The Science of Wishing Upon a Star
Updated: Feb 8
Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) wrote the following in his 2015 New York Times bestseller “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation”:
“The origin of life just requires some raw material that could allow the spark of life to emerge.”
In the movie Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket famously sang:
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”
Which of these quotations is better supported by science?
Bill Nye’s scientific credibility certainly exceeds that of Jiminy Cricket. He is, after all, “The Science Guy” and has taught and entertained millions of children with his shows about science. In contrast, Jiminy Cricket, although similarly entertaining, carries no scientific credentials or scientific pretenses whatsoever.
Bill’s quote is also backed by hordes of powerful and influential people. His quote is generally supported by every atheist in the world, because they must believe that the first life started spontaneously from entirely natural processes. They may not agree on exactly how it happened, but they do believe that it happened. Jeremy England, a physicist at MIT, expresses a similar belief:
“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”
Bill Nye’s quote is also generally supported by public school science curricula. For example, take this quote from a popular public school biology textbook:
“Life began when organic molecules assembled in a coordinated manner within a cell membrane and began reproducing.”
It would then seem obvious that Bill Nye’s quote is better supported by science than the fantasies of an animated insect. However, science is about explaining the natural laws of the universe through careful observations, and no one in the history of the world has ever observed life arising from non-living matter through natural processes. It simply does not happen with a spark; it does not happen when you shine light on matter for long enough; and organic molecules simply don’t “assemble in a coordinated manner within a cell membrane and begin reproducing”. So, why are our children being taught that it does?
As discussed in my book The Scientific Approach to Evolution, science is not even capable of addressing the origin of first life with any degree of confidence, because the origin of first life cannot be directly observed, cannot be repeated, cannot be studied prospectively, and cannot be studied without substantial bias and assumptions. Any hint of evidence for the origin of first life is easily overpowered by the substantial bias of the investigators and the numerous assumptions that are necessary. Thus, Bill Nye believes in something and claims something that is not and cannot be supported by science. Holding to a belief in something that no one has ever observed requires faith. Therefore, Bill Nye’s statement is a statement of faith, not science.
Now, let’s consider the science behind Jiminy Cricket’s quote. Has anyone who has wished upon a star ever obtained their dreams? I think any rational person would have to admit that yes, this does occasionally occur (although I’m certainly not suggesting a causal relationship). Can this be studied by high-confidence science? Yes, one could design a study to quantify the likelihood of receiving your dreams after wishing upon a star. The study could be repeated, could involve direct observation, and could be studied prospectively with minimal bias and assumptions. This kind of study would no doubt lead to a more scientifically accurate statement than Jiminy Cricket’s, such as: “When you wish upon a star, there is a 1.2% +/- 0.3% probability that your dreams will come true”. We therefore conclude that although Jiminy Cricket’s statement wrongly implies a causality that has not been demonstrated, it is at least possible that people will achieve their dreams after wishing upon a star, and the concept could be studied by high-confidence scientific methodology.
It is therefore clear that the beliefs of Bill Nye, Jeremy England, many biology textbooks, and all atheists involve a greater degree of imagination and a lesser degree of science than the beliefs of Jiminy Cricket. It is time that we take the higher ground in science and stop pretending that science supports beliefs that are actually grounded in faith.
1. Nye, B. Undeniable: Evolution and the science of creation. New York: Saint Martin’s
Press; 2014, p. 285.
3. Biology 8th Ed. Losos JB, Mason KA, Singer SR. Based on the work of Raven PH and Johnson GB. Boston: McGraw Hill ©2008, p. 507.