1. blf says

    Did that loon(and I don’t mean Mr Nye) really say that… it not only is what Mr Nye said, it’s what Mr Nye said in BIG ITALICS!

  2. AMM says

    Anybody care to say what this is about, for the benefit of those of us who can’t watch on-line videos?

    (Category: accessibility.)

  3. Badland says

    Fuck me. Authoritarian acceptance of received wisdom can be that strong?

    Props to you, feller, for your honesty, but my thinking diverged from yours long before I stopped believing in Santa

  4. Al Dente says

    Creationist Rick Warren said that given a choice between the Bible and science he’ll go with the Bible. Many fundamentalists reject reality and accept 2500 year old myths.

  5. opposablethumbs says

    AMM: approximately something like this –
    shot 1 – bloke sitting in a chair holding a book on his lap (he is labelled “Pastor PeterLaRuffa”), speaking to camera, says very solemnly, with meaningful pauses for effect “If somewhere in the bible I were to find a passage that says 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the bible. I would believe it, accept that it’s true, and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.”
    shot 2 – Nye standing, looking appalled (I think); looks into camera, says (also sounding incredulous and appalled, the aural equivalent of WTF what is this I can’t even) “That just makes no fucking sense. (with a laugh of horror) I mean that’s just bullshit.” He walks off, muttering “Fuck.” as he goes.

    What Nye said. It beggars belief.

  6. says

    There are things I simply wouldn’t believe unless I saw or heard them, and boy, does this ever fucking qualify. Bill Nye’s response says it all.

  7. Who Cares says

    It is that the idiot meant with the current set of axioms underpinning math.
    Otherwise it should be possible to devise a set of them that would indeed get to 2+2= 5, I just wonder what it breaks to get to that result.

    But that response by mr. Nye is the only correct one to give when someone states a stupidity of this magnitude.

  8. Tigger_the_Wing, Double trans person, not a TERF says


    The video opens on a scene which might be a theatre or wealthy church with red plush seating in tiers in the background. In the foreground, wearing a long-sleeved pale shirt, open at the neck and with no tie, there is a seated, pale, possibly white, man; bald and sparsely bearded, holding a book, presumably a bible, with his left hand on his right thigh, relaxed expression on his face, saying in a USAian accent:

    “If somewhere within the bible I were to find a passage that said two (emphasises with hand-chopping motion with right hand, fingers pointing towards viewer)
    “plus two (repeats emphasis)
    “equals five (repeats emphasis)
    “I wouldn’t question (emphasis using right hand in upside-down open-fingered cupping motion, fingers touching book)
    “what I’m reading in the bible. (Relaxes right hand)

    “I would believe it, (Emphasises with chopping motion of right hand on book, palm toward speaker).
    “accept it is true, (slides right hand forwards off book, turning palm upwards)
    “and then do my best to work it out and understand it (relaxes right hand and slides it to his right, opening fingers and thumbs towards the viewer).”

    Rapid cut to a head-and-shoulders view of Bill Nye, dressed in formal evening wear, black bow tie, in front of an animated starscape, baffled expression on his face, saying:

    “That just makes no fucking sense; (shaking head rapidly)
    “I mean, that’s just bullshit!” (baffled grin)

    Rapid cut to full shot of Bill Nye standing. He turns to his right.

    “Fuck.” (Muttered just loud enough to be heard)

    Walks to viewer’s left.

    “Oh, man.” (muttered just before leaving camera range)

    End of video.

  9. says

    Actually the Bible does say something like that, specifically that pi=3. Solomon’s sea (really a big swimming pool) is, IIRC, seven units in diameter and 21 units in circumference. So I’d love to see that guy do engineering.

  10. ospalh says

    The only reasonable response

    I disagree. There is another reasonable response:

    Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

    “Winston Smith“, in George Orwell’s 1984

  11. says

    Actually the Bible does say something like that, specifically that pi=3. Solomon’s sea (really a big swimming pool) is, IIRC, seven units in diameter and 21 units in circumference. So I’d love to see that guy do engineering.

    See, like, this is where your religious orthodox tradition helps. I don’t remember exactly where it shows up, I think it’s in the Talmud, but in there there’s a disputation about how the basin in the temple could possibly be 21 cubits in circumference and 7 wide, when this is obviously impossible. The answer the rabbis came up with was that the 7 cubits was measured from the outer lip of the basin, but the circumference was measured from the inner lip. Thus the two numbers in scripture not only tell you the dimensions of the basin, but how thick the lip was; by taking the true value of Pi as given prior to the Bible, the words in the Bible actually give you more information than you think.

    But this guy is just making all this up as he goes along, so he benefits from none of the thought or tradition on this. Fundamentalism isn’t about holding the Bible as true, it’s about rejecting modernity.

  12. blf says

    As Issac Asimov pointed out a long time ago, in Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, the claim teh babble implies π = 3 is more pedantry than STEM:

    […] The interesting point is that its [the “molten sea”‘s] upper rim seems to be circular in shape with a diameter of ten cubits and a circumference of thirty cubits. This is impossible […]

    The explanation is, of course, that the Biblical writers were not mathematicians or even interested in mathematics and were merely giving approximate figures. Still, to those who are obsessed with the notion that every word in the Bible is infallible (and who know a little mathematics) it is bound to come as a shock to be told that the Bible says that the value of pi is 3.

    Teh babble is neither a blueprint, textbook, nor thesis. It’s a work of (very bad) fiction.

