-beat, after school PBS show achieved no small feat: it sparked laughs and got kids appreciating science — and they didn’t even realize they were learning.
While most Nye-fans enjoyed his wacky experiments and corny jokes, few of us kids realized he had another side: Nye advocates a hardline materialistic worldview view that is hostile to the views held by most Americans.
In 2010 he was named “Humanist of the Year” by the American Humanist Association, and during his acceptance speech, he claimed that humanity is “insignificant” because we’re just “a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks among still other specks in the middle of specklessness.” According to Nye, we “suck.”
Nye again made headlines in 2012, after declaring that parents who “deny” evolution should not instill in their children their own beliefs about origins. When it comes to doubting Darwin, Nye demands, “Don’t make your kids do it because we need them.”
In 2014, and Nye achieved more notoriety by debating a famous young earth creationist, Ken Ham. While Nye deftly argued that the universe is billions of years old, he paraded his materialistic view that life is the result of blind causes. He then set to capitalize on that publicity by releasing a book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.
Undeniable promotes the standard dumbed-down atheistic narrative about science, society, and evolution — except now his book is influencing younger thinkers who mistakenly think Nye is an objective source for scientific information.
On page one, we learn that for Nye, “evolution” answered his biggest questions about life, the universe and the meaning of everything: “As I learned about evolution and descent by natural selection, the answers fell into place.” He later explains, “After all, evolution made us who we are.”
Nye goes on to explain that his view that humans “suck” comes directly from his study of evolution: “As I learned more about evolution, I realized that from nature’s point of view, you and I ain’t such a big deal.” According to evolution, Nye says, “humankind may not be that special.”
And why aren’t we special? Because “evolution is not guided by a mind or a plan,” and nature shows a “lack of evidence of a plan.” For Nye, “Every other aspect of life that was once attributed to divine intent is now elegantly and completely explained in the context of evolutionary science.” In his view, even human altruism “is not a moral or religious ideal, no matter what some people might tell you.”
If you think Nye’s ideology is bad, wait until you see the “science” he uses to justify these claims.
On the origin of life, Nye maintains that the famous Miller-Urey experiments “simulate[d] the conditions on earth in primordial times,” and “produced the natural amino acids.” Yet the Miller-Urey experiments did not accurately simulate the earth’s early atmosphere. An article in Science explains why the experiments are irrelevant: “the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey situation.”
Nye also invokes the unsophisticated argument that humans and apes must share a common ancestor because our gene-coding DNA is only about 1% different. “This is striking evidence for chimps and chumps to have a common ancestor,” he writes.
This argument is not just simplistic, it’s also false.
An article in the journal Science challenged “the myth of 1%,” suggesting the statistic is a “truism [that] should be retired,” since “studies are showing that [humans and chimps] are not as similar as many tend to believe.” Geneticist Richard Buggs maintains that “the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.”
Even if we do share DNA with chimps, why should that demonstrate common ancestry? Intelligent agents regularly re-use parts that work in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and wheels for airplanes). Nye’s crude argument ignores the possibility of common design.
Undeniable also botches arguments that the fossil record shows “transitional forms.”
Nye cites Tiktaalik as a “‘fishapod’ (transition between fish and tetrapod, or land animal with four legs)” that is a fulfilled “prediction” of evolution because of when it was found in the fossil record. Nye is apparently unaware that this so-called evolutionary “prediction” went belly-up after scientists found tracks of true tetrapods with digits some 18 million years before Tiktaalik in the fossil record. As Nature put it, Tiktaalik cannot be a “direct transitional form.”
In another instance, Nye claims we’ve “found a whole range of human ancestors, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis,” apparently not realizing that an article in Nature reported there are “many … features that link the specimen with chimpanzees, gorillas or both,” since “Sahelanthropus was an ape.”
There are other scientific errors in Nye’s book, but one more will suffice. Throughout Undeniable, Nye demeans humanity by claiming our bodies are poorly designed, promoting the old canard that the human eye is wired backwards, and “not an optimal optical arrangement.” Nye apparently never saw a 2010 paper in Physical Review Letters which found that our eyes have special glial cells which sit over the retina, acting like fiber-optic cables to channel light through tissue directly onto our photoreceptor cells, showing the human retina is “an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images.”
Undeniable is one long attempt at wedding materialist philosophy with science. “The natural world is a package deal,” Nye insists at one point, “you don’t get to select which facts you like and which you don’t.” Yet he consistently ignores facts that contradict his arguments for Darwinian orthodoxy.
Mostly, however, Nye simply dismisses Darwin-critics as “creationists” and “science deniers” who have “stubborn ignorance,” lack “honesty,” and “want to suppress” evolution by teaching “fictitious alternatives” in schools. He adopts the customary scare-tactics of censors, arguing that allowing kids to question Darwinism amounts to an “assault on science,” and threatens to throw society back to the Dark Ages. Under Nye’s vision, humanity’s salvation comes from “celebrating evolution” so “we can open more minds and unlock more of our vast human potential.”
Yet it is Nye who is doing the disservice to society. By caricaturing the debate over Darwinian evolution as enlightened science vs. ignorant religion, he uses his position as a spokesperson for science to mislead readers about legitimate scientific challenges to evolutionary biology.
While mainstream scientists are raising serious scientific challenges to neo-Darwinian evolution, popularizers like Nye claim that giving any truck to to Darwin to send us back to the days before electricity. His divisive rhetoric discourages bright young Darwin-doubting students from pursuing careers in science.
Unfortunately, Bill Nye’s intolerance seems to be rubbing off on many of my Gen-X and Millennial friends. But if they want their views to correspond to reality, they need to appreciate how 21st century science is entering a post-Darwinian world and leaving Bill Nye behind.