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Bill Nye Is Not a Businessman

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Bill Nye, the nerdy supernova that fostered my childhood love of science, has recently gone viral in a video highly critical of the teaching of creationism to children. The video (seen below) has now been critiqued in a recent article on this site by a professional business communicator for its wording and presentation. The critique worries that Nye has done more harm than good: either he was preaching to the choir, or alienating the opposition. But Bill Nye is not a businessman.

Reading the critique and watching the video, I would have to agree that Nye uses some divisive language. For example, using the term “crazy” in regard to the creationist worldview is certainly polarizing. The problem with loaded terminology is that terms can naturally imply their opposites, as the critique points out. If the creationist view is “crazy,” then other positions are interpreted as sane, which would definitely cause a schism.

But here is where I think the research on communication disagrees with the critique. It cites “push” versus “pull” messaging (with Nye using “push” messaging) as a problem with Nye’s video (though see the comments there for alternative definition of those terms). The idea is that instead of “pushing” people towards the extremes, we should “pull” them into the conversation. Sounds reasonable, but the examples of “pull” offered has issues all their own:

He could say, “Scientific recent research shows us that we have evolved. I encourage you to explore this concept deeper. When you’re talking with your kids, I encourage you to allow them to discuss the issue with you and have a healthy dialogue.”

The business-like language here seems robotic and insincere, especially considering the candid nature of the video. Further suggestions have the same awkward feel:

I want to encourage you to explore the concept that there is some truth to the idea of evolution. I don’t necessarily want to convince you today that you have to stop believing in creationism, rather to invite you today to be open the idea that evolution does exist. I don’t want to change you today; I want to challenge you to explore this concept a little deeper.

The critique uses this patronizing language because, “you can’t change someone’s opinion by trying to force—push—them to change.” But sacrificing a more strongly worded message for an egg shell-traversing speech is operating under the misconception that people can never be “pushed” to change their minds.

In the communication literature, theories of human information processing consider the motivations that people have when encountering information1. One of these motivations, a defensive motivation, is a driver of information processing when a person’s beliefs or worldviews are challenged. This motivation is a desire to make judgments that are in accordance with one’s material interests or identity-entangled beliefs2. For example, if a creationist sees the video, he or she could be highly motivated to defend his or her beliefs by gathering information to support the creationist position. However, and this is where I think the business-like advice in the critique falters, a defensive motivation often entails looking systematically through both supporting and disconfirming information in order to make a judgment. If the motivation is strong, according to the models, a person is more likely to think deeply about a topic and to evaluate the evidence on both sides with more cognitive effort. Being challenged by a beloved science educator could then be a great galvanizing force to get those of the creationist persuasion to think deeply about their positions. This is all we can ask for, and still achieves an important goal.

However, it should be noted that when processing information, a defensive motivation is a double-edged sword. Yes, it can encourage a deep exploration of both sides of an issue, but because a person is looking to support their worldview or belief this exploration can be highly biased. Information that is unsupportive can be discredited outright, and the authority of one message source over another can be exaggerated3. Even so, instilling this defensive motivation gets Nye’s message across.

The critique also suggests that Nye should not try to “change” but “challenge” people. According to the theories mentioned above, this is exactly what Nye has done, and this was accomplished without the transparent platitudes of a distinctly business-like quality. Those who are not going to budge on this debate won’t. Using the fame and charm of “The Science Guy,” instead of a more polarizing figure like Richard Dawkins, for example, to confront an important scientific and political issue may just be an effective Trojan horse. Those who could potentially be swayed might now be asking questions and looking into the evidence on both sides, contrary to what the critique suggests.

I do not think that Nye’s intent was to convince people in a two and a half minute video that evolution is true. That would be a gargantuan task. Nye, as an adept communicator who has been thoroughly explaining various scientific topics for years (and to children no less), surely knows this. Yes, if Nye’s video was meant to be evidence for evolution, then it was off the mark. But it wasn’t. Nye was intimately stating his stance on the evolution/creationism debate. The viral-nature of the video is a testament to the fact that it did two simultaneously effective things: it roused a base of people who support the science, and challenged those who do not. Will there be those for whom the message does nothing? Will it offend some and put off others? Of course. But Nye succinctly challenged the creationist worldview in a way that should encourage a deep processing of the evidence for each position, and was not meant to convince anyone in one fell swoop. Nye is the proxy here. If he can promote a discussion about creationism and evolution in an exceedingly popular video, it is left up to us as science communicators to make sure that the opportunity does not go to waste.

References:

1. Chen, S., Duckworth, K., & Chaiken, S. (1999). Motivated Heuristic and Systematic Processing. Psychological Inquiry, 10 (1), 44-49.

2. Chaiken, S., Giner-Sorolla, R., & Chen, S. (1996). Beyond accuracy: Defense and impression motives in heuristic and systematic information processing. In P. M. Gollwitzer, & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The psychology of action: Linking cognition and motivation to behavior (pp. 553-578). New York: Guilford.

3. Liberman, A., & Chaiken, S. (1992). Defensive processing of personally relevant health messages. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 669-679.

Related Reading:

Critiquing the Critique of Bill Nye’s Video

Image: Beao at Wikimedia Commons.

Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 46 Comments

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  1. 1. jeepien 6:12 pm 09/2/2012

    It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century we’re still having this conversation as if there were actually “two sides of an issue” to consider.

    There is no controversy. It’s settled. As Nye points out, the US is almost the only country where evolution isn’t accepted as firm science.

    There is no reason not to refer to creationist ideas as “crazy” because that’s exactly what they are.

    Link to this
  2. 2. bmljenny 6:49 pm 09/2/2012

    Pretty sure that for creationists there’s no such thing as a “beloved science educator.”

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  3. 3. Marcello09 7:35 pm 09/2/2012

    Frankly, why bother? The Creationists are a dying breed. I spent my formative years at a school and a church that taught Creationism. Even in third grade it sounded like nonsense to me. Just because they’re teaching it doesn’t mean that the students are believing it.

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  4. 4. jctyler 7:59 pm 09/2/2012

    “professional business communicator” = bullshit artists usually hired to hide business stupidity/criminality behind a wall of idiot vocabulary.

    Does Warren Buffet consult a “professional business communicator”? Does he use a “professional business communicator”? And why is Wall Street full of them?

    “Professional business communicators” are the people who teach politicians how to talk, they are the ones who sold facebook shares to the public. Some of the shills that frequently comment here against AGW are “professional business communicators”, paid to pervert reality.

    The only thing they are really good at is making themselves look very important so that they can charge a fortune for their crap.

    Be honest, be simple. Listen to what those people whom you are adressing say about your presentation.

    And when you meet a nutter, say that he is a nutter.

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  5. 5. Cosmic 8:13 pm 09/2/2012

    I have a friend who is a scientist turned marketer. He told me that marketing is the opposite of science. In science you seek the truth and in marketing you seek a lie. I am glad Bill Nye is not a businessman. We have enough lies in this world.

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  6. 6. Neko_Mew_Mew 8:21 pm 09/2/2012

    Wow, what an article, and in Scientific American? Perhaps Scientific American should do an article explaining just how it is that creationism isn’t completely crazy, I’m sure it’d be great for some new business. Maybe you can open up a new market, include free issues with a purchase of a Bible.

    Creationists, who are essentially cultists with absolutely unyielding beliefs that don’t stand up to any test whatsoever are busy spreading rumors that Bill has died, that bill is a “fag”, that Bill cooks meth and that Bill will be thrown into a lake made of fire where he will burn for all eternity. No big surprise there, that’s what they do in any forum that they can get into that discusses any subject that goes against the grain of their cultist beliefs, just lie and freak out the way you’d expect cultists to do. And the author here talks about a schism? Please.

