Bill O’Reilly Explains Tides By Questioning the Moon’s Origin January 31, 2011

Bill O’Reilly Explains Tides By Questioning the Moon’s Origin

A few weeks ago, Dave Silverman of American Atheists appeared on Bill O’Reilly‘s program to talk about AA’s billboard:

O’Reilly: I’ll tell you why [religion’s] not a scam. In my opinion, all right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can explain why the tide goes in…

Silverman: Tide goes in, tide goes out…?

O’Reilly: Yeah, see, the water — the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always goes in…

Silverman: Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus who’s making the tides go in and out…

O’Reilly: No no, but you can’t explain that… you can’t explain it…

A lot of people responded to this pride-in-ignorance, including Keith Olbermann and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Now, O’Reilly has responded to it himself, courtesy of the Backstage Conversation webcast for Premium Members.

And he just makes himself look like more of an idiot.

His answer summarized: “How did the moon get there? How did the sun get there? How did that little amoeba get there?”


As if that’s a respectable answer. (Answers to the first couple questions are here and here.)

He then closes with the old canard about how it takes more faith to be an atheist than a believer.

That’s not true, of course, but it take a hell of a lot of chutzpah to claim we don’t know how our universe works when the answers are right there for anyone willing to learn.

The best comment on YouTube about this clip?

Mars: 2 moons; Jupiter 63 moons; Saturn 61 moons; Uranus 27 moons; Neptune 13 moons; Bill O’Reilly 0 brains.

(Thanks to Chris for the link!)

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  • Adam

    Yay for the GDI(GodDidIt) cop-out that is the basis for religion.

    He should watch Cosmos. There’s a gorgeous animation that Carl Sagan narrates that explains this in explicit detail.

  • Jonas

    I saw this clip, and couldn’t believe it. Though it does answer the question of why Silverman didn’t originally go for the Scientific answer. — O’Reilly would have just backed up further until getting to a currently unknown to science question.

    Epic Fail for O’Reilly though — He doesn’t explain his ‘motto’, and makes him look like a scientific moron.

    Though Silverman should have answered — That not knowing how something works, or how something originated, does not mean that you know a god did it.

    Course the ‘more faith to be an atheist’ canard — nonsense, you just have to be honest enough to admit that you do not know certain things.

  • All that needs to be said is this: If there was a jury trial and “how the moon got here” was the mystery that needed to be solved, who would the jury believe if they had to- like in real life- base their decision on physical evidence and the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard? Bill O’Reilly’s explanation (I don’t know, so God Did It) or a scientist?

    Even if people on the jury were religious, they would HAVE to go with the scientist simply based on the evidence.

    I wish religious people would think in terms like that more often.

  • Perhaps Bill should take the advice given in his own favorite book:

    “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Proverbs 17:28


  • Togii

    I also love the part at the end where it encourages you to purchase a premium membership to O’Reilly’s website “for more weekly insights from Bill!”
    Obviously worth $49.95 a year.

  • Liberty

    I love how he says it we have the sun and the moon and a planet with livable conditions because we’re “lucky.” Like it’s somehow to our benefit, not that we’re just the by-product of that “luck.” Chance, yes- luck, no.

  • Collin Estes

    First time commenter, long time lurker.

    Just wanted to make a quick point about Bill’s final point.

    “It takes more faith to be an atheist.”

    This is such a terrible position for a theist to take because it would indicate that there are degrees of faith. And not only that but that a position of “More” faith is less desirable than a position with “less” faith. If someone could get Bill to admit that fact they would be in essence letting him paint himself into a corner. Because once a theist admits something like that then you could easily show the atheist position being of “less” faith than the theist position.

    Faith is supposed to be a good thing in their belief systems so it really undermines it when Bill, as he has many times, says things like that.

  • Tony

    I just sent an email to Fox asking someone there to please tell Bill the First Rule of Digging.

  • I believe that’s the First Rule of Holes.

  • DocShinobi

    Durr ahurr durr durpy durp durdur!
    Bill opened his mouth and that’s what I heard.

    Anyone who has taken a middle school astronomy class knows where the celestial bodies came from. Moreso for those who took Astro in High school or college like myself.
    Pretty sad when people like this make up the majority of humanity.

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    When this first started with the Silverman interview, I remember someone in a comment somewhere was defending O’Reilly saying that his argument was more subtle; that it’s more the harmony of how everything works together in nature that he sees as proof of god. Not that it’s a valid argument, but at least it’s a little better than “Magnets… how do they work?!?”

    But I guess he really is that bad. There are things we don’t understand, therefore god exists!

  • This is a classic “You-can’t-possibly-be-right-because-I-am-stupid” response.

    As for the first rule of holes, there is a second rule of holes. If you dig fast and hard enough you eventually come out the other side. Unless Bugs Bunny has lying to me all of this time.

  • Chris

    Even if you get someone to explain how the solar system, galaxy, or universe was formed he will have a come back. Then how did all those materials get there? Luck? How did the big bang start? You cant know, you werent there, you are just speculating. God Did it! I dont need proof Hur Dur

  • Blacksheep

    Faith is not a substitute for proof, but it’s the path that feels right for me to take while the debate plays out. (One has to go with one’s mind, heart, conscience, and gut, after all). As soon as there’s proof one way or the other I’ll stay where I am or jump ship accordingly.

  • Anyone else notice how the e-mail’s author explains how tides work and that Bill just completely ignores it a minute later?

  • Sean Santos

    My response:

    Well, Bill, scientists actually know the basics behind all these things and are doing research on how the specific features of astronomical bodies came about. Meanwhile, you seem to be saying that a magical person wished it into existence. But you’re right. The people who are actually studying the sun and moon clearly are just ‘pinheads’ who are going on faith,? while you’re the reasonable one.

  • Rob

    I don’t think O’Reilly is really that stupid.

    He’s playing a character, though, that HAS to be that stupid to play to his redneck/know-nothing audience… that’s why he can’t really expound on his bonehead theories. They’re not real, and he’s not committed enough to them to give a full answer. The good thing for him is that he doesn’t have to. The know-nothings are quite content with GodDidIt and aren’t about to challenge their beliefs — nor do they care about an explanation beyond GodDidIt.

    Either that, or I’ve given O’Reilly too much credit for pandering to the cretins all these years.

  • Jay

    We should pool some money and gift O’Reilly subscriptions to every science magazine in existence.

    So as not to feel left out, we can gift a collection of Dr. Seuss books to Glenn Beck.

  • Haha, I’m loving the follow-up to last week’s nonsense… Hours of laughter about it then, and even more mirth at the idiocy today.

    Really, though, even with all the amusement it’s provided, I’d rather that the media wasn’t running things this brain-numbingly stupid. When people say things this mental and aren’t immediately discredited for being unfit to keep talking to a wide audience… well, let’s just say there are reasons I don’t watch cable anymore.

  • Richard P.

    I think this is simply a case of, I want to be ignorant, leave me alone!!!

    Seems to be working for him.

  • Rob

    it take a hell of a lot of chutzpah to claim we don’t know how our universe works when the answers are right there for anyone willing to learn

    Well to be fair we don’t actually know how the universe works. We have some excellent theories, but I don’t think that even Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson would claim that we have mastered that knowledge.

    We do however know why the tide comes in, so shame on O’Reilly for being ignorant of that.

  • Blacksheep

    Bill O’Reilly isn’t that dumb (I’m not a fan, he’s kind of a jackass) but I think it’s pretty clear that he was simply saying that the power and mystery of nature, etc. etc. are reasons for his faith.

    But why is everyone taking about the moon bit? The biggest part of this video was a debate about whether or not the billboard is insulting – which of course it is. What’s not insulting is to present what you believe, in whatever way you want. One of the main reasons that it’s insulting is the whole “You know…” part. On the contrary, if anyone “knew” there would be no debate.

    Christian billboards usually say things like, “Jesus loves you,” not, “Atheists know they are wrong.” (There are mean spirited billboards, too, put up by mean spirited people, but I travel alot and normally they are of the first variety, Bible verses, crosses, and such).

    Silverman is an odd spokeman for his cause – he actually seams pissed off that anyone would question his stance that Christians “know” it’s a scam. He needs to accept that people believe what they believe, just as he does.

  • jose

    I’m surprised nobody has brought up the Dunning-Kruger effect yet.

  • Zac

    It’ll be funny when they call him out on THIS idiocy.

  • Julie

    “Join Bill O’really!?! premium” for more “insights”! People pay for this? “Insights”? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Blacksheep

    Before Dunning and Kruger there was Bertrand Russell:

    “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt”.

  • Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus who’s making the tides go in and out…

    Silly atheist! Thor doesn’t live on Mount Olympus. And it’s Poseidon who’s in charge of the tides.

  • Mike Haubrich

    The problem I have with his “I don’t believe we can be this lucky” argument is that he assigns more value to a capricious Creator with no concern for the laws of nature. His God creates earthquakes when too many gays get uppity in California, like the Iranian cleric who thinks that Allah doesn’t like cleavage and kills thousands when he sees too much of it.

    A body in motion follows the rules of motion and pulls on water. The body gets there as a spinoff of a collision between two protoplanets 4.5 billion years ago and gravity keeps the body in motion around our planet. Is that so hard to understand. Mars has two bodies that aren’t big enough to create noticeable tides. That works for me logically, even if it doesn’t for Billo.

    We don’t know that there is no life on other planets, either.

    Atheists believe in a universe that works according to laws of nature that we can describe. Non-theists think that something we can’t see, and can’t predict because it gets angry pretty easily at our petty sins makes rash decisions that don’t follow those laws.

    And Bill, “it rains on the just and the unjust alike.” Does that make Jesus an atheist?

    I am not satisfied with God working in mysterious ways. It’s a mystery we create when we don’t bother to check out cause and effect using objective observations, measurements, tests and statistical analyses.

    Who’s the pinhead?

  • Dan W

    I think Bill O’Reilly really is that stupid. The number of times he’s said moronic things over the course of his TV career makes me think so. If he were just acting dumb or there’s deeper meaning to what he says, then why can’t he just say what he means without sounding like a total moron?

  • Tony

    I like “The first rule of digging” better. It’s much more fun.

  • Normally on YouTube even with the most bizarre stupidity that lurks there, some of the comments are in favour of the idiotic position taken by the poster.

    Not one – I could not find one comment that didn’t ridicule this clown. That’s saying something.

  • How can a man who sounds like he has not even completed a basic high school education get to such a high paid position spouting this nonsense? Bill makes for good laughs though. There is hope for all of us then.

    Unfortunately I was not so keen on the lure them out expression and would much preferred lifting the oppression of religion or opening peoples minds. Lure is a word usually used in conjunction with ambush. So maybe Bill was not so stupid after all as he got the atheist to admit there is a hidden agenda. Which is what churches have always warned their congregations about.

  • dz

    Bill is not that dumb. This is TV pandering to idiot viewers. So they get this atheist president guy to come in there and basically do the same thing as Bill, but the atheist version (e.g. unsupported claims, inflammatory language) to stir up a pointless controversy. There are many more sensical things that guy would have said if this weren’t just pure entertainment faux-news. Bill still sucks, though.

  • And it’s Poseidon who’s in charge of the tides.

    No, it’s Neptune. <grin/>

  • Blacksheep


    Again, I’m NOT a fan of O’Reilly – but do you really think that he actually doesn’t know how tides work? My first grader knew how tides worked!

  • bernerbits


    … do you really think that he actually doesn’t know how tides work? My first grader knew how tides worked!

