The Critical Mass

Bill Nye. Or maybe the guy on my bus, I'm not sure.

Bill Nye. Or maybe the guy on my bus, I'm not sure.

Bill Nye, I’m proud of you

Until a few weeks ago, I had only a passing familiarity with Bill Nye, who in the ’90s was “Bill Nye the Science Guy” to kids watching public television. I never saw his show there, being too old to learn by then. A couple of years back, I’d catch a glimpse of him as the environmentally concerned fusspot neighbor of Ed Begley  Jr., on the cable reality show Life With Ed. Nye and Begley spent a few half-hour episodes trying to one-up each other in the race to see who could fit more solar panels on his roof.

Nye was just a funny little fella with a bow tie  who I wouldn’t know if he sat down next to me on the bus ride home. In fact, there’s a guy on my bus who I now realize looks a lot like Nye.

A few weeks ago Nye was on, of all things, Chris Matthews’ talk-and-yell show on MSNBC. Matthews can be insufferable. There are times when the only sound he hears is his own voice. And he loves that sound. He rudely talks right over his guests, rephrasing his own question two or three times, like a narcissist incessantly combing his hair, until he’s satisfied that these are words worthy of being carved in marble. But other times, Matthews is listening closely, ready to pounce on a guest’s unsubstantiated utterance. And if you say something interesting – something that’s not a talking point – you’ve got the microphone.

Nye made two points that I’d never heard properly articulated in the past. He was asked why so many Americans didn’t think climate change is a reality. His response: When you live in a place like Oklahoma, and the nearest neighbor is a mile away, it’s hard to grasp the concept that human beings could actually change the face of the planet.

Then he addressed a second question. Why do so many Republican politicians believe in creationism, and not evolution? Nye’s response: Creationism is what a lot of them were brought up to believe.

But then Nye got to the real issue. People may believe what they choose. But we can’t allow them to choose the school curriculum. That’s dangerous, Nye said.

Here’s how he explained it to The Associated Press this week: “If we raise a generation of students who don’t believe in the process of science, who think everything that we’ve come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate.”

A Gallup poll taken in June reported that 46 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Answers in Genesis, a pro-creationism group, says that Adam and Eve and dinosaurs walked the earth together.

“The Earth is not 6,000 or 10,000 years old,” Nye said. It is, in fact, 4.5 billion years old. “And if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs.”

With states like Tennessee and Louisiana legislating their students into stupidity by allowing faith to dilute science, where are the leaders of our country, coming to the defense of truth?

They are afraid to defend the intellect of this country. The country that put men on the moon, and invented the Internet, is OK with students being assured by authority figures – their adult teachers – that, yes, dinosaurs and man walked the earth together.

Bill Nye the Science Guy is a 56-year-old mechanical engineer. And like our fearful leaders, he has a career to protect. But unlike them, Nye is a very brave fellow, because the forces of ignorance in this country are very powerful.

%d bloggers like this: