Bill Nye: Evolution Denial Hurts Innovation in Science and Technology

Television Host and Science Educator
The Science Guy returns to Big Think to address his creationist critics and warn against the risks of denying evolution, the fundamental core of life sciences. To deny evolution is to deny the facts that serve as foundation for modern medicine, anatomy, and neuroscience. If America produces too many citizens who deny science, it runs the risk of falling behind the rest of the world in innovation.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Bill Nye:  Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science. So if we raise a generation of science students who don’t understand the main idea in biology they’re going to be incompletely educated students and this is going to be trouble for the United States because the United States keeps in the game economically by innovating – having new ideas, new products, new ways of doing things. That’s what the United States produces and brings to the world. And if we raise a significant fraction of our students who don’t understand science we’re not going to have the engineers and scientists to continue this tradition. So for me it’s troubling objectively or subjectively as one can be and as a citizen of the U.S.

I believe, I think here on Big Think that the problem is the same thing that allows us to recognize patterns to imagine shapes and things and routes and ways to get things done before we actually start doing those things that that ability also enables us to understand that despite our best efforts we’re all going to die. And I think that makes all of us a little nutty. We all find it a little troubling. And so because it seems incredible that all this stuff that we store in our brain, all the memories we have, all the mental images that we are able to keep, all the algebra that we learn, that all that goes away when we die is really hard for all of us to accept. And along with this is that we are not nature’s last word. We are not the final answer that nature came up with. That we are not what some entity created as his or her very best work. We’re just one more step on the evolutionary timeline. And for many people that’s so troubling they can’t accept it at all. For me, of course, it’s empowering and amazing and it makes me want to live every moment of every day in the best way possible. But for a lot of people it’s literally unimaginable.

Our journey begins when I was in New York. I’m living in New York nowadays but a year and a half ago I came here on an airplane and I had to be someplace for a television interview at – I had to get up around 5:00 a.m. Eastern time which was 2:00 a.m. Pacific time. And by the time I got to Big Think I was worn out. I was a little worn out. And you guys asked me a fabulous question about creationism. I’m not sure why you chose to ask that question and I spoke from the heart how troubling I find it for the United States science educational system, for our science students in the U.S. to be excluded or not be enlightened and not be enabled by the fundamental idea in all of biology which is descent by natural selection, evolution. So you guys posted that and people went a little crazy on the electric Internet, the computer machine that the kids use. And I just remind everybody when people take the time to write and they take the time to hate me that much, these are not people you’re not going to reason with. These are not people that you’re going to sit down and have a conversation with and a discussion and achieve a new conclusion. We each have pretty much made up our minds and so you can’t worry about that stuff too much.

My concern is not for the grownups who take the time to write these inflammatory things and react to your fabulous website and so on. My concern is for the people who are still in school, the people who are the future of the U.S., the future of the U.S. economy. And larger the future of the world’s economy. I mean the United States is so influential. It’s the third most populous nation in the world and it’s the nation that sent people to the moon. I mean it’s still a big influence. You can make very strong arguments for South Korea, Japan – huge economies doing amazing – Brazil doing amazing things. But still the United States is the leader in this stuff and so when we exclude a generation of science students we’re headed for trouble. I guess what I would just remind everybody who is troubled, each of us who might be upset by the inflammatory comments below the Big Think videos, those people are not really in the mainstream and I will state categorically that if they really believe the earth is 6,000 years old they’re really wrong about that. And that’s not an extraordinary statement. But I can’t tell – I’m not sure if the guys, the people at Answers in Genesis really believe that the earth is 6,000 years old.

I’ll say they certainly seem to. When you’re with them they certainly seem to be true believers. But they all use mobile phones, they all use Facebook and Twitter and so on. They take advantage of all of our technology developed through the process of science. They’re all happy to have had smallpox vaccinations if they’re of a certain age. Or they’re all happy to have not died of smallpox, I’ll put it that way. They’re all happy to eat food grown on farms that is in general extraordinarily healthy in general compared to other parts of the world. It’s not laden with bacteria and other harmful pathogens that might be associated with food stock. Once in a while we have big trouble here but the United State food system is a lot better than most places. And they take advantage of all of that. But apparently they don’t seem to appreciate the science that led to it all. And what I find so troubling with the Answers in Genesis people is they have a very diligent or complete indoctrination program for young people. They have quizzes and workbooks and classroom curricula designed to indoctrinate young people in the extraordinary and obviously wrong idea that the earth is somehow 6,000 years old and there was a flood 4,000 years ago and somehow land plants survived and salt water and seawater mixed but there’s still freshwater fish and so on. All these bits of evidence in nature that point out how obviously wrong it is, they press on and they work very hard to indoctrinate young people.

 

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton