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VERY Useful Analysis Of Bill Nye’s Video On Creationism

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Many readers have probably heard about our seen Bill Nye’s recent short video titled “Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children” (I’ve embedded it below).

For me, though, far more useful than the critique of creationism is the critique Scientific American asked a business communication specialist to offer of the video. That critique will be an invaluable one to use in my Theory of Knowledge class and in other settings. It offers important lessons in persuasion. Here’s an excerpt:

I would be careful of the language you choose. He said, “…your world view just becomes crazy…” Even though he didn’t call me crazy or call you crazy, people may start to think, “What, are you saying I’m crazy because I don’t believe in evolution?” So I would say, be careful of the language you use, especially if it might insult the listener.

But more importantly, think about the tone. He is trying to convince the viewer with what I call a “push” message. I would encourage him to shift it to more of a “pull” message…

Instead of pushing people towards the sides [of the issue], I would try to pull them into the conversation. I might ask some rhetorical questions to get them to think about why they feel the way they do. Instead Bill is pushing out information, for example “if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it.”

He could say, “Scientific recent research shows us that we have evolved. I encourage you to explore this concept deeper. When you’re talking with your kids, I encourage you to allow them to discuss the issue with you and have a healthy dialogue.”

It is my belief that you can’t change someone’s opinion by trying to force—push—them to change. You can change their view by inviting—pulling—them to change. Winston Churchill once said. “I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like to be taught.”

The Scientific American later published a critique of this critique, which makes it an even better resource — students can watch the video, read both, and come to their own conclusions.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

2 Comments

  1. In terms of his rhetoric or logic I would offer one additional criticism–which is rather unfortunate for someone who comes from a rationalist perspective.

    Nye’s argument has the embedded or hidden premise that the theories are mutually exclusive without actually proving it. Yes, in some veins of ideology or thought they have tension, but they don’t have to be. Old Earth Creationism & Theistic evolution are both systems of thought and belief which posit an overlap between the two theories.

    Its only his embedded assumption of mutual exclusivity or materialism/reductionism that allows him to lay out his claims in an “argument.” He asks the viewer (implied) to infer that premise of his argument.

    Even in the Genesis account, the word for day, could be translated as age, which accounts for an old earth creationist view.

    For more on this view:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Earth_creationism

    Hugh Ross is the best articulation of this view, to my understanding, although there are many others (particularly among the ranks of scientists who are believers).

  2. Dear Larry,

    I am thrilled that you found my article to be useful.
    I would love to hear what you students think about it!
    Maybe you’ll write a blog post about their reactions.

    I just wrote a new article on this subject that I’m sure you will like, at http://www.marketingforscientists.com

    It’s a dare–and a comparison between anti-creationism videos and anti-smoking videos.

    Best,
    Marc

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