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No denying Nye's skewering of creationism

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/12/2014 (1902 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The evolution-vs.-creation debate does not have nearly the history in Canada that it does in the United States.

Even when Stockwell Day went toe-to-toe with Jean Chrétien in the 2000 election, the Canadian Alliance leader's fundamentalist religious beliefs seemed to hurt him less than the image of him kicking off his campaign on a personal watercraft wearing a wetsuit.

In the U.S., where the debate has never really subsided since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, political candidates prefer to avoid the subject as much as possible, even when it's couched in such euphemisms as "intelligent design."

Bill Nye is not a politician, and probably never will be. The 58-year-old former host of Bill Nye the Science Guy, a PBS program in the 1990s that aimed to infuse kids with an interest in science, has been taking on the creationists in many public forums, including in places such as Kentucky, where the Scopes trial took place.

In February of this year, he engaged in a very public and well-covered debate in that state with Ken Ham, the Australian-born champion of many creationists.

Nye details his case even further in Undeniable, and he's not hiding from critics.

"In science, a hypothesis should not only explain the evidence we have found," he writes, "it should also make predictions about things not yet discovered... Science is inherently a work in progress."

Nye deconstructs the arguments against evolution and says the naysayers "avoid the exploration of evolution because it reminds us all that humankind may not be that special in nature's scheme. What happens to other species also happens to us." He goes on to seriously question the wisdom of introducing creationism in school curricula.

In addition to British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose The Origin of Species was first published 155 years ago this month, Nye examines the contributions of many other experts since then, and suggests that "the only way to get the answers is to keep looking at living things and learning more about the process by which we all came to be."

It's a lot of ground to cover in less than 300 pages, but the author succeeds in making quite a persuasive case.

In the final third of Undeniable, Nye credits the study of evolution to current concerns about racism and infectious diseases such Ebola. He also argues that an understanding of evolution goes a long way in helping us understand the ongoing debate over genetically modified food and climate change.

More than half the pages that precede that final section seem aimed at readers with a rather limited knowledge of the subject of evolution as a whole.

The already-converted readers will probably skip over this section quite quickly, while committed creationists aren't likely to be won over.


Roger Currie is a Winnipeg writer and broadcaster. He is heard regularly on CJNU, 93.7 FM.


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Updated on Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 8:50 AM CST: Formatting.

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