    I’ve been picking up Scientific Americans at my local magazine store for decades, here’s a little business advice for you guys: find a new customer.

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  7. 7. Bora Zivkovic 8:24 pm 09/2/2012

    @Neko_Mew_Mew when you say “what an article” – actually, Guest Blog post, which one? This one, or its partner from a few hours before? They came as a package, you know – a pros and cons discussion of the same issue, each providing a different angle so you and other commenters have something to discuss.

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  8. 8. Tatarize 8:31 pm 09/2/2012

    The idea that you could sucker a person in with friendly language and then convince them politely that their entire worldview is harmful nonsense and they are poisoning the minds of children with stupid falsehoods, is the real idiotic notion here. Look it doesn’t matter how friendly I am, I doubt you’re going to stop believing all that stuff you read on Answers In Genesis.

    If you’d like to cite a specific claim, I’d be happy to tear it to shreds. I’ve undoubtedly seen it a dozen times before and actually know the best ways to tear it apart. But, other than being mired in a Gish gallop where you can make more wrong and confused claims in a minute than I can refute in five. It really is far easier to refuse to coddle you for being willfully stupid. Deep down, I know it’s cognitive biases and that you don’t mean to be that ignorant. But, really I’d rather maybe nudge some onlookers into not making the same sort of crazy claims than try to convince you the world was created sometimes after dogs were domesticated.

    Sure, if you’re talking one on one, you shouldn’t call the person you’re talking to a moron. But, if you’re making a public statement, you don’t need to coddle people who are wrong, and in fact, you’d be wrong to do so.

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  9. 9. jbairddo 8:35 pm 09/2/2012

    seriously, you are an idiot. we are going to alienate a group of people who are sure that a magic being made the entire earth in 6 days only 5,000 years ago?
    Remember don’t try to teach a cat to ride a bike, it frustrates you and pisses off the cat, don’t argue with stupid religious people about evolution and don’t start a land war in Afghanistan. These are the same idiot sitting in Congress telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, making laws allowing men viagra but denying birth control to women, and sitting in front of family planning clinics harassing women going inside, and you are worried about alienating them? Good luck with that.

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  10. 10. Bora Zivkovic 8:45 pm 09/2/2012

    @jbairddo – who is “you” in your comment?

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  11. 11. greg_t_laden 8:49 pm 09/2/2012

    I think there is (more or less) a difference between people who walk around calling themselves “creationists” and people who would be classified by any reasonable person (i.e., me) as “creationists” because of their religious beliefs. Creationists, by the latter definition, are not crazy zinged out cultists. They are your mother, your neighbor, the manager at the local fast food restaurant and more than half of the employees.

    Bill Nye was perfectly right to call creationism “crazy” because it is, and people who hold these ideas are believing in something that is way out in left field. The fact that about half of Americans and the majority of people around the world have this set of beliefs is a problem. It is interesting that people think the debate has been settled. Yes, of course, we all know which “side” is correct and which side is wrong/crazy, but there remains a big fight over this in some parts of the world, and in much of the world there is not much discussion at all.

    The above remarks do not include the Chinese. Thousands of years of a culture that did not know about evolution followed by decades of godless Communism muddy the picture a bit. I have no idea what the standard Harris Poll we have here every year would produce in China, or if it is even translatable via what is probably a strong cultural filter. (And if the Chinese are in the vast majority “Darwinists” then that would certain tip the scales in favor of most people not being “Creationists” otherwise, I’m pretty sure the majority of people are not secular, no-god-even-in-the-gaps evolutionary biology sympathizers.

    The whole idea of suckering people with freindly language has been shown to work. For about ten minutes. Then they get mad at you. Nye’s remarks are, I think (and as I said in my comment on Marc’s site an in my own blog post about it) designed to shame a certain subset of people into at least dropping the issue if not considering joining the real world.

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  12. 12. Azuaron 9:54 pm 09/2/2012

    Ah, Scientific American comment sections, I can always rely on you for rampant bigotry against Christians.

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  13. 13. fpaine 11:58 pm 09/2/2012

    Dear jctyler; Very, very well-said my friend and certainly quite accurate as well!

    As I was reading this “Business communication expert’s” analysis, I felt the compulsion to track him down and beat him senseless with the nearest copy of the Harvard Business Review.

    I’m reminded of a blog piece written by Felix Salmon:

    “…The [HBR Leadership]article in question isn’t long, but it is pretty much everything you hate about the HBR. It’s written by some consultant who loves to talk about “leadership” a lot, and who loves to use phrases like “platform for talent”. What’s more, he’s ever so keen on focus, and eliminating distractions. Apparently, when you’ve [corporate CEO] got some dead time while standing in an elevator, the wrong thing to do is to use that time for something productive, like dashing off a quick email. Email, you see, is a distraction from more important things, like, um, working out who else might be in the elevator. Or, single-mindedly trying to win some pointless gong [Entrepreneur of the Year award]…”

    This “bullshit-artist” as you so aptly describe him (as well as the author) were so busy chasing down the PR angle that Nye’s essential theme–which clearly was a public policy argument grounded in truth and scientific integrity–was overlooked.

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  14. 14. mkuchner 12:18 am 09/3/2012

    Kyle, I’m sorry you were turned off by the business language in my article. To me it is just the jargon of another trade, no more “insincere” than the jargon of astrophysics. You say it is a misconception that people can never be “pushed” to change their minds. I do not suffer from this misconception. To be precise, sometimes, people can be “pushed” to changed their minds, via a sustained, powerful, painful experience. A three minute video won’t do it. I saw this e-card on Facebook the other day: “‘Wow, your Facebook post about politics had changed my mind and my vote’…said no one, EVER”. Best, Marc

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  15. 15. Bora Zivkovic 12:29 am 09/3/2012

    I have seen that FB ecard and it drives me crazy. My good friend Dan posted the best response: https://www.facebook.com/dan.conover.714/posts/4112279959020

    “There’s an ecard going around on FB that makes a disparaging quip about how people who post their political opinions on Facebook have never changed anybody’s mind. Not only do I dislike the message of the card (“Don’t talk about politics on Facebook! Facebook is for cats and what were eating for lunch!”), it’s also 100 percent wrong. People like to think that they come to their political ideas through logic and study, but it’s more accurate to say that people keep track of prevailing moods within the communities that matter to them, and align themselves with those opinions. In other words, we’re all picking up signals about our environment all the time, and those cues affect our attitudes and actions. That’s why ads matter, why yard signs matter. And it’s also why people talking about politics is the best antidote to mass-media manipulation.”

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  16. 16. K.Hill 1:07 am 09/3/2012

    Marc,

    What I was trying to get at is that the point of Nye’s video was not to outline enough evidence to encourage a slow, deliberate change in belief. It was more so to offer his personal views and challenge the creationist worldview. From this stance, I think the business-like language offered in your post was more patronizing than it would be had it not sacrificed message strength for a cautious “pull” technique.

    I would also disagree that changing one’s mind is characterized by “a sustained, powerful, painful experience.” For those on the fence, sometimes a nudge is all they need, and as an anecdote, I know many people who benefit from this kind of messaging. My point is that uncertainty is a fickle thing which responds to more than just “friendly language” (to use Greg’s term). A message like the one in Nye’s video won’t necessarily fail on language alone. It can depend on a person’s motivations, capacity for new information, how much they think they need to know about a topic, etc. There is room in the evolution/creationism debate for this kind of message to work.

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  17. 17. brynn217 2:03 am 09/3/2012

    Ok…i would suggest that for those of you who don’t Believe to stop discussing something you all obviously know nothing about…

    Christians do not believe that the world was created 5000 years ago… Human recorded History starts with Moses in about 12000BC… According to most accounts Humans lived way before that as well….

