I was in the bookstore recently and couldn’t resist browsing Bill Nye’s book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. (I note, mostly for laughs, that his title is itself incorrect: His whole book is about a bunch of people who deny evolution.)
Here’s a photo I took from the beginning. In just these two pages, it was astonishing how badly he mangled his opponents’ positions (click the photo to flip it, I don’t know why it’s upside down in the thumbnail):
Now before I mention some of the problems here, let me give a disclaimer: Guys, I used to be a hardcore atheist in college. I read a lot on evolutionary biology, and even read their critiques of creationism. I thought those critiques were awesome. Even after I had recovered my belief in God (in grad school), I still thought those arguments for the standard modern view of evolution were great. It was only after I re-read them, as a theist, that I saw all of the problems in them. If you are an atheist, it simply must be the case (in your mind) that intelligent life arose from inorganic molecules without any plan. And so, even if there are serious problems with any particular attempt to explain what happened in this way, you will not really feel the power of the critique, because you know the real story has to be something like that.
Another disclaimer: I am not a “young Earth creationist.” Two of the people I consider quite authoritative on the Bible–and who believe it literally–don’t think it establishes that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Another disclaimer: I am not threatened by the hypothesis that all life on Earth originated from a single cell. What I do claim is that if that did happen, then that original cell had a lot of very useful information tucked into it, that cannot be explained by standard “mindless” Darwinian mechanisms. This is what Michael Behe (one of the leaders in the Intelligent Design movement) thinks, I believe, and it also is a loose link to the stuff Gene Callahan has been writing regarding the Turing Test. (I don’t know if Gene would endorse my linking of these two topics.)
Annnnnyway, back to the Bill Nye excerpt above:
1) He is flatly wrong when he says that creationists say evolution isn’t happening today. That’s actually one of the first opening moves a creationist will make in these debates, is to admit that of course you can see populations adapting to environmental changes, but calling this microevolution and contrasting it with macroevolution. You can dismiss the distinction as spurious if you want, but it’s amazing that Nye misrepresents his opponents at Step #1.
2) It’s odd that Nye first says creationists don’t like curiosity or common sense, and then talks about a guy who built a whole museum catering to creationists. An odd way to stifle their curiosity, isn’t it? Why, it’s almost as if he’s trying to provide answers to their questions. Ham should create an organization along those lines…
3) Does Nye really not see the distinction between observations we can make today, versus speculations about things that happened in the past? Do you guys–even those of you who hate Bible-thumpers–believe me when I tell you that of course Ken Ham thinks astronomical observations are useful in science?
4) I realize agnostic believers in the standard, modern Darwinian synthesis might think it’s pointless for me to criticize a science popularizer. I grant that I’m not in this post doing anything about the deep questions in these fields. Rather, my modest purpose is to show just how AWFUL much of the “establishment” restatement of evolution is, when they try to reassure the masses that those wacky Christians have nothing useful to say. Nye can’t even state their position. I’m not upset with him; I think he is so sure these guys are blubbering morons/liars that it doesn’t occur to him to actually try to understand what they mean.