CU Bio Prof Talks about “Science” with Bill O’Reilly

I came across a transcript of a segment where one of the Environmental and Evolutionary Biology professors, and a person some of us reading this worked with in the Undergraduate Acadamy, was on O’Reilly’s show to talk about Intelligent Design. Depending on how you look at it this can be really funny or really sad.

The reason for this being that O’Reilly seems to have absolutly no clue what he’s talking about. One of the more bizarre parts is in response to O’Reilly asking what’s wrong with teaching the possibility that a deity created the universe in a bio class

GRANT: Well, my view of what would be wrong with that is it’s not science. And that’s not the place to talk about those kinds of things. The proper place to talk about those kinds of issues is in comparative religion. It’s in the philosophy classes. Biology classes should be science.

O’REILLY: OK. But science is incomplete in this area of creationism, is it not?

GRANT: Science is always incomplete in all areas.

O’REILLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science. And there are four seasons. That’s science. So you can state things with certainty in biology or any other science you want. However, if I’m a student in your class and you’re telling me, well, there might have been a meteor or big bang or there might have been this or there might have been that, I’m gonna raise my hand like the wise guy I am and say “Professor, might there be a higher power that contributed to the fact that we’re all here?” and you say – what?

GRANT: I say that’s something you need to question, you need to think about, you need to discuss with other people. You need to do that in the proper class. In the biology class we deal with science, with the natural world and what fits our conventional concepts of science.

O’REILLY: But, what if it turns out there is a God and He did create the universe and you die and then you figure that out? Aren’t you gonna feel bad that you didn’t address that in your biology class?


That is a pretty good example of how the whole thing went. A very good example of why I don’t watch things like O’Reilly’s show.

8 Responses to “CU Bio Prof Talks about “Science” with Bill O’Reilly”

Wow. I can’t believe Michael Grant put up with that. What I think is funny is that in my general biology 2 (EBIO 1220) class I’m taking, when we were discussing the beginnings of life on earth just yesterday, our professor actually had a slide on creationism. She said about the same thing that Grant did—that this isn’t the class to be discussing such ideas in. I wonder how many people in class were upset by that. To make it not seem so specifically anti-creationism, she also mentioned how some people believe aliens brought DNA to our planet and some other ideas.

It does concern me though how many biology students graduate and believe in creationism… I think what it specifically is is that I think there might be more MCDB graduates than EBIO graduates who believe this. I mean, there’s an entire EBIO class on evolution, but even though MCDB is considered to be the more “hard-core” biology major, they don’t really emphasize evolution at all, not even in part of a core class. (And not only this fact, but I’ve also, unfortunately, met several MCDB creationists.) Granted there’s a lot we don’t know about, but some things just make common sense.. and a science person should have some of that at least, if nothing else.

Teisha - January 20th, 2005 at 12:23 pm

You’re right, it is somewhere between funny and sad. Poor Michael Grant, though it was probably still an opportunity he relished.

I have to say, though, that Dr. Grant disappoints me as much as O’Reilly… “…what fits our conventional concepts of science.” Bullshit, I say. If we did that, we’d never have accepted Faraday’s controversial experiments on electricity and magnetism, or countless other theories that fell outside the ‘convention’. I say that a biology class is an EXCELLENT time to discuss evolution vs creationism.

I think part of the problem is that, during my four years of university, not a single science class- chem, biochem, or MCDB, tackled the concept of “how and why science works”… Namely, discussing the importance of hypothesis and multiple, independent confirmations. Discussing why the experiments we do in the science labs aren’t actually science (the results are known, we don’t do replicate trials, etc).

And most importantly: Discussing Verifiability and Falsifibility, the corner-stones of science. I got big discussions on them in my philosophy classes, but not in my science classes. That’s sad.

What’s more… MCDB creationists? Are you sure? I mean, I buy MCDB Christians. But creationism itself would prohibit basically belief in any experiment you run. Release E. Coli on an ampicillan coated agar plate… In a day or two, you see surviving colonies which spread and replace their dead cousins. Bam. Natural variation followed by selective pressure, leading to a change in extant population. Or you’d have to deny you need a new Flu shot every year, or that you can get a new strain of HIV… We see evolution and react to it, everyday.

Anyone who claims to not believe in evolution I task them to have one flu shot and never again, because you’re done. You’ve beat the flu. 😛

Paradoxdruid - January 20th, 2005 at 1:44 pm

Yes, MCDB creationists. If Josh were around, he could tell you about it too. In one of my MCDB (4000-level) classes I had a lab group with two girls and Josh, and one day we got together to work on a project or something and one of the other girls was all upset. Apparently the night before she had had a big fight with her boyfriend over creationism… No, not over whether or not it were real, but over the details of how it happened. Josh bit his tongue, but I had to give a short talk on marsupials and Australia vs. the Americas, but it was probably wasted anyway. So, yes, MCDB creationists…

Teisha - January 20th, 2005 at 1:51 pm

Just a thought:

To me, rejecting evolution and trying to meaningfully understand biology is akin to:
* studying English after rejecting the whole “subject-verb-object” thing, leaving you unable to read sentences
* studying physics after rejecting algrebra or calculus
* studying music after rejecting that there can be rhythm

Modern biology is based on evolution, not the other way around… it boggles me.


That poor girl, arguing about creationism with her boyfriend. Doesn’t she know that spiritual faith can never be argued? You both just end up frustrated that the other person doesn’t believe what you believe. Only time and the other person’s own observations can change spiritual beliefs. shrugs

Paradoxdruid - January 20th, 2005 at 2:25 pm

Awww, Teisha, you missed the perfect opportunity to say, “Well, your boyfriend’s probably going to hell then, isn’t he? You should dump his ass, before God hates you, too. It’s contagious, you know.”

O’Reilly needs to be dragged onto somebody else’s show and made to sit there and listen and not interrupt.

Owen - January 20th, 2005 at 3:37 pm

I think Druid is right when he says there’s a problem with the way we get taught science. There really is a lot of emphasis on just knowing facts and not how do go about doing science. I think some of O’Reilly’s comments show this when he gives facts as examples of what he thinks science is and tries to argue that human cloning isn’t science because it hasn’t been done yet. It’s pretty obvious he has no idea how most scientists see the way of doing things.

As far as the MCDB creationists go, I agree that it is pretty bad that people can go through all this and still not see how much evolution is shown to be taking place. On the other hand if someone was going to think that I think it is probably easier to get away with it in the MCDB department since it’s easy to close your midnd to some things are treat the similarities as some kind of coincidence. Definitly not any kind of good scientist, but I could see it happening.

mcmillan - January 21st, 2005 at 12:38 pm

“There really is a lot of emphasis on just knowing facts and not how do go about doing science. It’s pretty obvious [O’Reilly] has no idea how most scientists see the way of doing things.”

The problem I’ve had with this is that, especially in the MCDB field, there’s just so much information to know that it makes it difficult to have poor freshmen cram that into their heads and then tell them they’ve got to know -how- all those facts were figured out as well. It’s quite daunting, to say the least. I’ve thought about this a lot and I think my general conclusion would be you’ve got to cover less material in a given intro course, but the stuff you do cover you not only give the facts, but also its background, the true scientific process that was required to figure it out. It’s just too much to say “know everything.. and how too!” Any other ideas on this?

It’s something I’ve really thought about as it’s frustrated me a lot in the past.. either profs give hardly any lecture time to the scientific process, or they expect us to be able to learn everything when we’re just being introduced to it…

Teisha - January 21st, 2005 at 4:19 pm

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