Nye hosted an AMA on Reddit on Wednesday to promote his upcoming Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World. One commenter, Redditor u/dukethetiger, asked Nye for his thoughts about religion, an issue to which Nye has been proximate for much of his career.
u/dukethetiger asked Nye — an infamous religious skeptic — if “you think that there is any room in science for that line of thinking? Has it ever crossed your mind that there may be a higher power at work?” The commenter referred to Nye’s past debate with Ken Ham, the Austrailian creationist and founder of Kentucky’s Creation Museum, to add some context.
Ever the scientist, Nye acknowledged that “no one can prove there is no higher power,” since, logically speaking, no one can prove a negative. But he managed to sling a few good shots at Ham and the state (or, more correctly, commonwealth) of Kentucky:
Whether or not there is a higher power, there is no question that the Earth cannot possibly 6,000 years old. Teaching kids that idea is bad for our future. But worse, is teaching kids that the Earth is cooling rather than warming. All this is made possible in Kentucky by their having elected a creationist governor, who appointed a creationist cabinet, which was in turn enabled by a creationist judge…If you are really in touch with a Higher Power, ask her or him to straighten these Kentuckians (and immigrant Australian) out.
The situation to which Nye was referring was an $18 million yearly tax break awarded to Ham’s museum in April of 2016. The tax break came after a court case in which the Creation Museum sued the Commonwealth of Kentucky after it was initially denied the exemption under the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A district court judge ruled in favor of the museum in January 2016 and Kentucky, now under the administration of current governor Matt Bevin, did not appeal the case.
Bevin, the man infamous for suggesting bloodshed might be necessary to survive a Clinton presidency is the creationist governor about whom Nye was writing. He is a Southern Baptist and has proven supportive of Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationism — the assertion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old as suggested in the Bible.
That idea, as Nye points out, is patently false and utterly unscientific. And a place run by an administration friendly to such ideas is not likely to prioritize a robust science curriculum in education. This, it seems, is the root of Nye’s well-founded concern. It’s exactly the kind of thinking he is seeking to combat in his new show, and that he has made a career out of debunking.
Still, Nye made sure to end his answer on an optimistic note: “It will take years to undo the wrong-headed teaching of the kids in the Commonwealth,” he wrote. “But the longest journey begins with but a single step.”