Before I get started with this post, let me first say that I was a big fan of “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” when my kids were young — anything remotely educational was better than “Pokemon” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — cartoons that weren’t mercifully killing brain cells, they were torturing them to death.
It’s virtually impossible to dislike the public persona. As an added benefit was the catchy jingle for the show intro: “Bill Nye the science guy — Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” turned out to be infinitely more pleasant to have permanently etched into your brain than “…heroes on a half shell – Turtle power!”
However, even back then I realized that Bill Nye was not actually a science guy, but a television personality playing the role of a science educator of young children. Bill Nye had been an engineer before he entered the world of entertainment as a stand-up comic.
“Bill Nye the Science Guy” was literally born on a comedy ensemble show — it was a character he created that turned out to be a long running joke that people now take very seriously. At a website called Big Think where Nye answers questions from viewers, he is listed in their roster of “experts” as Television Host and Science Educator — and that catchy, rhyming title of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” appears to give him instant credibility.
Basically, Bill Nye merely regurgitates what he’s learned from reading popular science books and tries to sound really smart while occasionally reminding his followers that he once was a student of Carl Sagan, presumably to borrow from Sagan’s credibility as an expert.
People tend to forget that Nye is just an entertainer, not a trained, professional scientist. His pale blue lab coat and trademark bow tie might create the illusion of credibility for Bill Nye, but the answers he gives to questions from his viewers makes one wonder about the legitimacy of his claim to be a big thinker — and certainly not an original thinker.
For example, in this video titled Creationism is not appropriate for children, Nye doesn’t say anything you wouldn’t normally expect to hear from Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins. He contradicts himself immediately by first correctly acknowledging the fact that the United States has been and remains the most technologically advanced nation in the world, but then with his very next breath, bizarrely claiming that because some percentage of our nation’s population believes in supernatural creation, the progress of future generations in America will be “held back.”
Nye presumably says this because he thinks people who don’t believe in the theory of evolution as a satisfactory explanation for the origin of new species are extremely stupid. The man claims to be literally in love with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Mr. Nye claims that “evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, all of biology” and says “you’re just not going to get the right answer” about topics ranging from geology to chemistry and physics if you don’t believe in evolution, without question.
Throughout this particular video it becomes painfully clear that Mr. Nye mistakenly believes the theory of evolution somehow competes with the idea of supernatural creation to explain our existence, when in reality, that’s sort of like comparing a four-course meal to a ham sandwich. Evolution is a theory about the change of existing things. Creation is a theory concerned with the origin, or the beginnings of existence of everything.
Creation begins with the Big Bang and ends with life. Though it may seem counterintuitive, it is possible to believe in creation and evolution. Personally I do not, but Conor Cunningham, Ken Miller, and Francis Collins are scientists and and academics who advocate theistic evolution, apparently believing that “monkeys make men,” as Darwin himself famously quipped in his notes. It’s difficult to ascertain the correct solution to a problem when the problem hasn’t been properly identified.
Life cannot evolve until it exists. The creation of something from nothing, either by the deliberate act of a supernatural creator, or some unbelievably good luck must have occurred before evolution ever became possible. The problem of supernatural creation is far more complicated than descent with modifications, even if it leads to the origin of a species.
Clearly, Nye is looking to solve for “X”, without asking himself “Y.”
Bill Nye the sciency guy also said this about evolution, in a video critical of creationism:
Once in a while I get people who say, or that claim they don’t believe in the theory of evolution. And my response is generally, “Why not? Really, why not?”
Now if Mr. Nye was sincere about wanting to understand my Big Picture worldview and why I have my doubts about the theory of evolution as a sufficient explanation for the origin of new species, I’d be happy to give him an electronic copy of my book Counterargument for God gratis, my usual offer to the atheists whom I encounter.
In return I only ask that he answers my existential questions, if he can, without invoking supernatural creation. Nye seems to believe that I cannot reconcile dinosaur bones, radioactivity, or deep time into my creationist worldview because it “denies” evolution. Furthermore, he seems to believe that I’ve never spent any time thinking about these things prior to watching his video.
Apparently to ask questions about the validity of conclusions about a scientific theory is tantamount to an irrational rejection of it, in the mind of our favorite “science” guy.
When another young viewer asked Bill how to “reeducate” himself after being indoctrinated into religious beliefs as a child, Nye launches into a rambling, incoherent reply that eventually throws out an attempt at an answer that caught my attention — when it comes to claims about religion, Nye wants his followers to learn how to apply critical thinking to a plethora of topics ranging from crop circles to astrology…in other words, we should be skeptical of everything except claims made about religion by some odd but interesting guy wearing a bow tie and a lab coat.
Here’s the message of Bill Nye, the sciency guy, in a nutshell: don’t question evolution. Don’t question climate change. Question everything else.
I have a much better idea — question everything. Period.