Bill Nye the Science Guy!

For those of you who went, Bill put on a great show. Or rather conversation. He spoke about many different topics including his debate with Ken Ham, climate change and how we as a generation can contribute to helping feed the world and provide clean water to places in need.

I wanted to base this conversation off some of the questions that the moderator asked Bill, which he never really answered.

Can you have faith and be a critical thinker? If the origins of the earth and where we came from are concretely true, could you still believe in a faith? Lastly, Bill called for the separation of religion from science. What do you think he meant by this?

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14 Responses to Bill Nye the Science Guy!

  1. sunny2018 says:

    I feel like his statement that science and religion should be separate relates back to the question of if you can have faith and be a critical thinker in that it is absolutely fine to have faith as long as you still think about science critically and not in terms of your faith. He did mention that we all have something we ‘believe in’ that we know can’t necessarily be proven; however we still apply critical thinking to science. After all, there are plenty of people who are able to separate their religious beliefs from what they know is scientifically true. Personally, I think this comes from the ability to view religious texts as parables rather than hard truth.

  2. regan1984 says:

    That is a good point, however it may be hard for some people of faith to simply begin to think critically about science. To think critically for them would be to try and associate themselves with and understand certain scientific theories and/or facts. In doing so they would be coming up against certain theories or ideas the directly challenge their religious beliefs. It just doesn’t seem like a completely plausible method of incorporating both subjects; of science and religion. Furthermore, I’m interested in some of the contridictions that he brought up regarding Ken Ham. I’m a little confused as to what “line” he said Ham and the creation museum crossed?

    • Regan1984- Like it has been discussed throughout the entire semester in blogs, science and religion have a different foundation. From what I know, the debate over evolution did not use to be as big as it is today, it would only take place in court rooms. People would have faith and still be able to believe the facts of science. This noticeable gap in beliefs has only recently been brought into spotlight by certain people who wish to receive credit for “changing the world.” I believe Bill Nye was referring to Ken Ham’s attempt to make creationist believes seem as facts, something Mr. Nye described as crossing the “line.” What if we change the perspective of this conversation a little and try to see things from another point of view. I personally believe in evolution, but something that was discussed yesterday as well as in the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham was: Is science not willing to hear other perspectives? Yes, it seems ridiculous for scientists to debate weather the world is 6,000 years old because, through scientific processes, it can be proven as a false statement. But what if another theory was presented, such as that humans and civilizations were created by aliens, something science can not prove or disprove. Could that be a topic scientists would be willing to enhance in? I am basing this question of the beliefs that Egyptians were contacted by aliens who helped create the pyramids and their civilization.

    • graduallychanging says:

      Regan1984, it is possible that I might be mistaken, but I believe that Bill Nye, by “line” was referring to the creationist organization taking tax breaks for supposedly attracting tourists to the state while denying gay employees.
      The problem (apart from the moral issues, of course) with the organization’s practice is that organizations with restrictions based on sexual orientation and/or religious cannot receive government funds.

    • sunny2018 says:

      I think the ‘line’ he was referring to being crossed was Ken Ham’s museum being funded by tax-payer money despite its discriminatory hiring process and presentation of ‘facts’ that have no scientific basis. And I agree completely that the separation of religious and scientific thought can be very challenging. I’m not suggesting that it’s a compromise/way of thinking that could happen overnight, or at all in many cases. Rather I was speaking from personal experience; I know plenty of people who are deeply religious but also see evolutionary theory as fact and think critically about science. Like I mentioned, these people view the Bible more as a parable rather than absolute fact, making it easier for them to incorporate both ways of thinking.

  3. I think it is, as he said, the community (and I would add spirituality) that religious scientists enjoy. I think that for a person to be a critical thinker it is almost impossible to accept the stories from the Bible. Is the dogma that is tacked onto religion that ruins it for me. Also I thought that the event was a little short. I was really enjoying the banter but I would have liked to hear Bill Nye talk more about his book.

    • graduallychanging says:

      Sorry for the repeated comment, my previous one was sent accidentally.

      Anonymousgwustudent, I agree completely. In order to believe many of the Bible’s premises, a person would have to blindly accept what the Church says. Bill Nye’s example of the trees that are approximately 5000 years old truly helped to get his point across. In my geology course, for example, if a student were to take an exam with the mentality that everything was created 6000 years ago, the vast majority of the assessed material would have to be perceived as false. Geology was the first branch of science that came to mind, but I am sure that many of the concepts that are considered facts in other branches of science contradict the ideas of young-earth creationists.
      As we discuss the relationship between religion and critical thinking, I think it is worth mentioning that faith is defined as “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something” (Oxford Dictionaries). Does this definition mean that in order to be truly devote, one must not think critically?

      • I think there is a problem with that definition of faith. We are not talking about having faith in something or someone. We are talking about the second definition “a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” I think spirituality is relative.

