As long-time readers know, we at UD often disparage Wikipedia for its left-wing bias. Still, you have to give it its due. For a quick lookup of non-controversial facts, it has its uses.
Uses to which, apparently, Bill Nye has not put it. If he had looked up Wiki’s entry on Ptolemy’s Almagest (published in around 150 AD), he would have known that the ancients understood very well that the universe is incomprehensibly vast. Here is the Summary of Ptolemy’s Cosmos from that article:
The cosmology of the Syntaxis includes five main points, each of which is the subject of a chapter in Book I. What follows is a close paraphrase of Ptolemy’s own words from Toomer’s translation.
The celestial realm is spherical, and moves as a sphere.
The Earth is a sphere.
The Earth is at the center of the cosmos.
The Earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point.
The Earth does not move.
The “the ancients thought the universe was tiny” myth and the “the ancients thought the earth was flat” myth are both refuted by the Almagest. The persistence of these myths is difficult to explain given that it takes about 30 seconds on Google to find the Wiki article.
But apparently Bill Nye is so busy spouting his anti-Christian propaganda, he does not have 30 seconds to spare.
UPDATE: It occurs to me that Nye’s ignorance is all the more inexcusable because it is not like he is unaware of Ptolemy. Nye once said:
It was curiosity that drove Ptolemy to study the stars and eventually develop the theory that the sun revolved around the Earth, and it was curiosity that eventually led Copernicus to challenge him centuries later and suggest it was actually the other way around.
Yes, Ptolemy was wrong about that. But he was right about other things, like the fact that the earth is a sphere and that the universe is very very large.
SECOND UPDATE: JAD posts this comment, which is spot on:
In the same spirit as Bill Nye, Carl Sagan wrote:
“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
Sagan has written else where that he has no problem having a sense of awe and wonder even “reverence” because of “the magnificence of the Universe.” Why would the belief that the Creator is an eternal, transcendent Mind make any difference?
I also disagree with Sagan that theists have tried to keep God small. I have no doubt that young David watching over his father’s flocks of sheep at night was awe struck by the star filled sky. Indeed, that is what he said.
In a Psalm 8 he wrote:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
He marveled then at the immensity of the universe. I have no doubt he would have marveled even more if he knew what we living today know. After all I am a theist that is how I feel.