Pearls: Pitting science against religion is rarely a good idea

The other day, I watched a little YouTube video where television personality Bill Nye (‘the Science Guy’) refuted the possibility of Noah’s Ark having ever navigated the waters of a cataclysmic ancient flood.

I’m not going to write about my specific views on faith or science in this column. I’m going to write about utility and futility – how some courses of action are useful, and others are useless.

Bill Nye is a scientist, an observer, measurer, predictor and overall student of the physical world, of both the visible and invisible factors that make up existence as we study and perceive it. I’m glad we have scientists, and I’m glad they use the processes they use to learn and develop mankind’s understanding of so many things.

But Bill is wasting his time debating the literal truth of the Bible with people. It’s a foolish use of his fame.

I have said the same in the past of fellow science-over-scripture drum beater Neal deGrasse Tyson. He’s an intelligent man who has so much to teach folks: Why not just teach it? If it conflicts with religion, then so be it and let folks resolve their own conflicted thought. But for Tyson and Nye and countless others who work in the sciences to pick fights with folks who believe that faith trumps all other learning, well, isn’t that futile?

What’s the use? I have my religious beliefs – lots of folks do – and my reason for holding them is personal, related to a separate purpose from just knowing the right answer to the problem. People of faith will generally place their beliefs on a higher shelf than their understanding of the universe.

I can only imagine how crazy it drives Bill Nye to hear tales of arks and seven-day creation and a man who lived 969 years and giants and, well, you get the picture. And I can also understand the inherent need now of us feel to be understood. The Science Guy has sent decades of acclimating thinkers – originally, kids – to the exciting world of discovery. The man clearly enjoys studying a thing, measuring it, observing it, testing a hypothesis related to that thing, recording his results and learning from the experience.

Before we get too critical of him, we need to remember what a good thing discovery can be. I had strep throat five years ago, and those antibiotics that had me feeling better by the middle of the next day were truly amazing – and brought to me by science.

But if Bill Nye were asking Matt Pearl for advice (he hasn’t, and he won’t), I would tell him the same thing I would tell Dr. Tyson: Stay in your lane. The work that scientists do benefits us, but for them to expect universal acceptance of their ideas – even when their ideas are backed with airtight evidence, in their eyes – is not reasonable. Keep moving forward with your work, I would tell him. Every time you take the stage and debate someone for the purpose of pitting science against religion, you LOSE many people, but you GAIN few, if any.

Perhaps this situation represents a greater picture of our society as well: we are all so obsessed with others agreeing with our perspectives that we often alienate would-be allies in one pursuit, just because they are not in a complete agreement with us on another point. As my grandparents might have said, we often throw out the baby with the bath water.

So if you believe in Noah and the flood, or David and Goliath, or the Resurrection – as many of you do – don’t feel the need to hate Bill Nye. Acknowledge that he has things to teach you; and if your faith is what it should be, you should pray for the man regardless. And if you and Dr. Tyson see it eye-to-eye and you’re frustrated by folks who reject science for religious reasons, don’t debate them endlessly: rather, just keep studying and learning.

If all the believers vowed to pray peacefully for others, and if scientists kept pursuing their important agendas of discovery, might not the world improve – but without all the endless debating?

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.

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