There didn’t seem to be anything all that remarkable about what Bill Nye said in one particular segment of his interview on Big Think that went viral. Perhaps it was the way he said it that hit a nerve. Nye said in a very straightforward manner that if parents don’t want to believe in evolution, that’s one thing, but they shouldn’t deny their children access to “the most fundamental idea of life science.” We need these kids to become the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, Nye insisted. Otherwise, you’ll be holding everyone else back.
Nearly 5 million Youtube views later, Nye’s statements to Big Think have garnered considerable media attention, and spirited debate. And that is certainly a good thing. Science should be an open discussion, based on constant questioning. That is why we feel it is now time for a follow-up. We asked Nye how educators should go about teaching evolution to students who are unreceptive to evolution (or whose parents might have decided that for them).
What’s the Big Idea?
This is a tough question not only because of the legal issues involved for teachers. It is a tough question from a strictly pedagogical perspective because the theory of evolution is, as Nye points out, so far outside of our everyday experience. The average human lives for less than 100 years, and yet the evidence of evolution is all around us. Therefore, evolution is by definition a difficult concept to grasp since you can’t observe it happening in front of you.
So here’s what Nye told us. The best way to teach evolution is to “let your passion come through.” After all, it is a hard thing to find a kid who doesn’t love dinosaurs, Nye points out. Indeed, even televangelist Pat Robertson has recently publicly come around on dinosaurs, rejecting the “young Earth” theological proposition that states our planet is 6,000 years old and therefore, (as some would have us believe) dinosaur fossils must either be forgeries or, just as preposterously, homo sapiens and dinosaurs cohabitated 6,000 years ago.
More on that after the video.
What’s the Significance?
So is Bill Nye winning over some unlikely converts?
On his “700 Club program,” Pat Robertson made a distinction between Bishop James Ussher — the Irish scholar who wrote a chronology establishing the date of creation as 4004 B.C. — and the authors of the Bible.
Here’s what Robertson said:
Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop Ussher wasn’t inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years. It just didn’t. You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas.
They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.
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