As I’m pretty sure everyone on the internet knows by now, Bill Nye recently had a debate with Ken Ham about whether creationism was a viable explanation for the origins of people and animals and plants and rocks and stars and stuff.  I’ll cut to the chase: it’s not.  Creationism doesn’t have any science behind it, and science is the only way of knowing things that answers the question “how do you know that?” with anything other than “because I said so,” so I’m comfortable dismissing it.

Anyway, after the debate, Buzzfeed writer (and I use that word extremely loosely) Matt Stopera asked a bunch of self-identified creationists to “write a message/question/note to the other side.”  Then he published 22 of them.  It is immediately obvious that none of those people knows anything about science and that most of them weren’t even listening to the debate they actually went to.  I decided to respond to these people’s stupid questions.

By the way, I know I’m late to the party here, but I like to think that I’m providing a more detailed response to all this stuff than most.  And I’m funny.

Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

There’s always one.  Or thousands.  “Think of the children” is such a common and meaningless refrain by people who don’t like hearing different opinions than their own that it’s become a laughable cliché.

The answer to this one, obviously, is yes.  Bill Nye is an educator.  His entire public career, dating back to 1993 when he was Bill Nye The Science Guy, is about teaching children about science and how the world works.  There is no possible negative connotation to that, meaning this guy is in one of a few camps.  The first option is that he thinks learning things is bad, which is possible, as many Christians seem to think that even knowing about the differently-minded will ruin your life, destroy your soul, and turn you into a homosexual baby-eating monster.  Or, to be less hyperbolic, many of them don’t want their kids hearing about evolution or homosexuality or abortion, because apparently they’re so insecure in their beliefs that they can only believe them if they think everyone else in the world agrees with them.  I don’t think I need to explain why that’s a moronic thing to think.

The next option is that he thinks learning evolution is a negative influence.  This, in my experience, is a stance founded on the idea that the only thing that gives value or purpose to your life is the fact that God granted it to you. These people apparently think that learning about evolution will lead kids to believe that they’re “no better than animals,” which will lead inevitably to nihilistic existential crises and their immediate suicides.

Yahoo Answers: for when you want an example of someone thinking something stupid.
Yahoo Answers: for when you want an example of someone thinking something stupid.

Again, though, this attitude hinges entirely on the idea that you are only important because someone else said you were, and you can only have a purpose if someone else gives it to you, rather than having some inherent self-worth, confidence, personality, impact on the world, goals, aspirations, and so on of your own.  Which is a far more depressing concept than the idea that your ancestors looked like monkeys.

I also feel I should point out that that person from Yahoo mentions that only humans got The Breath Of Life™ and that animals didn’t, which he likely thinks is a reference to Genesis 2:7, which says this:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

I hate to burst the Bible-thumpers’ bubbles (not true), but if you go back less than 200 words to Genesis 1:30, you find this:

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

So really, The Breath Of Life™ is only unique in the sense that it isn’t, even a little bit.  Every single animal on the planet has The Breath Of Life™ in it.  If only people who quoted the Bible had actually read it.  On to the next person.

Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

I am baffled by how often this (and the related “atheists are angry at/hate God”) comes up.  The short answer is no, Bill Nye is not scared of a Divine Creator because he doesn’t think that one exists.  It’s the same reason I’m not scared of Voldemort.  He may be, to quote one author, “the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  But he is fictional, and so all those horrible qualities don’t matter (that quote was about God, by the way, not Voldemort).

And secondly, Bill’s a scientist.  If there were any evidence of a creator, he’d be fascinated by it and want to explore it.  We’d want to find out as much as we could about the nature of this creator.  Is it an agent (in other words, did it create everything on purpose?  Is it capable of conscious decision?)?  Is it physical?  If it’s not physical, how does it house its thoughts?  If it’s physical, where is it?  How is it that it predates the Big Bang?  How big is it?  Is it measurable?  How does it communicate?  Are there other beings like it?  And so on.  There are thousands of questions about a creator that would need to be asked if we ever found a reason to believe that there was one, but we haven’t.  Discovering a higher consciousness, perhaps one that lives in another dimension but is able to interact with ours somehow, would be the greatest scientific discovery in the history of human consciousness, by far.  No scientist would be scared of it; they’d be clamoring over each other for a chance to investigate it.

Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e. trees with rings, adam created as an adult…

No, it’s not illogical.  It stands up to internal questioning, such as: if the universe was created 6,000 years ago but God wanted us to think (for some reason) that it was billions of years old, we’d expect to see light that looks like it came from really far away and rocks that look like they’re really old.  We do, so that means the internal logic of the explanation is fine.  However, we could make the same case that the universe was created this morning, and all human memories older than that are artificially implanted.  We could make the case that we’re all living in the Matrix and it all still holds up.


It comes down to the idea of falsifiability.  If I said that there’s a car in the parking lot right now, but you’re not allowed to go look, then you’d have no reason to believe me.  Looking is the test, and if you see a car, then my explanation is consistent.  But if I say that the car in the parking lot is actually a perfect hologram, looking is no longer good enough a test.  You have to go touch it or throw something at it to prove it’s real.  If I say it’s a model, but doesn’t have an engine, you now have to look under the hood.  If I say that it has an engine but doesn’t run, you have to start it.  And so on.  The more detailed my model of what’s in the parking lot, the more precise the test has to be in order to prove that my explanation of the universe is consistent with reality.

So in order for us to accept this “created mature” argument, someone would have to come up with a way of testing it.  You can’t just say “it looks old because it was created to look old,” because the test for that is “does it look old?”  If the answer’s yes, which it is, then it could support the argument that it was created old or that it actually is old.  There has to be a narrower test, and that doesn’t exist for the “created mature” idea.

Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

This one is especially infuriating because of his smirk.  No, smirky beard-man, it does not.  If it did, then some scientists along the line in the early years of figuring out evolution would have seen all those species and what appeared to be evolution and then stopped and thought, “wait, that can’t be right, that’d be a violation of the laws of thermodynamics, so there must be another explanation.”  That hasn’t happened.

The second law of thermodynamics is quite complicated, and has evolved over time (ironically).  I linked it so you can read it for yourself if you want.  Originally, it stemmed from the observation that when two objects of different temperatures touch, heat always moves from the hot one to the cold one.  That turned into the idea that energy always tries to evenly distribute itself, reaching a state of what’s called entropy.  Then came the idea of information entropy, which meant that more complex molecules will always trend toward breaking down into less complex ones.  Creationists think this means that DNA can’t form without outside help, but they are wrong for two reasons.  First of all, there’s a mechanism by which energy can approach more even distribution through the formation of complex molecules because some molecular bonds actually take more energy to break than to form, but that’s complicated and not actually that important in light of the second reason.

The second reason is that the Second Law only applies to closed systems.  Imagine the two-objects example.  If you have a metal bar pressed against a block of ice, the ice will melt and the bar will cool down as heat moves from the bar into the ice.  But if you imagine that there’s a blowtorch pointed at the other end of the bar, it might heat up instead.

Now imagine that on the system that is the primordial Earth, there’s an additional source of energy that might help with all the chemicals getting hot and agitated and forming new chemicals.  Imagine—and of course this is purely hypothetical—that there were a billion-billion-billion-ton ball of hydrogen and helium, glowing white-hot with the power of nuclear fusion, located so close to the Earth that it was capable of evaporating the water that covers its surface.  What I am getting at, extremely facetiously, is that the Sun is the source of some 200 petawatts of energy, which renders the entire Second Law argument moot.  Next.

Bill Nye Question 5

As the Earth rotates, the side of it that was facing the Sun turns away from the Sun and passes into darkness.  The transition between having a direct line of sight to the Sun and not having that direct line of sight is called a sunset.

That took me 46 words, and I could have done it in half that because I was over-explaining in a condescending fashion.

Seriously, the beauty of nature is the stupidest argument it’s possible to make for the existence of a supernatural being, and I’ll tell you why.

In the Amazon, there is a very slender fish called the Candiru.  Normally, it preys on other large fish.  By “preys,” of course, I don’t mean that it eats them.  That would be too neat.  What it does is to swim into the gills of larger fish and use the spines on its head to anchor itself inside the gills of the host fish.  It then bores its way into the fish until it finds a major artery and sets up residence there, drinking blood until the host animal dies and it moves on.  Here’s the fun part: it’s also attracted to the scent of urine.  That means that if you pee in the Amazon, this tiny fish can swim into your penis and take root, drinking the blood that it brings forth by tearing your genitals apart from the inside until it’s surgically removed.

Isn’t that beautiful?

You see, for every beautiful sunset or sweeping mountain vista or delicate flower, there’s a worm that lives primarily in the eyeballs of African children, or a mountain lion that breaks the neck of a deer and eviscerates it alive, or a parasite that infects the brains of rats and makes them sexually attracted to the urine of cats so that they’ll get eaten and thus spread via the cat.  I am not making that up.  Stephen Fry put it more articulately than myself:

You can’t just say there is a God because, well, the world is beautiful. You have to account for bone cancer in children. You have to account for the fact that almost all animals in the wild live under stress, with not enough to eat, and will die violent and bloody deaths. There is not any way that you can just choose the nice bits and say that means there is a God and ignore the true fact of what nature is. The wonder of nature must be taken in its totality, and it is a wonderful thing. It is absolutely marvelous and the idea that an atheist or a humanist if you want to put it that way, doesn’t marvel and wonder at reality, at the way things are, is nonsensical. The point is we wonder all the way. We don’t just stop and say, “that which I cannot understand I will call God.”
Which is how a man who earned a scholarship to Cambridge says "shut the fuck up."
Which is how a man who earned a scholarship to Cambridge says “shut the fuck up.”

Next question.

Bill Nye Question 6

The laws of thermodynamics do not apply here for the reasons I have explained previously.  On another note, I find it ironic that these people cling so ferociously to one extremely well-established fact of physics while summarily dismissing another.  It’s almost like they pick and choose the parts that support their particular belief system…

Bill Nye Question 7

Aww, look at her…she’s pretty, and she knows the word “noetics,” and she thinks that that’s enough to debunk evolution.  I’m guessing you don’t know what noetics are, because I didn’t and I know a lot of stuff.  Let’s check, shall we?

According to Wikipedia, “noetics is a branch of metaphysical philosophy concerned with the study of mind and intellect.”  You’ll notice that that is exactly zero percent more helpful.  By doing more research than I felt like doing, I discovered that noetic science (and I use the word “science” entirely incorrectly) is the idea that:

there are several ways we can know the world around us. Science focuses on external observation and is grounded in objective evaluation, measurement, and experimentation. This is useful in increasing objectivity and reducing bias and inaccuracy as we interpret what we observe. But another way of knowing is subjective — or internal — including gut feelings, intuition, hunches — the way you know you love your children, for example, or experiences you have that cannot be explained or proven, but feel absolutely real nonetheless. This way of knowing is what we call noetic.

So I think what this lovely woman is arguing is that literally the entirety of human scientific knowledge is bunk, because she has a hunch that there was a creator.  Let’s just let that idea die out as it’s intended to.

Bill Nye Question 8

This is a trick question of the type that comes up often in religious and philosophical discussions.  The classic, of course, is “what is the meaning of life?”  It’s made an appearance in every possible context, but people so rarely see the assumption inherent in the question.  For example, if I asked you what your favorite flavor of ice cream is, that assumes that there is at least one flavor of ice cream that you like.  And if I ask you where you derive objective meaning in life, that assumes that there is somewhere from which you derive objective meaning.

Maybe you don’t.  I certainly don’t.  I don’t think that each and every life is equally meaningful or equally precious or has some inherent purpose.  I don’t think my life has an inherent purpose, it has a purpose that I assign to it.  Some people dedicate everything they do to becoming an Olympic athlete, or to helping others, or to being good parents.  And some people dedicate their lives to the accumulation of wealth or to collecting stamps.  Is there any objective way to say which is more worthwhile?  Is there any objective way to say that the guy who spends ten years in a Buddhist monastery learning to calm his thoughts and meditate has spent his life better than the guy who spent ten years perfecting his golf swing?  No.  There are plenty of subjective ways to judge people’s lives, like by the children they leave behind or what they give to charity or their place in the record books, but life does not need an overarching hierarchy to have meaning.

Bill Nye Question 9

Mostly, yes.  By chance.  That’s how almost everything in the universe happens, even (according to some theories on the bleeding edge of physics) the laws of the universe themselves.  I could offer you explanations about how biologists and chemists think the first life might have originated, but they’re not important.  Because of statistics.

All we know right now is that life did originate here, and as far as we can tell, only once.  There’s no indication that there was ever life anywhere else in the Universe, and there’s no indication that there’s anything on earth that’s not based on DNA and protein and carbon and such.  That means that we have one data point for how life originates.  We know life can form on Earth and made out of certain things because it did, but could it be made out of silicon?  Maybe.  Silicon has a lot of the same properties as carbon, including its ability to make complex molecules.  Is an ability to make complex molecules important?  Sure seems like it, because that’s a good way to encode a lot of information in a cell.  Is it important to encode all our DNA in each of our 85 billion cells?  Maybe, but we don’t know.

We don’t know if life could have formed on a colder planet, or in a methane sea like the ones on Titan, or in the volcanos of Io, or anywhere else.  We don’t know if life needs water to form.  We don’t know if it needs sunlight.  We don’t know if it needs certain minerals, or a genetic sequence of some kind to code it, or if it needs to have evolved, because it’s only happened one time.

Since we don’t know what life actually needs to get going, we also have no idea how rare it is.  Maybe the conditions that gave rise to single-celled organisms here on Earth have only happened one time, in one place, in the history of the Universe, but probably not.  The Earth isn’t that special.  Our planet and solar system are made of the same distribution of stuff that exists everywhere else, so there’s no reason to think that there’s not another planet out there almost exactly the same as ours.  Or a million of them.  We don’t really know that either.  The point is that maybe life isn’t rare at all.  Maybe there’s life on half the planets in the galaxy, and some of it is made of silicon and some of it lives off of the radiation of nuclear decay in the cores of cooling planets and some of it is made of giant swarms of simplistic chemicals that can collectively think, like a giant computer.  We just don’t know.

But the entire point of asking the question “how could life have come into being by chance?” is to imply that it’s so impossibly unlikely for it to have happened that way that there must have been some outside influence.  If you take away the unlikelihood, then the question becomes as meaningless as if you were to ask, “how did that tree outside grow new leaves this spring?  By chance?”  That’s what trees do.  Maybe life is just what planets do.  We don’t know.

Which brings me to my last point: just because we don’t know doesn’t mean that your very specific alternative must be correct.  Even if we admit that life could not have originated on this planet by chance, it doesn’t mean that a supernatural being did it.  Maybe aliens did it.  And even if we admit that a supernatural being did it, it doesn’t mean that that being stuck around or gives a shit what you do with yourself.  And even if we admit that it was, in fact, a personal God who’s in telepathic communication with every living soul on Earth and is deeply concerned with your porn habit, it doesn’t mean that it’s your personal God who’s in telepathic communication with every living soul on Earth and is deeply concerned with your porn habit.  Maybe it was a different God.  But the point is that you can’t just say “no one has explained this to me, ergo Jesus.”  Or as Dara O’Briain put it, “Just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can just fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.”

Which is how a professional comedian says “shut the fuck up.”

Moving right along.

Bill Nye Question 10

Shut the fuck up.

Bill Nye Question 11

They don’t “embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources.”  No one thinks that.  I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but what you’re describing is in fact the premise of Prometheus.

Pictured: not science.
Pictured: not science.

The only thing that I’ve ever heard that approaches what this guy is talking about is the idea of panspermia, which is the idea that life here came from another planet.  We know that there are asteroid strikes forceful enough to send material between planets because we’ve found rocks on Earth that came from Mars, and if life came from somewhere else then we have to adjust our theories about what conditions it arose in.  Panspermia is considered by most to be a viable idea, but there’s no evidence it happened any more that there’s evidence that God created life.

What I have never heard, ever, is the idea that some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence created life on Earth and then left a la Prometheus.  Even if that were an idea that were bandied about, it’s still a completely unsatisfactory one, because it doesn’t explain where the aliens came from.  The problem of “how did life come from non-life” is no closer to being solved.

Bill Nye Question 12

Ah yes, the gaps in the fossil record.  There is no “inbetween,” by which I assume she means an example of a fossil that indicates an intermediary species between modern humans and their ape-like ancestors.  She does concede “Lucy,” an intermediate fossil discovered in 1974, which is approximately 20 years before this girl was born.  I say that because she looks young, but I’m torn because presumably someone who’s actually as young as this girl looks would have LEARNED HOW TO DO A FUCKING GOOGLE SEARCH BY NOW.  Here at this link there is a list of not one or two or five “inbetweens,” but a hundred and seventeen intermediary fossils connecting humankind and our more knuckle-dragging ancestors.  Read a fucking book.

Bill Nye Question 13

Metamorphosis doesn’t really have anything to do with evolution, except that it’s a characteristic that a very small sliver of the animal kingdom evolved to do.  Going into what is basically an intentional coma in order to devote all of an organism’s metabolic energy to growth, rather than annoying things like maintaining body temperature or movement, is a risky move.  On the one hand, a caterpillar can go through drastic bodily changes very quickly, but on the other hand, it’s entirely vulnerable during its metamorphosis.  Apparently it’s a risk that pays off, or it wouldn’t exist. The fact that metamorphosis exists doesn’t specifically support evolution, but it certainly doesn’t conflict with it.

Bill Nye Question 14

This man does not understand what “theory” means.  You know how in football, the center “hikes” the ball?  Did you ever notice, while watching a football game, that the center does not pick up the ball, throw on some leather boots, and climb a nearby mountain on a dirt trail?  That is because words mean different things depending on the context in which you say them.

This man does not know that.  He is also apparently not aware that creationism is not a theory, nor is the Bible.  Nor is he aware that some additional famous “theories” include gravity and relativity.  The idea that the body is made of cells is a “theory.”  So is the idea that germs cause disease.  Or the idea that things are made of atoms.  Theory, in the scientific sense, means an explanation of the natural world that has been repeatedly confirmed by both observation and prediction.  That’s important.  Take evolution, since that’s what we’re talking about.  Darwin saw that different finches on different islands, all very close to each other, had differently shaped beaks that seemed specially suited to the different seeds that grew on their respective islands.  To explain this, he speculated that minor variations in the shapes of their beaks would make them more or less likely to survive long enough to reproduce, and that over time those slight variations in survival rates would result in differently shaped beaks.  That’s observation.  That’s the easy part.  Anyone can see something happening and come up with an explanation for it that doesn’t have to make any sense at all (like “God did it”).

The hard part is prediction.  The prediction part is where you say “If X is true, then we’d expect to see Y,” and then you go and see if Y is true.  Like “if general relativity is true, we’d expect gravity to bend light.”  Einstein came up with general relativity in 1905.  In 1936, he speculated that proof of his theory could be seen in light being bent around large sources of gravity like galaxy clusters.  It took an additional 40 years before we got telescopes strong enough to show it.

If your explanation of the world can accurately predict astronomical phenomena decades before anyone has the technology to check on them, you’re probably on to something.  If your explanation is that God did it, but with magic and you’re not allowed to ask why, then we’re going to ignore you.

Bill Nye Question 15

We just talked about what a theory is, and science is not a theory.  That’s why you’ve never heard anyone say “the theory of science.”  Science is the means, by testing, observing, and repeating, by which we explain the world.  I’ll let xkcd explain.



Bill Nye Question 17

Already covered this one.

Bill Nye Question 18

Covered this one too.

Bill Nye Question 19

Yes.  That is the point of science.  We don’t have to take it on faith, because we have evidence.  Mountains of evidence.  So much evidence that I don’t even understand all of it, and I’ve been studying it for years.  If you have an hour, watch this video of Lawrence Krauss explaining how we know what we know about the origins and nature of the universe.  It’s fairly straightforward, as he’s a professor and knows how to explain things, but it’s still pretty technical information.  If you don’t have an hour, then shut your damn mouth about things you haven’t made any effort to learn until you’ve skipped an episode of House of Cards and watched the fucking video.

Bill Nye Question 20

Really?  Because I look at the whole world.  Like that quote said earlier, you can’t just look at the beautiful parts of the world and ignore the shitty parts.  The disease and the natural disasters and so on.  This is such a fantastically shuttered view of the world that it amazes me people still use it.

Bill Nye Question 21

Jesus Christ.  There’s no exploding star.  There never was an exploding star.  There are exploding stars now, but that is not what happened with the Big Bang.  Again, watch the video I posted of Krauss.

Are you seeing a trend here, dear readers?  Other than the fact that I’m getting lazier and lazier with each response?  How about the fact that these people believe that creationism is the best explanation for the way the world is and works, not because they’ve considered all the alternatives and decided to pick the one that made the most sense, but because they’re lazy.  Two hours on Wikipedia could have given these people the answers to every one of these questions, and another eight would give them a good look through the source material too.  These people aren’t just ignorant, they’re willfully ignorant.

They are living proof of the problem with giving up on scientific curiosity.  The minute you think you’ve found the answer is the minute you stop looking.

Bill Nye Question 22

I’m pretty sure this guy is only smiling because he’s suffered a debilitating aneurysm and his face is stuck that way.

3 Thoughts

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