Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Bill Nye and the Devolution of Man

Last night I watched the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate LIVE and was captivated on several fronts. First, the electronic medium of the debate was through Live - You Tube.  You Tube is changing the game regarding broadcasting LIVE events, and pastors and churches need to be aware of the incredible technology available for FREE - as long as your church's You Tube account has 100 subscribers. Over 500,000 people from several nations watched the Creation vs. Evolution debate LIVE via You Tube. The sphere of our globe has genuinely flattened when it comes to communication, and it is to the advantage of anyone with a message worth sharing to understand and to use such a powerful medium.

Second, Al Mohler has done a very good job pin-pointing the problem with last night's debate. Nobody's mind was changed. The starting point for both men (and their supporters) was too far apart. It's like two runners who enter a race that is to be run in two separate stadiums. The start line, the race itself, and the finish line are so far from the other runner, that the spectators aren't exactly sure where to look. Ken Ham believes "in the beginning God created" and Bill Nye believes "by chance-the universe evolved from nothing."   Ken Ham is a six-day creationist and not all Christians (as Bill Nye pointed out) agree with his interpretation of a six-day duration of creation. But at least those Christians who do not hold to six-day creationism do hold to Intelligent Design. Bill Nye's "molecule to man" evolution is in another arena of thought altogether. I would enjoy a debate between two Christians who disagree over six-day Creationism more than I enjoyed last night's debate because at least those debaters would be sparring in the same stadium.

Third, what struck me most about Bill Nye was his insistence that Noah could never have built an ark like the one described in Genesis because some of the finest and greatest engineers and boatmen attempted to build a similar wooden boat several millennia later after Noah and those modern ship builders could not accomplish their task.  Nye deems Noah a cave man and modern men geniuses, so the story of Noah and the ark must be myth. Of course, Nye's evolutionary philosophy teaches that mankind is evolving to greater and higher forms of intelligence.

Nye, however, needs to put his science cap on and do a little observational science to test his philosophy of evolution. He might be surprised to find man is devolving, not evolving. Sure, technological advances occur at a greater rate than ever, but the nature of man is such that mankind is devolving intellectually and spiritually. Had the ancient Egyptians had our base of scientific knowledge, their stunningly engineered pyramids would have orbited the earth.

It takes only a moment to prove devolution. Take linguistics as an example. The languages of man devolve. They never evolve. Isaac Newton, in my estimation the greatest scientist to ever live, believed it essential for children to learn the classical languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, etc...) before the age of twelve.  Newton, like my dear friend George Ella, believed superior human languages are in the past. Language is devolving. The oldest languages, like those of the ancient Sumerians and Hittites--and particularly the language of a Shemitic tribe called Hebrew--are highly complex and inflected languages. The Greek language did not evolve from grunts and groans and cave drawings to Homer's Illiad. Neither did The Song of Solomon evolve from Hebrew stick figures. Hebrew love poetry from Solomon is eloquent and extremely complex, surpassing the Hebrew literature of today. The languages of mankind have devolved over the centuries. Where are the Hebrew Solomon's of today? Where are the Greek Homer's of today? Where are the English Chaucers and Shakespeares of today?

George Ella, writing on the life of the English educator William Cowper,  shows the how teaching children from an evolutionary philosophy is detrimental: 
William Cowper would harshly condemn the way children are prevented from reading early and correctly in today’s schools. Parents are now scolded for teaching their children to read and write before entering school. Cowper would see this (scolding) as a further neglect of family life and abuse of family privileges and duties, and thus a form of child abuse. Cowper would accuse modern schools of adopting an evolutionary approach to language learning, drilling in arbitrary sounds, syllables, morphemes and phonetics instead of teaching words in a sense contextThis is an unscientific attempt to substitute grunts for language and thought.
For Cowper, the best way to learn to read was the ‘story’ approach, whereby children are confronted with complete sense units such as The Lord’s Prayer or a parable or short Biblical account. Old Lob and Mac and Tosh carried on the ‘story’ method during the early nineteen-forties, but the post-war period went to extremes in experimenting with impractical systems. Happily, the story method is again being introduced into schools throughout Europe. Learning by meaningless sounds, syllables and phonetic fantasies has failed.
In Cowper’s day there were many learned autodidacts such as John Newton the great preacher, Thomas Scott the commentator, William Carey the missionary and Professor of languages, Captain Cook the mathematician and explorer, John Gill and John Brine the Baptist leaders. Newton learnt mathematics and Latin by writing in the sand during his slavery. Scott taught himself languages whilst working as a grazier, Carey learnt whilst mending shoes and Cook gained his schooling through practical experience. Modern education rules out such learning completely as pupils are seen as vessels to be filled rather than organisms able to nourish themselves given the right means. Fed with seven or eight lessons a day, children cannot find the muse and leisure for independent thinking and growth. Each child is taught to write in the same way, to read in the same way and to take in the very same facts. Often, only when school ends for the day do they begin to think for themselves. Many are then too exhausted to bother or homework destroys their coming to grasp with what they have learnt. School guidance nowadays means absolute control and the pupil has no liberty in dealing with the curriculum forced on him. He must like it but cannot lump it.
One of the results of the "molecule to man" evolutionary approach to the education of children is a failed educational system. A belief in evolution turns children into cavemen where educators grunt at them. Teenagers turn into tawdry targets of leisure and intellectual laziness that educators tolerate. It's hard for the modern educators to understand that children in America and England just two hundred years ago were expected to read and learn the Bible and study and learn Greek and Latin in elementary school. The devolution of man continues.

One day William Cowper saw an article condemning John Newton (author of Amazing Grace) for proposing that all life and learning should begin with the Bible. Cowper wrote a searing poem against the folly of those who condemned Newton for his educational approach:

“These critics, who to faith no quarter grant,
 But call it mere hypocrisy and cant
 To make a just acknowledgment of praise,
 And thanks to God for governing our ways,
 Approve Confucius more, and Zoroaster,
 Than Christ’s own servant, or that servant’s Master.”
Bill Nye's mockery of Noah as an ancient caveman with an inability to engineer a massive wooden boat for the protection of life from the judgment of a flood is consistent with his worldview of evolution. Nye's evolutionary philosophy has blinded him to the important truth that man is devolving over time, not evolving. The only hope for us all is a return to God and His Word.
Noah engineered an ark of stunning efficiency that surpasses the abilities of modern wooden ship builders, and even Noah's eloquence in preaching to the scoffers of his day far surpasses any poor attempts by modern preachers of righteousness, including me. The devolution of man affects us all.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Pastor Wade!

I've argued that the world is devolving, not evolving, for decades. (And by the way, I'm not a young earth creationist but do believe God is the creator.)

Our soil content is fading, erosion continues to steal land, don't see the air and water naturally getting cleaner, and we are losing biodiversity.

People seem generally less intelligent than those of 200 years ago, as you have shown. Disease continues to develop even as modern medicine tries to keep up with it.

Nope, no evolution just devolution. Spiritually, morally, intellectually, physically we continue the downward spiral.

But wait: someday our Lord will make all things new!


Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Linda!

My eschatology (and I'm sure yours as well) is God will one day reverse the curse of devolution (all creation groans for this day), and thankfully, we will see it.

Blessings to you and thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

...on Noah's Ark. Something to consider about Nye's comparison is that the ark was built just to float, therefore was much wider based and stronger than the sailing vessel he referred to.
...on the languages. I've been told that they no longer teach cursive writing, which is an art form, and I've also heard rumors about the lack of emphasis on correct grammar, punctuation and even spelling. American English is destined to devolve into grunts and groans.

Lucius said...

This is a very interesting article. I notice, however, that it is primarily from a Western viewpoint.

I agree that if you only look at American culture, it's easy to make the case that humanity is going down that tubes. I wonder if other cultures are headed down the same path.

raswhiting said...

Excellent article. I do wonder about the illustration though. Seems to be a knock on football. Kind of risky for someone from Oklahoma! :0

Wade Burleson said...


Point well taken! :)

Anonymous said...


It is not true that all Christians hold to intelligent design. Go to the biologos site click on resources then click on resource finder and then click on ID movement

stevenstarkmusic said...

“Of course, Nye's evolutionary philosophy teaches that mankind is evolving to greater and higher forms of intelligence.”

This is a very common misconception about the theory of evolution. Evolution does not prescribe any direction. We are not necessarily becoming more or less intelligent, more or less physically strong, etc. Rather, we are changing as natural selection favors some traits over others. It is conceivable to think of instances where less strength may provide more fitness (“fitness” meaning that which replicates and therefore survives). Evolution is NOT prescriptive, and it is amoral.

However, I am a person who does have faith in the overall direction of the universe. As Dr. King said - the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. But that is an admitted leap of faith on my part.

And it is clear that by almost any measure, we have become better. Women and children are much better off today than they were during the writing of The Iliad. Violence is much less commonplace today than perhaps at any point in human history. And this is empirically verifiable. Steven Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” is an exploration of this topic (on my reading list!).

We are vastly more tolerant of others than the cultures of our ancestors. We certainly take a step backwards, but we seem to take two steps forward again.

You point out our technological advances, but for some reason that is not counted as proof of advancement.

The supposed “devolution” of language is more likely the result of vastly more efficient cross-hybridizations of different cultures - as evidenced by your endorsement of Youtube as a medium. We live in an explosion of access to information. Is it any wonder that Spanish and English are spoken almost simultaneously in Texas by Hispanic folks? They are exposed to both constantly.

Honestly, the arguments here almost sound a bit “race”-oriented, as if a “pure” language exists somewhere that is being corrupted. There is no such thing. There is no perfect ideal of the Greek language. Rather there are only different stages of its evolution. This is the same with race. There is no “pure” white race. Or black race. And cross-hybridization is not a pollution of the pure races. Rather, it can enrich them. Just as the existence of Spanish, Italian and French is much nicer than keeping Latin “pure”.

One more argument against “Guided Evolution”. To me this is theologically problematic. It is saying that God created a naturalistic system incapable of producing things as they are without His subsequent tinkering. Wouldn’t God’s alleged initial creation be more competent than that? Couldn’t He set things up in advance to follow naturalistic laws and bring about His will?

In short, I am sympathetic to arguments for God which present God as a meta-explanation for all. But invoking God as an explanation for this occurrence (mankind), but not for that (pain, suffering, empty space, etc.) seems incongruent.

And Noah’s ship would have sank. It’s a good story though! Except for all the people (including children) that God murdered.....

stevenstarkmusic said...

Also, to make a point simpler:

"Devolution" and "Evolution" are synonymous terms from a scientific world-view. The point of "evolution" is simply that small changes occur which, over relatively large periods of time, combine to become big changes.

Whether one views the changes as better or worse is a different subject.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Steven Stark: God can't murder. He is the giver of life, he can also take it away.(1 Samuel 2:6) When we stop breathing, it is God who has stopped that breath. He's God and can do what he wants and still be good and loving and all the attributes taught in scripture. So murder is not a word I would use.

We can murder. We don't give anyone life. We are the vehicle for life. But it's all God.

stevenstarkmusic said...

One more thought - Wade, in his reference of language, may be purposefully (or not) appealing to the 2nd law of thermodynamics - that systems tend towards greater entropy (disorder) over time.

This is true, and we see this a lot in our daily lives. However natural selection and, subsequently, culture does tend to organize systems into greater order because of the existence of relatively closed systems over time. It is an amazing process that is still full of mystery.

However we still obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics since we live on the energy of the sun which is dissipating in a greater capacity than we are creating order out of it.

But we do live in a little pocket where a little algorithm called natural selection has led to the amazing creation of higher levels of order - even if this is not the case in the aggregate system.

It is amazing. It is mysterious. Incredible enough to where earlier cultures needed to create myths to describe it - including the ones in Genesis.

stevenstarkmusic said...

Hi Debbie!

"He's God and can do what he wants and still be good and loving and all the attributes taught in scripture."

Is there anything that God could possibly do that would change your description of Him? If not, then is "good and loving" a meaningful term anymore? After all, ANYTHING God does could then be described as "good and loving". He could command me to sacrifice my child. He could kill women and children prisoners of war. He could command parents to stone their children if they don't show enough respect.