    Many Historical references given in the Old Testament are verified in other documents as well. Also, a few of God’s miracles have also been scientifically verified or discovered. For example, the place where the Jews fled Egypt through the Red Sea was found with a marker they left, Divers also verified the remains of a large Egyptian Army at the Bottom of the sea in that stretch.

    Also, those of us who do believe do not spread lies about Bill Nye. I feel sorry for those who cannot will never share God’s Joy. If truly want to learn about God, I would encourage you to pick up a Bible and read it… Understand it before tossing it aside and calling Believer’s crazy… God signed his creation, all you have to do is open your eyes to see and feel it. Stand at the edge of an Ocean to witness it… (BTW- for anyone who does try, skip the beginning, its dry and mostly historical in nature.. start with Psalms)

    Many Historial references given in the Old Testmament are verified in other documents as well. Also, a few of God’s miracles have also been scientis

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  18. 18. Seijun 2:49 am 09/3/2012

    What is the definition of creationist/creationism for the purpose of this guest blog? I believe in the possibility of a god who created the universe and life as we know it. However, if this is true (and I know god’s existence can’t be proven), then I believe that god accomplished those feats through the big bang and evolution. In other words, I believe in a god, but I also believe in science, and for me there is no conflict between the two. Am I considered a creationist?

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  19. 19. Chryses 7:23 am 09/3/2012

    Marc,

    My experiences in “business persuasion” broadly parallel yours, and I agree that persuasion is more a process than an event.

    Consider your article. Standing alone, it is an event.

    Consider the posts about it here. I think they confirm your argument admirably.

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  20. 20. stargatemunky 9:21 am 09/3/2012

    Does thew author of this article have ANY idea about biology.

    It’s always an INSTANT indicator of whether people actually understand what people like Nye are saying based off whether they believe in evolution or not

    ‘bill is not a businessman’

    no and you’re not a person it seems who believe in gravity either. So what the hell are you even doing on a site like this critising the ideas of Bill.

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  21. 21. jctyler 9:34 am 09/3/2012

    author: “I’m sorry you were turned off by the business language in my article. To me it is just the jargon of another trade, no more “insincere” than the jargon of astrophysics.”

    The jargon of astrophysics is precise and used to describe facts, the jargon of your “trade” is obfuscating and used to embellish.

    Your very sentence proves the worth and aim of “professional business communication”.

    Professional business communicator is a new term for PR manager. The new label became necessary when PR managers were correctly seen as foul air salesmen in the best tradition of snake oil sellers and penny stock traders. One variant permanently present in SciAm’s comments are shills working for special interests bound to suffer from science, especially in regards to AGW and environmental pollution.

    One of the better known tricks of professional business communicators is to add “institute” or “agency” to crap associations to make them look better or official to the unwashed masses.

    Cheap tricks.

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  22. 22. HowardB 9:47 am 09/3/2012

    ” I can always rely on you for rampant bigotry against Christians.”

    Christians don’t believe in creationism. Uneducated and idiotic people believe in creationism.

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  23. 23. HowardB 9:48 am 09/3/2012

    Has the ‘reply to’ and the choice to be informed of follow up comments been removed by SciAm ? they don’t appear anymore for me.

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  24. 24. HowardB 9:51 am 09/3/2012

    “Bill Nye was perfectly right to call creationism “crazy” because it is, and people who hold these ideas are believing in something that is way out in left field. The fact that about half of Americans and the majority of people around the world have this set of beliefs is a problem. It is interesting that people think the debate has been settled. Yes, of course, we all know which “side” is correct and which side is wrong/crazy, but there remains a big fight over this in some parts of the world, and in much of the world there is not much discussion at all.”

    You are regrettably 100% right there. the half of the US has a lot in common with Islam and the starving billions with no education.

    I find this article a very disturbing one to find in SciAm.

    It is basically an article by a creationist describing how he has gone about consulting a specialist in how to communicate his message to people without them realising the nonsense of the message, and trying to camouflage it with gobbledigook.

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  25. 25. HowardB 9:52 am 09/3/2012

    My last comment applies more to the other Bill Nye article – apols. Two in one week ? … very bizarre.

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  26. 26. Azuaron 10:36 am 09/3/2012

    @HowardB Christians do believe in creationism, by definition: God created the Earth, the Universe, and everything. You are, perhaps, referring to Young Earth Creationism, which is a small (if vocal) group of Christianity that’s politically-motivated more than belief-motivated; fixing the American political system would solve this problem faster than anything else.

    As that is unlikely, we’ll have to stick with reeducation, and any education for these misguided people is going to have to come from people whose stance isn’t, “You are CAR-AZY and everything you believe is a LIE!”

    But anyway, a number of the commenters have made it obvious they see little-to-no difference between Young Earth Creationists and Christians in general, despite Roman Catholics, who are still the largest Christian denomination, firmly siding with evolution:

    “…some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” — Pope John Paul II, 1996, to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

    “Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy [amongst scientists] continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.” — Pope Benedict XVI, 2004, International Theological Commission

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  27. 27. junior144 10:43 am 09/3/2012

    well now–there is going to be a lot of you who will (get it ) when its to late -i feel sorry for you and wish i could help but as it turns out only Jesus christ
    can help you– good luck and god bless

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  28. 28. junior144 10:51 am 09/3/2012

    see God wont give you proof be on a doubt that he is real–but to us that are with him he gives us proof but he wont let us give you that proof–sad but true
    you only get the proof after full faith.so if you want it take it or (forever dwell in the unknown )

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  29. 29. jctyler 11:45 am 09/3/2012

    junior, if god was with you she’d give you a spellchecker

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  30. 30. johnb123 12:47 pm 09/3/2012

    In the first 45 secs, Bill Nye says that those who don’t believe in evolution hold everyone else back. Is your belief in evolution so fragile that you must have everyone believe as you? It seems he’s blaming Creationist for the failures of this country.

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  31. 31. Bob Trlin 5:24 pm 09/3/2012

    It is not the belief in creationism that is at the root of the problem. It is a kind of xenophobic fear that plagues much of America. It is this fear that drives people to latch onto a prescribed philosophy. The more widely accepted the philosophy, the better but any philosophy will do. The Christian philosophy, which is a very good one by the way, like many ancient philosophies, happens to contain a creation myth. It is this same fear which drives this pathological desire to own guns. Ironically, gun ownership does not lessen fear, it enhances aggression and thus more fear. Americans would be best to address the core issue, their national malady.

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  32. 32. SciDad 5:30 pm 09/3/2012

    If the creationist view is “crazy,” then other positions are interpreted as sane…

    WHOA! As if there is only one crazy position?
    That’s crazy!

    It’s much closer to the other way around: there are very few sane positions, perhaps just one, and the rest are variably crazy.

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  33. 33. marclevesque 7:13 pm 09/3/2012

    @26. Azuaron

    Yes. References in Nye’s video, to “craziness” and ” religious beliefs will be proven false and won’t exist in 200 years” will push many who already believe in evolution to re-question the idea, be less vocal in their support of evolution, or maybe even dump it.

    @18. Seijun

    Good question.
    In blogs like these, and to a lesser extent in Nye’s video itself, the comments often paint all religions as equivalent and all individuals within these religions as holding the same views.

    @ . Bora Zivkovic

    I read a lot of what you referenced on Wilkins and Moran and linked to on framing. Interesting. I do think the debate about the usefulness of science, philosophy, and religion is directly relevant to the debate on framing especially in the context of Nye’s video. And I agree “vocal people move the Overton Window and affect what is appropriate discourse in the mainstream media”, and still, I feel the video could have been better done and been as powerful without the derision. I’ll think about this more, but for now I think derision is not useful –doesn’t the window also move towards a greater acceptance of, or at least a greater use of, derision and can we really weigh or add up the factors involved and assume we come out positive.

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  34. 34. HowardB 7:36 pm 09/3/2012

    “@HowardB Christians do believe in creationism, by definition: God created the Earth, the Universe, and everything. ”

    Wrong again. England, Britain and Ireland are FULL of Christians and almost none believe in creationism, not Adam an Eve. The same goes for most Christian countries in Europe.

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  35. 35. jvbmd 8:06 pm 09/3/2012

    Both views have holes in them, a lot of holes.I am not convinced it is an either/or view at all. Both views should be taught….why not? There are a lot of things that I think are crazy…..like different political parties but I think we should learn about both.
    Yes, maybe I am nuts. For creationism, maybe God did not make “a kitten”….maybe he made the genetic components to make all living beings, set into the laws of biology, physics and chemistry and just let it go to see what happens. Maybe “time” is not linear. Once we found something faster than the speed of light, my view of time has radically changed.
    The bottom line is….we as humans are not smart as we like to believe we are. We look back on previous generations and laugh at them. What we believe now will be a huuuge joke in a few hundred years. People will look back on us and ask “how did those morons ever even survive?”
    Believe me, I wish I could jump on the “I have Superior Intelligence” bandwagon with y’all but I am just not that smart.

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  36. 36. Mr. Natural 8:26 pm 09/3/2012

    You cannot use reason to change the mind of a person who did not rely on reason in forming his or her opinion in the first place.

    This is the mistake reasonable people always make in dealing with those whose beliefs are based on faith.

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  37. 37. SciDad 11:49 pm 09/3/2012

    @35 “Both views”
    Both? Would those two views be the Yupic view and the Arapahoe view, or would they be two views found in Hinduism, or…???
    Just which two are you calling out?

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  38. 38. greg_t_laden 10:56 am 09/4/2012

    See: [Critiquing the critique of the critique of the critique of the critique of Bill Nye’s video](http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/09/04/critique-critique-critique-critique-critique-bill-nye/)

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  39. 39. Jacques Cousteau 2:15 pm 09/4/2012

    This is a silly argument. Republicans have been using this so-called divisive language for 30 years, far stronger than this, and it’s gotten them very very far. In today’s Beavis and Butthead culture, it’s literally all that works. The days of reasoned arguments is over. Ask Duane T. Gish about using carefully-reasoned arguments.

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  40. 40. Bill_Crofut 6:11 pm 09/4/2012

    This creationist would like to share another bit of craziness provided by a pair of biologists:

    “Our theory of evolution has become, as [philosopher of science, Karl R.] Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science’ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training. The cure seems to us not to be a discarding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, but more skepticism about many of its tenets.”
    [L. C. Birch and Paul Ehrlich. 1967. Evolutionary History and Population Biology. NATURE, vol. 214, p. 352]

    It seems to me most interesting that these evolutionists identified evolution as “outside of empirical science.” It’s also interesting that a pair of evolutionists would use the term “tenets” in their paper. “Tenet” can have more than one meaning, but where does one encounter it more often than not?

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  41. 41. Chryses 10:31 pm 09/4/2012

    HowardB (23)

    “Has the ‘reply to’ and the choice to be informed of follow up comments been removed by SciAm ? they don’t appear anymore for me.”

    Sure seems that way. Nature (SciAm’s owners) doesn’t want a connected thread.

    Since they used to provide these features and now don’t, they were probably too expensive.

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  42. 42. jctyler 4:30 am 09/5/2012

    Chryses: the “reply” comes with SciAm articles, not blogs – the facetwit floating toolbar also so (thank god for small favours (in this context? ))

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  43. 43. plainjane 7:03 pm 09/5/2012

    Thanks, jvbmd, for your comment. If history is any clue, you’re right about both how smart we think we are and how dumb our descendants will think we are.

    I have always found the whole creation vs. evolution debate mystifying from a strictly scientific point of view. In a practical sense, is there fundamentally any difference between the questions “How did this happen?” and “How did God do it?”

    I think the debate is fueled by philosophy more than science. Each side comes to the fight with at least some significant assumptions that at this time cannot be proven in a laboratory. In a perfect world, each side would welcome the critiques of the other and use them to better their own scientific pursuits. Fans don’t find weaknesses; opponents do. But, like we humans do in every other public aspect of our lives – politics, sports, reality TV – we have to make it an emotional Us vs. Them fight. Are we really bettering the cause of Us by trying to demonize Them?

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  44. 44. MarkAA 8:13 pm 09/6/2012

    Sigh … and the polarizing ‘us v. them’ continues. In other articles, we hear that most of what we ‘think’ is actually rationalization after the fact – we’ve simply picked sides.

    True for our ‘politics’ – see recent SA article here –

    True for the politics of ‘climate change/global warning’ – ‘The positions on climate change of both groups track their impressions of recent weather. Yet their impressions of what the recent weather has been are polarized, too, and bear little relationship to reality (K. Goebbert et al. Weath. Clim. Soc. 4, 132–144; 2012).’

    And its true in other politicized ‘science’ discussions, including attacks or praise on methodology – see, e.g., ‘ … we have a great deal of empirical evidence to show that the kinds of politically biased evaluations that Prof. Smith speculates about really do happen. I have collected those resources here:
    http://people.virginia.edu/~jd... if you like the conclusion, you accept the methods, but if you don’t like the conclusion, you suddenly notice all these methodological shortcomings … ‘

    As for the ‘truth’ of ‘evolution’ … depends upon what you mean by truth, evolution, ‘science,’ etc.

    Sure, there are always at least 2 sides to an issue – I often find at least 3 – if you can’t see the other side, perhaps you are blind …

    There is nothing in ‘science’ that is carved in stone – else we wouldn’t even have the Spencer/Darwin concept of ‘evolution’ – which the overwhelming ‘consensus’ of ‘scientists’ of the time resisted … as the overwhelming consensus resisted Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein, Feldman, etc.

    Consensus of self-identified scientists doesn’t establish any kind of truth, and any true scientist should know better.

    But to the contrary, we live in a world of belief – whether in science, religion, or elsewhere.

    Plenty of scientism/evolutionism – as a belief system out there – but so is there a lot of religious belief, which has stood as a ‘consensus’ for much longer than ‘science’.

    Just because the priests of science – in their white lab coats – say something, doesn’t mean we need no longer listen to the priests of religion – in their black robes.

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  45. 45. mkuchner 11:36 pm 09/9/2012

    Colleagues, can we develop an anti-creationism video as powerful as the best anti-smoking videos? http://marketingforscientists.com/2012/09/10/bill-nye-marketing-and-the-anti-smoking-lobby-a-challenge-to-opponents-of-creationism/

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  46. 46. christinaak 2:35 pm 09/11/2012

    f I were teaching a high school biology class I would spend the 1st week of class introducing the students to general systems theory (in a simplified form-also reference Bertalanffy),and the notions of interdependence and emergence. I would ask the students questions with the goal of leading them to the inevitable conclusion that all systems (regardless of their nature or degree of complexity) evolve or die(I would ask for example what kind of transportation was used to get them to school. Do any of the students speak Old English or Latin as their 1st language? etc. ). By demonstrating that evolution is a universally applicable principle it will make it easier to persuade students who are uncertain, that biological evolution not only makes sense, but is inevitable. For those students hopelessly blinded by faith no amount of evidence or rational arguments will suffice (we will have to just wait until their numbers diminish as society evolves). christina a knight

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