There has been quite an internet and media discussion about the YouTube video featuring the well-known children’s television-program host, Bill Nye of “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” in which the science enthusiast tells viewers that teaching children creationism is “inappropriate.” And he is absolutely correct. This is one thing about which both science and Christian theology agree: a literal reading of scripture, that which seemingly grounds views like creationism, is inaccurate and does not reflect an authentic theological interpretation of scripture or tradition.
Those who claim that Christian faith does not allow for a belief in evolution as a scientific theory or explanation for the diversity and complexity of life in this universe has probably never (a) understood the science itself or (b) studied theology in a formal setting. The truth is that the aphoristic response that many theologians, clergy, and members of the faithful give in response to questions about the compatibility of science and religion (as the question is generally put), is that they are not incompatible. One area of study deals with questions of “How” (science) and the other deals with questions of “Why” (theology/religion).
Those who are Roman Catholic should read the incredibly important document, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church,” by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (1993). Like almost no other Vatican document, the PBC uses some direct and strong language in discussing the fundamentalist view or literal interpretation of scripture:
The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.
To claim that the scientific theory of evolution is untenable for Christians or to challenge the veracity of other dimensions of modern science on the grounds that the Bible and Christian faith prohibit it, is not supported by the church nor by sound theological research.
The late Pope John Paul II famously said, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Science, that scientific theories of evolution are not incompatible with Christian faith and theology and, that as rational human persons in the our current age, we need experimental and observational sciences to better understand God’s creation.
Bill Nye is correct. Teaching children creationism, whether expressed as such or couched under the name “intelligent design,” is inappropriate and, as the Pontifical Biblical Commission suggests, is dangerous! Good job, Bill Nye! I knew there was a reason I always liked his program as a kid.
Here’s an interview with Bill Nye on the HuffPo and Here’s the now-famous video: