Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bill O’Reilly: tidal bore Blogs / Bad Astronomy

Bill O’Reilly: tidal bore

By now the entire planet has heard O’Reilly’s bizarre litany about tides, and how he claims they prove the existence of God. As he has said on many an occasion, "tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication." By this he means that the harmony of nature, the amazing interconnection between things, clearly argues for God.

The problem is, he’s wrong. Twice, actually. First because he’s making the "God of the Gaps" fallacy: if something can’t be explained, then God must have done it. That’s pretty silly, since of course the far more likely explanation is simply that O’Reilly can’t explain it. That doesn’t mean I can’t! And in the case of tides, I can explain them, as can my friend Neil Tyson, and pretty much every other astronomer on Earth.

The thing is, either O’Reilly cannot learn, or he hopes his audience won’t. Because on his YouTube channel — yes, O’Reilly has a YouTube channel, I believe that’s the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse — he not only makes this same claim again, he digs himself deeper:

Saying "God did it" is not an answer. It’s an evasion. O’Reilly (and so many ideologues like him) wants his ignorance to be canonized, but ignorance is not a goal. It’s an opportunity to learn more.

Look: I seriously and strongly feel that everyone has the right to believe what they want, and to find comfort in it if they need it. But you can’t let that belief narrow your view of the Universe to where it’s simply easier to avoid what you don’t understand. That’s what O’Reilly has done — or is urging his listeners to do — and he’s missing out. Nature is subtle, and amazing, and layered, and complex, and interconnected on levels we’re only just now starting to suspect. That’s where the true mystery lies.

As long as we’re curious, and keep our eyes and minds open, we’ll be able to explore the Universe, and we’ll never run out of things to question and explain.

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