Skip to content

Bill O’Reilly apparently believes in God because he flunked science

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is waging a war against science. His technique is simple: come up with examples in the world that “nobody” can explain and use that to claim that there must be a god.

But what is really hilarious about this are the examples he is picking. Ranker put together a list of the stupidest things that O’Reilly claims cannot be explained. For example, the tides:

I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion. Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.

Of course, most children learn that the tides are caused by the moon (and to a lesser extent the sun) by the time they enter high school, but apparently O’Reilly flunked that class (and I guess that he doesn’t count a little thing like a tsunami as a “miscommunication”).

When it was pointed out to O’Reilly that we can easily explain the tides, he doubled down on dumb, and — picking on the moon again — claimed that we don’t know why we have a moon and Mars doesn’t! Apparently he also flunked the class where they discussed that Mars has two moons.

You can see all of this hilarity on Stephen Colbert’s show [starting around 2:30]:

Personally, I might have to believe in God, because I can’t explain how someone as stupid as O’Reilly can get their own TV show. I can’t explain that at all. God works in mysterious ways.

UPDATE: This whole thing has spawned a new internet meme, and it is hilarious.



  1. Mark wrote:

    I can’t explain how somebody that stupid hasn’t wandered in front of a speeding bus by now.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    This is so sad. It’s people like this (and some of my scientist colleagues – physical and social alike) who make it seem like you can’t have both religion and science. They are separate domains of understanding. Religion provides answers to questions like “why are we here” and “what is a good way of treating each other” that science, even social science, cannot fully answer.

    O’Reilly’s religion may or may not be a scam. If it is, it has nothing to do with science. The explanations of the physical world that come from scientific fact do not make his religion a scam anymore than his ignorance of the tides makes science a scam. His stupidity is in the assertion that they are somehow related.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  3. The biggest misconceptions about the theories of evolution and the big bang is that the claim that either one attempts to explain where the energy-matter that makes up existence came from; neither does. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

    The existence of God is as impossible to prove as it is do disprove. God, in all arguments, is ultimately arbitrary. Arguments for the existence of god are made weaker by attempts to logically conclude it as if it were an inevitability. They are, in fact, only made stronger by expressing them as exercise of the right to choose to believe.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:


    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  5. C.S.Strowbridge wrote:

    “Religion provides answers to questions like ‘why are we here'”

    No it doesn’t. It assumes an answer to a question that might not have one. There might not be a reason why. Philosophy has a better chance of coming up with a real answer to that question than any religion does.

    “and ‘what is a good way of treating each other’ that science, even social science, cannot fully answer.”

    Again, religion pretends to answer these questions by putting forth dictates that are not to be questioned.

    Some religions say it is morally wrong to eat pork, because pigs are unclean.

    Science says you shouldn’t eat undercooked pork because the diet of pigs makes them more susceptible to parasites, parasites that in turn can make us sick if we eat undercooked pork.

    Which one would you trust?

    Now, the same religion says, ‘If your wife if pregnant and you don’t know if the kid is yours, feed her poison. If she’s been having an affair, she’ll have a miscarriage.’ Do you trust its moral advice now?

    Morals are dictated by biology and psychology, two things that are definitely under the realm of science.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    As I view religion, it serves an important social purpose: to answer questions for which there are no other ways of knowing and, separately, to provide community.

    Science cannot answer questions about why we are born, why I (in the specific) was born, why we die, what happens to us when we die, why good people die and bad people don’t, what is good and bad, etc. Science can be helpful in telling us how to behave, but only within a context that values certain types of outcomes. When there is no science to guide behavior, religion can fill the gaps.

    If you do not need such guidance, that’s great for you. I will not dismiss religion entirely because there are specific dictates in specific religions that do not match my value system, including my *faith* in science as a sometimes appropriate guide to behavior. To do otherwise would to commit the same fallacy O’Reilly makes in his dismissal of science.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  7. starluna wrote:

    And, to extend my thought on the role of science in guiding behavior, and to use your example, while I think it is important that science can tell us something like the temperature at which to cook meats in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning, it has no role to play in determining what kinds of meat we should eat. That is a question of values that religion can play a role in. It doesn’t have to, but it can. It is religion and other value systems that tell us that pig may be o.k. but humans not o.k. Pork may not be o.k. but canine may be o.k. Science is irrelevant to these questions.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Jason Ray wrote:

