Science > Bill O’Reilly

“How’d the moon get here? Look, you pinheads who attacked me for this, you guys are just desperate. How’d the moon get here? How’d the sun get there? How’d it get there? Can you explain that to me? How come we have that and Mars doesn’t have it?” -Bill O’Reilly

Once upon a time, humans looked at the tides — going out and coming in — and we had no idea what caused them. At high tides, the sea level would rise, and the coast would get swept up by the oceans, while at low tides, the water would recede, leaving tidepools behind.

Image credit: smugmug.com.

Low tides and high tides would each happen twice a day. But we started noticing that the highest high tides and the lowest low tides — spring tides — happened during new Moons and full Moons. On the other hands, the most moderate tides, where high tides were relatively low and low tides were relatively high — neap tides — happened during the first and last quarter Moon phases.

It wasn’t long before we put this picture together.

Image credit: James Irwin.

Sure enough, the Moon is the dominant cause of the tides, with the Sun responsible for about 30% of what we get. And thanks to the laws of gravity we understand how the tides work, even in more extreme cases.

But apparently, this isn’t good enough for Bill O’Reilly. After stating that nobody can explain the tides and this proves the existence of God, many people (rightly) threw the Moon in his face.

But instead of retracting his statement, O’Reilly went one step farther into it, and delivered the rant quoted atop, complete with his five great questions. Some people attacked him, others defended him, but no one’s tried to teach him.

Lucky for you, Bill, I am a patient man.

1.) How’d the Moon get here? I’ve tackled this before, but it’s been years. The Giant Impact Hypothesis is the leading theory, as simulations and measurements of the Moon and Earth’s interior both support it.

Basically, in the young Solar System, you’ve got a star with a thin disk of matter orbiting it. Small gravitational instabilities create the first small objects. They then gravitationally attract larger ones, and the more mass you get, the more mass you pull in towards yourself.

Mercury managed to clear its orbit, as did Venus. But out by us, we had two large objects — one roughly Venus-sized, one roughly Mars-sized — and they finally caught up to each other.

The densest elements, of course, were primarily at the center, so when they collided, only the light elements in the crust and mantle should have gotten ejected to form the Moon, while the heaviest elements migrated down to the Earth’s core. And in fact, our observations confirm that this is, in fact, the case.

Image credit: California's Imaginarium.

The Moon is almost completely devoid of iron, the densest abundant element on Earth. And the rocks the Apollo astronauts have brought back from the Moon have, conversely, demonstrated that the rocks on the Moon’s surface — unlike asteroids, meteorites, and Mars’ rocks — are identical in composition to the rocks on Earth’s surface. So that’s why we’re pretty sure the Moon came from the collision of two proto-planets that collided, forming the Earth and the Moon as we know them today.

2.) How’d the sun get there? Well, there’s the entire scientific field of star formation devoted to the study of it, but here’s the basic story. A molecular gas cloud — many of which exist in our galaxy — collapsed under its own gravity, probably triggered by the explosion of a dying, massive star.

Image credit: Canada-France-Hawaii telescope.

And that gave rise to the Sun, along with a proto-planetary disk of gas and dust that collapsed to form the planets, comets, and asteroids, among other things.

Image credit: David Hardy.

3.) How’d it get there? Well, I assume you mean in context with everything else that’s there. Our Sun lives in this place we call “the galaxy.”

Image credit: Axel Mellinger.

A collection of hundreds of billions of stars, our star formed about 4.6 billion years ago out of a combination of pristine hydrogen gas from the Big Bang and recycled material from at least two previous generations of stars. Gravity holds our star in a stable orbit, about 25,000 light years from the center of our galaxy.

4.) Can you explain that to me? Over time, galaxies grow and evolve through gravitational mergers with other galaxies. The Milky Way was likely a much smaller object in the past, that has since cannibalized other galaxies and grown to its present size. In fact, headed into the future, the Milky Way is likely to merge with the Andromeda galaxy, perhaps headed for an intense gravitational interaction like NGC 4676, above.

5.) How come we have that and Mars doesn’t have it? Mars doesn’t have one big moon, like we do. It has two little ones, Phobos and Deimos, which give Mars its own annular eclipses.

But Mars has its own interesting story that we’re just figuring out, and this little guy has truly helped uncover it over the last six years.

Now, you may tell me that science doesn’t have all the answers, and you’d be right. After all, I don’t have a good explanation for what caused inflation, which is the thing that sets up the Big Bang. But everything starting from that point or afterwards, we learn, and science is how we do it.

If you need an image credit for this, you aren't paying attention.

And if you want an alternate take on Bill O’Reilly’s latest, you can always listen to Stephen Colbert’s extremely informed opinion on it.

Thanks to my buddy and loyal reader Dave for tipping me off to this one! And for everyone else out there, have a great weekend!

Comments

  1. #1 Zach
    February 4, 2011

    So what’s the likelihood Bill will even react if he reads this amazing science-punch of science? I can’t even hear his name anymore without going into a fit, he’s one of the few people that completely repulses me in every way.

  2. #2 Cuttlefish
    February 4, 2011

    *stands*

    *applauds*

    *continues to applaud*

    have I mentioned, I just love this blog?

  3. #3 Daniel Clements
    February 4, 2011

    Is Bill O’Reilly truly that ignorant, or is he a liar for Jesus? I don’t know, but I lean toward the latter and think he lies for his own profit.

  4. #4 SimonG
    February 4, 2011

    Tides, the Sun, the Moon… You’d think he’d pick something actually difficult to explain. Like frickin magnetism!

  5. #5 Bob Mrotek
    February 4, 2011

    So then what do Sarah and Rush have to say about this? Do they support Bill or do they just leave him dangling? Could Sputnik possibly save him?

