Bill Nye doesn’t use the Bible as a science text? Heretic!

Reality is highly offensive to the godly. Bill Nye has alienated Texas by pointing out a simple fact:

Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they’d always suspected.

Curse you, moon! Every night when you rise, you mock the gods with your false “light”!


  1. Bob L says

    Something that should be asked of the young “a day is a day” earth crowd; do they also believe in a light emitting moon?

  2. stogoe says

    Yeah, it is, Blake, but stories (especially if they’re false) gain power through repetition. Sort of like the Bible. And PYGMIES + DWARFS.

  3. 386sx says

    Heck some of the other stars are even greater lights than the star God made to govern the day. Heck some of them aren’t even really stars if I’m not mistaken. But Jesus couldn’t tell them that because they weren’t very smart back then and they probably would have had severe fainting spells and whatnot. They had some very delicate sensibilities back in the day.

  4. says

    That seriously takes a special kind of stupid. I can’t imagine that woman’s three children will go very far in this lifetime.

  5. Josh says

    Did perhaps the people who stormed out immediately run into a cloud of the deadly night vapors, which caused an excess of bad humors in their bodies, resulting in their untimely return to God and their removal from my planet?

  6. Pete h D says

    Goes to show, I guess, that a little reflection can threaten Texans’ belief in god. Or at least that their beliefs are opposed to reflection.

    I loved the Bill Nye the Science Guy show. Glad to hear he’s still educating — or, in this case, trying to educate the uneducatable.

  7. Brando says

    Geez, they could have at least moved the goal posts with “yeah, well the Bible doesn’t differentiate between light emission and reflection, you heathen.”

  8. laikadog says

    Not to mention that, depending on the phase, the Moon is not necessarily up during most of the night. So, for example during New Moon, does that mean that god stopped caring about us at night?

  9. JohnnieCanuck, FCD says

    The Dalai Lama’s faith also teaches that the moon is a source of light.

    He has said that when he first viewed the moon through a telescope and saw the shadows of the mountains, he found he had a choice to make.

    He chose to not take his holy texts literally on this point and to accept the implications of what he saw as being real.

    Perhaps this says something of the merits of the education he received, compared to that which those Texans in the audience had.

  10. says

    Isn’t it fun to watch a Godbag get his or her entire reason for being destroyed by one simple scientific fact? The sad thing was that the fact that the moon reflects light isn’t any real threat to anyone. Unless you believe in the literalness and infallability of the Bible.

  11. Sastra says

    Years ago I met a creationist in a chat room who answered the “if the universe is only 10,000 years old, why do we see light from stars millions of light years away?” with “The stars do not send forth their own light: they only reflect the light from the sun.”

    This guy was familiar to regulars, and claimed to home school his kids. We weren’t sure, but didn’t think he was kidding. I asked him how big the stars were, and whether they might be held up with paste, but he declined to answer.

  12. Geral says

    Bill Nye gave a public lecture at my university, and it was fascinating to watch him in person since I think I watched every one of his episodes. His lecture was about the same format of the one above and mentioning the same passage and it did upset some people. Some people did stand up and leave.

    Most people stayed and there were some great questions including what his religious beliefs were – answered agnostic, it’s a fairly neutral answer I figured.

  13. soteos says

    Semi-serious question: do Waco residents believe that water and the sky are composed of the same elements as well?

  14. Heather says

    I also attended a public lecture by Bill Nye at my university, and I am a big fan of his show. There was a great episode on pseudoscience, including how to decide whether a claim can be tested by science or is pseudoscience. His website is pretty neat, too!

  15. says

    There are some old Loveline archives (from back when it was good) where Bill Nye was a guest. They often talked about atheism and crazy creation “science.”

    It’s worth a listen if you can find them — there are torrents around.

  16. crunchy frog says

    Yep, we definitely need to get better at refuting those sophisticated theological arguments that the general population holds.

  17. Curt Cameron says

    This story happened two years ago. Since then, we in Texas have been deporting our creationists to Kansas.

  18. kshack536 says

    for the record, and my pride, not all of us here in waco are ignorant bible thumping baptists. mr nye was here so long ago, i had actually forgotten about this. i saw the video of his lecture on a local cable channel. he said nothing wrong – but as a fellow atheist – he does not perpetuate the mythical rantings of non-scientific creationist teachings.
    i hope i have all of your sympathy for being stuck here in baptist-land o’ the sheep.

  19. 386sx says

    I also attended a public lecture by Bill Nye at my university, and I am a big fan of his show. There was a great episode on pseudoscience, including how to decide whether a claim can be tested by science or is pseudoscience. His website is pretty neat, too!

    Oh okay, thanks for the info Mr. Nye, oops I mean “Heather”.

  20. NickM says

    I recall a cool song parody Bill Nye did of Morrissey’s “The More you Ignore Me” called “The Faster you Push Me”. It explains principles of physics and is also a pretty accurate parody of Morrissey, if you like that kind of thing. Which, as a former weepy teen, I do. It’s on Youtube here:

  21. says

    The same lecture series had James Watson the year before. I had a run-in with a jerk-face guard who wouldn’t let me back into the room when I left to get a friend and consequently missed most of the lecture.

    kshack536, you have my empathy.

  22. says

    What an idiot. Everyone knows, and Bill Nye should too, that while the first light refers to the sun, the second, lesser, light refers to Jesus, since he is the ‘light of the world.’

    As for governing the night, I assume he stayed up all night so he could hang with prostitutes. Maybe he was some kind of goth hippy, too. He had long hair and a beard, why not a Siouxsie & the Banshees concert-T as well?

    In other news, has anyone watched Zeitgeist? Virgin-born death-defying saviours are symbols of astronomical phenomena, according to Part I. And that relates to 9/11 and capitalism somehow, I think. I haven’t gotten further, but my skepty sense is tingling.

  23. John Morales says

    JohnnieCanuck (#12) – re your anecdote about the Dalai Lama.

    If true, do you (a) think that these holy texts have now been amended, and (b) why was this not done before?

    I really doubt he has embraced methodological naturalism.

  24. Craig says

    I read this somewhere like a year ago. In fact I think I read it here. In fact, I think the post was worded identically. (that “curse you moon” thing rings a bell.)

    Is this a “Best of PZ Myers” post while he’s on vacation?

  25. S. Fisher says

    Good thing Mr. Nye didn’t use any cartoons in his lecture.You know how the religious react to cartoons.
    I find it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that the religious are so afraid of any little thing that spoofs their beliefs that they feel totally justified in reacting with rage and even violence. Some belief system. When the religious make fun of or trash those who believe in evidential reality I don’t get angry, I can only shake my head.

  26. RamblinDude says

    In other news, has anyone watched Zeitgeist?

    Yeah, I watched it. I was surprised at the production values, I thought it was pretty good editing.

    I found the part on religion rather interesting–at least some of it could be true.

    The rest is a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. Typical CT distortions about 911 events in order to prove that the collapses of the twin towers were ‘controlled demolitions’, and that it was all an inside job engineered by evil-puppet-master-overlords out to control our very thoughts.

    There’s also a lot of other stuff in the movie that will have you looking out your window for men in black. Oh…and you’ll think twice about getting an ID chip implanted in you–when they become fashionable. (Hey, just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…)

    Is it worth watching? Yeah, I think so; it’ll make feel like Jason Bourne for a little while.

  27. David Canzi says

    This gives me an idea for an unethical experiment…

    Find a few lesser-known forums where this incident is being discussed, create pseudonymous accounts for posting to them, and post counter-arguments to Bill Nye’s comment, something like this: “The Bible does not, in fact, state that the lesser light is the moon. No doubt the Bible is actually referring to Venus. So there, Mr. Nye!”

    The purpose of such an experiment would be to see how far this flawed riposte spreads in the Christian blogosphere, how many high-profile Christian bloggers fall for it, and how many of them delete or edit their web pages afterward to remove the embarrassing evidence.

  28. bacopa says

    I once met someone who at age 26 did not know the moon was often visible in daytime. She had lever looked up to see it. She even seemed to think it was impossible for it to be out in the daytime, and I suspect this was due in part to her religious instructoin that the moon was “for the night” and “marking time”. I tried to explain how the cause of the phases of the moon made it inevitable that the moon would sometimes be seen in daytime. she did not give up her position until I showed her a crescent moon near midday a few weeks later.

    But why did she never look up? I remember seeing a daytime moon (and I grew up in a cloudy area) as a very young child. But then again, I was a weird kid. I remember thinking that I might be able to perceive the rotation of the earth by laying on the ground and concentrating.

  29. Jeb, FCD says

    Dan #6,

    Her spawn will probably become politicians or, at least, presidential advisors.


  30. says

    Unfortunatly, as an astronomer, I’ve encounted far too many people who have never looked up. Its generally a city thing, light pollution has not only made it difficult to view the stars, but has created loads of people who have no idea what a real night sky looks like.

  31. Dee says

    True statement #43. The pale, wimpy, empty night sky in the city bears almost no resemblance to the real night sky. People who haven’t been out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night have no idea what the Milky Way really looks like. It helps to be out in the desert, with really dry air. It also helps if you’re not downwind of someplace like LA or Phoenix.

  32. Brandon P. says

    “Dear Texas,
    Please secede. Thank you.
    The Rest of Us”

    Sorry to sound politically correct, but let’s not stereotype Texans just because they have their share of ignoramuses. I’m pretty damn sure there are people like that in every state, and that there are many Texans who are NOT that ridiculously stupid.

  33. dorris says

    Yes, there are rabid fundies in every state. I should know; here in Washington state, right in the middle of bluest of the blue, we’ve got the Discovery Institute – purveyor of the worst kind of ignorant Creationist tripe. I’ve also been in Houston and Dallas, and they are both fairly liberal, cosmopolitan cities. But Texas is a big state, and so, by sheer numbers, probably does have more ignorant, bible-bangin’ backwoods rubes than, say, Connecticut or New Hampshire or Washington. And they have been exporting them, too. They overran Colorado over the last thirty years, turning a liberal haven into a nest of right wing nutzoids drooling over the likes of Ted Haggard. Don’t know why they can’t keep it in Texas – you’d think the state would be big enough for ’em – but no.

    It’s also been my experience that fundies are getting more and more sensitive and easily offended – could it be fear? Fear of having your very basis for life obliterated by hard, cold facts? The light of science leaves no dark cranny unexposed. They just can’t find a place to hide with their fantasies, and they’re scared.

  34. CortxVortx says

    Re: #40

    During one of my past jobs, I was on morning break with a group outside, and for some reason now forgotten, one middle-aged lady opined that the moon couldn’t be seen during the day. When I questioned this, she quoted the “greater light, lesser light” thing.

    I pointed to the waning gibbous moon, high in the sky. She looked profoundly shocked.

    I asked her to repeat the phrase, and then pointed out that the moon was still a lesser light, and it certainly wasn’t ruling, just as Reagan wasn’t ruling when he visited Great Britain (yes, that long ago!). Boy, did she look relieved!

    I told her that that misconception came from people who extrapolated on what the Bible said, and other people came to believe that that was in the Bible. Like the fable of men having one less rib than women. (And I explained the problem with “heritable characteristics” using Jewish circumcision as an example.)

    So I left her faith in the Bible intact but put her on guard against people who “added a jot or tittle.” Plant the seed of doubt.

    — CV

  35. Antimatter Spork says

    Bill Nye is far to awesome to have to deal with this kind of stuff from morons of any stripe.

  36. Curt Cameron says

    bacopa wrote:
    I once met someone who at age 26 did not know the moon was often visible in daytime. She had lever looked up to see it.

    Obviously, she had never heard the comedian Steven Wright, who said in his low monotone:

    “How come, sometimes the Moon is out in the daytime, but the Sun is never out at night?”

