Who would have guessed that evolution would leap back into top news headlines in early 2014? Already hundreds of TV, magazine and newspaper stories have reported on an upcoming debate—evolution vs. creationism—featuring Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Do you know Bill Nye? The original run of his series actually ended in 1998 after more than 100 episodes. But this lanky, nerdy star continues in reruns and pops up repeatedly in odd corners of popular culture—always publicizing the value of science education. He most recently promoted science while competing on Dancing with the Stars.
According to his web site, Nye’s mission is to “help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work.” And now he’s taking his mission to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where next month he will debate museum founder Ken Ham on evolution versus a literal interpretation of the biblical creation story. The event sold out the first day.
My question today is: Who will win the debate?
Bill will be taking the side of the monkey.
The famous 1925 Scopes Trial was brought by the State of Tennessee against John Scopes, a high school teacher, accused of teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. It became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial because Tennessee law forbade teaching that humans descended from the “lower orders,” interpreted to mean monkeys. (For the record, evolutionary theory says that humans have the same common ancestor as apes and chimpanzees, but humans are not directly descended from monkeys.) Clarence Darrow defended Scopes; Nye is taking on Darrow’s role in the upcoming debate. William Jennings Bryan represented the prosecution; Ham is taking on that role. In the end of the real trial, Scopes was found guilty. His conviction was thrown out on appeal, but due only to a technicality.
By now you might be saying: Well, the Scopes trial was a long time ago. Hasn’t the evolution-versus-creation question been settled? Didn’t the monkey win?
A majority of Americans would say yes. But it’s not a large majority, according to a Pew Research Center poll last month. Sixty percent of Americans told Pew that humans (and other living things) have evolved over time; they have not existed in their present form since the beginning of time. One-third (33%) say: No, we reject the idea of evolution. (STAY TUNED: Tomorrow, we’ll look at more of the Pew findings, including a group in America for whom evolution is an increasingly unattractive explanation.)
WATCH BILL NYE IN ACTION
CLICK ON THE VIDEO SCREEN to watch a short clip of Bill Nye talking about what he sees at stake in Americans’ attitudes toward this issue. (If you don’t see a video screen, try clicking on the headline of this column to reload this page.)
Who do you think will win the debate?
- Evolution: Is Bill Nye setting up a new Scopes Monkey Trial?
- Evolution: Why are Republicans becoming creationists?
- Evolution: Your religion might reveal your views
- Evolution: Natural process or supreme guidance?
- Evolution: Will this story evolve over time?