  6. #6 Pillownaut
    February 4, 2011

    Awesome post, Ethan… you and I should have TV shows based on our blogs instead of him… sadly, we’d have only a fraction of fans. See, if O’Reilly read this on the air, I am pretty sure he would be immediately struck by lightning, and lose about 98% of his audience — none of whom want complex, beautiful, rational answers that require rubbing some brain cells together, LOL… ! ;)

  7. #7 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad Superhero
    February 4, 2011

    Now, you may tell me that science doesn’t have all the answers, and you’d be right. After all, I don’t have a good explanation for what caused inflation, which is the thing that sets up the Big Bang.

    Bill’s got the answer, you pinhead. A magic man who hates gays did it.

  8. The collision that produced the moon also blew away 90% or more of the accumulating atmosphere, luckily for us or we’d have something more like Venus with 600 Atmospheres pressure at the surface–something that O’Reilly can thank his lucky stars for.

  9. #9 Paco
    February 4, 2011

    This post is awesome on so many levels…but just starting with the title…Ethan should win an award just for that!

    Kudos!

  10. #10 captainahags
    February 4, 2011

    I does not understand. Therefore, it is wrong.

  11. #11 Alan Kellogg
    February 4, 2011

    Was an impact absolutely necessary for the formation of the Moon? Could a near miss have done the trick.

    And why didn’t the same thing happen with Venus? Was it a matter of a difference in the angle of attack, since Venus and Eros (my suggested name for the Venerian equivalent of Theira) were orbiting the Sun at a closer range and thus at a sharper angle of motion? Did we get a large moon because Earth and Theira had just the right angle on things?

  12. #12 mediajackal
    February 5, 2011

    I thought the image of the guy holding the sun in his hands was brilliant, but frankly, “Science. It works, bitches.” is way funnier.

    Zach, Bill won’t react to this, because he can’t read. He has soothsayers whisper his lines to him. One of them is reputed to be Rupert Murdoch, disguised as Michelle Bachman.

    Oh dammit, I just scared the shit out of myself …

  13. #13 jaranath
    February 5, 2011

    Daniel Clements:

    BillO is the textbook example of the arrogance of ignorance…and he is one colossally arrogant man. Check out the full clip here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyHzhtARf8M

    In this case, yes, he really is that ignorant of the specific science he mentions. But he also was, somewhat clumsily, trying to argue that an ordered universe proves his god. If you explained those items to BillO, he’d just move on to others, leading you on through an endless child’s game of “well what came before THAT?” until he tired and declared you trumped by Order.

    Explanations are wasted on BillO. Which is not to say they’re worthless…at least here, we have an opportunity to teach others about the universe and shed light on BillO’s nature.

  14. #14 Brian
    February 5, 2011

    Thank you, Ethan! (And thank you too, Stephen!)

  15. #15 iSLami Sohbet
    February 5, 2011

    On Life at the SETI Institute, Dr. Franck Marchis shares the latest results from Kepler, a telescope in an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit which keeps a distant eye on 156,453 stars. Kepler watches for tell-tale reductions in brightness, which “could be due to the transit of an exoplanet passing between its star and us.” As of Tuesday, Kepler has identified 1202 likely new exoplanets, tripling the number of known worlds beyond our solar system. These results suggest that out of the

  16. #16 Shane Dalzell
    February 5, 2011

    Love your work mate, love your work. I don’t know who Bill O’Rielly is, but I could have a fair guess I reckon.

  17. #17 Anonymous
    February 5, 2011

    I don’t wanna be a pinhead no more!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BBfybCPkjA

  18. #18 Suezboo
    February 5, 2011

    Thank you very much for this.I, too, am ignorant but I know it and I know how to alleviate it – visit more science blogs.

  19. #19 'Tis Himself
    February 5, 2011

    Who created BillO’s ignorance? Obviously God, because no natural force or object could have created and concentrated that much ignorance in one person.

  20. #20 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 5, 2011

    Mercury managed to clear its orbit, as did Venus. But out by us, we had two large objects — one roughly Venus-sized, one roughly Mars-sized — and they finally caught up to each other.

    I wouldn’t be so sure.

    – Venus: is retrograded. Easiest explanation would be an even bigger last impactor.

    – Mars: has a northern dichotomial plane. Easiest explanation would be a similar 1/10th mass ratio Moon sized impactor. Phobos, Deimos, the recent (~ 100 My) orbiting impactor that most likely made these lined up oblique impact craters and perhaps other now deorbited moonlets would be the ejected remnants.

    If the putative last large impactor that hit Mars didn’t result in ejecta assembling a single large moon but smaller deorbiting ones, that could reasonably happened on Venus as well.

    That invert the statistics, and Mercury may be the odd one out. Unless its IIRC relatively thin crust speaks of similar events. In sum, it seems to me like the last terrestrial planet assemblies could have involved “like sized” (rather, an order of magnitude differently massed) planetesimals coalescing. Wouldn’t that be expected?

    Markita:

    The collision that produced the moon also blew away 90% or more of the accumulating atmosphere, luckily for us or we’d have something more like Venus with 600 Atmospheres pressure at the surface–something that O’Reilly can thank his lucky stars for.

    Do you have a reference for that?

    I believe the Earth-Moon reformation theory is still up in the air. The relative lack of water on the Moon could be a result of preferential hydrogen escape in the impact heated dissociated reformation cloud, helped along by the solar wind and whatnot.

    The initial Earth atmosphere after the impact is, IIRC my astrobiology study book, believed to have been ~ 450 atmospheres pressure, ~ 300 of which was ocean water. After the water rained out as the crust reformed, ~ 150 atmospheres of mostly carbon dioxide (with ~ 1 atmosphere nitrogen) remained. This was subsequently assimilated as carbonates in the crust, explaining the current carbon content and the biochemically rich environment the abiogenesis that “took” happened in.

    [The first crust is now believed to have been formed within ~ 10 - 30 My, explaining the differences in Earth and Moon sideroophile elements. And we have the diamonds attesting to the first oceans at that time (~ 4.4 Ga). It is interesting to speculate that Theia may have heat sterilized a previous biosphere. That bastard! :-D]

    Now I wonder about the claim that atmosphere “blew away”. The ejecta that formed the Moon didn’t get to escape speed. (I also believe that would be unlikely unless the impactor was originating outside the cloud of planetesimals that formed Earth, having a radically different relative velocity.) Why would liquids and gases get a radically different momenta?

    Considering the remaining Moon water, perhaps some hydrogen barely made the escape, helped along by heating and solar wind. But hydrogen is the easiest gas there is, no one lighter on its feet.

  21. #21 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 5, 2011

    @ Alan:

    Was an impact absolutely necessary for the formation of the Moon? Could a near miss have done the trick.

    I believe the Wikipedia article gives the reason why an impactor is the preferred theory of Moon formation. Mainly the theory explains the mostly identical isotope ratios between Earth and Moon elements (Apollo and Moon meteorite samples), while leaving plenty of leeway to explain remaining differences (heavy siderophile element isotope ratios, water content ratio).

    Competing theories, such as a near miss capture, doesn’t do as well.

    And why didn’t the same thing happen with Venus? Was it a matter of a difference in the angle of attack, since Venus and Eros (my suggested name for the Venerian equivalent of Theira) were orbiting the Sun at a closer range and thus at a sharper angle of motion?

    I’m no expert in this, actually I know very little about such impact dynamics. But I believe I have seen model descriptions where masses, angles and relative velocities give different outcomes. Your general scenario may make sense, or as I suggested previously any ejecta may for some reason ended up like the putative Mars ejecta to be later deorbited, though I don’t understand your “angle of motion” description and how it relates to physics.

    But the work is in the details, I’m sure the general impact theory will be modeled and researched for years yet.

    I like your name suggestion, btw! From Wikipedia:

    “In Greek mythology, Theia “goddess” or “divine” (sometimes written Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa “wide-shining,” was a Titan. The name Theia alone means simply, “goddess”; Theia Euryphaessa (Θεία Εὐρυφάεσσα) brings overtones of extent (εὐρύς eurys “wide”, root: εὐρυ-/εὐρε-) and brightness (φάος phaos “light”, root: φαεσ-).”

    “Theia’s mythological role as the mother of the Moon goddess Selene is alluded to in the application of the name to a hypothetical planet which, according to the giant impact hypothesis, collided with the Earth, resulting in the Moon’s creation.”

    “Phobos (Ancient Greek Φόβος, “Fear”) is the personification of horror in Greek mythology. He is the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite. He was known for accompanying Ares into battle along with his brother, Deimos, the goddess Enyo, and his father’s attendants. Timor is his Roman equivalent.”

    Phobos, Deimos, … – Ares/(no name), Selene – Earth/Theia, (missing) – Venus/Eros. I guess I would have to “suggest” Aphrodite as name for the putative Mars impactor, and Timor for the putative deorbited moon; unless there is a Greek/Roman dichotomy which needs upholding, in which case it gets messed up.

  22. #22 RedGreenInBlue
    February 5, 2011

    Jaranath, you’ve just depressed the hell out of me with that YT clip link. I went and watched it, and a couple of others, and each is just as full of Bill O’Reilly’s self-assured ignorance. The best (or worst?) bit is the ad at the end of each clip, exhorting viewers to become premium members for more “insights from Bill O’Reilly”.

    I mean, people would pay to be bludgeoned with regular doses of complete ignorance of well-established scientific knowledge? He doesn’t even offer the flimsiest of arguments as to how any of the phenomena he addresses is evidence for a deity. It really is the ultimate collection of arguments from ignorance.

    (Sorry, I know you know that already, but I’ve finally realised how dangerous ignorance can be when presented in calm and confidently dismissive tones, rather than the ranting or preaching that you so often see from this part of the political/religious spectrum. He is plausible and even convincing to the scientifically uneducated, and it’s chilling.)

  23. #23 Childermass
    February 5, 2011

    Wow.

    It fairly sad that O’Reilly did not know what 5th graders are supposed to know that the Moon and Sun are responsible for tides. It has fully scientifically explained by Newton before the U.S. was formed. And frankly, the Moon was in some way connected to the tides was certainly suspected since ancient times.

    As much as the net gave him Hell for that, that is nothing compared to the insanity that prompted his post. It is not a sin to be mistaken. O’Reilly would have grown in stature in my eyes if he had simply admitted that he was wrong about the tides. Saying he was wrong about the tides would imply atheism especially since the guy who explained them was a believer himself. But not admitting error and going on the offensive simply makes him out to be a pinhead and a desperate one at that. That he does not know that science has a fairly good grip on the formation of the Sun and the Moon is surprising though as that is more “advanced” knowledge than knowing about the tides.

    And the really sad things, is that if God really wanted to try to show His existence (or at least of existence of an extraordinary power god-like in scope) one way would be to simply stop the tides from happening without disrupting the Solar System. How about canceling the next high spring tide and making the clouds spell out “God” in a clear way in the weather satellite view of the Earth on the same day?

  24. #24 Conshycrush
    February 5, 2011

    Bill O’Reilly doesn’t care about explanations. Any explanation of anything would be followed by, “Well how did that get there…” An endless cycle of the God of the Gaps Fallacy. He oftens uses the phrase, “It takes more faith to believe these ‘theories’ then it does to believe in God.” The ignorance of Foxnews and the Right Wing evangelical GOP and their zombie followers is sad to watch and unfortunately these people teach in our high schools, have their own tv shows, and get this… run governments in our country… it’s a sad sad future

  25. #25 Sphere Coupler
    February 5, 2011

    While I totally disagree with the pandering Bill o Reilly on many if not all issues, I could not align myself with his brand of *intelligence* in any respect.

    I also disagree with Academia on the formation of the moon. I strongly lean towards the coalescence and accretion hypothesis that incorporates the endogenic model of water accumulation to a higher percentage.

    The data from Cassini and Deep Impact clinched the discovery of water.

    It is unlikely that water could have survived an impact of such magnitude, it is far more likely that it was delivered by an outside source.

    Academia is rapidly catching up to the realization that there are numerous couplings between space bodies and the Solar wind.
    Programs detecting a water signature, such as 1996 Clementine probe, 1998 Lunar Prospector, LCROSS and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA-built Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on India’s Chandrayaan-1 satellite, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and NASA’s Deep Impact probe are turning up confirming results.

    Just because an incomplete model does not explain as much as a competing and highly promoted model, does not mean that it is incorrect, it’s just not finished.

    The lighter material that forms the moon and the outer layers of Earth could have been separated during accretion by a passing body, so in conclusion it may be that a dynamic or combined model can describe the formation of the moon from disturbed accretion rings.

    While Ethan reports the hypothesis with the most confirming data and is way far above anything that BOR might say, I remain skeptical that the issue is resolved.

    To quote a fellow commenter;
    Torbjörn Larsson, OM “I believe the Earth-Moon reformation theory is still up in the air”.

    I agree…literally.

  26. #26 Rob Jase
    February 5, 2011

    Great presentation BUT as you did not quote the bible it cannot be true.

  27. #27 don salter
    February 5, 2011

    What is really disturbing, is the fact that there are millions who regularly view his program; are all of them that dumb to believe his stupidity?

  28. #28 natural cynic
    February 5, 2011

    I think that the correct mathematical expression is: science>>Bill O’Reilly

  29. #29 Ken
    February 5, 2011

    I’m sorry, the correct answer to #4 is “no”. It’s something of a trick question; no one can explain anything to Mr. O’Reilly.

  30. #30 Robyn Sheppard
    February 5, 2011

    The greatest argument against the theory of Intelligent Design are people like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. They’re both living proof thaat, at least for the two of them, there was neither intelligence nor design present at their creation.

    Or, failing that, and there WAS an intelligent designer ar work, she certainly had a bizarre sense of humor.

  31. #31 Mark Baker
    February 5, 2011

    Hilarious, O’Reilly looks awful in the “where did the moon come from?” diatribe. Looks like he had a few too many single malts the night before. His supporters have to be mortified. Somehow I was reminded of Richard Milhous Nixon. I was only two when Nixon gave his “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” concession speech so I do not remember it, but it must have looked and felt like this rant.

  32. #32 Ian
    February 5, 2011

    Well…while everything you said is true, you are kind of missing the point of his argument. He’s not asking how the sun or moon was physically formed. His argument is basically there is no explanation except that God created the universe since something can’t exist without a cause. The logical counter argument is “Let’s accept that premise and apply it to your view, if things require causes for existence then how can God have exist and still be God?” To which the most consistent answer is “God has always been” but that spits in the face of the original premise. If Bill answers where God came from then his “logic” is at the very least consistent, but he would likely reject the implied premise and therefore step on his own argument about being. Theology is tricky like that.

  33. #33 jaranath
    February 5, 2011

    RedGreeninBlue: Yup. I think the worst lesson BillO teaches is that arrogant assertion makes right.

    But I’m almost as disturbed by the fact that he apparently really doesn’t know that we have decent explanations for the origins of most celestial bodies. Yes, it’s peripheral to his main argument from ignorance, but still! Aside from not understanding how we can graduate people with that sort of ignorance, I don’t understand how someone at his age wouldn’t have had the curiosity to ASK by now.

    This universe is frakking awesome! We orbit a FRAKKING STAR! It turns millions of tons of matter into energy every second…that’s what it takes to keep tiny ‘ol us warm out here, over ninety million miles out! You can feel the heat on your face, all the way out here, absorbing the tiniest fraction of its emissions! And it can do that for BILLIONS of years! And BillO doesn’t seem to really care. That kind of casual disinterest in our surroundings is quite alien to me.

  34. #34 Ariamezzo
    February 5, 2011

    I recall Dawkins being on O’Reilly’s program to discuss The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, and O’Reilly went on his usual diatribe about how it takes more faith to be an atheist and believe in evolution than it takes to believe in God and creation and whatnot. Not only that, but he called Dawkins and other scientists fascists. He really is a terrible and stupid man. He doesn’t care about science or progress. He just likes his Bible and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong and a dirty socialist. I don’t know why Dawkins bothered appearing on O’Reilly after he was there for The God Delusion and O’Reilly parroted the same thing. I suppose he probably had to to please his publisher.

  35. #35 g724
    February 5, 2011

    To understand BillO and his cohort, ignore the words and focus on the emotional tone: Arrogance, proud ignorance, smug superiority, and a type of “faith” that is founded more on primitive tribalism than on the actual teachings of Jesus (as in “love thy neighbor”). He panders to people who are proud to be idiots and get pleasure from the suffering of others, he reinforces their emotional traits, and he delivers their votes to candidates who in turn will support policies that are good for BillO and his bosses.

    Trying to get BillO to change his tune is like trying to get anti-vaccine hoaxer Wakefield to change his: both are getting too much positive reinforcement including hefty piles of loot, for promoting BS.

    The value of this blog posting is not to educate BillO or even his most ardent followers, but to give us something we can use if we find ourselves in conversation with one of his *less ardent followers.* The goal being to peel them away from his orbit and get them asking questions and thinking for themselves.

  36. #36 Acebone
    February 6, 2011

    Perhaps the real question is how O’Reilly got to become who he is :)

  37. #37 noodlyjames
    February 6, 2011

    As much as I appreciate the work and insights you are providing I fear they would be lost on O’Reilly (were he to read them). I’ll just point out the obvious here, he (O’Reilly) is looking for the “first cause” of everything and not just valid explanations.

    Addressing his “first cause” logical fallacy 1) He assumes there is a first cause 2) He then inserts an excuse as an untestable explanation (god) 3) Science does not and cannot know everything. It’s called being honest. O’Reilly “knows” everything all it takes is miracles and magic.

  38. #38 SickAndTired
    February 6, 2011

    Science:
    1: How did that happen?
    2: I don’t know!
    3: Let’s find out…

    Religious Right:
    1: How did that happen?
    2: I don’t know!
    3: God-did-it!!!

  39. #39 zaybu
    February 6, 2011

    What O’Reilly is forgetting is that if everyone had his attitude of answering every mystery with Goddidit then we would still be living in caves. What made us get out of the caves and build a modern civilization is our curiosity and our dissatisfaction with “Goddidit” for every problem or every mystery that existed. In that process, we were able to develop science and reap the benefit through technology. Today, we live better and longer than your average caveman.

  40. #40 noodlyjames
    February 6, 2011

    The way O’Reilly stated things I wonder if he mean’t why doesn’t Mars have a Sun.

    He’s an axiomatic idiot so this is the interpretation I prefer for his gibberish.

  41. #41 noodlyjames
    February 6, 2011

    @acebone “Perhaps the real question is how O’Reilly got to become who he is :)”

    Gay porn? (no offense to gays or pornstars)

  42. #42 Rufus_T_Firefly
    February 6, 2011

    Bill O’Reilly: I’m a tornado, I’m a tornado, I’m a tornado!

    Reality: You’re not a tornado, Bill. You’re a talk show host.

    Bill O’Reilly: I’m a tornado, I’m a tornado, I’m a tornado!

    Reality: No, Bill, you’re not a damned tornado.

    Bill O’Reilly: I am too a tornado! I AM a tornado and you can’t prove that I’m not a tornado.

    Reality: Okay, Bill, you’re a tornado.

    Bill O’Reilly: See? I TOLD you I was a tornado… Pinhead.

  43. #43 The Joker
    February 6, 2011

    Faith is for the weak… science is all there is… get used to the idea of dying alone and slipping into oblivion… your body will release enough chemicals to ease the experience… rejoice in the fact that you will return to the inanimate matter forged in long dead stars over billions of years of nucleosynthesis…

  44. #44 Defining_Reality
    February 6, 2011

    I’ve studied science just as much, probably more, than anyone on here. (Obviously Bill doesn’t know his science, I won’t argue against that.) It all scientifically makes sense, studied it before, and is a possibility. However, it’s still a THEORY. If something is a theory, it means that there is evidence that it is POSSIBLY correct, and has alot of data to back it up. However it is lacking definitive proof that it is indeed a fact. A theory has no more proof in it than religion, in fact arguably less.

    See from a religious standpoint. Religion doesn’t claim to have definitive evidence, in fact that’s a main part of religion. Religion wouldn’t be religion if it had 100% non-questionable evidence, it’d then become science.

    But for science, a thought process that requires facts and evidence for self satisfaction, a lack of evidence can be used by an opposing party to disprove their accuracy. For without facts, science is nothing more than a religion.

  45. #45 Dave w.
    February 6, 2011

    Thank you Ethan!

  46. #46 Zada
    February 6, 2011

    Hey, Bill….Where’d God come from? Huh? How’d God get here? Huh? How’d he GET here? Who made him, Bill? Huh? Who made God? This is YOUR argument….who made all this? Who made God, Bill…WHO?????? YOUR ARGUMENT!!!

    I KNOW, Pinhead Bill, I KNOW…..HUMANS made God…..BBBAWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  47. #47 NJ
    February 6, 2011

    Defining_Reality @ 44:

    This statement in paragraph three:

    But for science, a thought process that requires facts and evidence for self satisfaction, a lack of evidence can be used by an opposing party to disprove their accuracy.

    is strongly suggestive that this statement in paragraph one:

    I’ve studied science just as much, probably more, than anyone on here.

    is inaccurate.

  48. #48 noodlyjames
    February 6, 2011

    I don’t remember everyone comparing the sizes of their science experience in any regard. Why make the statement?

    The very statement “However it (a scientific theory) is lacking definitive proof that it is indeed a fact.” sounds an awful lot like “it’s only a theory”. In the hierarchy of science, a theory is as high as it gets. The theory explains the facts. Now, some theories are more tested and have more explanatory capabilities than others. But dismissing a scientific theory as “only” a theory (as if it were nothing but a guess) is a serious misrepresentation of what a scientific theory actually represents. And, at least in science, there is no “proof that it is indeed a fact”. This isn’t math.

  49. #49 Jarré Lyman
    February 6, 2011

    Thanks for the most informative laughs I’ve had in a long time, Ethan. As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is absolutely amazing. :D

    I’m lucky to be able to take a class from you.

  50. #50 PG
    February 6, 2011

    Now believe me, the last thing i want to do is defend bill o’reily, but i believe what he meant (and defended very poorly) is that the origin of the universe is so intricate and so suiting to people that it’s creator must be devine and not of chance. At least thats what i got out of the whole “never a miscommunication” speech.

  51. #51 David
    February 6, 2011

    Bill’s mouth opens, Bill’s mouth closes.
    Always a miscommunication.

    Room temperature air goes in, hot air comes out.
    Always a miscommunication.

    The US has Bill-O. Greatest nation on earth. Mars doesn’t have Bill. Europe doesn’t have Bill. How does that work?
    Always a miscommunication.

    See how it works? I don’t know if it proves the existence of god, but I think this proves the existence of hell.

    Great post, Ethan. You are THE MAN.

  52. #52 jason
    February 6, 2011

    Bill says god created the universe and whatever else it took for the moon, the tides and life to exist. His point is pretty easy to understand if your not a moron.

  53. #53 John
    February 6, 2011

    FWIW, the number of high and low tides you get per day varies depending on the shape of the coastline.

  54. #54 Joffemannen
    February 7, 2011

    Hmm, if Bill’s people was in power instead of JFK, who’d won the space race?

    Trick question: Noone would be planning to go to the moon in a thermonuclear holocaust

  55. #55 iSLami Sohbet
    February 7, 2011

    On Life at the SETI Institute, Dr. Franck Marchis shares the latest results from Kepler, a telescope in an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit which keeps a distant eye on 156,453 stars. Kepler watches for tell-tale reductions in brightness, which “could be due to the transit of an exoplanet passing between its star and us.” As of Tuesday, Kepler has identified 1202 likely new exoplanets, tripling the number of known worlds beyond our solar system.

  56. #56 Joffemannen
    February 7, 2011

    Btw: The comments to this are funnier on non-science blogs. We are all a bit too much in agreeance in here

  57. #57 Kevin
    February 7, 2011

    Fucking magnets! How do they work!!

  58. #58 Kevin
    February 7, 2011

    @44:

    Hint: Whenever you are in conversation with people of a scientific bent, and you use the word THEORY (in all caps), mistaking its meaning for that of “hypothesis”, you lose.

    No kidding. You outed yourself as a science illiterate.

    Just sayin’.

  59. #59 Bullet
    February 7, 2011

    @59: and after all it seems that all the people that “studied science for a (long) while” appear to be left out of the campus and never been able to see an university from the inside of its building.
    We on the german section of scienceblogs know this behaviour, too:
    Crank [dark voice]: I HAVE STUDIED IT. SCIENCE. EVERYTHING. AND I KNOW THAT EINSTEIN WAS WRONG WITH EVERYTHING.
    Reader: sure. You got that in 10 minutes, right? btw: Caps broken, huh?
    Crank: it’s dumbfuck simple: given an acceleration of 1g one year long. What speed do you get?
    Reader: omfg. Yeah. “given acceleration”. Sure.

    And so on. “I studied Science” seems to be a good indicator for every ridiculousness imaginable.

  60. #60 csreid
    February 7, 2011

    I’ve studied science just as much, probably more, than anyone on here.

    This when I first thought you were lying. First, if you know science, people will be able to tell. You shouldn’t feel like you have to trumpet your credentials to be taken seriously.

    Second, “just as much, probably more” makes you sound like a case study for Dunning and Kruger.

    Third, people who have actually studied science wouldn’t say they’ve studied science. They’d probably say they’ve studied… physics, or biology, or chemistry.

    My hypotheses was confirmed when you made out like “theory” meant “guess”. Try again.

    Bill says god created the universe and whatever else it took for the moon, the tides and life to exist. His point is pretty easy to understand if your not a moron.

    That’s not what he says. What he actually says is at the top of the article. He asked a number of questions, and Ethan answered them. If he meant “God created the universe and whatever it took for the moon… etc”, he should have said that. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

    Now believe me, the last thing i want to do is defend bill o’reily, but i believe what he meant (and defended very poorly) is that the origin of the universe is so intricate and so suiting to people that it’s creator must be devine and not of chance. At least thats what i got out of the whole “never a miscommunication” speech.

    Until we have evidence that a universe could even exist with rules other than the ones we have here, God is cut out by Occam’s razor.

  61. #61 Mike
    February 7, 2011

    Great post, as always, Ethan!

    There’s times I have to wonder how much of the complete nonsense some of the (mostly) political pundits unleash is what they actually believe, and how much is what they present as part of their public persona. Unwavering Faith and a large does of Science is Evil seems to play well to that base.

    I mean, is the on-screen Bill O as much a ‘character’ as Steven C’s?

  62. #62 Sphere Coupler
    February 7, 2011

    Defining_Reality
    “For without facts, science is nothing more than a religion.”

    Fail!

    Science is an action.
    Science utilises a specific method.

    Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.

    To do science correctly, you must not only ask questions, you must ask the proper questions. The selection of the proper questions is acquired, useing the existing knowledge,theory, ability to answer with results definable, based on gathered observable, empirical and measurable evidence.

    Religion) is faith based.
    Science) is empirical based.

    These are separate tools for different facets of human existence, you wouldn’t use a hack saw to scoop water just as you wouldn’t use a cup to cut steel.

    No questions are off limits to science.

    Religion is adherence to a preset standard that does not ask questions.
    When someone tries to blurr the domains of the two, they are not only doing a disservice to science, they are doing a disservice to faith.

    The only value I see in this, is as an entertainment and disturbance value, yet the misleading message delivered far out weighs any gain in entertainment.
    The disturbance value…well, this is post 63.

  63. #63 Doug
    February 7, 2011

    “rejoice in the fact that you will return to the inanimate matter forged in long dead stars over billions of years of nucleosynthesis…”

    Why would anyone rejoice in death? In the atheistic worldview, death is a total loss of a unique and special human life, the only one you’ll ever have. There is nothing happy about that.

  64. #64 Richard
    February 7, 2011

    O’Reilly actually posited a naive version of the Cosmological argument for the existence of God, which satisfied the finest medieval minds. It does, however, presuppose its conclusion.

  65. #65 Will
    February 7, 2011

    Unlike -44. I’ve studied science just as much, probably more, than anyone on here- above, I haven’t studied science but it always amazes me that certain people are so impressed at the universe being perfectly set up for life as we know it.
    Is it not obvious that we have evolved to be able to observe this universe and in it’s laws, and if the laws were set up were differently, something/someone different and perhapsunimaginable to us would be sitting there wondering the same? Oh look how the laws of this universe are so finely tuned for us etc.

  66. #66 Will
    February 7, 2011

    Unlike -44. I’ve studied science just as much, probably more, than anyone on here- above, I haven’t studied science but it always amazes me that certain people are so impressed at the universe being perfectly set up for life as we know it.
    Is it not obvious that we have evolved to be able to observe this universe and it’s laws, and if the laws were set up were differently, something/someone different and perhaps unimaginable to us could be wondering the same? Oh look how the laws of this universe are so finely tuned for us etc.

    Plus how wasteful would it be to design so much uninhabitable space around us to put us on one tiny blue dot?

  67. #67 ii
    February 7, 2011

    God is perfect and wouldn’t put stupid people on Earth. Bill O’Riley is stupid, therefore God does not exist.

  68. #68 Douglas Watts
    February 8, 2011

    please don’t show o’reilly the sticking a hot dog in liquid nitrogen trick …

  69. #69 Frank J. P.
    February 8, 2011

    Science Rocks!!!!
    Ignorance Sucks!!!

    It’s so sad that spreading ignorance can be so profitable.

    On the bright side, Ignorance was all we had for thousands of years. Now that we have reached the age of science, just maybe the ignorant will in time begin to understand.

    What worries me, is that we may not have a few thousand more years to collectively change our course.

  70. #70 Christophe Thill
    February 8, 2011

    Is O’Reilly actually saying that we have a sun and a moon, and Mars doesn’t ?

  71. #71 Wow
    February 8, 2011

    “See from a religious standpoint. Religion doesn’t claim to have definitive evidence, in fact that’s a main part of religion.”

    No, religion always claims definitive evidence. Weeping Mary Statues, Faith healing. The universe existing. All are CLAIMED as evidence for their religion.

    Religion doesn’t have any facts, however. In fact, it would rather do away with facts than change.

    Whereas science has lots of facts and it would rather have a fact that doesn’t fit than one that does. cf Shannon information theory or A C Clark’s “That’s strange” comments.

  72. #72 Dave Bacon
    February 9, 2011

    For years I have been noticing Bill O’Reilly’s comments about science issues, and I have concluded that the odds are much too small for such a level of ignorance to have been achieved by chance or human selection. It has to have been the consequence of imposed design. But design by whom? When one considers the breathtaking intricacy and astonishing vastness of Mr. O’Reilly’s lack of knowledge it is obvious the designer had to have been none other than the Devil, and that therefore Mr. O’Reilly’s mind is a persuasive argument for Destructionism.

    Or at least for better science education in America.

  73. #73 beetle
    February 9, 2011

    Wonderful post Ethan. Last night my physics professor(first year EM physics class) made an offhand throw away comment I just love. He was giving us an application of the stuff we’ve been going over that we’d all be familiar with(lots of nursing/medical field students) so he was explaining gel electrophoresis. After he’d explained the process, he said, “And the segments get there by, what, magic. Except we know it’s not magic, it’s physics.”

  74. #74 ghat7
    February 9, 2011

    I so love your site! It’s my favorite :) I voted for it! I agree with the plenitude of posts regarding the arrogance and ignorance of Bill O’Reilly! Also, great story unfolded in your answers. I’m in school studying science and math,hoping to know a fraction of what you know some day. But, at the risk of getting slammed, Is it possible you weren’t really answering Bill’s question? (I can’t believe I’m defending this guy) But I don’t think he was speaking literally. I think it was more like, where did this entire physical experience come from? The sun, moon, tides, big bang… the you, me, us… Where did the idea of ‘what’ and the question to figure out, and the observer of the question come from? You can give a literal explanation but after the science of it is explained with a beginning, middle and end, more questions, more investigation, reformulation, on and on, something or someone is experiencing this.

  75. #75 MauiWowed
    February 9, 2011

    How did Bill Riley get here? Can you answer that??

  76. #76 MauiWowed
    February 9, 2011

    And what about Bill O’Reilly his clone….

  77. #77 j para
    February 11, 2011

    I admire your patience, but their is no cure for willful ignorance-real or feigned.

  78. #78 TB
    February 11, 2011

    You all need to spend less time with Einstein and Bohr(ing) and more with the Bible. It has all the answers you will ever need – in ONE book. Amazing.

    Insane Clown Posse has recently turned eveangelical and has a great explanation of everything here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-agl0pOQfs
    Pay particular attention to 1m54s.

    “…Magic everywhere in this bitch.”

  79. #79 Jonathan
    February 14, 2011

    I think there are two things going on here that motivate some of the comments posted. As a PhD from a well respected university who continues to conduct a lot research, I feel like these comments are standard fair and frankly boring arguments that I have heard many times from people in academia. First, people often seem to be unable to separate their political ideology from their ability for rational thought. While I am not a proponent of Bill O’Reilly and certainly do not agree with some things that he says, he is not ignorant. He graduated from Harvard (as far as I can recall). People think differently about issues because they perceive life different. One should not immediately dismiss and attack someone’s statements just because they don’t agree with what they are saying. In my view, the inability to take any comment by someone of opposing political views seriously without blindly attacking them illustrates a serious lack of independent thought. These people are the very reason that nothing can be accomplished by the U.S. government anymore. People have allowed themselves to become too polarized. Please, I implore everyone… think independently. I mean really what rational person would believe that Bill O’Reilly did not know the moon predominately caused the tides or that he needed an explanation of the prevailing scientific thought as to how the moon was created. He was simply pointing out that no one really knows what caused the moon to exist (i.e. what/who created the universe). A conclusion this article certainly supports (though not obviously).

    The second motivation behind many of the comments unfortunately is the inability of “people of science” to separate the notion of a theory from a scientific fact (I know that I will undoubtedly be attacked for what I am about to say). Many people smarter than I have created models for the universe that represent currently observed experimental data well. Scientists will try and develop theories based on these models by inferring “meaning of life” type stuff from the models. This is a good thing to try as it can teach us a lot about the complexities of life. However, this requires an absolute faith in the model’s mathematics both forward and backward in time. But no one really knows if our models can be used in that manner since the only thing they are based on is current observed data (note that there are often many competing models that result in different conclusions). Using these models rely on faith in a manner not all that dissimilar to the faith that a religious person relies on in their everyday life. Yes, I said it… It is basically the same thing. Now one may argue that a scientifically derived model is based on observed data so it is much more believable. However, short of statues crying blood, to a well studied religious person their faith is based on observed data (a subject that takes more time than I have). I believe that if you are a true person of science you must accept that the notion of a God creating the universe is possible (i.e. not completely ignorant). Failure to do so requires a scientist to willfully ignore a possibility of truth without any observed scientific data to support such an action.

    As a side, many in academia would certainly self-righteously align with many of the people’s political views from the comments after this article. This does not make it right. Contrary to popular belief, there are still many scientists that would consider themselves conservative. I wish people of opposing views would speak up more so that a more rational debate could be present in academic circles. Politics should never have polluted our thinking.

  80. #80 John
    February 14, 2011

    As a science guy even I can recognize the rhetorical nature of O’Reilly’s comment. Providing the most modern theories on the origins of the specific comments that O’Reilly made really makes you look foolish because you missed the entire intent of his comment.

    While science has certainly provided a most probable explanation of how certain things came to be, including the Universe as a whole, it has done little to explain the answer that O’Reilly was really asking.

    Scientists often do a good job with the science, but fail when it comes to understanding human nature.

  81. #81 CNR
    February 14, 2011

    Agree with the last two comments above….

    While its so easy to jump on O’Reilly’s comments, I think a lot of supposed skeptics have themselves shown their ignorance.

    As stated above, the real question O’Reilly is OBVIOUSLY asking is what is the origin of the universe?

    So explaining how the tides work and how stars form and all that is all nice and smug, but do all of us real skeptics a favor and answer the REAL question he is asking and don’t play a silly 5th grade game of semantics. Very annoying.

    I think this is a major issue….people have a vague feel for how the systems of the universe work. But the elephant in the room that science does not do a good job of answering is how it all got here. I have a reasonable understanding for myself, but the populace at large does not.

  82. #82 Mark
    February 14, 2011

    Yes, O’Reilly is a blowhard. And ignorant of many things, as are we all. But what cracked me up more is that ignorance expressed from the peanut gallery in the comment section, who equate atheism with science, save the last 3 posters.

  83. #83 High Point
    February 14, 2011

    Thank you for your patience and the explanation. Don’t get cocky, though. The validity of today’s theories are subject to new evidence.

  84. #84 mert
    February 14, 2011

    Could some smart scientist please explain to me how Jesus rose from the dead?

  85. #85 Gary W
    February 15, 2011

    Bill O’Reilly can’t explain what he means. Let me try. Science can only explain HOW something happened, not WHY. So there was a collision, fine. But WHY did it take place? Why did the two bodies have the exact initial conditions to create the precise collision that produced the Moon? Why, for that matter, were there only two bodies, and why were they spherical? Why couldn’t one of them be jagged? BECAUSE THERE WAS DIVINE WILL – A SUPERHUMAN PLAN FOR THE UNIVERSE.

    Can science prove there is no Master Plan? I dare you!

  86. #86 Todd
    February 15, 2011

    I don’t know how I stumbled on this site, but the BIG QUESTION for me is:
    How did the Moon and the Sun get to be almost EXACTLY the same diameter when viewed from the earth?

    I think I understand why the moon’s orbit of the earth is maybe 6% slower than the earth’s spin…..?
    Thanks!
    Todd.

  87. #87 RRD
    February 15, 2011

    …but no one’s tried to teach him.

    Thank you for doing so, or at least trying. There is so much to learn, but all of us including Christians can hardly begin doing so without an open mind and a humble heart.

    When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
    – Proverbs 11:2

  88. #88 SJ
    February 16, 2011
  89. #89 Ashera
    February 22, 2011

    The folly of blind faith, where ignorance is celebrated is becoming apparent in the fast declining intelligence of the entire country.

  90. #90 Jamesdond
    March 19, 2011

    Several years ago I attended a debate regarding creation and the existence of God. Defending the existence of God were two physicists, on the other side were two liberal theologians. The winning point of the evening was made by one of the physicists pointed out that all matter is composed of almost an infinite amount of energy. Science has discovered that all matter in the universe is decaying. Both of these men of science personally felt the best explanation of the source of the infinite energy which brought all matter into existence was a powerful God….

  91. #91 Anonymous
    June 29, 2011

    Thought the image of the guy holding the sun in his hands was brilliant, but frankly,no one will catch the sun.

    ——————
    Sankar

  92. #92 Wow
    September 19, 2011

    “Both of these men of science personally felt the best explanation of the source of the infinite energy which brought all matter into existence was a powerful God….”

    And how does god do that?

    Ah.

    Problem.

    They’ve decided that that specific thing doesn’t NEED explanation.

    This is not science. It’s not even rational.

  93. #93 Larry Linn
    March 7, 2012

    How did O’Reilly get there? An immaculate misconception?

  94. #94 Karen
    Michigan
    September 21, 2012

    Your Feb 4, 2011 posting I like very much. There is a photo of the infant solar system that you have on the listing that does not have a photo credit. Is it OK if I use it in an educational program I am putting together for my museum? Thanks for your consideration. Karen, Gitrche Gumee Museum, http://www.agatelady.com

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