Bill Nye Saves the World . . . Yet Again?

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The third season of Bill Nye Saves the World, a series of programs just released last week on Netflix, delves into the following topics: death, water, addiction, food, evolution, and pets. While the series overall is consistent in its simple science, rants, and the like, it seems to be growing up a little. The crude, sometimes obscene humor was somewhat reduced in this season, and the snark is a bit more tempered.

Naturally, evolution is mentioned in several of the episodes, and one in particular focuses on it. Somewhat surprisingly, Nye limits his condescension to those who do not toe the line, going so far as to suggest ways to bring those who deny evolution into the fold. The evolution episode, “Evolution: The Fact of Life,” brings in Dr. Francisco Ayala, a Roman Catholic professor. With the blessing of his church, Ayala switched from becoming ordained to obtaining a PhD in genetics with the intent of convincing Christians that faith and evolution are compatible.

In this evolution episode, Bill begins by noting how humans yearn to know who we are and where we come from. He mentions that he was very religious as a young boy, but that his questions about life led him to science and evolution for answers. While he uses his belief in evolution in an attempt to provide answers (incorrectly of course), evolution does not answer one very important question that humans wrestle with: why? Yet the Bible answers all of those and offers hope and a future.

Evolution does not answer one very important question that humans wrestle with: why?

It seems the fossil record was the primary thing that led Bill to believe in long ages for the earth. He mentioned the Tiktaalik fossil as a prime example of the truthfulness and predictive power of evolutionary thinking. Bill stated that scientists predicted a water-to-land transitional organism that should be in the appropriate rock layers on Ellesmere Island in Canada, went looking for them, and found them.1

Proof Positive?

But such a find isn’t exactly a surprise for creation scientists either. Fish with “scooting” abilities make sense in a shallow river delta. Rock layer dating is loaded with circular reasoning and assumptions, as we’ve often discussed on this website. The environment provides the answer to what kind of organisms would live there, aided by either direct design by our Creator for such a habitat or by genetic diversity in the existing genome provided by the benevolent Creator for survival and adaptation.

Another supposedly compelling example of evolution in action cited by Bill is the London Underground mosquito. In merely 100 years, a new species has evolved, he declares, to prey on rodents and humans in the subway system. Such rapid speciation is no surprise to creation scientists, particularly with an insect with such a short generation time. These sorts of changes, along with antibiotic resistance, pesticide resistance, and even changes in finch beak sizes, are continually conflated with changes across kinds. Not one of those “proofs” shows any changes that would result in one kind of creature evolving into another kind.

Terminology

Which brings us to an important point (one that Bill himself brought up in the show): terminology. Making a point against those who would argue that “evolution is just a theory” (and, for the record, we’d argue against that too, but for different reasons), Nye says evolution has been proven many, many times and defines theory as a “special idea that’s been tested and proven many times through observation and experience.” Apply that to Tiktaalik supposedly climbing its way onto land 350 million years ago and paving the way for land creatures’ evolution. Doesn’t work, does it?

Now, apply it to mosquitos adapting in 100 years to different mating patterns and preferential targets. Yes, you get the idea: this works! Note the proper word was adaptation, not evolution (though we can use either word generically to refer to change, as long as it’s observable change within the created kind, not over unobservable events and timeframes).

Assurances

The episode attempts to reconcile Christianity with Darwinian evolution. Not once was the Bible used, however, as evidence for explaining the problem with evolution writ large. Scripture was, however, used once in the program in a twisted way to prove that it wasn’t reliable (and with an argument that we’ve addressed multiple times!)—and that was by a person positioned as a Christian on the panel who believes that we can understand Christianity better through evolution. Dr. Ayala affirmed that it was his reading of a book (not the Bible!) that led him to want to study evolution instead of being a priest. Then it was his church mentors who encouraged him to study evolution—to convince others that evolution and faith are complementary: that one gives information that the other does not.

But, think about this: if God in his written Word only gives truthful answers about one thing, and it either can’t speak to the other things or, as Dr. Ayala suggested, has and is wrong on those other things, what kind of God and truth is that? Further, Dr. Ayala kept referring to authority figures and statements from his church to back his assertion that faith and evolution are compatible. Why bother to crack open the Bible then? Because if you do, just to be clear, you will find that it is not compatible.

In reality, if you accept evolutionary teachings, then you distort and obscure the life-saving gospel message.

In reality, if you accept evolutionary teachings, then you distort and obscure the life-saving gospel message that man, a special creation imbued with God’s image, rebelled against his Creator. In this fallen state, man is deserving of death and eternal separation from God, yet is able to be restored through the blood of God’s only begotten Son.

Though there is much more we could say about Nye’s other new episodes, space only permits replying to a few items. In episode one, the theme was cheating death. We can all agree that death is our adversary, but only the Bible gives us hope of not just cheating death but defeating it (1 Corinthians 15:20–26). That is the way to live forever.

Episode six lumps humans and animals together, as it should if it is to be consistent with evolutionary beliefs. But it is noted that something makes us different, with most of us involved in organized religion or belief in supernatural things. Though some animals are mentioned, such as elephants and crows that seem to have some sort of burial or death ritual, the closest thing to a suspected belief that animals have a sense of something supernatural is the recent study of chimps throwing rocks at trees, which we’ve discussed. And though Bill said in this episode that humans are “no better than a crow” (much like he told a little girl at the Ark Encounter two years ago that she was an animal, though a wonderful, beautiful one), those of us that have experienced a personal relationship with the one true God of the universe can say that is not true.

Yet you have made him [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5)
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13)

The true Savior of the world has made himself and the way to his salvation known to mankind in his Word. Yes, there is a Book, and it was written to tell man about a Savior:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

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Footnotes

  1. “The paleontologists who found Tiktaalik went looking for it. Previous research suggested that vertebrates' invasion of land took place about 375 million years ago in a river—so Shubin and fellow researchers searched for fossils in 375 million year old rocks that had preserved a river delta ecosystem. Having studied other organisms from this water/land transition, the paleontologists knew what sort of animal they were looking for. And when they did discover Tiktaalik (after five separate expeditions to Canada), it wasn't much of a surprise: Tiktaalik had the set of characteristics that they had expected to find in such an organism. In sum, discovering Tiktaalik simply confirmed many of the hypotheses biologists had held for a long time regarding the origin of terrestrial vertebrates. So although Tiktaalik didn't revolutionize anyone's thinking in this area, it does play an important role in moving science forward. Biologists can now capitalize on this knowledge to elaborate their hypotheses (about, for example, why vertebrates moved onto land), to make other predictions, and to discover more transitional forms.” “What Has the Head of a Crocodile and the Gills of a Fish?,” Understanding Evolution, May 2006, https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/060501_tiktaalik.

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