Culture At Large

Bill Nye on the limits of religion

Josh Larsen

BioLogos, a nonprofit foundation seeking to highlight the harmony between science and Biblical faith, snagged an interview this week with Bill Nye, formerly “the Science Guy” and currently a vocal opponent of young-earth creationism. The result was an intriguing, if only partial, meeting of the minds.

BioLogos’ Brad Kramer conducted the interview, and much of it seemed to be his gentle attempt to inform Nye that not all Christians are young-earth creationists. (BioLogos describes itself as subscribing to “an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.”) Nye seemed willing to concede the distinction, but otherwise didn’t budge much on what he perceives to be the limits of religion in helping to understand our place and purpose in the world.

You can read the entire interview here. An excerpt is below.

BioLogos: There is a popular narrative, especially in the media, that portrays science and religion at war with each other. And, of course, there have been some spectacular episodes where this was true. Do you think there can be harmony between science and faith? What would that look like to you?

Bill Nye: People get a lot out of being religious. They have strong senses of community and mutual support. So, what’s not to love? Our goal in science is to discover universal laws of nature. That pursuit fills me with wonder. If one’s faith requires one to abandon or ignore natural laws, well, that person is going to have trouble reconciling religion and science. Otherwise, I don’t see any conflict.

BioLogos: You laud 19th-century chemist Michael Faraday in your book as a shining example of a “spokesperson” for science, quoting him as saying, “nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature (p. 192)." We think that’s awesome. Did you know that he was also a man of deeply committed faith and often said things like, “We ought to value the privilege of knowing God's truth far beyond anything we can have in this world?” Does it surprise you that Faraday had a passion for both science and God without any conflict?

Bill Nye: No, it doesn’t surprise me at all. The theory of evolution was not formally published until shortly before Faraday’s death. Evolution was yet to be discovered during Faraday’s life. Also, I don’t think that Michael Faraday would claim that the Earth is extraordinarily young.

BioLogos: I read in Popular Science that you were raised Episcopalian, but have drifted away from Christianity. What influenced that journey? Is it fair to say that science now provides you with answers to the sort of “ultimate questions” that are usually seen as religious territory?

Bill Nye: I abandoned my religious teachings after I read the Bible twice - cover to cover. It took me a couple of years. I followed along with maps and a few study guides. There are two questions that get to us all: Are we alone in the universe? And, where did we come from? For me, science provides a much more satisfactory way to seek answers than does any religion I’ve come across. With that said, the universe is mysterious and wonderful. It fills me with reverence for nature and our place among the stars; our place in space.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science