Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Science and the Shepherd

The topic -- Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”  Why Nye?   Frequent flyer miles.  I didn’t have enough miles with one particular airline for a plane ticket, so I used them for magazine subscriptions.  It was an interview with Nye in my “complimentary” Time magazine that inspired this column.  

Reading secular publications like Time reminds me something retired USMC Lt. Col. Oliver North said, “Every morning I get up and read two things, the Washington Post and the Bible, just so I can know what both sides are up to.” 

The article about Nye starts with this:  “Bill Nye The Science Guy follows Undeniable, his defense of evolution, with his new book, Unstoppable, a call to action on climate change.”  The first thing that grabbed my attention was the seeming misapplication of the titles.  I thought “denier” was a moniker reserved for climate change non-believers, not those who might believe that, “In the beginning, God…”  Moreover, if evolution has to be defended, how exactly is it undeniable?   

Perhaps the explanation to Nye’s evangelism for the theory of evolution is best understood in light of a piece about Paul Karl Feyerabend, a German renowned for his work on the Philosophy of Science.  

According to Feyerabend, new theories came to be accepted not because of their accord with scientific method, but because their supporters made use of any trick – rational, rhetorical or ribald – in order to advance their cause.  Without a fixed ideology, or the introduction of religious tendencies, the only approach which does not inhibit progress (using whichever definition one sees fit) is "anything goes": "'anything goes' is not a 'principle' I hold... but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history."

The second thing in the interview that disturbed my Spidey-senses was Nye’s response to this question: “How do you make the average person understand science?”  Nye:  “You have to have learning objectives – things you want to get across.  You want to make a point:  Humans and dinosaurs did not live concurrently.  If you get the adjacent carbon dating of volcanic soil, that’s cool.  But what I want you to get is that ancient dinosaurs and humans did not live at the same time.  The rest is gravy.”   

I get that Nye has an ideology he wants to get across.  What through me for a loop was the need to dogmatically convince his intended target that, “Humans and dinosaurs did not live concurrently.”  Whether they did, or didn’t, has no bearing on whether or not Nye evolved from a monkey.

Nye’s book defending the “undeniable” gives an interesting summation of the unique position he contends human’s hold on the hierarchy of evolutionary development.  Nye says, “We are all so much alike, because we are all human.  But it goes deeper than that.  Every species you’ll encounter on Earth is, near as we can tell, chemically the same inside.  We are all descended from a common ancestor.  We are shaped by the same forces and factors that influence every other living thing, and yet we emerged as something unique.  Among the estimated 16 million species on Earth, we alone have the ability to comprehend the process that brought us here.” 

It is perhaps the height of haughtiness that Nye thinks he’s smarter than all the other animals.  I’m not sure how Nye can know with scientific certainty that we alone are the only species with, “the ability to comprehend the process that brought us here.”  The oldest book of the Bible (Job 12:7-10) has this to say about animals and their knowledge of the process, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,  or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,  or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

I do agree with Mr. Nye on one point, we do have “the ability to comprehend the process that brought us here.”  I simply disagree with Mr. Nye on what that process is.
I’m quite content to be as smart as the sheep mentioned in Psalm 103, “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”  

What Nye really needs is to know the Good Shepherd.


napari said...

The picture you posted of the Good Shepherd, if one recalls why the Good shepherd is carrying that sheep on his shoulders, is a perfect fit! ;)

Excellent presentation separating the wheat from the chaffe!

Weetabix said...

In college for my engineering degree (a particularly rigorous technical institution at the time), I took an anthropology class as a) an elective, and b) an opportunity to sit next to my girlfriend.

The chart they presented with dots for fossils and loooong dotted lines made me think, "If I extrapolated that wildly in an engineering class and presented my conclusions as fact, I'd get an F."

It brought me back to the Church.

Anonymous said...

In Darwins Black Box or some similar book, there's a great argument that sits well with my own engineering brain:
Typical protein is made up of about 500 to 1000 bases (A C T G) strung together, and the protein forms some complex 3D shape. Thus there's 4^500 or ~10^300 approx possible 500 base pair proteins. But there has only been 10^80 seconds since the Big Bang (if you believe the cosmologists). It is therefore inconceivable that a random process could sort through that many possibilities to get even one protein, never mind the complicated interactions of millions of proteins in the time available. And that's not even mentioning the problem of where the DNA code came from. God 1 Darwin/Dawkins 0