Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? Freethought of the Day is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 2 entries for this date: Bill Nye and Bruce Lee
Bill Nye

Bill Nye

On this date in 1955, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, television personality and inventor, William Sanford "Bill" Nye was born in Washington, D.C., where he was also raised. Nye, "America's stand-up scientist," says on his website that his parents fostered his interest in science. Nye's father was a prisoner of war during World War II and his mother was a Navy codebreaker who excelled in math and science. In 1977, Nye earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, where one of his professors was Carl Sagan. He then moved to Seattle to work as an engineer at Boeing. Nye invented a special sundial used during the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and engineered a hydraulic device for Boeing still used on the 747. During this time, Nye cultivated his comedy style, working nights as a stand-up comic, and eventually he quit Boeing to work as a comedy writer and performer on a Seattle ensemble show, "Almost Live." From this show, Nye and several others founded the incredibly popular educational television series, "Bill Nye the Science Guy" (1993-1997). The show won 18 Emmy Awards in its five-year run, and Nye, who wrote, starred in, and produced the show, picked up seven of those Emmys. Nye has written five children's books, created several other television shows and hosts several television series, including "The 100 Greatest Discoveries" on the Science Channel, "The Eyes of Nye" on PBS, "Stuff Happens" on Planet Green and "Bill Nye Saves the World" on Netflix. He served as executive director of the Planetary Society. Nye was honored in 2010 as Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association for his role "as an activist for solid scientific policies to sustain society." In his acceptance speech he said, "Science is the best idea humans have ever had." According to Popular Science magazine, "the Science Guy" angered audience members at a lecture in Waco, Texas, after he criticized a literal interpretation of the bible ("Bill Nye vs. Intelligent Design," April 7, 2006).

"Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. . . . The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong."

—Bill Nye quoted in a Popular Mechanics article, "Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Evolution Belongs in Science Education," by Sarah Fecht, Feb. 4, 2011

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; photo by Phil Stafford,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

On this date in 1940, Lee Jun-Fan, better known by his English name, Bruce Lee, was born in San Francisco, Calif., while his parents were on tour with the Chinese Opera. Lee was raised in Hong Kong, where he studied martial arts and worked as a child actor. When he was 18, he immigrated to the United States and claimed his U.S. citizenship. He first worked as a dance instructor, then received his high school equivalency diploma and went on to study philosophy and drama at the University of Washington. Lee opened his first martial arts school, where he taught the traditional Chinese gung fu method. Lee eventually married one of his students, Linda Emery. He also taught martial arts to movie stars, and made his big break into acting with the role of Kato in the TV series “The Green Hornet” (1966-67). Lee guest starred on several TV shows and acted in the films “Fists of Fury” (1971) and “The Chinese Connection” (1972).

Although Lee never received his degree in philosophy, his interest in the subject continued throughout his life. Lee sought to “infuse the spirit of philosophy into martial arts” (“Me and Jeet Kune Do,” reprinted in Words of the Dragon, ed. John Little). He developed a new style of gung fu, which he called Jeet Kune Do. Lee often expressed his distaste for the formalization of martial arts styles, and worked towards creating an effective fighting technique. Lee was raised by a Catholic mother and a Buddhist father, and was not personally religious.

Lee and his wife Linda had two children: Brandon, born in 1965, and Shannon, born in 1969. On May 20, 1973, Lee collapsed and complained of a headache; he died later that day, of complications from painkillers that had been administered to treat his earlier symptoms. D. 1973.

“When asked by journalist Alex Ben Block in the summer of 1972 what his religious affiliation was, Lee answered: ‘None whatsoever.’ Block then pressed him further, asking him if he then believed in God: ‘To be perfectly frank, I really do not.’ ”

—John Little, "The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee"

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by Neftali,

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