Opinion | Feb. 4 8:10 pm EST

Bill O’Reilly needs to take Frontiers of Science

Pétur Gauti/flickr

Like many of you, I did not enjoy my time in Frontiers of Science. I might even say that Frontiers of Science is the worst class I’ve ever taken at Columbia.

I’m not blaming the professors for that. I just think that the whole “just-the-highlights, middle-school-lab-projects, everything-basic-you-need-to-know-about-the-natural-world-so-you-can-read-The-New-York-Times” approach runs counter to everything science is supposed to be.

Or at least, that’s what I used to think.

But watching this video of Bill O’Reilly made me realize that we owe at least one thing to Frontiers of Science: We can be sure that we’ll never answer a letter claiming that the moon causes the tides (O’Reilly frequently cites the tides as proof that God exists) with a condescending “OK, how’d the moon get there?”

That’s because we learned that the moon most likely formed when the still-forming earth was hit by an object half its size, and that some debris from the impact was subsequently caught in the earth’s orbit, and that said debris ultimately became our only satellite (or something like that).

Other “mysteries” we learned about in Frontiers that O’Reilly mentions – the formation of our sun, evolution through natural selection, and why there is life on earth (as opposed to on any other planet in the solar system).

The point being that we should probably thank Alma Mater for saving us from O’Reilly’s lack of basic information.

I realize that the above might sound like a comment hostile to people of faith, but actually my main point in writing this post was to express my appreciation for those students and teachers at Columbia who are in fact religious. More specifically, I wanted to take issue with something O’Reilly says at the end of the video: “It takes more faith to believe this was all luck…than it does to believe in a deity.”

That’s simply not true. As a person whose faith didn’t make it out of high school, I promise you that not believing is much easier (for one, I have my Sundays back). Which is why I’m sort of in awe of Columbia’s religious community. I’m not entirely sure what it takes to harmonize a highly-educated rational mind with a personal faith, but I know part of me is jealous of those who can pull it off.

So anyway, kudos. And as for you, Mr. O’Reilly, there should be a lecture in Miller Theater next week that you might consider attending.

Neil FitzPatrick is a Spectrum opinion blogger. He’s just happy to be here, hopes he can help the ball club.




  1. '11 • February 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm • Reply

    Neil, whether you wanted to or not, your post is demeaning to people of faith at Columbia. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt though because Bill O’Reilly just sounds like an idiotic overgrown fourth-grader regardless of what comes out of his mouth.

    Here’s someone who’s not Bill O’Reilly, is a science major and a person of faith thinks about it: science and math is all about laws governing our universe. Laws require a government and an authority. So if there is no god, who is governing?

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    • I • February 5, 2011 at 10:11 am • Reply


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    • '14 • February 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm • Reply


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    • Neil, • February 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm • Reply

      whether you like it or not, I completely support your stance. By all means, I do not find your post demeaning. All of science is based on either verifiable evidence, or deduction. Science looks for conclusions based on evidence, and religion looks for “evidence” based on preconceived conclusions.

      To the commenter: who ever said there needs to be a creator? If god created the universe, who created god? I can go on and on, but I’ve had way too many arguments like this to realize that logic doesn’t flow well in your head. Why not keep an open mind about the universe?

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      • Grumman • February 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm •

        You’re right. That’s precisely why science and religion can’t mix (although some Templeton Prize winners would disagree). While there can be (or should be) no dogmas in science, and everything is subject to question under a logic based on empirical evidence, religion is subject to “faith”. Therefore, the religious person won’t need a scientific proof of God. Mixing science and religion betrays both the openness of science, and the faith in religion.

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    • Anonymous • February 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm • Reply

      Laws require a government and authority? Not natural laws… or didn’t you take CC?

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  2. Wojtek Wolski • February 5, 2011 at 2:54 am • Reply

    Bill O’Reilly is a true American hero. His show often illustrates the unbiased truth. You guys are just too liberal and close-minded to realize it.

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    • piss off Rangers scum • February 5, 2011 at 5:24 am • Reply

      Go ‘guins!

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  3. Grumman • February 5, 2011 at 11:29 am • Reply

    “I’m not entirely sure what it takes to harmonize a highly-educated rational mind with a personal faith…”

    The main difference between science and religion is that they are based on different “sources of knowledge”. The only valid one in science is the scientific method, in which the existence of a deity is irrelevant. Whether we have “faith” in a scientific theory is relative, since everything is subject to question, and scientific theories evolve permanently. On the other hand, religious knowledge is based on “divine revelation”, and there are a minimum set of “absolute truths” that are permanent for the believer. These can vary according to each specific church or religion. Thus, while many believers recognize that the Bible isn’t a source of scientific knowledge, others stick to it, ignoring the advancements of science.

    Now, getting to your comment above, for a scientifically educated mind, once the separation between science and religion is understood, and it is acknowledged that the purpose of believing in a deity (or deities) is not to understand the workings of the Universe, other issues remain. While posing the questions of what are the origins of the Universe and Life is valid for science, and they will probably be answered convincingly in a near future (I don’t think Steve Hawking has succeeded yet), other questions remain, such as what is the purpose of the Universe and what is the purpose of Life. These fall out of the pitch of science, and that’s where religion, or at the very least philosophy remain. Thus, there are still reasons why a deity is needed by many, even if they have been scientifically trained.

    On the other hand, regarding Frontiers of Science, I hope it will stir the curiosity of a few students. Just as many scientists are fond of the humanities, it is most important that leaders in other fields are scientifically literate…unlike Bill O’Reilly.

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