The culture wars in America continue to no end. And the September, 2014 issue of Popular Science magazine highlights that division with a cover story on Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, and how he plans to “save science in America.”
Such a polarizing statement is typical of what real science is up against, and it demonstrates a lack of understanding of what science actually is (and isn’t). In order for one to “save science,” one must understand what science is, and it would be helpful to understand the history of science as well.
One of the first questions I’m asking myself is, “How could a magazine that calls itself ‘Popular Science’, fail to understand what science is?” I think the answer to that requires an understanding of human nature. You see, the war isn’t really about science- it’s about a worldview, and which worldview will influence the most people.
Francis Bacon, the man most responsible for the formation of the scientific method, was a young earth creationist who believed God created a consistent universe that could be studied and understood. So it was a Christian worldview that gave birth to science, and now science has been hijacked by those, like Nye, with a secular worldview.
To demonstrate this hijacking of science, I’ll provide a few definitions. The word ‘science’ comes from the latin, ‘scientia’, which means, “to know”. The Oxford Dictionary defines science as, “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” And, according to the Oxford English Dictonrary, the scientific method is “a method or procedure … consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”
Unfortunately, a new definition of science and the scientific method has arisen, and it’s this new definition that is causing so much confusion and scientific illiteracy. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) now defines science as, “a method of explaining the natural world… Because science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance.”
Notice how they have purposely removed God from the equation, defining science in such a way as to deny him any involvement. No longer can anything be considered science if God is the cause. So when Popular Science talks about “saving science in America”, it’s talking about protecting and insulating their worldview from God. But the problem with this is, that if God is the cause for the existence of the universe and all life, and if God is excluded from the discussion, and if only naturalistic explanations are acceptable, then won’t that lead to an incorrect understanding of our world and a false view of science? The answer is yes. Scientists, then, would be forced to go on a wild goose chase and interpret the data by only naturalistic explanations that may have nothing to do with reality.
And this brings us back to Nye, a man whose lifetime work is being countered by young earth creationists like Ken Ham and myself. He’s frustrated because he’s not getting his way and is ready to throw a temper tantrum. According to his worldview, he feels responsible to defend “reason in the face of extreme faith”. Ironically, Ken Ham feels the same responsibility. The only difference is how each of these men defines “reason” and “extreme faith”. Ken Ham would consider Bill Nye as the one who exhibits the kind of extreme faith that must be countered, while Ham’s own faith is reasonable, especially in light of what everyone else believes (according to a 2014 Pew poll, 64% of Americans don’t believe in Darwinian evolution).
In the article, Nye (a former engineer who worked at Boeing designing screws for hydraulic systems) is making a pizza and explains the science behind it: how the yeast is transformed to cause the dough to rise, and how the warmth of the electronics speed the reaction of the yeast enzymes. Cool stuff, no doubt. But such an explanation demonstrates what true science is: a process that can be understood through observation and experimentation. But the problem with Nye’s understanding of science is that he goes from that which can be observed, to that which can only be believed by faith. That which happened in the distant past cannot be observed or tested in the same way we can observe and test the properties of yeast while making pizza! In other words, while God didn’t make the pizza in the same sense that Nye did, creationists do believe that God created the entire universe not that long ago, and to refuse to consider that possibility is actually anti-science; and that’s because it’s impossible to observe what happened at the very beginning. There’s no experiment that could cover all the unknown variables. Scientists would be forced to make assumptions about the distant past without the ability to confirm if those assumptions were correct. Therefore, those like Nye do possess a worldview and faith (even though they hate admitting such). And if they will not allow for any alternative explanations, then their faith has become extreme, intolerant and arrogant- the very things they accuse creationists of. Funny how that works.
Another indication of Nye’s secular faith comes from the revelation he received while making the pizza: “We are literally made of the stuff of stars… It gives me the willies- how can this be? How can we know our place in the universe?” The very act of making a pizza becomes a religious experience for him.
According to Nye, science is under siege, and he’s not going to let creationists ruin his career! However, considering that science is historically a Christian establishment, science is actually under siege by those like Nye, and it’s up to creation scientists to defend science from extremism of this kind. Science has been hijacked by secularists, and they’re angry that we’re not letting them get away with it. That’s downright horrible, isn’t it?
Despite secular science having the bully pulpit and political power, they readily admit that America is becoming more scientifically illiterate. But I would suggest that’s directly attributed to the rise of secular science and its false premises. Creationists are actually teaching students and adults how to think, instead of telling them what to think. Today’s secular science is all about indoctrination and telling people what they must believe. And that’s why American education standards are dropping. Students don’t know how to think for themselves; their minds are being shaped by secular propaganda, and since those standards are false, they’re ill-equipped to deal with reality. In this instance, Popular Science is attempting to shame its readers into accepting their position by painting Nye as a man of reason, giving him down-to-earth qualities and traits that would have its target audience gush in reverence, but then it treats Ham with contempt, claiming that his success comes from his faith and flock.
I find it insulting when someone like Nye lectures us with words like, “We would not have this [cool technology] without the body of knowledge of science… And to have people suppress that, ignore that, it’s certainly their First Amendment right, but it’s not in our best interest.” Nobody needed to believe in evolution or the Big Bang in order to make the technology he’s referring to. He clearly doesn’t understand what science is.
Therefore, I find it all the more important to engage in this culture war over science and faith, and it’s my hope that others will be open to discovering the truth, while rejecting the false portrayal of science by Nye.