"Bill Nye vs. Creationism": It might sound like a bad 1980s comedy, but this is real life, with the bow-tied science TV star taking a whack on YouTube at Christian parents who might try to steer their kids away from evolution.
“When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really,” Nye says in a BigThink YouTube video that’s gotten more than 4.6 million hits.
“Evolution is the fundamental in all of life science, in all of biology," he says in the video. "It’s like, it’s very much analogous to doing 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.”
Nye then goes on to tell parents: “If you want to deny evolution and live 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. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”
Scientists -- most of them anyway -- aren’t politicians accustomed to playing the crowd, so it might surprise some to learn that creationists haven’t taken well to a bow-tied professor telling them not to pass their “crazy” and “inconsistent” views on to their kids.
“He might be interested to know that I also teach my young daughter about evolution, and I know many other Christian parents who do the same,” responds Georgia Purdom of the Creation Museum in a YouTube video with more than 150,000 hits.
“Children should be exposed to both ideas concerning our past. Being a good scientist and a mom, I want my daughter to be educated about evolution so that she can see the inherent problems with it.”
For evolutionary biologists, not just in the United States but the world over, the concept of creationism has been a present-day political fire they’ve never been able to extinguish.
Since 1982, at least 40% of Americans have said they believed that God created humans in their present form, according to Gallup polling, with the latest poll saying that roughly equal numbers of Americans believe in evolution and creationism. Of those who believe in evolution, only 15% say God has nothing to do with the process.
In Nye’s video, he frames the debate as an economic issue, saying he worries that America — whose students have fallen behind many global peers in math and science learning — is losing ground in the global marketplace by perpetuating the belief in creationism.
The Creation Museum’s David Menton responds in the YouTube video featuring Purdom by saying that plenty of people worldwide believe in creationism.
In a 2005 survey about creationist beliefs in 34 countries, including the world’s most dynamic economies, the United States had the lowest belief in evolution of any country except Turkey, according to results published in Science magazine.
The museum’s Purdom also says Nye mistakes “observational science with historical science,” saying that evolution is the latter.
The debate, however, is sure to continue as stridently as ever, from YouTube video to YouTube video and from one energetically footnoted Wikipedia page to the next.
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