Bill Nye, best known as TV’s ‘Science Guy,’ has just appeared in a video for the website the Big Think, in which he blasts belief in creationism and calls the idea bad for children, and thus the future. The video was posted on the Big Think’s Youtube channel and has already gotten over 1.5 million hits in less than a week.
So, what does Bill Nye have to say about creationism vs. evolution?
First of all, Nye recognizes that the United States is the most technologically-advanced nation in the world, thanks to science. The paradox: a segment of the population absolutely refuses to believe in the theory of evolution which, while still only classified as a ‘theory,’ is almost all but certain a fact. According to Nye, by failing to recognize that evolution, a key tenant of biology, really happens would be like trying to study geology while denying plate tectonics. The gist of the message: by failing to recognize evolution, much of what is explainable in the natural world via evolution becomes a mystery.
Then, the point that should make anyone who cares about science and/or education really think.
In his message, Nye says that the failure of certain people to believe that evolution is a natural process (or that it even exists at all), holds back the rest of the population and endangers America’s future as a global leader in science. Why? Because adults who deny evolution are more likely than not to pass on this belief in their children. In essence, Nye tells adult evolution deniers that if they want to live in ignorance and ignore the mountains of evidence supporting the theory, fine, but don’t go teaching their children to do the same as children who cherry pick what they want to believe in the world of science will be less well-rounded and less capable of solving problems and/or creating new ideas as adults.
So, is there a problem with science education?
In Ohio, the state has implemented academic content standards for all core school subjects, including science. The goal of these standards is to ensure that teachers are teaching the same content in every school at any given grade level. By looking at the Ohio science standards, one sees no reference to creationism/intelligent design, only evolution, to which there are over a dozen in just the high school grades alone. Besides scientific facts, the Ohio standards also emphasize the scientific method, which makes no room for including one’s preconceived notions in scientific research. .
As for the controversy of evolution vs. creationism in the classroom, in the last 40 years, every single court case seeking to challenge the teaching of evolution in public schools and instill a creationist curriculum has failed. Now, one may be asking “what does all of this have to do with astronomy and space?”
Like biology, astronomy is a subject that has had a history of conflicting with religion and, even now, can shock the sensibilities of some, particularly religious fundamentalists, who continue to hold onto the belief that the world was created in a matter of days and that the age of the Earth can be determined by counting back the years as given in holy books. Just as anyone committed to the correct teaching of science would be appalled at the lack of evolution in biology, a same revulsion would occur if the Big Bang along with solar system formation were taught side by side with the account in Genesis, or skipped altogether. Needless to say, omitting these two most basic of processes would do as major a disservice to any astronomy student as glossing over evolution or teaching it in tandem with a most nonscientific idea as creationism would do to anyone learning biology.
Needless to say, if biology teachers are too afraid to teach evolution through either personal ignorance or risk of offending someone, what’s not to say that astronomy teachers will become the same way if the religious decide to get up in arms over the Big Bang or solar system formation? It’s a scary thought but, considering the social climate of the country we live in, it may not be an impossibility, especially considering that the U.S. is an anomaly in the Western world wherein belief in creationism far outweighs that in evolution.
As a final thought, consider the following: in science, if there is any commandment, it is this: respect the facts. No matter what we want the world to be or what our preconceived notions are, the world is the way it is, inflexible to human will. If one truly wishes to assume a scientific mindset, he/she must have respect for facts, no matter how contrary to personal beliefs they are. In the case of both evolution and the Big Bang, all facts point towards the scientific theories, not the religious dogma, being the truth. Yes, there are many great things about religion, such as ethical principles, its function as a social bonding agent, influence on the arts, and many others. However, religion is not science and it should be kept out of the science classroom.
For more info:
The case for Evolution
Ohio Science Standards (click on the PDF file and go to pg. 136)
Ohio students fail to grasp science
Find where your child’s school ranks (note: only early 2000s data free to everyone)
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