Monday, March 02, 2015


I just read Bill Nye's Undeniable: Evolution And The Science Of Creation.  I know this is "Bill Nye, the Science Guy," but I wasn't too impressed.  I've got no problem with a book helping explain evolution to a popular audience, but there are a lot of better ones out there.  We've seen most of these arguments before, and Nye's writing is pedestrian.  Still, if it helps clarify evolution to some people, fine.

Then on page 191 there's this:

A woman came up to Michael Faraday after he performed [a demonstration of electromagnetism] and asked: "But, Mr. Faraday, of what use is it?"  Faraday famously replied, "Madam, of what use is a newborn babe?"

This reply is so famous it's usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin at a balloon ascension by the Montgolfier Brothers.  In fact, the line is an old gag that was probably never uttered by either man.

Nye tops it with another Faraday zinger:

William Gladstone, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, reportedly asked Faraday a similar question. This time, Faraday responded--with perhaps more malice--"Why, sir, there is every probability that you will soon be able to tax it."

An even better line, but once again, an urban legend.

Anecdotes like these may help history come alive, but when the purpose of your book is to explain biology and debunk nonscientific theories, it's probably best to get these things right.


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