  37. woozy says

    I’d tribute people not knowing the moon is possible during the day more to cartoons or just not being curious enough to care, than to either the bible or urban light polution. The desert nomads probably didn’t know much about biology or astrophysics but they certainly knew about the phases of the moon. Don’t want to sound like an apologetisist but “ruling the night” doesn’t mean only appears at night nor always appears at night. Surely whoever wrote the bible would have known that.

    It’s actually scary just how uncurious or how stupid so many people are. It’s a mistake to say that are taking the bible literally. Such uncurious people don’t read the bible any more than they are looking at the sky. That just believe whatever the think they’ve been told.

    Hell, to even be a further bible apologist, Nye didn’t say the moon wasn’t a light, just that it was a light reflector. One can imply from his mentioning the bible that he considers the bible in error, and being pavlovian reactors they think shouting “we believe in god” is a response??? Hell, saying “the moon *must* be a light source, because the bible says so” would be a more rational response. Of course having the teeniest amount of curiosity to study and discover for onesself that the moon (and the planets) is a reflector and there is utterly no question about it so that not even creationists deny it, would be better.

    rereading Gen 1:16, the one light to rule the day and one night to rule the night seems weird considering the authors obviously knew the phases of the moon.

    Actually it sounds exactly like a childrens bedtime story with over simplification and poetic cadences. I’m not even sure the original desert nomads believed the creation story.

  38. woozy says

    Once when I was 8, I met someone who claimed that on that particular day (Feb. 23, 1970; I was so impressed I remembered) it wasn’t winter because it rains in winter and it wasn’t raining that day.

    However I have absolutely never ever EVER met someone above the age of eight who wasn’t aware that sometimes the moon appears in the day. Maybe I’m lucky in that I’ve always lived in places where people aren’t absolutely brain dead stupid. I’m actually really REALLY afraid that someday I might find out people are *really* as stupid and weird as you all say.

    I mean, your remember how stunned I was when PZ reported a non-materialistic view of brain. I mean noone can be so… insane … as to believe in a physical spiritial plane seperate from the “material” world, right? I mean, that’s … nuts, right?

    Yeah, I’m *really* afraid there might be people as stupid as you guys claim.

  39. csrster says

    I’ve heard of schoolkids being given an assignment involving looking at the moon “tonight” without the teacher having bothered to check rising and setting times. The logic seemed to be “if it’s night, the moon must be out”, more or less the inverse of the surprisingly common “you can’t see the moon during the day” meme.

  40. Sam says

    The Dalai Lama’s faith also teaches that the moon is a source of light.

    Strictly speaking – Buddha never voiced an opinion on the subject. 900 years later, some buddhist intellectual made the comment and it got carried on from there. Buddha himself was rather more empiricist, urging direct experience over dogma, books and teachers (hence – if you see the buddha by the road, kill him – although you’ll find a number of people who claim this isn’t the case, because, hey, it’s still religion)

  41. JJR says

    I wonder if this lady tells her kids the Moon Landings were faked on a Hollywood sound stage?
    Stupid ideas tend to travel in packs like that, as discussed by PZ before.

  42. John Bode says

    Dear Texas,
    Please secede. Thank you.
    The Rest of Us

    We tried that once already. Didn’t go well.

  43. Pierce R. Butler says

    How can we ever expect to gain credence from the general public with all these in-your-face aggressive “Nye Atheists” deliberately provoking popular antagonism?

    There’s not much chance we can get Bill Nye arrested for his aggressive behavior, unless… hey maybe – we can frame him!

  44. Sharon Moskowitz says

    My sixteen-month-old son has already noticed that the moon sometimes comes up in the daytime–to the point where he gets a bit upset now when he looks for it and it isn’t there.

    Even back when I was a “true believer” as a child, I wouldn’t have had any trouble reconciling the scientific fact of moon-as-reflection with the Biblical passage: subjectively, if you’re on Earth and the sun’s down, the light does appear to come from the moon. I wouldn’t have expected the wise-old-scroll-writing-guys to know any different, nor that they would feel the need to rely on God’s inspiration for what was (to them) such a self-evident thing, however much they relied on Him for the rest of the Book. I guess I wasn’t a very good young fundie.