Bill Nye Gets It Wrong
This paper is a review of a popular book that presents purported scientific evidence that is used to support Darwinian evolution. But I contend that this supporting evidence consists of fallacious reasoning, misinterpretation and misunderstanding of human anatomy, physiology, embryology, physics and chemistry.
Bill Nye the engineer, comedian and host of the Discovery Channel show Bill Nye the Science Guy, is a devout Darwinist. He lays out what he believes is proof of evolution in his book: “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” (St. Martin, 2015). Nye explains what motivated him to write this book—his debate with creationist Ken Ham. Ham, is an evangelical leader and founder of Answers in Genesis who claims the earth is only 6,000 years old. Nye chose to debate Ham, “to raise awareness of the creationist movement and its inherently deleterious effects on our society, as it dulls our resolve to tackle big scientific challenges like producing energy for the burgeoning human population . . . [and] climate change.” (1)
Out of the starting blocks, Nye uses the logical fallacy of a straw man argument instead of contending with the actual argument (how evolution actually works), Nye attacks the equivalent of a lifeless bundle of straw in the form of creationists’ young Earth theory, which the vast majority of Christians never intend upon defending anyway. It is the exceedingly rare Christian who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old.
Nye also uses, circular reasoning and ad hominem attacks (a personal attack, which is commonly used with the straw man argument). We will unfortunately see other examples of illogic.
I will divide this paper into 4 sections; 1) inaccurate statements, 2) a discussion of entropy, 3) Nye’s concept of the human body being designed just “good enough” and lastly, 4) Jay Gould’s theory called punctuated equilibrium. We will see throughout this paper that Nye, like all Darwinists including Darwin himself, never touch on how or where evolution actually occurs—DNA.
1) “We are all aware that evolution happens, because we all have parents. Many of us have, or will have, children.” (2) Here Nye confuses reproduction and heredity with evolution.
2) We experience evolution every day in our culture as well.” (3) First, culture is not where a scientist can expect to find evolution (it occurs in DNA). Second, if one believes Darwin, evolution occurs imperceptibly over especially long geological times. No one can witness evolution happening.
3) “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.” (4) Darwinists make the mistake of confusing commonality with evolution. Sharing the same laws of physics and chemistry is a requirement to be a part of this universe. Creatures exhibiting different chemistry and laws of physics don’t occur because they cannot exist.Commonality is not proof of evolution, it is proof of adherence to physical laws fundamental to this universe.
4) “Many people who are troubled by evolution . . . try to push it aside or dilute it by casting doubt on the established science that supports it.” (5) This is the logical fallacy of an argument from authority. Just because many people accept it does not make it true. It is my contention, and the contention of many others who are not discouraged by the complexity of reality, that evolution is an outdated, 1800’s philosophy that was disproven once DNA was discovered. The reality is that evolution is not a science at all, it is merely the fortuitous accumulation of mutations according to Darwin’s own definitions.
5) “Like any useful scientific theory, evolution enables us to make predictions about what we observe in nature.” (6) Unfortunately for Nye, evolution can make no predictions other than change happens. But change happening is a characteristic of life or entropy, not evolution. Evolution can predict nothing because evolution occurs by the natural selection of random mutations. By definition the predictive value of a random process is non-existent. But Darwinists are loathe to accept randomness despite the fact that Darwin requires it, “Evolution is also not random it’s the opposite of random. One of Darwin’s most important insights is that natural selection is a means by which small changes can add complexity to an organism.” (7) But like it or not, any system that possesses at least one random component is an overall random system. If I told you to create something out of items picked randomly from a junkyard, you would create something. If I told you to make something from any item you choose in the junkyard, you would no doubt create something far different and better. Randomness as a component produces an overall random system, which does not mean nothing can be created. As an engineer Nye should know better.
I could go on but for the sake of at least some brevity, let’s move on to a subject I touched upon, entropy.
In an attempt to remove entropy (disorder or randomness) from biological system, Nye just like other Darwinists, misinterprets entropy. I will use Nye’s own words to describe entropy, “To be sure, the Second Law of Thermodynamics really does contribute to a general winding down of the world around us. It explains why no one can build a perpetual motion machine. Somewhere, someplace in any machine you’re going to lose some energy to heat. . .The Law that entropy always increases—the Second Law of Thermodynamics—holds, I think, the supreme position among the Laws of Nature. . .The key idea is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics mathematically describes any system’s loss of energy to its surroundings. It is fundamental to the way the natural world works.” (8) Then in a self-defeating and ironic argument, Nye claims that entropy doesn’t apply to evolution (even though it is a part of our world) because, “The Second Law applies only to closed systems, like a cylinder in a car engine, and Earth is not even remotely a closed system.” (9) So which is it? Nye has just turned 180 degrees. Nye (and other Darwinian apologists) argue that the Earth is receiving energy from the sun and therefore it is an open system to which entropy does not apply. Because the sun shines, entropy cannot apply to evolution. But in this rather humorous mental gyration Nye has contradicted himself and must claim that entropy does not apply to the rest of the world, which in his own words was “winding down.”
I agree that the Earth is an open system, but entropy applies to open systems as well as closed systems unless that open system is receiving “directed” energy. Nye’s example of a closed system, the cylinder in a car, is anything but closed. The cylinder gives off significant heat to the surrounding engine block and environment as any driver (let alone engineer) knows. In reality, there is no such thing as a closed system. As just one example of our open universe, neutrinos zip through the universe and Earth rarely but occasionally interacting. A truly closed system does not exist. The closed system is merely a thought experiment used to help understand entropy.
