Reflections on our Interview with Bill Nye
How does our interview of Bill Nye relate to our core mission? President Haarsma explains.
Yesterday our blog featured an interview with popular author and scientist Bill Nye. The interview was published on the one-year anniversary of Nye’s well-publicized debate with Ken Ham, which we commented on extensively last year. We have had several online exchanges with Ken Ham since then, but no communication with Bill Nye. We approached Nye and he agreed to an interview with our content editor, Brad Kramer, about his recent book. The email interview had two rounds: an initial set of four questions, then a set of followup questions (interweaved throughout the piece) to interact with his responses to the first round.
The debate last year was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Unfortunately, it reinforced the idea that science and biblical faith are at odds. As I wrote before the debate, we at BioLogos maintain that you don’t have to choose. You don’t have to give up Christian faith in order to accept the best, most rigorous science. We agree with what Bill Nye says about the science of evolution and the age of the earth. Dates based on nuclear decay, fossils, genetics, and other scientific evidences make a compelling case that all life on earth is related and developed over a very long time through natural processes. But we’re also brothers and sisters in Christ with Ken Ham and other creationists. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and rose from the dead, and that the Bible is the authoritative word of God. (Read more of what we believe.)Nye has done great work over the decades as a science educator, inspiring millions of children to love science.
We share that love of science and, like Nye, the universe fills us with wonder. In the last year however, Nye has been moving beyond celebrating science itself into troubling rhetoric against the Bible and Christian beliefs. And he is rapidly becoming a major voice in the national science/faith discussion.In the interview, Nye claims to only be arguing against the view that the earth is only 6000 years old, and not saying anything about religion or Christianity. We’re thrilled to hear him say, “your community and mine can live and work together without conflict.” Yet the back cover of his book is filled with endorsements from outspoken atheists, and the book seems to expand the word “creationist” to refer negatively to anyone (especially Christians) who thinks nature is the product of Divine craftsmanship. In the interview, Nye reduces religion to “a strong sense of community and mutual support.” He sees science as a replacement for any sort of traditional religious belief, and even as a more satisfactory way to answer questions than religion, including the largest questions of the meaning of life.
Although Nye may not accept religion for himself, I want to emphasize that accepting the findings of science does not require rejecting Christianity. Christianity and science are complementary, not competing sources of truth. Many great scientists of the past and present were and are people of deep Christian faith, like Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, and Francis Collins. In our view, science is a powerful tool for answering questions about the physical world, and shows us the amazing “how and when” of God’s work in creating all life. But science is not equipped to answer questions about meaning, purpose, love, and God, and we look to the Bible for the “who and why.” When we ponder the natural world through the lens of biblical faith, the signs of a divine plan and intention in the created order are unmistakable.
The meaning of life, then, comes from our Christian faith: loving the God who forgave our sins, loving others, and being good stewards of the planet God asked us to care for. Thus, at BioLogos, we do call ourselves “creationists” because we affirm God as the creator of the cosmos. We add the adjective “evolutionary” (in contrast to “young earth”) to signify the means we think God used to bring about life.Of course, Ken Ham and Bill Nye are not the only voices BioLogos is engaging. Just in the last three months, BioLogos has been reaching both the church and the public square through the release of Jonathan Hill’s National Study of Religion and Human Origins which was covered in The Atlantic, Slate, and Relevant. Board chair Jeff Hardin was featured in both Slate and The Christian Post. We are also continuing our long term dialogue with Christians who disagree with us about evolution, including an exchange with Southern Baptist leaders and the Reasons to Believe organization at the 2014 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.
If you’d like to learn more about evolutionary creation, browse our Common Questions page. If you are interested in talking more with someone about what it means to follow Christ, just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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