To Explain Evolution, You Need More Time

Bill Nye recently explained “evolution” in two minutes, using emoji. The video is humorous on a few levels. For one, Bill Nye is actually charming. For another, explaining a purportedly billions-of-years process in two minutes (with the extra triviality factor of emoji thrown in for good measure) exceeds the threshold of complete absurdity.

For instance, he begins with molecules. Quite convenient considering he skips how, you know, everything got here from nothing. Probably best to skip over that, right? Anyway, the molecules (which he informs us are on asteroids—because that matters) get some energy from the sun (how did that get here?) and then accidentally find a way to start copying themselves (the same way crystals reproduce, you know?). But unlike crystals, the molecules reproduce bad copies of themselves, and all the errors that helped them make more copies of themselves were reproduced until pretty soon you had bacteria! Let’s not even worry about how extra information got in there to make useful error possible.

And wait just one second (if you can) … How the crapola do you go from crystal-replicating non-living matter to living organisms? That’s not cool. You can’t just skip over that mechanism. It’s the most important issue in biological evolution—how matter becomes alive. Unless I understand the mechanism and nature of how inanimate matter becomes living cells, my view of life could be very distorted. Maybe I think all living things are just a step away from inanimate objects. So maybe I don’t value life. Maybe it’s easy for me to think an unborn baby is a lump of matter that becomes a living human after birth. Because that transition, having never been adequately explained, operates as some kind of secular sacrament. When the doctor exclaims, “It’s a boy!” the inanimate fetus miraculously transforms into a living soul. Who knows?

So anyway, Nye goes on to drop a bunch more billion years and some sciency sounding stuff about carbon-dating and then ends up with everything as we know it. Fantastic. Stupid.

So what we have found out about evolution here is that it needs more time. Which is also what we found out about explaining evolution. You can’t do it adequately in two minutes.

And maybe that’s the point. Maybe the intricacies of evolution are best left unexplained. Maybe evolution is part of the secular sacrament—the atheist miracle of ex nihilo abiogenetic spontaneous generation. Just give it time.