Several months ago, my husband and I took our daughter to the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles to see its new Dinosaur Hall. The trip didn't disappoint. Not only was the dinosaur exhibit mind-bogglingly cool, right next door was an exhibit called the Age of Mammals, which led us through 65 million years of continental movement, climate change and mammal evolution. One of the neatest things, to me, was the row of skulls documenting the changes in human face and brain size over the last 2.5 million years. Taken as a whole, the museum was one big, stunning homage to evolution. And, later, when talking about the experience, my husband said: "I felt like I'd found a church."
Last week, Bill Nye (of Science Guy fame) made headlines when his youtube video, titled "Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children," went viral. Recorded for bigthink.com, Nye urged parents to teach their children evolution — even if they, themselves, believed in the literal translation of the Bible's Gensis. Here's the video:
Since then, many have thanked Nye for using his unique position to educate parents on the need for science-oriented young people. Others have erupted in anger and called his video an attack on religion. Still others have found both good and bad things to say.
Valerie Strauss, who writes The Answer Sheet for the Washington Post, for example, applauded Nye's message, but added:
"Unfortunately, Nye muddies his video by saying that one reason people shouldn’t force their kids to believe in creationism is that 'we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.' Why couldn’t a creationist be an engineer?"
She's certainly right about that.
Responding to his critics, Nye appeared on CBS a couple of days ago.
"I'm not attacking anyone's religion," Nye said. "But if you go to a museum, and you see fossil dinosaur bones, they came from somewhere. And we, by diligent investigation, have determined that the earth is 4.54 billion years old, and the sun is a star like all the other stars you see in the sky, and we are made of the same stuff. This is wonderful. [These are] fantastic discoveries that fill me with reverence."
Here's the full interview:
Promoting evolution — or even attacking creationism — is not the same thing as attacking religion. Creationism does not equal religion, and religion does not equal creationism. Plenty of people — more and more every day — reject the literal truth of Genesis, and even those who don't may still be open to discussing all possibililties. There are even some Americans who believe, somehow, both theories are true. "The Lord works in mysterious ways" and all that.
I don't think it's realistic to think that parents who believe in creationism will teach their kids anything but creationism. But maybe they will at least leave the door cracked open to other possibilities. And even if they don't, I'm glad Nye said his piece.
At least it has gotten people talking.