Bill Nye: Science changes the world

William Zingrone Associate professor of psychology

Monday night at the CFSB Center wasn’t a love fest but it was close. I’d been hearing all day from my students, “You going to Bill Nye?” “I love Bill Nye” “My sixth grade science teacher played his episodes every week,” “You NEVER saw Bill Nye?”

I confess I hadn’t. Wrong generation: I’m just a little older than him and he fell in between my kids’ generations, so no, I’ve never seen a “Bill Nye, The Science Guy” show.

He had them eating out of his hand; this guy has almost rockstar status. Beneath the nerdiness and homespun humor is an educated, scientifically literate man who loves science and loves innovation and vision and does not want to see this country fall behind in the challenge to solve the future’s problems and make the next great discoveries.

Bill roamed through his experiences in space exploration, throwing in tidbits of scientific knowledge regularly along the way, displaying an impressive familiarity with modern knowledge of space and our tiny speck of a world floating in it.

He purposely went into a lengthy aside on global warming, using the runaway greenhouse effect on the planet Venus as a backdrop for displaying and reviewing the hockey stick graph of the Earth’s rapid recent temperature rise that the global warming deniers have made so infamous.

He featured it as calmly and accurately as any other of the dozens of scientific facts he explained along the way in between the jokes and anecdotes, nerdy asides and admonishing the crowd of delighted listeners in his most diabolical voice to “change the world.”

As corny as his delivery deliberately was at times, he was dead serious about encouraging the young of this country to embrace science and change the world for the betterment of all.

The emphasis was on the science throughout and when one of the audience members during the hour-long Q-and-A described the hockey stick graph as a theory, Bill politely but immediately corrected him that no, it was data: reliable, corroborated data from temperature recordings, tree rings, ice cores, etc.

He also described the update to the temperature profile of the earth extending back further in time which now resembles a sickle and really demonstrates even more clearly the rapid rise of temperature worldwide in recent times.

He really pushed innovation to “change the world” again as it has so unexpectedly in the past and noted the recent unmanned moon landing by the Chinese … space exploration spurs innovation. We need to stay in the game.

We need more solar energy like his watch, rooftop water heater and solar panels for electricity on his house.

Bill stressed again and again we could make all this solar and wind power viable for all with better battery technology, better power distribution, more investment, more emphasis on the future.

Bill also stressed the importance of women in science and in response to one of the questions about population control, he flat out said “educate women.”

When women are educated, they have choices that compete with the choice of having children and they have fewer children. He avoided commenting on the roadblocks of conservative religions that deny them birth control. Bill did a nice job sidestepping the clash of religion and science throughout. When asked directly if he thought religion and science conflicted he reiterated the practical observation he’d made earlier in the talk that six billion of the seven billion folks on the planet all embrace science yet also have spiritual leanings of some kind, so of course it can be done.

So Bill Nye leaves Murray State and goes to Ken Ham’s house, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., for the great “debate” of Creationism vs. Science.

Ken spouts Biblical genealogies and all the same creationist arguments and says repeatedly that one can’t observe history, such as we can’t see a species turn into another in the past, and Bill puts out data we know from science, much of it utterly unobservable.

Most of science is unobservable, like no-one who uses electricity including Ken Ham has ever seen an electron.

Creationism is an obnoxious scam that no debate setup will decide or win. Bill Nye did what needed to be done, present the science, a glimpse of the oceans of data that support an old earth, an old universe and evolution. In the end Ken Ham had only his strained interpretation of a 2,000 year old book.

Nye pointed out you can’t keep denying all this evidence (which grows by the second, while Ham’s 50-100-year-old arguments stagnate). Ham and the creationists are going to be busier by the day figuring out how to dodge, diss, ignore, refute or pretend that science doesn’t exist including evolution and the age of the earth.

Thank you, Bill Nye, for calmly presenting the science.


Column by William Zingrone, Associate professor of psychology