Bill Nye Boo'd In Texas For Saying The Moon Reflects The Sun

Bill Nye, the harmless children's edu-tainer known as "The Science Guy," managed to offend a select group of adults in Waco, Texas at a presentation, when he suggested that the moon does not emit light, but instead reflects the light of the sun.

As even most elementary-school graduates know, the moon reflects the light of the sun but produces no light of its own.

But don't tell that to the good people of Waco, who were "visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence," according to the Waco Tribune.

Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College's Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.

But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: "God made two great lights -- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."

The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.

At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled "We believe in God!" and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they'd always suspected.

This story originally appeared in the Waco Tribune, but the newspaper has mysteriously pulled its story from the online version, presumably to avoid further embarrassment.

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  • Douglas Einer

    Really-?   All I can say is, WTF-!-?-?

  • Robert O'Connor

    I love this... I really do... christian's faith is SO shakey that hearing anything that contradicts their so-called bible's "teachings" -- they have to put their fingers in their ears...go "LALALALALLALA" and run out of the room like little babies? Yeah...that's some rock solid faith you got there! 

    I'm literally scared for the future of this country...and humanity...

  • MdoubleU

    As a Texas resident I have come to realize that people here in Texas are highly educated in every way except for when it comes to Astronomy.  One time my friend told me that the sun was the biggest star in the universe and that it was in the middle of our galaxy. 

  • Shabaka Tecumseh

    I'm glad he didn't touch upon Lucifer..whew!

    In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer (as a noun) means "light-bearer" (from the words lucem ferre)


  • Ken Hughes

    "Educated in every way" when in addition to thinking the Sun is the biggest star in the universe, they're spot-on; in our universe but not the cosmos.  More to the point I'll bet a majority of them also think that their doG put it there after he "created' it.  Stupid is as stupid believes.

    May I also heartily recommend "The Story of Stupidity".  It may be found along with the first book, "Understanding Stupidity" by simply googling either title.

  • Shabaka Tecumseh

    Arch I wonder what goes thru a xtains mind when they go see Clash of the Titans?

  • Mark Bujarski

    I want to say first that not all Christians believe this. Science is science and we know the moon reflects the sun. The Genesis verse never says anything about the two great lights both generating light, the moon does rule the night, but the light comes from sun. 2 great lights simply implies they are not completely the same. The sun directly rules the day and then the moon reflects the sun to rule the night.

    Also Johnny, Google is not your best source for Biblical Hebrew. Try talking to an expert in the language.

    My point is not all Christians are ignorant, if fact most Christians will recognize the scientific fact behind this.

  • agio

    The moon in Gen 1:16 is: ha-ma'or ha-qaton, "the little light which rules the night" in contrast to the sun, "the big light which rules the day".  The two are spoken of together in the first half of the verse as "the two great lights" (sh'ne m'oroth hagadolim) so I think Nye is correct in describing the biblical understanding of the sun and the moon as two different luminous bodies, one for the day and the other for the night.

  • Eric Mazzone

    Please, please, please someone tell me that they have a scan of the newspaper article.  It'd be proof enough of the stupidity down that way.

  • Pope Beanie

    I don't blame people for not reading 26 pages of comments here.

    Meanwhile, Kim Cailteux mentioned that the paper explained to her why the link (which was already years old) didn't work any more, and posted a copy of the paper's response and the original story here.

  • Gregg Johnson

    No, the point of the article is that Bill Nye was booed for saying that the moon reflects the sun. That isn't what happened, though, judging from the scant few facts presented here. He was booed for claiming that man's science contradicted God's word. One can know that the moon reflects the sun and still take issue with his statement, especially since it is incorrect concerning the verse in question. He can, of course, be forgiven that as he is the Science Guy, rather than the Bible Guy, and perhaps their reaction was a little extreme (one wonders whether there were other statements of a similar kind leading up to this), but he brought it on himself.

  • Lauren Day

    Religious fundamentalists make me sad

  • Ken Hughes

    Fundamentalism in any religion, regardless of the guise, name or flag under which they operate are bad for all those not "in the fold" as it were.  I have always maintained that when one removes the suicide bombers, there's not a nickel's worth of difference between Jewish, Christian or Islamic fundamentalists; they make me sad and mad.

