Bill Nye’s Humanist of the Year Award Speech November 21, 2010

Bill Nye’s Humanist of the Year Award Speech

The latest issue of The Humanist has excerpts of Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Humanist of the Year award speech. It’s a terrific read if you haven’t seen the video:

The big unsatisfying thing for me is when you have a bumper sticker that says, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” It doesn’t settle it for me. I was giving a talk in Texas a couple of years ago — this still circulates on the web — at McLennan University, which is a very interesting college near Waco and Crawford. I’d pointed out that it seems reasonable to me that whoever wrote Genesis, as translated into English, where God made the sun to light the earth and the moon to light the night, probably didn’t have the whole story. Because, first of all, the moon doesn’t always light the night. And even ancient Greeks realized that the moon was an object that reflected sunlight. So this woman in the audience picked her kids up by the wrists and dragged them out of the room, shouting, “I believe in God! Bill Nye, you are evil!” That may be, but the moon doesn’t give off its own light. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do there. And we all laugh at that, but what we have to do is find the story that is more compelling. And I think we can find that if, instead of focusing on the truth, we focus on the pursuit of it. We focus on the scientific method, the way to find the truth. And by the way, when you were in astronomy class with Carl Sagan, every day there was a story. Every day there was some process by which somebody or some group of individuals had made a discovery.

(via The Humanist)


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  • JoeBuddha

    That’s why I don’t “believe” in Truth. Truth is fine to seek, as long as you don’t find it; if you do, you’re no better than the fundies you make fun of.

  • This is the main point I try to make when debating theists. Truth may or may not be a red herring, but the pursuit is what is gives us workable information.

  • ff42

    I believe some are wedded to a conclusion (truth in their minds) and then bend or ignore the facts that contradict their conclusion.

    The only conclusion to which I am wedded is that the scientific method is currently the best method to determine truth. If someone has a better method to determine truth please let me know.

  • Pseudonym

    I agree with ff42, with one proviso: The scientific method is inherently self-limiting to that which can be objectively falsified. Questions of morality, justice, meaning and so on, regardless of how important they are, cannot be approached using the scientific method.

    The methodology of philosophy is not better than the scientific method in places where they both could be applied, but it can be applied in places where the scientific method cannot.

  • I am horribly jealous of someone who is a) as awesome as Bill Nye and b) had an astronomy class with CARL FREAKING SAGAN.

  • Jude

    I wish this excerpt would fit on a bumper sticker. But reason takes more words than bumper sticker platitudes.

  • He’s right. We’ll get much further to get people thinking critically. And frankly I don’t give a hang what nonsense they believe as long as they think enough to not want to oppress other people. (And that goes for Atheists as well as theists, frankly.)

    Feeling pretty good about my daughter having grown up on Bill Nye right about now. She just adored him and wouldn’t miss his show when she was a kid. I’m afraid (science bores me and goes straight over my head) I didn’t pay much attention unless she forced me to but I’m feeling real good about her watching so much of him.

  • Matt

    Bill Nye is my hero. His tv show was awesome. I use to love watching it while growing up.

  • mike

    God is a bookmark that some of use to mark where Intelligence Stops and Ignorance Begins…

  • ACN

    I really appreciated that he took the time to mention how important the reproductive rights of women are. A friend of mine said it best:

    Improving the standard of living for women means women get control over their own reproductive rights, an end of rape as a weapon or war, an increase in education about birth control, and decrease in HIV, disease in general, and infant mortality. When I say reproductive rights, I don’t just mean the American liberty of being pro-choice, I mean the simpler, baser teaching that women have a right not to be raped and constantly impregnated by their husbands- this is a practice in many other parts of the world that is used to keep women uneducated and immobile. Improving the standard of living for women also means better education for women, giving them better access to good jobs, keeping them away from human trafficking and allowing them to better support their families. It is absolutely true, and it’s really cool to hear Bill Nye say it too!

  • maybe Bill doesn’t understand. this woman brought herself and her kids to his talk for the express purpose of waiting for the “most offensive moment” of his talk, so she could have the reality show TV moment of stomping off in anger when he said “it,” whatever that most offensive thing was to her little congregation of stupids. she probably was manipulated by “friends” in some media stream to do just that, so they could use this “incident” of “offense” on their websites and later, some TV shows. i don’t have time to go look it up, but i do know this is how the Game is played. Bill N the Science Guy is exactly who the fundies *do not* take their kids to, most of the time. their preachers single him out and say what a devil he is, after all. so why was she there?

    i know why: for the purpose of shooting video, a la the Fred Phelps camps, for media/video ops as used by groups like NOM which are later circulated by “neutral” media outlets like CNN.

    stop treating the TV media like it’s “real” or represents reality. it’s all scripted. ALL of it.

  • Nordog

    That’s why I don’t “believe” in Truth. Truth is fine to seek, as long as you don’t find it; if you do, you’re no better than the fundies you make fun of.

    Is that true?

  • JoeBuddha

    It’s not True, but it might be true.

  • Craig

    I just want to point out that not all Christians come from the “if it all isn’t true, then none of it is.” school of thought. A critical mind is, in my opinion a part of a human created in Gods image.
    It takes commitment to believe in something that hasn’t been proved scientifically. I’m not a literalist. I believe dinosaurs roamed the earth and the moon reflects the light of the sun but just as my capacity for comprehending the concept of “the end of space”, falls short, I cannot deny that some things are beyond the capacity of reason. Until God can be disproven, I will continue to ponder His existence and seek to know if He exists.
    Thanks for listening. Science rocks.