  13. Bob Foster says

    Can anyone now have any doubts that there is no compromise position with people such as this? Over the last few years I’ve heard the argument, put forth by many well intentioned people, that there must be a rapprochement between science and religion. They argue that there surely must be a way to reconcile the two conflicting views of the universe. There is not. We are enemies. The trouble is that too many people on our side of the barricades are reluctant to admit it. The enemy sees this fight for what it is. It’s time everyone did. The future of the species and the planet itself may be at stake.

  14. says

    So what if they guy finds a passage in the Bible that says “Everything in the Bible is wrong”? Would his head explode in a cloud of blue-white smoke like a Star Trek android?

  15. says

    Okay, actually I know a bit about the argument that “no, the bible doesn’t say π=3”. The arguments presented by rabbis and other apologists not only involve extreme pedantry and claims that the explicit text isn’t actually talking about measuring the things it says it is measuring, but also are still wrong. (IIRC, following the apologists’ math comes up with π=3¼ or π=3¹⁄₇ or some other figure which was already known at the time to be incorrect. It’s in Petr Beckmann’s History of π.) Let’s just face it: if the old testament is even broadly factual, the ancient Hebrews were a failure of a people; they couldn’t do math, they couldn’t navigate the desert (40 years to get from Egypt to Israel?), and they were always willing to go in for genocide and murder and rape without a qualm.

    (Incidentally, there is a quotation somewhere, I am not even sure which book I saw it in, but it runs approximately: “What would you do if the bible said 2 + 2 was 5?” “I would believe it, and I would count ‘1, 2, 3, 5’.”)

  16. Pierre Le Fou says

    If the bible said that 2 + 2 equals 5, I’d find a True Believer right away, give him two dollars, give him two more dollars and then ask for my five dollars back!

  17. What a Maroon, oblivious says

    If he’d read the Book of Armaments, he’d know that five is right out.

  18. tarski says

    #9, #10

    Personally, I’ve never thought that was really an error. To one significant figure, Pi = 3. I’m sure the authors of that text had no notion of significant figures in mind, but I don’t expect any more precision of them.

    If my neighbor said of a circular object that it had diameter 10 units and circumference 30 units, I wouldn’t say “Ha! You think that Pi = 3, you nincompoop!”

  19. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    The Nye bit is from a sketch in the comedy show Inside Amy Schummer, which was very good in itself. People are using it to make all sort of montages now.

  20. A Masked Avenger says

    I’m noticing that these comments seem to be conflating the issues of historicity and inspiration.

    For example, commenters remark that π was known to greater precision by the early monarchic period (about 900 BCE plus or minus who gives a damn). The Babylonians definitely approximated π at least as well as 3.1250 by about 1600 BCE. Egyptians approximated it at least as closely as 256/81 by about the same time. This proves that it was theoretically possible for an Israelite in the monarchy to know by calculation that the water basin must have been between 31.25 cubits and 31.60 cubits.

    So what does this tell us about the Bible? The fact remains that it claims that this thing was 10 cubits in diameter, and “a line of 30 cubits did compass it round.” Some writer, sometime between 900-ish and 500-ish BC, thought this was an accurate description (or accurate enough for his purposes). The writer specifically asserts that this was experimentally determined by using a cord. This suggests various possibilities:

    * The writer definitely lacked an education in the best mathematics of the time.
    * This may reflect a general level of ignorance in the Israelite kingdom.
    * This may indicate that an actual measurement was not taken (a 1.4-cubit descrepancy?)
    * This may indicate that a measurement was taken very sloppily (a 4.7% margin of error)
    * This may indicate something about the object’s deviation round (a 10×9.1 ellipse has a circumference of 30)
    * This may indicate that a bad math student invented this thing out of whole cloth.

    None of the above are particularly problematic. The cultic object in question was well within the technology of the time. Israelite culture did not equal the refinement of Babylonian or Egyptian, so it’s not surprising to find Israelites poorly educated by comparison. A 5% stretch factor in natural cord isn’t at all surprising. Deviations from round should be small: an object like this would be cast in earth, and the circumference would be scribed by a “compass” made with cord and a stick. Deviation would be limited to stretch in the cord and accuracy of the folks with the shovels.

    In short, it’s entirely plausible that this cultic object existed, in the approximate dimensions given, and that it was sloppily measured by a worker, whose results were credulously written by a scribe who was poorly educated in the mathematics of the day. There’s nothing particularly astonishing about any of this.

    But implicit in all of these comments (and the OP) is the fundie assumption that the scribe was just a transcription machine for Yahweh’s dictation. The thing becomes comedic only when cast in that light: an omniscient being, who knows PI to infinity decimal places, rounds off to one significant digit, thereby giving a wrong answer that educated people or careful engineers of the day could easily have improved upon.

    If we accept it as the late bronze- / early iron- age text that it is, it’s unremarkable.

    The folks who say, “I know that π=3 because Yahweh told me so,” are obviously wearing their assess as hats.

  21. A Masked Avenger says

    For anyone interested in how much accuracy could have been achieved with the technology available in Ancient Israel (well, Judah), see Ancient standards of volume: Negevite Iron Age pottery (Israel) as a case study in 3D modeling.

    Interesting article!

    Note though that it doesn’t indicate that Israelites were capable of sophisticated geometric calculations. The authors hypothesis a rule of thumb that permits them to produce accurate 2.26L containers without actually performing volumetric calculations.