  • Michael hill

    The Christian "Right" believes whatever they wish to believe, even bizarre, contradictory flat-earth lines that a second grader could nail them on. Ignorance is their only tool.
  • Pope Beanie

    I'm obviously the odd person here, because I think that both sides of this issue have turned it into an over-outraged, dialog killing "let's be offended" moment. I like Nye for saying what he said, although I'd be surprised if he was really expecting no reaction to his scientific opining about bible semantics in Texas.

    The issue was then (predictably) escalated by parent(s), and then people here have (predictably) perpetuated the outrage, after the trollworthy comment "the newspaper has mysteriously pulled its story from the online version, presumably to avoid further embarrassment", which now seems unfounded. (I really wouldn't mind being corrected here.)

    Sorry, I just think it's more effective in the long run to set the better example, and use the moment to enlighten the dialog. For example, maybe this incident is a simple example of how escalated emotions can lead to a breakdown of dialog. When the other side falls from grace by resorting to emotional responses, I think it's a good time for our side to show objectivity and wisdom.

    OK, now that I've placed myself in TA's gunsights, fire away. I won't be offended! All I ask is that people consider more than one way to react to the 2006 story, after all these years.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    +1 Pope Paul!

  • Forcythia

    While I agree with promoting scientific fact, if Bill Nye had just started talking about "the moon reflects the light of the sun" instead of debunking the Bible first, I bet no one would have noticed.

  • Carroll D. Hanks

    I am formally  from Texas and I am so ashamed of some of the people there that are so ignorant about science.

  • Jesse VodkaPepper

    Waco. No surprising. That's as Deep South as it gets in Texas. 

  • Judith van der Roos

    And the reasons NOT to visit the USA just keep piling up :) ! Yet the same people who walked out use cellular phones, PCs etc, all manner of things developed by the very science they are walking out on there, did they leave all those gadgets at the door as they went I wonder !

    Mind you my children like Bill, there are some of his (subtitled) DVDs available here.

    Judith vd R.

  • ApresMoiDeluge

    well put@johnny

  • ApresMoiDeluge

    well put@johnny

  • ApresMoiDeluge

    well put@johnny

  • Garrett Moffitt

    This is no different then any other literal interpretation of the bible. No more crazy then thinking the world is 6K years old, or rapture. Most of these people don't even know their own theology, or biblical history. Just people wallowing in ignorance.

  • Shannon Barber

    Wow...they took fact as an attack on their god. Imagine that.

  • Lesa

    I don't care if you believe in God, you cannot change the basic facts of science.  How do you explain an eclipse, it's that just God winking at you? 

  • SteveInCO

    So let me see if I understand this now.

    Bill Nye was not booed for saying the moon reflects the sun's light?  He was instead booed for claiming that the Bible says the moon emits its own light?

  • Doc Feral

    Steve.. it's the other way around. He said that the moon didn't generate it's own light, but reflected that of the sun. Thereby contradicting the Genesis 1:16 "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."

  • SteveInCO


    I am afraid that doesn't answer my question.  What Bill Nye said is not in question, it's the crowd's precise motivation for booing him.

    It was suggested three pages back or so that the crowd was unhappy with him for saying Genesis says the moon shines by its own light when of course the moon doesn't--in other words, they perceived he was mischaracterizing Genesis.  (Much as we get annoyed when they accuse atheists of being mad at God, or of eating babies.)  And not for making the (true) claim that the moon shines by reflected light.  [One can argue about the interpretation of Genesis here.]

    Or to put it in other words, if someone had interviewed one of the booers afterwards, would they have said "It says here in the Bible that the moon shines by its own light so I booed Nye for trying to say otherwise" or would he have said, "The Bible doesn't say that the moon shines by its own light so I booed Nye for saying the Bible was stupid."  The second possibility implies more brain cells reside in their skulls than the first.

  • dataguy

    SteveinCO, I think you are partially correct in your assertion, but in the big picture the Science Guy was not saying the Bible was stupid, he was pointing out that people who base their opinions on the Bible often have to go back and re-assess what they say the Bible says, so it's not a good foundation for science.  This whole experience made his point well.

    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Global Warming and there sure are a lot of Global Warming skeptics who believe their anecdotal evidence is more reliable than science.  It's likely that someday those Global Warming skeptics (if they are intellectually honest) will have to say that they were wrong.

    History is full of examples of how this has played out in the Bible.  Are people with darker skin inferior to those with lighter skin?  Are women inferior to men?  Is it good-parenting to beat a child?  Is it ok to own slaves?  Does the Sun revolve around the Earth?  Should heretics be put to death? Are women bad for menstruating?  All of these things were commonly held beliefs for centuries at a time because the Bible said it was so.  Some Christians still believe some of these things, but most will now say they are wrong.

    Bill Nye was pointing out this shell game is common when religion meets logic.

  • G. Michael Williams

    @Ian Beveridge, it's nothing to do with climate preservation, it's about bankrupting developed countries so everyone is equal in poverty, except the ruling elite of course.

  • KaraC

    This is disturbing at so many levels.

  • Chad Vieth

    Kind of scary having people who thinks that way, what is next burning people at the stake for being left handed?

  • Damon Ross

    I hope they nuke this town to quarantine and contain the stupidity...

  • alex

    well no where in that blog did it say they didn't believe that the moon reflects light..they simply got angry coz he brought up religion and tried to mishap the bibles make god out to be an idiot to their children. the moon is a lessor light. its a mixture of the same light from the sun granted, also with star light and eartlight  but it is still correctly termed a lessor light to the suns.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    He did choose a very subtle point in encouraging them to think about their holy text in terms of scientific observation.  It's not like he pointed out that the bible has us living in an air bubble trapped under a convex disk - a disk with various windows through which the sun and moon can pass on their various trajectories throughout the season.  He also didn't mention the part about Yahweh thinking that bats were birds.  :D

  • Ken Hughes

    Myths may have as much power and omniness as its creator(s) wants it to have, and people who base their lives on mythical gods and even the one they choose to capitalize, are the real, raving idiots.  They want to reshape the world and all humanity in their idiotic image.  They're just a crowd of sick puppies.

  • Brandy D

    Just what I would expect from Texas, considering the way many there want to edit important stuff out of textbooks.

  • Karen Lollis

    Yep - it's appalling! Our boys' middle school world history book actually presented ancient Israel (and the OT bible stories) on equal footing with other ancient civilizations.

  • Brandy D

    Archaeopteryx - That is exactly what I meant; I just couldn't remember details and didn't want to bother looking them up because I have a bunch of stuff that I should be doing tonight [doing real well at getting it done too, seeing I am reading email and came back here. :-)]

  • Ken Hughes

    In any event it's all based on a book written long before science gave menkind a clear view of what's going on in the cosmos and is therefore mostly idiotic holy-man ramblings and speculation warped to suit some preconceptions to support a yth, so what difference does it make in the end.  Some peple will insist on being stupid and having their intellect dulled down to the lowest holy-roller concept; f * ^ $ 'em.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    The point, Stephen, is that the bible is factually wrong because it wasn't written/inspired by some all-knowing deity.  It has the sun being created after the earth, it has outer space being filled with water and the sky being a firm dome that separates the water above from the water below.  It has the rest of the cosmos being created as a mere afterthought - after the sun and the moon.  The greater/lesser light issue was just a Bill's way of politely pointing out that one cannot learn about the cosmos from a Bronze Age book of superstitious drivel.

    The reason the story is interesting to us is that Christians are generally incapable of dealing with factual claims and just act like children - storming out.  It's really a cute little tale about the intellectually repugnant state of destroying a human mind with cult indoctrination.  Ok?  Thank you.

  • Ken Hughes

    Well said Heather, well said indeed.  I've been an atheist for almost 30-years after being a skeptic from earliest memory and an agnostic up until I declared my non-belief after being dragged to an Assembly of doG for a year by my missus.  I now refer to myself as a "Card-carrying atheist" because I do precisely that.  My calling cards have the Greek atheos under my name and I am not hesitant to give them out even here in deepest, darkest Wise County Texas (the "Wise" name is an oxymoron for a Texas county.  A local friend and I have started the Wise Free Thinkers & Atheist MeetUp group and meet ever other Sunday @ 12:30 in the local Starbucks.  "Bill Ney the Science Guy" rules!!!!!

  • Heather Spoonheim

    @Stephen Russell

    And what I said was Bill took a very softball approach to pointing out that the bible is dead wrong about the cosmos - he's much more diplomatic than I - yet the typical Christian cannot address facts and only become emotional when any aspect of their cult scripture is thrown into question.

    This thread was posted almost 4 years ago and the only people who keep bringing it back to life are Christians.  Read through the 33 pages of comments and you'll see the thread dies and then some Christian shows up here to tell us how we are all totally wrong about Bill, or Bill was out of line, or grammatically a case could be made for that verse based on the English translation - and that has been going on for 4 years.  It's not Atheists keeping this thread alive.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    Outer space is not filled with water - astronauts wear space suits, not scuba gear.  They sky is not a solid dome covering us like some sort of snow globe.  The earth did not come into existence before the sun.  On these matters the bible is dead wrong and I'm willing to bet my life on it.

    The story is #3 in google because Christians just won't stop coming here and beating a dead horse on the very issues I just mentioned.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    Christian 'scientists' do nothing but try to shoe-horn Bronze Age doctrines into our modern understanding of the universe - in spite of understanding how it works rather than to better understand how it works.

  • James Cox

    "I am just curious, but if you were to explain to me why you believe what you do, why you don't like Christianity, why you don't like other religions, why you don't believe in a God, what would you say? "

    1)  '..explain to me why you believe what you do..' As a person that has decided to move on after being only marginally theist, I think your question allows to once again revisit material that seems a waste of time. Being answerable 'to you' seems implay that you are here to bless or condemn one more time. Since I do not see you as a priest, father confessor, or grand inquisitor, it seems unclear if such a demand on my time is reasonable.

    2)   '..why you don't like Christianity? ' For me it seems to be unneeded. If you must indulge, knock yourself out.

    3)   '..why you don't like other religions?..' For me I do what I can to honor them when they atleast appear to do good works, respect civil rights, attempt to promote 'wisdom', consider kindness and compassion as high ideals. Else, like christianity I have moved on.

    4) '..why you don't believe in a God?..' The concept seems unneeded. As a working hypothesis for the hows and whys of existence, it seems to not be up to the task. It has opened up the process of human questioning, and stifled it also. Again, I feel as if I have moved on. If you must indulge, atleast have the common sense to consider other options before making a commitment.  

  • Heather Spoonheim

    I don't believe there are any gods because I've seen no evidence of there being any gods.  I've seen plenty of evidence against any concept of 'spirits' or an 'afterlife'.  The Christian concept of a god is self-refuting.  You've got a father who sacrificing his own son out of love for humans - but wait, the son IS the father, which sort of negates the father/son relationship and therefore the magnitude of the sacrifice - but wait, if Jesus is STILL ALIVE and going to return then there was no sacrifice - was there?  It never ends.

    The reason I don't like Christianity is it pumps people's heads full of such contradictory malarkey and then tells them that if they don't believe it then they will burn alive for all eternity.  This creates a bunch of brainwashed zombies who walk around smiling with glazed over eyes while many of their cohorts drive pregnant teens and teenage gays to suicide - and they all get together on Sunday and sing happy songs about their endeavors.

    The other religions aren't much better.

    I'm happy with my life but that has nothing to do with whether or not 4-sided triangles exist.  Christians often suggest that gods must be believed in because it's scary or sad to think there isn't one - but the appeal of any idea attests nothing to its veracity.

  • Heather Spoonheim

    That's about the 10th one to do so since I've been on this site, lol!

  • James Cox

    Are we creating enemies, or people that are now stuck with doing their home work? Will they return after years of exploration, soul searching, and growing some version of an enlightened life, to find some solace among the rest of us, trying to find our way without a big daddy? Is he just one more brick from the wall, that hides reality from many, or will he submerge himself more deeply in fantasy?  Are 10, another window, or a bigger wall? I might be wearing out metaphor......