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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  • 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......  

  • Pope Beanie


    Have you ever refuted, or felt the need to refute Islam, or Judaism?

    If NO, then our only difference is that I also don't need to refute Christianity. Nor do we need to laboriously refute unicorns, or flying spaghetti monsters, right?

    If YES, then hopefully you could simply copy/paste your success to here, and enlighten us, too?

  • Don

    The argument against Christianity, Steven, is one you have already heard but have not thought about carefully enough.  For hundreds of years, the Romans believed in and worshipped their many gods.  Likewise the Norse people and other early peoples.  Those gods (and all the beliefs attached to them) are now recognized as elements of poetic myth.  Like the Roman gods, the gods and stories of Christianity are also elements of myth.  There is no evidence for them whatsoever, and those people who suffer from the conviction that they are real are prevented from fully appreciating what truly is real in this the only life they will ever have.

  • Joan Denoo

    This is just simply outrageous! Deliberate ignorance and not even ashamed of yourselves. What is the matter with your religious leaders? Are they some hicks who couldn't make it in the real adult world and so took up religion to put food on their tables and roofs over their heads. Well, people, you had better grow up because the world doesn't need eternal children. Where are my dear relatives and friends who put their faith into beliefs and that will sit silently while such nonsense happens. Those who didn't know the moon was not a source of light should have to go back to school before they can sign any documents requiring an adult signature. I suppose you believe the Earth is only 6,000 year old, too. Good grief! Disgusting! Do you burn witches at the stake, press warlocks to death, put people on the rack and pull them apart? The Dark Ages continue in Waco, Texas? 

  • Robert Germanovich

    ok, who's the wiseguy that booked Nye at a community college in Texas? Whoever did that, can he book Pat Robertson to a visit to Mecca? smh

  • M.M.

    HA! You should try living here.

    If all goes according to plan I will depart Texas at the end of the year.

    Good Riddance!

  • Pope Beanie

    I hear Austin's not so bad.

  • brookelynn rainwater

    interesting fact : the word used for "greater" in that verse means the size- not power. But from the earths perspective the moon looks bigger bc its closer, so if that verse had been written by man alone, they wouldve called the moon greater (bigger) but it was written by God so it says the sun is bigger -because it is.

  • Ron Humphrey

    mcm, did you purposely choose to be obtuse.  YOu have missed the point of the article.

  • Lance Angus Miles

    because his proven true facts conflicted with their unproven magical fairy tales

  • Heather Spoonheim

    @Brookelynn - right, and you can work your way through the book changing the meaning of words all over to support your cult doctrines; but it doesn't change the fact that you have been brainwashed by a cult and are now infected with the god-virus.  I suggest you seek out psychological care - anti-psychotic medications may help.

  • Kenneth Gallaher

    Homed skoolin'

  • Adam

    that's what happens when you stop funding education and people resort to homeschooling where the parents teach every type of nonsensical creationist science. 

  • Steven Harrison

    I'm sorry, mcm, do I really understand you correctly to say that because the term "ma'owr" can be interpreted to mean "giving off light," that therefore Genesis 1:16 is "factually correct"? That God therefore did in fact create the sun, moon and stars....because "ma'owr" means "reflect"?

  • JRinPV

    The truly frightening thing is that these people vote !

  • Don

    In fact, Brookelynn, from the our perspective, the moon and the sun appear to be the same size.  "Greater" unquestionably refers to luminosity, not to apparent size.

  • Kevin Harris

    I lived in the Waco area for a year found the students I taught and people in general to be well-informed and bright. But like anywhere else on the planet, one didn't have to go far to find people whose ignorant views and extreme sensibilities were easily offended. The  people who poke fun of this here on Think Atheist might as well critique fashion trends at Wal-Mart!

  • Heather Spoonheim

    I love critiquing fashion at WalMart:

  • SteveInCO

    (Brookelyn said)

    interesting fact : the word used for "greater" in that verse means the size- not power. But from the earths perspective the moon looks bigger bc its closer, so if that verse had been written by man alone, they wouldve called the moon greater (bigger) but it was written by God so it says the sun is bigger -because it is.

    (to which Don replied)

    In fact, Brookelynn, from the our perspective, the moon and the sun appear to be the same size.  "Greater" unquestionably refers to luminosity, not to apparent size.

    Technically the moon does appear every so slightly larger (usually).  If it looked exactly the same size solar eclipses would have totality phases lasting an instant and paths of totality would be a line rather than a 100 mile or so wide swath on the earth's surface.

    Though sometimes the moon appears smaller and when a solar eclipse occurs under these circumstances, you get an annular eclipse like happened last year (the path of annularity went through Albuquerque).  That was preceded half a month earlier by one of those overhyped "super moons" where the full moon was a bit larger than usual.  That's not a coincidence, if the moon appears large when it's full it's at or near perigee (closest to the earth), it's going to appears small half a month later as a new mone, at the other end of its orbit, when it's at apogee, further from the earth.  And of course the moon can't get any newer than it does during a solar eclipse.

  • brookelynn rainwater

    the Hebrew word used for "greater" was גָּדוֹל (gadol) meaning size, as in "the gadol wilderness" Duet 2:7, "a gadol feast" 2 kings 6:23 or "a gadol rock"1samuel 14:33 instead of words like khazak (חזק)powerful  Chozek, Otzmah, Koach, or Gevurah(חוזק, עוצמה, כוח, גבורה) strength  (ko-ach) כוחכחKoach power, dunamis-ability power  or  rav atsmah (רב עצמה) mighty

  • Albert Bakker

    Moot point. The moon is not a light.

    If the verse would be about appearances of sizes or luminosity, then the Moon appears about the same size as the Sun and is actually a bit bigger as StevelnCO correctly observed. If apparent luminosity is what is meant to be compared, then the text would be factually wrong. This appears to be completely out of context with the rest of the text. There is no qualitative distinction made between the Sun and the Moon, they are both "great lights." So that's a big fail. It goes on then to mention God making the stars,"setting them in the firmament of the heavens" for the purpose of "giving light on Earth" and to "divide light from darkness." All big fails too, but fitting nicely with the then generally accepted astronomical model.

    The distance between Moon and Earth aswel as the distance between Earth and the Sun increases with time. In the time since God created the Earth and the Universe according to Genesis about 6000 years ago, the Moon would now be about 750 feet further away from Earth, while the Earth has receded from the Sun in the meantime by about 3000 feet on average. So, without further calculations being necessary, given the enormous sizes and distances we're talking about here, we can safely ignore the differences in apparent (angular) sizes as a consequence of these minute alterations.

  • Strega

    if earth is only 6000 years old, only stars from 6000 light years away could possibly be seen without a telescope

    That's a perfect repudiation!

  • Rio Santana

    sad, how close minded people are when their religion is questioned even in the smallest reference.

  • Robert Germanovich

    strega, your words are slightly out of form for something that i am sure i would agree with. the age of the earth itself has no bearing on the age of the stars out there emitting light. However, creationists contend the universe is the same age as the earth. If you rewrote that with "if the universe is only"... it would be both correct and a useable defense.

  • brookelynn rainwater

    God said let there be light, then He made the sun and moon. There was already light then its like He formed the sources and seperated them and put them in their place. Thats how i would do it

  • Strega

    Thanks, Robert Germanovich!  You are quite correct :) 

  • brookelynn rainwater

    Willet, who wrote before the birth of Newton, and at a time when solar physics and spectrum analysis were things of the remote future. It m not unlike, says he, "but that this light (of the first day), after the creation of the celestial bodies, might be drawn upward and have his reflection upon the beame of the sunne and of other starres" And again, "Whereas the light created the first day is called or, but the starres (meaning the heavenly bodies) are called meoroth, as of the light, hence it may appear that these lightsome (i.e. luminous) bodies were made the receptacles of that light thou created, which was now increased and united to these lights" ('Hexapla,' vers. 3, 14, London, 1632)

  • Robert Germanovich

    Arch, whoever says you cannot create darkness, has not dated any of my ex girlfriends.

  • Strega

    @Arch yes I'm sure.  But I liked the bite sized version you gave above, too