Amazingly, Nye does yet another 180 degree turn around as he admits the Second Law occurs in open systems, “But the Second Law comes into play everywhere in your life.” (10) How can this be if it only occurs in closed systems? Nye and other Darwinians cannot have it both ways.
Nye is incorrect about entropy. He is also incorrect about his concept that the human body has been created by a process of evolution that creates systems, which are merely “good enough.” In the next section I will correct Nye’s misunderstanding of human embryology, anatomy and physiology.
HUMAN BODIES ARE GOOD ENOUGH In chapter 21 titled “Human Bodies are Walking, Talking, and Good-Enough.” Nye claims proof of evolution exists because an all-powerful God would have designed a perfect body, but the human body is merely “good-enough.” Nye claims, “You and I will wear out. You might already have aches, pains, eyeglasses, and dental fillings. But your generation, no matter which one it is, was good enough to make it this far. This is another consequence of being shaped by natural selection. In our evolutionary world, good enough is a good as it gets.” (11) Nye gives examples of what he believes are human design flaws that a conscious creator would not have made, and therefore these design flaws are proof of Darwinian evolution.
I will cite one of Nye’s examples which will demonstrate his fallacious logic and his limited understanding of embryology, anatomy and physiology. Nye claims, “One of the most obvious human design puzzles is that our waste disposal plumbing is immediately adjacent to our reproductive and pleasure producing plumbing . . .Your anus is right next to either your penis or your vagina. Would you have put the urethra right there in the middle of the whole business? If you were in charge, wouldn’t you have separated those a bit? How hard could that be? . . .Seems like a simple problem to correct.” (12) Nye completely ignores, or cannot comprehend, the fact that the urogenital system is created from a single cell. The creation occurs by cell division, differentiation and migration. It seems strange that I have to say this but each organ system is created together and simultaneously, not assembled separately then combined in a factory. What follows is a very brief summary of how the urogenital system is created.
Sexual differentiation is the epitome of complexity in DNA programming. As the fetus develops, undifferentiated embryonic organs differentiate into respective male and female organs. Below is a very incomplete list of embryonic structures that become male and female analogues:
1) Gonad testis Ovary
2) Paramesonephric duct Appendix testis Vagina, uterus
3) Mesonephric tubules Rete testis Rete ovarii
4) Urogenital sinus Bladder, urethra Bladder, urethra
5) Labioscrotal folds Scrotum Labia majora
6) Urogenital folds Spongy urethra Labia minora
7) Genital tubercle Penis Clitoris Larsen, an embryologist, summarizes our current state of knowledge regarding urogenital system development and the singular event of testicular descent. He states, “The hormonal control of testicular descent is not completely understood. Androgens and pituitary hormones are important, but other unknown testicular factors or hormones apparently play a role, as does neural input via the genitofermoral nerve.” (13) Every aspect if urogenital system development is similarly poorly understood.
One last repudiation of Nye’s uninformed claim that the human body is just good enough comes from research of the retina. Williams and Moody did not mince words in their investigation of the retina. They note that there are more than twenty thousand genes that involve the retina and that “even more genes are likely to be expressed throughout development.” (14) And in their section titled, “The Paradox of High Variation,” they state, “The apparent paradox is resolved if we come back to the point that the visual system is over-engineered and that there is much functional and developmental redundancy built into the retina of most individuals.” (15) By definition, systems that are redundant and over-engineered are anything but “good enough.”
In the final section I will give a brief repudiation of Nye’s suggestion that Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium is further evidence to support Darwinian evolution. As we will see, it is quite the opposite.
Jay Gould’s attempt to resuscitate Darwinian evolution with his theory of punctuated equilibrium accomplishes the opposite effect. Punctuated equilibrium proves Darwin’s theory of evolution by the natural selection of random mutations is not viable. The imperceptible advancement of evolution, which Darwin required, is not demonstrated in the fossil record. This bothered Darwin but does not seem to bother Nye. Nye notes, “Darwin called the missing fossils, ‘. . . the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.’” (16) Nye summarizes Gould and attempts to explain away the inadequate fossil record.
Paraphrasing Gould, Nye states, “Darwin had pictured one whole species giving way to another. . . Once you let go of that old uniformitarian way of looking at things the situation becomes a whole lot clearer. When a small group of organisms gets isolated . . . some individuals are more prone to form new species In a small group, any mutation is a much bigger part of the mix, and a successful mutation is immediately a much bigger deal.” (17) He goes on, “populations get isolated. That’s when things can happen fast.” (18) This is the short and sweet of how rapid changes occur according to Nye and Gould. However, the problem is that Gould does not explain how the DNA changes occur or what the DNA changes are. The problem is not how fast mutations occur but rather which nucleotides mutate. Gould cannot explain the mechanism of evolution any better than Darwin, but Gould unwittingly demonstrates that evolution cannot work as Darwin requires. (For a more in-depth evaluation of Gould’s punctuated equilibrium please read my article devoted to punctuated equilibrium.)
1 William Nye, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” (New York: St. Martin Press, 2015), 11.
2 Id., 2.
4. Id., 3.
6. Id., 5.
7. Id., 23.
8. Id., 20.
9. Id., 21.
11. Id., 165.
12. Id., 167.
13. William Larsen, “Human Embryology, 3rd edition (Philadelphia: Churchill Livingston, 2001), 379.
14. Robert Williams and Sally Moody, Leo Chalupa and John Werner, eds., Chapter 5: Development and Genetic Control of Cell Number in Retina, “The Visual Neurosciences 1,” (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004), 71.
16. Nye, 118.
17. Id., 121.
18. Id., 125.
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