National Center for Science Education Weighs in on Bill Nye

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National Center for Science Education weighs in on the Bill Nye story.

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The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is primarily concerned with promoting evolutionary teaching and aggressively opposing creationist initiatives. Commenting on creationist responses to Bill Nye’s video crusade against teaching creationist beliefs to children, NCSE’s programs and policy director Steven Newton has written a column reiterating the NCSE’s dogmatic positions and claims.

“Evolution should not—in the year 2012, after a century and a half of scientific verification from multiple independent lines of evidence—be the subject of controversy,” according to Newton.

“Evolution should not—in the year 2012, after a century and a half of scientific verification from multiple independent lines of evidence—be the subject of controversy,” according to Newton. By claiming the evidential support for evolution comes from “independent” lines of reasoning, Newton misrepresents the facts. Each “line of evidence” is interpreted on the basis of the same unverifiable assumptions. Resulting conclusions are used to support each other. This sort of reasoning is circular. And “verification” is also a deceptive word, since scientific “verification” requires controlled, repeatable scientific tests. Such tests to verify evolution are not possible, because the time of origins is long past and cannot be observed. Tests performed in the present to determine facts about the time long past are based on the unverifiable conditions presumed to have existed.

Several times Newton makes the usual NCSE assertion that no scientific controversy about evolution even exists. He says the “fierce, emotional response” is a “social (not scientific) controversy.” However, discerning between historical and experimental science is relevant to understanding how science works. And historical (origins) science depends upon worldview-based interpretations. By claiming no legitimate controversy exists, the NCSE is discouraging teachers from teaching children to be scientifically literate, discerning individuals.

To support his point that the debate over teaching evolution has nothing to do with science, Newton cites the Scopes trial and Tennessee’s 1925 Butler Act, which legislated against teaching “that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Newton writes, “The Tennessee legislature of the 1920s simply was unwilling to accept the reality of common descent with modification for all organisms, including humans, from earlier ancestors.” As usual, Newton is putting forth molecules-to-man evolution as if it were incontrovertibly factual when in reality those lines of common descent are imaginary lines in the minds of evolutionists. Transitional forms are notoriously lacking, and no mechanism has ever been found to provide for the acquisition of new genetic material to fuel upward evolution through random natural processes. Second, the Butler Act did not, as is commonly believed, outlaw evolution in Tennessee. The teaching of the evolution of all organisms was still permitted in the state, save human evolution.

Ironically, Newton’s Scopes example is a particularly poor choice to challenge the Tennessee legislature’s grasp of reality. The “scientific evidence” Darrow had entered into the court record consisted of an array of now-discredited “proofs” of evolution. Furthermore, Hunter’s A Civic Biology, the textbook Darrow championed as “enlightened science,” promoted an extremely racist view on an evolutionary basis and even advocated Darwinian eugenics.

Of course the NCSE spokesman says Nye was correct in his assertion that evolutionary theory is fundamental to all life science.

Of course the NCSE spokesman says Nye was correct in his assertion that evolutionary theory is fundamental to all life science. Rebutting this notion, evolutionist Adam Wilkins in the year 2000 published an article pointing to the paradoxical place of evolution in modern biology. He wrote, “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,’ most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. ‘Evolution’ would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.”1.”

Newton accuses creationists of holding “grotesque assumptions about science.” He doesn’t specify. Creation scientists maintain that the scientific method involves controlled, testable, repeatable observations. Does the NCSE thinks the scientific method is “grotesque”?

NCSE spokesman Steven Newton also seems to be ignorant of Nye’s background. Newton claimed, “AiG has a long history of attacking Nye, mockingly awarding him their 2010 ‘Humanist of the Year’ award.” In fact, Mr. Nye did receive the 2010 “Humanist of the Year” award, but not from Answers in Genesis! The American Humanist Association has been giving out the award since 1953. Nye, in his acceptance speech, said that, to deal with the problem of people not believing in evolution, “what we have to do is find a story that is more compelling, and I think we can plan that easily because instead of focusing on the truth we focus on the pursuit of it. We focus on the scientific method as a way to find the truth.”2 However, the scientific method cannot objectively provide the truth about origins because the long past time of origins is not amenable to experimental testing.

The NCSE praises Nye’s stand on the necessity of accepting evolution in order to make technological and economic progress and even to be scientifically literate. However, evolutionary dogma does not contribute to the “here-and-now” science used to probe the secrets of the present and to develop new technologies. And when it comes to scientific literacy, our nation’s children will be far more literate if they can discern the difference between what can be seen and tested and what can only be imagined.

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  1. Dobzhansky wrote this in The American Biology Teacher (March 1973) 35:125–129, posted at and quoted in “Can Creationists Be “Real” Scientists?” Read more about this iconic claim in “An Evaluation of the Myth That ‘Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution’.”
  2. G. Purdom, “And the Humanist of the Year Is . . .,” Answers in Genesis, blog post, June 15, 2010,


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