        • There is a very distinct difference in both of those definitions. I would agree with anonymousgwustudent in that in this case, we are using the second definition which brings up faith and belief in God. But I would disagree in that simply because you believe in the Bible does not mean you are not a logical thinker. What about those people, like myself, who believe that the scriptures found in the Bible should be taken as references as to how we should live our life, rather than to be taken literary? Would that make me or other people an illogical thinker?

  4. collegeblogger19 says:

    Regan1984, I think it really depends on the individual if they are able to be religious and think critically or not. There are obviously some religious people, like Ken Ham, who are so set in their beliefs that they are too stubborn to even consider a scientific finding when it contradicts with their religion. Bill Nye even brought up the fact that Ken Ham said that nothing could change his mind–no amount of scientific evidence could make him believe in evolution. However, I think there might be some religious people who are not so engrossed in their religion that they can appreciate science and think critically about scientific findings.
    In response to graduallychanging, I think the rigid definition of faith implies that one must only worship that higher power, or god. However, I think religious people (of the younger generations especially) are beginning to re-define what it means to be religious. For example, many of my friends from home consider themselves religious–but they believe in evolution and view the Bible as not straight facts, but almost like parables on how to live their lives. These new perspectives of the Bible that they are adopting allow them to accept scientific findings and think critically about the physical world.

    • mteisen says:

      I agree with you. I think when we discuss religion in this class we tend to envision fundamentalists or extremists that take the word of the bible literally. The truth is that most people are moderate in their beliefs. It would be completely incorrect to say that Ken Ham speaks on behalf of most Christians because truthfully he only represents a minority.

  5. I really enjoyed Bill Nye’s talk. He was very intriguing and obviously extremely intelligent. He articulated his arguments well and especially knew how to defend evolution, thanks to his debate with Ken Ham. His humor showed his light-hearted view on the debate between religion and scientific reasoning, as he obviously sees a clear victor.

    As sunny2018 said, he did mention that we all have something we ‘believe in’ that we know can’t necessarily be proven. One of his humorous examples including, “the Mets will win the next World Series.” Bill Nye believes that faith is part human nature; to believe in something without any solid evidence. Critical thinking is necessary to advance logically and scientifically as a modern society. I believe it’s possibly to be faithful to unproven ideas. This is precisely why Creationism should no longer be considered a plausible alternative to evolution since there is so much evidence built up against it. Scientific evidence has proved that our Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Faith has been a key role in making scientific discoveries in the sense that scientist would never pursue their ideas if they didn’t have faith that they were ultimately true. For example Copernicus had to go against the views of the majority of his society. His faith in his own ideas allowed for the progress in understanding the Earth that we live on.

    Regarding the second question, I would say that you cannot have ‘complete’ faith in a religion or unscientific theory while still critically thinking and understanding the truth in our origins. There is some leniency in the sense that the few aspects that are still unexplainable (the origin of the universe), one can turn to a faith and believe in some higher being in order to compensate for our lack of knowledge as a human race.

    The separation of religion and science is extremely important for our society to develop beyond religious theories. Secularist societies are key in allowing true religious freedom in that any person can practice their individual beliefs without another’s being imposed onto them. Nye showed this belief when he spoke about when to consider an embryo to be a living being. It can be considered as early as every individual sperm, meaning that men would waste millions of possible human life in a single ejaculation. Secularist societies can also allow for scientific discoveries since there aren’t any religious ideas that set boundaries or moral standards.

  6. waterbottle19 says:

    It was interesting how hesitant Bill was to answer that question. Personally, I agree with him. He might have said it as a joke, but I really don’t think there is a problem if faith and critical thinking are in different spheres. Faith doesn’t necessarily entail following organized religion. Believing in a supernatural force or a supreme deity or however you want to describe it does not mean you must follow Christianity or Islam or any other religion. Therefore, following into the trap of not critically thinking about the stories religions present as fact never happens. There are things we will never be able to prove and the existence of a higher power is one of them. That is faith. Believing in something that has no evidence in support. While this doesn’t describe me personally, I think this could be an adequate reconciliation between faith and critical thinking.

  7. macnplease says:

    It is definitely possible to remain faithful while being a critical thinker by nature; many people are simply unaware that they have the ability to utilize both appropriately. Faith does not necessarily mean the conscious objection to scientific theories; I could have faith in the loyalty of my friends, for example. Faithfulness, i think, is one of the more admirable human virtues.

    Likewise, it would still be entirely possible for a religious person to maintain faith should the scientific theories about our origins be completely accurate. They could still believe in a divine creator that set off the sequence of evolution, for example.

    I think Bill meant something along the lines of a similar blog post that was discussed here recently; that people shouldn’t claim to “believe” in science or evolution. It is not something that needs belief as justification for accuracy; reality is reality whether you are aware of it or not. For this reason, people should alternatively say “I accept the theory”. It implies less reliance on faith, which is inherently different from logic and scientific deduction.

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