Hey Bill Nye! How Do I Escape Religion?

It's vital to adopt a critical approach to life and familiarize yourself with skeptical thinking. But Bill Nye cannot stress it enough: Do not confuse skepticism with cynicism.

Andrew LaRue: Hey Bill. I’m Andrew LaRue. I’m from northwest Ohio. Thanks for taking my question. My question is where — I’ve been indoctrinated with religion most of my life and I am 20 years old right now and I’m just kind of opening my mind up to what I’ve learned from science. And I’m just kind of wondering kind of by reeducating myself because religion is all I’ve really ever known. So I’m just looking to start over. Thank you.

Bill Nye: Andrew, this is a heavy question. How should you deal with science and religion? And what I tell everybody by analogy: When you learn about what we in science-education like to call skeptical thinking or critical thinking, where when someone says, "I have the ability to communicate with the dead," for example. At first you go wow really? And then they show you the evidence, which is you in a dark room and they hold hands and a ghost appears in the corner and you hear hissing sounds — shhhh, shhhh. If you’re led to believe that they’re ghosts, at first that seems quite reasonable to you. But after you start thinking about it skeptically, you go, "That’s probably a guy with a handkerchief on a stick and a steam kettle making hissing sounds probably." Which is what Houdini did by the way. So you come to abandon or change what you were brought up believing not in a moment, not in a revelatory instant, but over the process of many months and years.

So I encourage you, when it comes to religion, is to evaluate the claims which is a big thing in skeptical and critical thinking. Somebody claims that he— it was through his mind that he was able to get the tide to go extraordinarily low at the Red Sea. It could be. It could be, but there may be other explanations. It could be that when a football player or a baseball player in the U.S. has a successful play, hits a double in a critical point in a baseball game, scores a touchdown at an opportune moment — it could be that there is a divine spirit that enables this person to do this extraordinary thing at that moment. Or it could be that the person has been practicing this for years and years and years and he was at the right place at the right time and caught the ball or hit the ball or what have you. Both are explanations for you to evaluate.

The big thing is when it comes to ethics and morals and religion, to see if there’s anything different between what religions want you to do and what you feel you should do. What you think is ethically innate within you. For most people, most people are not inclined to murder people. But certain religions quite reasonably have rules against that. It’s antisocial. See if that comes from within you or it comes from outside of you — from without you. And then evaluate each claim and don’t beat yourself up. To become — I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about to be skeptical of astrology, be skeptical of extraordinary magic tricks, to be skeptical of faith healing, to be skeptical of crop circle origins. These things, it takes a way of thinking that you don’t develop in an afternoon. You’ve got to let them steep to turn over in your mind. But I hope you do a lot of it and all the time you spend on thinking about these thoughts will lead you somewhere. Now I don’t know exactly what you were brought up with, but if you’re in Ohio it’s very reasonable you’re in the Ohio River Valley. You were probably brought up with a lot of the Bible. I really encourage you to read the bible. Just read it and see if it all — see if it seems to be literally true to you. And they had some extraordinary penalties for crimes that or for perceived misdeeds that — modern penalties aren’t as severe. And there might be good reasons for that. If you’re in a small tribe, survival is a big deal and you’ve got to think fast and take swift action. Now after many centuries of reflection, our society has very different approaches to some of these deeds that are described — if the Bible is what you’re brought up with. You might be brought up with something else.

But just remember: Don’t beat yourself up. But get into skeptical thought. Check out skeptical websites and do not — be careful because there are English words that come to us from Greek. Do not confuse skepticism with cynicism. Those are two different things. Cynical means you don’t have any expectation of good outcomes. Skeptical means you want things to be proven or shown. They’re two very different things, but because the words come to us from Green and we merge or blend the consonant and vowel sounds, they sound very much alike to us. But they are two different things skepticism and cynicism. It’s a cool question man. Good luck.

 

Today's #TuesdaysWithBill question deals with the unending conflict between science and religion. How does someone who has grown up indoctrinated with religious thinking break the old mold and learn to embrace science and reason?


It's important to adopt a critical approach to life and familiarize oneself with skeptical thinking. Stick to the facts. Evaluate claims. Judge for yourself whether the things people say are truly steeped in reason, or if it's all just wool over your eyes. These mindsets take time and effort to develop, so don't get discouraged if you don't become a totally rational, skeptical thinker on day 1.

All that said, there is one thing Bill cannot stress enough though: Do not confuse skepticism with cynicism. See what he means in the video above.

"Acoustic tweezers" use sound waves to levitate bits of matter

The non-contact technique could someday be used to lift much heavier objects — maybe even humans.

Kondo and Okubo, Jpn. J. Appl. Phys., 2021.
Surprising Science
  • Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound waves to move matter through a technique called acoustic trapping.
  • Acoustic trapping devices move bits of matter by emitting strategically designed sound waves, which interact in such a way that the matter becomes "trapped" in areas of particular velocity and pressure.
  • Acoustic and optical trapping devices are already used in various fields, including medicine, nanotechnology, and biological research.
Keep reading Show less

Cockatoos teach each other the secrets of dumpster diving

Australian parrots have worked out how to open trash bins, and the trick is spreading across Sydney.

Surprising Science
  • If sharing learned knowledge is a form of culture, Australian cockatoos are one cultured bunch of birds.
  • A cockatoo trick for opening trash bins to get at food has been spreading rapidly through Sydney's neighborhoods.
  • But not all cockatoos open the bins; some just stay close to those that do.
Keep reading Show less

CT scans of shark intestines find Nikola Tesla’s one-way valve

Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla

Credit: Gerald Schömbs / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • For the first time, scientists developed 3D scans of shark intestines to learn how they digest what they eat.
  • The scans reveal an intestinal structure that looks awfully familiar — it looks like a Tesla valve.
  • The structure may allow sharks to better survive long breaks between feasts.
Keep reading Show less

Godzilla and mushroom clouds: How the first postwar nuclear tests made it to the silver screen

The few seconds of nuclear explosion opening shots in Godzilla alone required more than 6.5 times the entire budget of the monster movie they ended up in.

Culture & Religion

As I sat in a darkened cinema in 1998, mesmerised and unnerved by the opening nuclear bomb explosions that framed the beginning of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, it felt like I was watching the most expensive special effect in history.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast