We expect nonsensical, leftist propaganda from the likes of Bill Maher. After all, he’s a comedian. His job isn’t to think deeply, or at all, but simply to spout funny lines about the events of the day.
Being a liberal, he’s not very good at it, because he unfailingly puts his dull-witted, socialist political spin on everything he says. But he keeps the monkeys entertained.
It’s just disappointing, though, to see one of your child’s favorite TV role models, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” drive his train off the tracks and take a spin through Loony Town.
That unfortunately is what Nye did when he appeared on Maher’s show and began blasting religion.
Nye normally comes across as a smart guy, and the kids love him. I have to give him props for playing a role in prompting my own child’s interest in science.
But he’s clearly out of his depth when discussing religion and its historical relation to science.
Maher, playing the bad influence, got Nye talking about creationism, the bogeyman of atheists everywhere.
“You have this situation in Texas,” Nye said, “where people want to have creationism in textbooks. Unlike some other acquaintances of mine, I don’t have any big deal about somebody else’s religion, but if you claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, that’s just wrong.”
Maher prodded some more and got Nye to complain about Republicans rejecting evolution and that somehow that meant they were holding back scientific progress in this country.
Maher piped in with “religion is the enemy of science,” adding that faith and science can’t be reconciled. Nye appeared to agree … presumably based on Maher’s extensive scientific and theological credentials. (He printed them himself.)
It’s a modern myth that religion is at odds with science, and it flies in the face of the facts.
Historically, the Catholic Church has been one of the largest supporters of scientific endeavors anywhere. In the Renaissance, it frequently acted as patron for scholars from many fields, including astronomy. Today, the Vatican has one of the finest astronomy facilities in the world.
That’s significant because one of the earliest tales all schoolchildren are told to “prove” that science and religion don’t mix is the story of Galileo, who according to legend was sentenced to life in prison for saying that the Earth orbited the sun. According to the story, all the church scholars were ignorant cusses who thought the Earth was flat and at the center of the solar system.
The only problem with that story is that it’s false as it is told in most science classrooms. First, the astronomers of Galileo’s day were very highly educated men who were well aware that the Earth was round. Some of them even further agreed with Galileo’s theories in whole or part, because there was a debate going on over whether the solar system was geocentric (everything orbits the Earth) or heliocentric (the Earth is in motion and orbits the sun).
Galileo’s work, which owed much to Copernicus before him, was the subject of debate because supporters of the geocentric view already had a set of equations that predicted the orbits of the planets and other astronomical bodies quite nicely, albeit with some oddities like looping paths. Galileo’s equations, which assumed perfectly circular orbits (instead of the actual elliptical paths), were not entirely accurate.
Thus, while some fellow astronomers could see the virtue in Galileo’s ideas, the proof was still lacking.
The pope at the time was a friend of Galileo’s and asked him to produce a book that would present both sides of the debate. Galileo did so, but he put an argument for geocentrism that the pope had personally made in the mouth of a fictional character named Simplicio, Latin for “simple” or “idiot.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Without the pope’s protection, Galileo eventually was placed under house arrest, though he was allowed visitors at his rather large home.
Galileo’s troubles stemmed from his own personality flaws far more than from any controversy over his science. Similarly, the modern perception of a division between religion and science is manufactured by the personalities of those atheists and scientists who want to turn evolution and the big bang into articles of faith, rather than scientific theories that are subject to questioning.
People like Nye and Maher argue against competing ideas by appealing to authority, to “consensus.” But their argument reveals the only real danger to scientific inquiry: not the Bible-based beliefs of students, parents or scientists, but the ill-founded religious beliefs of atheists who confuse scientific theories with unassailable dogma.
Science, real science, demands that everything be questioned, even or perhaps especially, entrenched ideas like Darwinian evolution. People like Maher and Nye stand in the way.
As Galileo, scientific bad boy, said about authority: “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”
And he should know.