    There are kids who are genuinely, insatiably curious about the world around them, and effortlessly absorb all the knowledge they can from any source. Then there are kids who really don’t care (“When am I ever going to have to use this in real life??”) and learn early on to simply memorize what they need to in order to put in their 12 years and get on with their lives.

    Which group do you think remembers into adulthood that the Moon’s gravity is responsible for the tides? Or that the tides are more pronounced when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are in alignment? Which group do you think Bill O’Reilly was in?

  • Blacksheep


    If you’re right, (and you may well be) I guess I’m in the dumbfounded group!

    Although when it comes to kids, I wonder if landlocked kids who never visit a beach with noticeable tides are exposed to that knowledge? I grew up going to the NJ shore where tides were a part of everyday life. (And no, it’s nothing like the TV show!!)

    I guess I can’t help feeling that if there were a million dollars at stake, (for example) Bill would immediately snap out of it and know exactly what causes the tides.

  • If it does take more faith to be an atheist then it logically follows that those with less faith are theists.

    According to one holy book we are saved by faith.

    Does this then mean that theists are less saved (or indeed more damned) because they lack the convictions of us atheists? Furthermore in order to ensure that they themselves are saved they need to shed their weak religious convictions and replace them with the much more powerful atheistic convictions.

    The man is clearly a genius.

  • Blacksheep


    Whether it takes more faith to be a theist or non theist I have no idea. But I do know that the holy book you are referring to does say that a little goes a long way. (One’s faith can be “as small as a mustard seed and still move mountains…”)

    As you know, the holy book also doesn’t have criterea for being more or less saved, or more or less damned. It says that salvation is given freely to any who ask.

  • Richard Wade

    If Bill O’Reilly lived in a village, he would not be the village idiot. No, he would make himself the guru of the idiots. Idiots would come from villages all over the countryside to listen to him. They would think he’s their best friend, and the wisest man in the land.

    His popularity is due to his great skill in helping idiots think they’re smart. This dismissive argument from ignorance about the moon and the rest of what he doesn’t bother to look up is exactly the kind of thing that idiots gobble up. The most destructive thing he does is he makes ignorance not only acceptable, he makes it a virtue. There’s a fortune to be gained by this, and a civilization to be lost.

  • Hahaahaha @ Jay. I would totally chip in on a bundle of science magazine subscriptions for O’reilly.

  • S-Y

    LOL the comments are disabled on that page.

    Of course, everything must come from Mr. Big Sky Daddy; there’s no other possible way!

  • Nisinc

    Beer goes in, sense goes out; never a miscommunication.

    Beer is god!

  • Zoe

    I love that it ends with a sales pitch. As if those comments made me more inclined to hear “weekly insights” from Bill O’Reilly.

  • Charlie Shore

    So which is the scariest:
    1) that this shitforbrains is so abysmally ignorant about fairly basic science
    2) that he’s so abysmally ignorant that he come up to bat again to further compound his ignorance, or
    3) that he pontificates his idiocy to millions of other pond scum microbes?

  • Charles terban

    How about the answer “I do not know” for the question of how everything is here.Only a pea brain would think that an insigfigent human would know the one answer,considering there are an astronomical amount of possibilities,most all being beyond human imaginationand comprehension.The odacity of one person claiming a deity is responsible for everything.How narrow minded can one get.Do you think an ant would know that a human dropped some sugar.The answer is NO.He could attribute it to a giant ant god.Humans are fools.The answer clearly is “we do not know”.

  • John

    Bill O’Reilly is making conservatives and Christians look like idiots. I am saddened due to the fact that I am both. I like to see how both sides view certain topic or people, but you are all very rude to those who didn’t care enough to pay attension during science class. I am no fool for being a christian and we all have our views. Some on both sides are idiots, since the christian/ conservative side is lager there is going to be slighty more idiots.Thanks for reading past “I am both”.

  • jqb

    Blacksheep and O’Reilly have the same problem … religion in place of critical thinking ability.

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