Bill Nye the (Sort of) Science Guy

Bill Nye stands at The Facebook Wall

It is with a little trepidation I address in a less than positive way the phenomenon who is Bill Nye the Science Guy. Or, in this case, Bill Nye the (Sort of) Science Guy.

Like many parents I overheard Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV, though my kids preferred the more zany Beakman’s World; as did their Dad. Beakman had an actual lab rat, Lester.

Unfortunately, Beakman’s World went the way of Hong Kong Fooey while Nye’s star continues on the rise. His website features Bill Nye videos, Bill Nye appearances, Bill Nye downloads and a Bill Nye store. The video page show Nye on Seth Myers, Crossfire, debating creationist Ken Ham, and one of his weekly appearances on the Big Think YouTube channel. Not a shy one, the bow-tied one.

These days far from commenting on ballet shoes or a water-in-bag magnifying glass (two things he has patented), Nye is promoted as knowledgeable on homosexuality, GMOs (before being for them, he was against them, so feel free to choose pre- or post-Science Guy), abortion, fracking, creationism, evolution, space trash, climate change, and even Tom Brady’s “deflategate” saga.

Nye is clearly taking advantage of the celebrity he’s cultivated since he was “Bill Nye, College Graduate with Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering Guy.” Then he was “Boeing Training Film Personality Guy.” Then “Sketch Comedy Writer/Actor in Seattle Guy.” Then “Dr. Emmett’s Brown’s Assistant Guy.” (Yes, that Doc Brown, in a live segment of the Back to the Future animated series.) From there the well known Bill Nye the Science Guy launched its five-year run. Perhaps Nye’s extensive television and movie experience prompted Wikipedia to give his bio an “Entertainment/edutainment” paragraph.

It is interesting, if nothing else, that Nye’s own website does not promote his credentials. It does not mention his Ph.D. work. It doesn’t not mention his master’s thesis. And with good reason.

Bill Nye has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell. He has no M.S. He has no Ph.D. He has no advanced degrees of any kind in ay field.

Bill Nye is not a tenured professor. Nye is not a professional scientist. He’s a science ambassador; rather like Angelina Jolie in a lab coat.

Ok, not like Angelina Jolie in any garment.

Nye has never published a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article. This fact was snarkily mocked by a guy who, uhm, does.

(While this may not seem significant to some, it does have bearing when many scientists with Ph.Ds are derided for never having published in peer-reviewed journals. Famed atheist, author and Twitter curmudgeon, Richard Dawkins, has published one, more than 30 years ago. Look it up.)

The reason these facts are relevant is Bill Nye uses the goodwill built over years as an entertainment personality and science educator to gain a hearing for social commentary. When necessary he becomes Bill Nye the Pseudophilosopher Guy to do it.

Case in point: last week Nye was featured on the Big Think video series to talk about abortion (watch below). Makes sense: “Bill, tell us how clouds are formed. Bill, tell tell us how a combustion engine works. Bill, tells about about women’s reproductive rights.” Yeah, no.

Nye is far out of his depth. His demeanor is that of little Billy Nye having the facts of life explained to him by an equally ill informed older brother. The connections he tries to make are not merely tenuous; they are non-existent. He’s more factoid than fact. Bill Nye the Making It Up As I Go Guy.

His initial effort falls flatter than a 100-story street diver. “Whom are you going to sue?” for fertilized eggs that do not implant? Is this a joke?

When is the last time you saw this legal ad: “Have you been in an auto accident? Slip and fall on a greasy floor at Wendy’s? Have fertilized eggs passed through your womb and failed to attach? Call us now!”

Nye asks a question that is, for him, hypocritical. In his naturalistic worldview there can never be anyone to blame for ultimate things.

He then reprops his straw man, and accuses the viewers who recognize his nonsense for what it is has having a “deep scientific lack of understanding.” The backward phrasing alone chills the spine. He then mumbles around like a guy who’s been awake 5 seconds and says, “You apparently, literally don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Literally, I don’t know what Nye’s talking about since he’s as far from a valid point as chalk is from the cheese.

Then for good measure, a quick jab at the religious. Hey, Bill, why not mention the prominent contingent of secularists like yourself who have seen through the nonsensical, patently unscientific arguments like the ones you advanced? And, literally, he makes more mistakes talking about the Bible than any to-be-taken-seriously intellectual should. (Nowhere does the Bible teach that every time man and woman have sex the result is a baby. Not all of the Bible is “5000 years old.”)

Bill Nye has become another person with a platform bigger than his knowledge. When Bill Nye uses his celebrity to promote political or cultural agendas, it isn’t science, guy.

Footnote: Bill Nye is a member of a number of scientific and educational organizations. It is unclear how many are related to his popularity alone. Additionally he has honorary doctorates from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Johns Hopkins, Williamette, Rutgers, and Lehigh. Honorary doctorates are as much about the institution giving them as the person receiving them. It’s symbiotic publicity. Just ask Kanye West, JK Rowling, comedian Billy Connelly, Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear, John Legend, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Ed O’Neill, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Or just survey religious leaders from here to everywhere. There is no shortage among us, either.

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Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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