And of course he does (supposedly) command all these things in the Old Testament. "Good and loving" becomes irrelevant language at some point.

Also, if I created a robot that became sentient, I don't think I would have the authority to justly end that robot's life on my whim.

Drowning children is just not a "good and loving" thing to do. Even from the creator of those children.

Wade Burleson said...

"Devolution" and "Evolution" are synonymous terms from a scientific world-view. The point of "evolution" is simply that small changes occur which, over relatively large periods of time, combine to become big changes.


Agree with you but for one caveat. Inanimate matter never changes into animate life over time, molecules never morph into monkeys over time, and monkeys never become man in time.

The devolution of man states that apart from the intervention of God and His mercy and grace, sin causes man to move far from God and the manner of life He intends us to live, leading to a devolution of life, language, and land. The old saying "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" might be better said "Man without God becomes a god within his own mind."

stevenstarkmusic said...

“Inanimate matter never changes into animate life over time, molecules never morph into monkeys over time, and monkeys never become man in time. “

It seems that inanimate matter did change into animate life. Which is certainly amazing! We do not understand how this happened yet. But we didn't understand how lightning fit into the natural world until a couple of centuries ago. The ancients interpreted mental illness as demon possession until a couple of centuries ago. The authors of Scripture though the earth had four corners. And we will continue to learn much.

Monkeys are made of molecules working together. Systems can become more complex over time. The fossil record, and even our own record of technology, attests to this.

Evolution does not teach that monkeys evolved into man, but rather that today’s monkeys and humans shared a common ancestor. The theory of evolution is a well-attested theory. It is as sure as the theory of gravity. It may be wrong, but perhaps the earth does not revolve around the sun either. We can never know anything for certain - but we need to make wise bets based on empirical evidence. Presuppositional apologetics is not good at adapting to accommodate empirical data.

"Man without God becomes a god within his own mind."

Or “Man without God (in the traditional Christian sense at least) looks to the true reasons for the moral and inquisitive life rather than worshipping authority and power for no good reason except fear of reprisal by said authority.”

Almost everyone believes in a higher power, of a sort, to which we are but a small part. Whether that power is a theistic one is an interesting question.

Thanks, Wade! Have a great weekend.

Wade Burleson said...

You too, Steven.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any evidence of evolution happening today so I must conclude that I must aspire to the theory that the gift of evolution ceased at some point. Monkeys are still here and not evolving into men so if it were true (which I don't think it was) then it ceased.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steven,

If we construe 4 corners to mean 4 distinct and arbitrary points in Cartesian 3-space, then yes, the Earth does indeed have 4 corners, because we can easily derive a sphere from the 4 points so long as the 4 points are not co-planar.

I think that the ancients knew more and had far more sophistication than they're given credit for. The Antikythera Mechanism argues powerfully for this thesis. One researcher has concluded that we would be hard pressed to duplicate it with present day tools and equipment.

stevenstarkmusic said...


Once again, the theory of evolution tells us that we share a common ancestor with today's monkeys - not that we evolved necessarily from those monkeys. But many animals - dragonflies, alligators, etc. - have remained relatively unchanged for millions of years. The genes they carry have successfully replicated themselves for countless generations without many mutations gaining a foothold.

Next Anonymous,

Believe me, I have great respect for the ancients. They did amazing things with the knowledge they had. But we do have more knowledge of the natural world today. No one denies that. And our descendants will hopefully have much more knowledge than we do.

I don't think thinking of the four corners in the spatial sense you describe makes much sense in the context of use in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 7:2 speaks of the "four corners of the land".

It seems that many of the ancients did think of the earth as flat, perhaps supported by pillars whose foundations were laid by a deity. Who could blame them?

I judge the ancients by how they interpreted the knowledge they had - and I am inspired by what they did, even if it is factually out of date. It is inspirationally very relevant.

Muff Potter said...

Thanks for the discussion! I'm the guy who brought up the Antikythera Mechanism in response to Nye's statement that Noah was unskilled, and by extension, neither he nor the ancients in general had the advanced engineering skills required to construct a wooden vessel as described in the Biblical record.