Yesterday I posted a video of Bill Nye calling creationists crazy for denying Darwinian evolution. “Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology,” he says.

In the wake of this post, I came across a comment on the facebook page of a friend of a friend who had shared the article. I thought it offered a great opportunity for follow up and clarification, so I’ll share and respond to it here.

“This guy [meaning me] kinda missed the point entirely. Creationism isn’t a science, and it shouldn’t be taught as a science. It’s a perfectly fine theological argument, but it should not be taught in schools along with darwinism. Plus, really? Someone is going to go after bill nye about science? And cite lawyers? Really?”

Really.

Because the issue really isn’t about science, is it? As I said yesterday, it comes down to assumptions. Which means philosophy. Which means logic and argumentation.

The comment illustrates the point I was trying to make. Creationism is ruled out as a viable option from the start because it is by definition “unscientific.” It has been relegated to the realm of theology. But why should it be?

You have two views of how life began. My view says that an all-powerful, intelligent, personal Being brought life and everything else into existence. Bill Nye’s view says that matter has always existed and that life sprang from non-life on accident. Both views rest on an assumption. The beginning of life can’t be observed. It can’t be tested. It can’t be repeated. So proponents of both views rest their confidence on faith.

The difference is, I acknowledge that my view is based on faith, while Bill Nye claims his view as the very foundation of science and makes fun of my view.

Science is supposedly based on the scientific method. First a hypothesis is formed. This hypothesis can be confirmed using the scientific method if it is observable, testable, repeatable, falsifiable, etc. My belief that life began with an Intelligent Designer cannot be verified using the scientific method, though I believe that using the scientific method to explore the principles and properties of our world generates evidence of an Intelligent Designer.

Is Darwinism any different? No. Can you use the scientific method to prove the hypothesis that life accidentally grew out of non-life? Absolutely not! So much so that serious scientists have proposed that since we cannot find conditions suitable to the spontaneous generation of life on our planet, life must have been sent to our planet from some other planet on which conditions were more suitable to the spontaneous generation of life from non-life.

What we have here is a philosophical commitment that precedes any scientific inquiry. This is why Bill Nye can in all seriousness say that creationism is unscientific and crazy simply because it is not based on Darwinism. He didn’t pull that assumption out of a beaker or read it under a microscope. That is a philosophical statement.

So again, it is essential that we examine the logic of what anyone says. A white lab coat is impressive, but it’s no substitute for good old-fashioned logic. How do we know what we know? Bill Nye says that we can know nothing about our world until we place our faith in Darwin’s theory of evolution. But I’m not buying it. And neither should you.

And as a footnote, let me also acknowledge that many respected scientists are convinced that life was created by an Intelligent Designer. Also, many committed Christians believe that God created the world using some form of evolution. The issue really isn’t science versus faith. It’s about an a priori commitment to a philosophical assumption and then using that assumption as the litmus test for what constitutes science.

 

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Mark Beuving
Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Mark, this is a good and necessary follow-up to yesterday’s post. People will quickly take and turn this whole situation into a science vs. faith discussion and miss the faulty philosophical arguments Nye is making in favor of evolution. Many of his statements actually appeal more to personal desire and some idea that we will propagate our species by teaching our kids evolution. He’s so driven by the theory of evolution that he thinks he’s doing the right thing for humanity by condescending to parents about how to teach their kids. It seems he thinks ‘the fittest’ are those who believe in evolution and they will be the ones to survive, since these silly people who believe in creation won’t exist in another few hundred years. It’s interesting how little scientific evidence or explanation he gives other than the idea that we should simply trust him because he’s a scientist. I was going to comment yesterday, but my comment got so long it turned into a post. Thanks again for sharing this. Here are more of my thoughts in response to each of his statements on the video. http://www.davidmquinn.com/2012/09/bill-nye-indoctrination-guy.html

  2. I also like this follow up. What I got from Bill Nye was nothing short of, “choose darwinism or get left behind by scientist and the rest of civilization who believes in darwinism.” While I enjoy and believe in science as an explanation to be grasped by our limited senses, (i.e..sight, smell, touch, etc.), I also understand there are forces at work far beyond my human senses. It’s weird that I thought about this but I can see the purpose behind Bill Nye’s “accept darwinism” as a means to unify atheists or begin a manisfestation of atheistic ideals within the children and parents of future generations who, by the way, will not be given the ability to think and understand beyond the four walls of materialism that Bill Nye and his co-thinkers are building. Maybe its a tactic to get everyone’s mind on the same page to spark another scientific revolution. Who knows..Biblical creation doesn’t teach against evolution, that is a big misconception today!

  3. Haaaaaaaaay, I am the author of the comment you cited.

    So, yesterday you pretty much started your article by saying you were unqualified to speak on the evidence for or against evolution, and proceeded to do so. In the process citing sources that were probably more, but still not completely qualified to comment on the issue. Regardless, to people like me, this issue is about science.

    Darwinism, the theory of evolution by natural selection, makes no claims on the origin of life itself, rather the origin of the human species. Evolution by natural selection is the central theory of biology, it has been tested, retested, proven, and reproven for the better part of two centuries. There is no way to test for the influence of a supernatural being. You acknowledge this point yourself in todays article. I can’t speak for Mr. Nye himself but I would like to think this is what he was driving at. Intelligent Design is not science because it is not testable, verifiable, falsifiable, etc. If new evidence came to light that pointed to ID the way the current evidence points to darwinism I would be all ears.

