As anyone who follows the Internet debate over evolution probably already knows, Bill Nye the Science Guy recently posted a viral YouTube video attacking those who he says “deny evolution.” This is not the first time Nye, a popular educator and entertainer, has done this. But the media love Nye’s flame war, posting headlines like “Bill Nye Slams Creationism” (CNN) or “Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ Hits Evolution Deniers” (ABC News). In a bizarre coincidence, the headlines competed with other Internet buzz over rumors (thankfully false) that Nye had passed away.
Nye’s most recent comments are noteworthy because he articulates the intolerant position of many evolutionists towards skeptics. He tries to scapegoat Darwin-skeptics for many problems in society in order to justify taking away people’s freedom to teach kids about challenges to evolution.
The scapegoating begins when Nye says, “When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in it [evolution], that holds everybody back.” He says that those who “deny evolution” have a worldview that “becomes crazy.”
Nye then defines scientific literacy as demanding acceptance of evolution, and would remove from parents the freedom to teach their kids about problems with evolution:
And I say to the grownups, 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.
Of course Darwin-skeptics don’t “deny” that evolution occurs in some forms. And of course engineers don’t use unguided evolution to build things — they use intelligent design. And intelligent design is pretty useful in advancing scientific knowledge. Also, one recalls that engineers often find that nature, which supposedly wasn’t designed, works better than our designed technology. But never mind all that. The point here is to highlight Nye’s argument for intolerance, which has three parts: (1) Accepting evolution is the definition of scientific literacy, (2) People who “deny evolution” hinder the progress of society, and therefore (3) Parents should not teach their kids to doubt evolution. It’s unfortunate that Nye is so intolerant that he would discourage parents from teaching their kids about their own beliefs, whatever they may be.
Since Nye cares so much about kids, would he prevent kids from learning about the Altenberg 16, a group of leading scientists who convened in Austria in 2008 to discuss shortcomings in the neo-Darwinian paradigm? Should kids not know about Thomas Nagel, a leading atheist philosopher who just wrote a book arguing that “the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”? Should kids not understand that just two months ago a leading scientist in the journal Nature stated that new discoveries about RNA are “are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree”?
What’s concerning is that Nye represents an increasingly prevalent view among materialists — one that hopes to restrict freedom of expression for skeptics of Darwinian evolution. And I’m not just talking about the standard NCSE-style intolerance which opposes teaching about scientific views that challenge Darwinism in schools. I’m talking about Nye’s unwillingness to endorse parents’ rights to inculcate in their own children their doubts about Darwin. It’s scary to think what the world would look like if these people had their way. Meanwhile, many in the scientific community continue to criticize the Darwinian paradigm.
Bill Nye is welcome to believe and say whatever he wants about evolution. But perhaps Nye has some catching up to do, both in his scientific understanding of the current status of Darwinian evolution, and his commitment to liberal values like freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, and parental rights.