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O’Reilly deserves no charity

…but maybe we should give him some. Now, Bill O’Reilly gives us no reason to be charitable toward his claims. He is loud-mouthed, arrogant, frequently bigoted, annoyingly interruptive, and never charitable toward his interviewees himself.  Such behaviour hardly engenders good will in people to treat him differently. This, I suspect, is the reason for the massive amounts of ridicule heaped onto him after his tide-argument for God in his interview with David Silverman:

Most notable of such ridicule is Colbert describing his position as ‘there must be a God because I don’t know how things work’ and then bringing physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in to explain the tides.

As amusing and justified the ridicule of O’Reilly admittedly is, I doubt the man is truly so ignorant of basic scientific explanations as he’s made out. I just think he’s really bad at getting across whatever his argument happens to be. So when O’Reilly says:

Sun comes up, sun goes down. Tide comes in, tide goes out; never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.

A more charitable interpretation, than a profession of ignorance of the motions of celestial bodies, is a badly communicated and therefore failed attempt at a teleological argument from universal regularity. That is, he’s probably not saying there’s no known natural explanation of planetary rotation and cyclical changes in sea levels; he’s probably driving at the regularity behind such explanations. I suspect that’s what he means by “never a miscommunication,” though I’m puzzled by his choice of word.

Such fascination with the intelligibility of existence is a profound and ancient philosophical question with no ready answer; and no answer likely to be found in further discovery of natural law since precisely such laws are the mystery.

Picture of Albert Einstein with his tongue outAllegedly Einstein mused that ‘the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility (‘Out of my later years,’ p. 61).’ While Isaac Asimov later professed having an article of faith ‘that says the universe makes sense. Now there’s no way you can prove that the universe makes sense, but there’s just no fun in living in the universe if it doesn’t make sense. […] my belief is that no matter how far we go we will always find that the universe makes sense. We will never get to the point where it suddenly stops making sense. But that is just an assumption on my part (Free Inquiry, spring 1982).’

Of course, saying ‘I can’t explain why the universe makes sense at all; therefore God’ is still, as Colbert pointed out, just a fallacious argument from personal incredulity. Though at least it’s not based on an embarrassing level of scientific illiteracy.

Then again I should hardly want to insult O’Reilly by underestimating his stupidity. He seems to have worked really hard for it and I would not want to dismiss his devotion. He might just be that stupid but all the same we could give him the benefit of the doubt. Especially for the sake of bringing interesting philosophical conundrums to our attention, right? Please?

  • Asimov, Isaac, Interview with Paul Kurtz, ‘On Science and the Bible’, in Free Inquiry, Spring 1982
  • Einstein, Albert, ‘Physics and Reality’, in Out of my later years, (Citadel Press, 1995), p. 61


“the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility (‘Out of my later years,’ p. 61).”
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One Response to “O’Reilly deserves no charity”

  1. Sigmund Vestergaard says:

    Bill O’Reilly comes across as a very rude man. But then, this might be a role he plays. I agree with you that we should give him the benefit of the doubt, because he must know about the physical explanation of the tide.

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