    Now, you mentioned many respected scientists are and were men of faith. Even Galileo, who was exiled by the church for scientific progress, never questioned his faith in a Christian god. However, I cannot claim to know how that first piece of matter came into being anymore than you can claim to know how your god came into being. That does not mean your answer to that ultimate question is any better than mine from a philosophical stand point. I do not believe in a Christian god myself, but as long as your beliefs don’t interfere with the lives of others I have no problems with people of faith. And that kind of gets me to what, I think, this whole thing is really about.

    I live in the bible belt. This means that most science teachers in high school either refuse to teach darwinism due to their faith or are scared to because of the parents’ faith. To me, this is a tragedy. ID is at best anti-science, and in reality anti-knowledge. Where does scientific progress go when you’re constantly looking for the influence of the super natural? Almost every other developed nation has decided that the answer to this question is nowhere. The U.S. supreme court has ruled that ID cannot separate itself from religion. I don’t want my future children to go to school and be told that ID is as viable a scientific theory as darwinism. They can form whatever religious views they want on their own, but they will have respect for science. I imagine that they will have a tough enough time being raised in a secular family where I’m from without being indoctrinated in biology class.

    To end, these kind of articles justify my beliefs and bring me no closer to believing in your god. You have no respect for the way I think and refuse to even consider it as a viable alternative. You’re not making any fishers of men out of people like me trying to discredit bill nye, that’s like me telling you Jesus didnt actually have super powers.

    • Hi Friend of a Friend!

      Really, thank you for dropping in and commenting. I do think these discussions are helped so much when we we’re able to have a warm dialogue about it. With me simply using your comment (which I used because I think you did a good job of expressing what many people think about the matter), it was one sided, so I appreciate you bringing the discussion here.

      As you and I have both said, I am not qualified to speak to the science of the issue. But as I have been saying, I’m more concerned with the assumptions that are driving and interpreting our scientific investigation. You mentioned that evolution has been tested, retested, proven, and reproven. Well, yes, if you’re talking about microevolution, but no, if you’re talking about macroevolution.

      The discussion gets muddied because both types of evolution are vaguely referred to under one heading: “evolution.” From what I understand, we have ample evidence of microevolution—new species of dogs spring up, the finches with bigger beaks that Darwin observed survive while the smaller beaked birds tapered off, etc. But we have no evidence of macroevolution. We don’t know of any dogs that have turned into non-dogs, and even Darwin’s finches went back to normal after a while.

      So I would argue that it is scientific to observe these changes taking place in microevolution. But it is philosophy to say that because we see microevolution taking place, then macroevolution is possible and responsible for the diversity of life we see today.

      We also need to be careful about saying Intelligent Design is not science because it does not follow the scientific method. I believe that the scientific method is an important way of learning about our world, but it is not a scientific test of what can be considered scientific. Here’s what we do. We say that only those things that can be verified by the senses—tested, repeated, falsified, etc.—can be considered scientific. But how do we know that that statement is scientific? Submit it to its own criteria of scientificness. Can the statement that “only those things that can be verified by the senses” be verified by the senses? No. This makes it self-referentially absurd.

      Now, that doesn’t mean that the scientific method is bad, only that it is a philosophical assumption that guides our scientific inquiry. So again, I seek to be honest about my presuppositions regarding creationism, but most Darwinists get off the hook without applying their own logic to their system. I’m saying we shouldn’t teach or that we should make fun of Darwinists. As I said in this post, committed Christians believe that God used evolution in forming the species. All I’m saying is that there is philosophy guiding the discussion in either case, so let’s not call creationism unscientific because it rests on a philosophical assumption.

      And here is why I am writing this in the first place. You said, “as long as your beliefs don’t interfere with the lives of others I have no problems with people of faith.” But I wrote this post because Bill Nye was saying that he does have problems with people of faith. He is saying we’re morons and are messing up our children by teaching them something other than Darwinism. In the real world, our beliefs do interfere in the lives of others. That’s not a malicious thing, it’s just the way it works. If I’m not allowed to teach my kids anything but Darwinism, then Bill Nye’s beliefs are interfering with my life. And if Christianity claims to explain the world we live in (it does), then I am not following Christianity if I pretend it matters only behind the closed doors of a church.

      You may not believe me, but I am actually pro-science. To say that Intelligent Design is anti-science and anti-knowledge is common, but it doesn’t work. As I said in my post, creationists are only considered antiscientific because the definition of science has been set as “that which accords with Darwinism.” So being a creationist is what makes you antiscientific in the popular view. That means that people like Bill Nye are defining us as a monster, then calling us one.

      I am truly grieved to hear that the Christians you are interacting with are more interested in indoctrination than education. I believe we should teach the views and help students develop the critical skills to make informed decisions. That’s why I like discussions like this one. Again, you may not believe me, but I do respect your beliefs. But I also think your beliefs are mistaken, even as you think my beliefs are mistaken. How could it be otherwise? What we should avoid is exactly the sort of thing that Bill Nye did in his video—insensitive, unsubstantiated name-calling that does nothing to move the discussion forward. And I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Christians are too quick to take this approach.

      May we do everything we can to challenge our own assumptions and discover the truth.