    I agree that science and religion are two separate areas of understanding and are in no way mutually incompatible. In fact, I decided there had to be a Creator when I was studying physics and found that the basic mechanism that holds atomic nuclei together is based on borrowing energy from the universe and paying it back before it becomes a problem – i.e., matter is based on deficit financing. That is clearly a kludge, and only a Creator would need to make one *grins*

    In the simplest terms, science can not answer “why” – it can only answer “what”, “when”, “wehere” and “how”. Religion can’t answer “why” either, but it gives us reasons to believe that there are “why” answers out there 🙂

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Religion does provide answers, but only when you don’t need — or can’t have — an answer that is actually true.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  10. Quidam wrote:

    What does that remind me of …

    Oh yes

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  11. Dan wrote:

    Science is the study of how God created everything.

    We can go back to when all the universe’s matter was the size of a golf ball, but before that, it’s a mystery.
    And God said, “Let there be light” sounds like a big bang to me. What people seem to forget is that time is nothing to God, so a day to God could be a billion years.

    There’s a video on youtube where O’Reilly tells Letterman that Beck isn’t a real journalist like he is. I watch it time to time for a good laugh.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  12. ebdoug wrote:

    Fox is so scary because it goes on the premise that to take everyone back to the middle ages with lack of education will give the Heritage Foundation people control of us.

    Creationism is great because then we can hate black people and Muslims. The Christians are God’s chosen. All others are beneath the Christians. I don’t watch Fox, but I don’t hear of Non Christian people on there.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  13. Quidam wrote:

    And God said, “Let there be light” sounds like a big bang to me.
    Only if you have no concept of what the Big Bang really was. It also ignores that according to the mythology, God had already created the heavens and the Earth and immediately afterwards divided the light from the darkness, calling them day and night.

    That bears no resemblance to the expansion of space/time that is whimsically called the Big Bang.

    While science is the study of the material universe, invoking God adds nothing except as a placeholder for things we don’t yet have an answer for.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  14. C.S.Strowbridge wrote:

    “As I view religion, it serves an important social purpose: to answer questions for which there are no other ways of knowing…”

    No it doesn’t. Religion doesn’t provide answers, it provides excuses to not look for the answers.

    If you want to know the answer to the question, “Why?” you turn to Philosophy.

    If you want to be told what to think and what to do, you turn to Religion.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    This just in from Media Matters. Fox News insider says that they just make stuff up. Nobody is surprised.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  16. ZJD wrote:

    Thought I’d just throw in my two cents, first about religion and answering questions such as “Why are we here?”:

    Read the essay by Sean Carroll, “The Pointless Universe” (second from the bottom). If you need to perceive a divine force behind existence to have a fulfilling life, good on you. But some of us are happy enough just to be alive, thankful for the – entirely natural – gift that is concious existence.

    As for O’Reilly’s assertions, they’re classic “God of the gaps”/arguements from ignorance. And those aren’t even gaps, as we all know, which makes it funny. He could have at least tied them into the most persistent gap arguement: the origin of the universe. But that’s not so much of a gap anymore either. If you’re interested in discovering just how far scientists have come in unravelling the mystery of the Cosmos, here’s an hour-long lecture by the physicist Lawrence Krauss:

    Not that we need an understanding of modern astronomy or quantum fluctuations to realize that the universe couldn’t have been created by a higher power, that complexity does not arise from the top down. Saying otherwise simply begs the question, moving the mystery of origin one step further along an infinite regress of omniscient creators. In other words, if God created the universe, what created God? If we can say He didn’t need a creator, then we can certainly say the same of ourselves. At least I can.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  17. BTN wrote:

    I agree with some of the erly posters like Starluna. Just because OReilly is an idiot doesn’t mean there is no God.

    And for you smug atheists, can you explain how I just typed this?

    Friday, February 11, 2011 at 1:21 am | Permalink
  18. PatriotSGT wrote:

    LOL @ BTN.

    Try separating religion from spirituality and belief in a greater power. Pretend for a moment that man hasn’t screwed things up by creating clubs. Now, we all understand everything FROM the big bang forward. So out of nothing how did the big go bang.

    Or is our universe just another atom in an even larger something?

    Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink
  19. “In other words, if God created the universe, what created God? If we can say He didn’t need a creator, then we can certainly say the same of ourselves. At least I can.”

    Well put, ZJD. I made a Facebook post last week that expressed the exact same thought: If it’s so easy to believe that God “just is,” why should it be so hard to believe that the universe “just is” without Him?

    Friday, February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  20. Dan wrote:

    Someone told me once to be spiritual means you don’t need the support of others to have faith, religion is for those who are weak and need the propping up of “the herd.”

    Over time the relationship between God and people has evolved, it’s just too bad some seem to think that we need to go back to Moses and Abraham’s understanding.

    Friday, February 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  21. BTN wrote:

    Even ignoring the Big Bang, you can use biochemistry to explain my muscle movements, and more biochemsitry to explain nerve impulse: but what originated that first nerve impulse in the brain (the thought “move my finger”) before my finger moved?

    Friday, February 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
  22. Jason Ray wrote:

    I am not religious, but my father was a rabbi and my mother has a Masters in Religious Education so I got enough theory at home to last several lifetimes 🙂 My father’s most memorable response to people questioning God’s existence was to point to miracles – he used the parting of the Red Sea as his example – pointing it out that it wasn’t a miracle THAT the sea parted, it was a miracle that it parted WHEN the Jews needed to cross 🙂

    With the huge diversity of religious beliefs on Earth (and I’ve read the sacred texts of more than a dozen religions), it comes down to there being only three logical possibilities about the Creator:

    1) There is no Creator of any kind, and everything in the universe can be explained with sufficient scientific knowledge.

    2) There is One True Creator (single, plural, whatever) and almost everyone’s beliefs about the Creator are wrong.

    3) There is a Creator but everyone’s beliefs about the Creator are wrong – or at least, insufficiently informed. Personally I opt for this one, since statistically it’s got the most chances to be the right one *grins*

    There are many things (none of the ones O’Reilly mentions, of course) that we simply don’t understand yet. Whether those things are activities of a superior being, or a byproduct of the original design of the Universe, or just mechanistic results from a system we don’t fully understand, we should reserve making blanket statements about “the truth” since it’s very clear we don’t have it 🙂

    And for anyone that needs yet another point of view, I submit the “God is the Gamesmaster of the Universe” theory (Gamesmaster from Dungeons and Dragons or any role-playing game). I am the Gamesmaster of several universes. From the perspective inside any of those universes, I fit the bill of God completely – omnipotent, omniscient, etc – but I certainly don’t spend all my time watching the details about the millions of inhabitants, I don’t care what they eat or who they sleep with, and frankly I have forgotten most of them and don’t care much about the rest 🙂

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  23. PatriotSGT wrote:

    OK one last theory to throw out with the crowd. 🙂 The difference between evolutionists and creationist is simple enought to understand. Evolutionists are those people who must know how things works because they get uncomfortable not knowing what is going on around them. These are typically persons whom feel the need to control and have a hard time letting go to faith in anything even fellow man. The question everyone and everything and waste inordinate amounts of time seeking the the answer to questions like, “why”?

    Creationists on the other hand are just to busy having a good time to worry about how that time came to be. They more easily trust in faith and their fellow man. They’d sleep sound in a fox hole knowing their buddy is awake to protect them, while accross the way an evolutionist tosses and turns and keeps one eye open pondering how he came to be in that foxhole in the first place.

    Sorry, just my attempt at satire and humor. 🙂

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  24. Jason Ray wrote:

    God created evolution to separate the faithful from the intelligent 😉

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  25. No one in particular wrote:

    JR, Why can’t there be several creators?

    Perhaps the universe was an experiment gone bad and he now needs to clean it up?

    Or its just a temporary thing. Soon god will press an off switch and the universe will shrink into a small dot that will slowly fade into blackness.

    God is done and has been seen leaving the universe.

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  26. Jason Ray wrote:

    @No one – multiple creators is either option 2 or 3, that’s why I mentioned singular, plural, etc. 🙂

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  27. starluna wrote:

    Jason Ray – your Gamemaster God sounds a lot like the Christian Deists’ God.

    I agree with your statement that blanket statements about Truth are dangerous. To me, casual rejection of other’s truths only means that you do not live in the world where those truths have meaning. And, what is important here is the meaning that people bring to their truths. The basis of O’Reilly’s comment wasn’t the fact about what causes tides but that there are mysteries that seem to have no explanation, and God provides that explanation and therefore gives meaning to the mystery. The fact that tides can in fact be explained doesn’t actually remove God from the equation, it just shows how simple, or at least inarticulate, O’Reilly is.

    A key concept in the kind of research I do is the idea that reality is socially constructed. And that includes scientifically based facts. I happen to have a lot of faith in most empirically determined facts, but I also know that African Americans were scientifically shown to be intellectually inferior. Men had been told for years that the reliability of the PSA test in detecting prostate cancer was scientifically validated when in turned out that it was not as reliable as people were led to believe. Consequently, many men suffered needless interventions, and some still suffering the effects of those interventions, as a result of what amounts to unexamined faith in science.

    The truth behind how science works is that sometimes quite a bit of what we do is based on assumptions that are supported by little more than faith. That isn’t to say that there are no scientifically validated facts. The relationship between the moon and tides, or the process of gradual genetic change in phenotypes (aka evolution) has been repeatedly shown to be the best answer to very specific scientific questions. And there are empirically shaky conclusions to scientific questions that were put out as “truth”, like the relationship between vaccines and autism.

    What’s important about social constructions is that, regardless of their “truth”, they are real to people who believe them. The Thomas Theorem states that if you define something as real, it is real in its consequences. So, if you define pigs as unclean, the real consequence is that you do not eat them. This may have been the result of seeing the relationship between eating pork and dying from trichinosis and coming up with a rule to ensure health of your people (an explanation for the Jewish pork prohibition that is not entirely supported by evidence, by the way). It does not change the fact that the rule had meaning and that people acted on the basis of that rule. What is important here is not the rule, but the meaning behind the rule.

    The other thing about social constructions is that the justification for rules (whether they are religious or social rules) can evolve over time and serve different purposes. So the prohibition against eating pork no longer serves a potential health purpose but serves to define a community. Having a sense of identity is just as important as understanding what it takes to cook food safely. And given that human beings are scientifically proven social animals, it may even be more important in the perpetuation of the species.

    O’Reilly is a Roman Catholic. If you do not live in that world and don’t share its assumptions, it is easy to dismiss his social construction of the world. However, a stronger argument against his stupid remarks can be made if you understand that his references about what is mysterious have not been considered mysteries by his own Church for centuries. (And you can go on all you want about how the Church went bat-poop crazy with Galileo and Copernicus, but the scientifically trained urologists also were pissed when the evidence against the PSA test came out last year.)

    Calling any belief in religion stupid is not an effective method of undermining what may be undeniably real to others. And since science has no special claim to truth either, such arguments are only patronizing. Indeed, the one thing that religion and science share is the certainty that its assumptions have meaning and therefore are real to its believers.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink
  28. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna, another way to make the same argument is that it is impractical (if not completely impossible) to validate all of our assumptions using strict scientific method. In order to survive, we have to make assumptions. So the answer is not to refuse to believe things that have not been proven scientifically — only a minuscule part of our knowledge has been rigorously tested. And calling people stupid because they believe things that have not been scientifically tested is itself stupid.

    But that doesn’t change the scientifically proven fact that Bill O’Reilly is a blithering idiot and a liar. 🙂

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink
  29. starluna wrote:

    Since one of the essential methods for ascertaining fact in science is replication, and because O’Reilly has repeatedly showing his idiocy and dishonesty, you are correct in your assessment of him. 😀

    I agree with what you are saying, and I would add that it is also usually ill-advised to argue against another way of knowing using the terms from our own belief system. O’Reilly’s foolishness is displayed here simply in trying to “prove” a non-believer wrong by using the principles of his own belief system, which have no meaning to the non-believer.

    It reminds me of a joke. Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal: he’d have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave.

    The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Hebrew, they agreed that it would be a ‘silent’ debate.

    On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other.

    The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.

    The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

    Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.

    The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

    The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.

    The rabbi pulled out an apple.

    With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

    Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.

    The Pope said, “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. The rabbi responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins, and the rabbi pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue.”

    Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he’d won. “I haven’t a clue,” said the rabbi. “First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.

    “And then what?” asked a woman.

    “Who knows?” said the rabbi. “He took out his lunch so I took out mine.”

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink