Bill Nye:  Flickering Candle of the Enlightenment

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The sentence sounded like something out of a dystopian novel. The serious-looking older man speaks with self-proclaimed authority in his introductory remarks:

“We are enlightened and forward thinking, but not everyone sees it this way.”

You know how it goes in those novels:  the ones who declare themselves “enlightened” usually try to silence those who don’t see it their way; the distinguished looking men and women turn out to be the creepy ones.

But the line I mentioned above came from Bill Nye. You remember him as the goofy guy who made you laugh while learning children’s science lessons on TV.

Nye’s background is mechanical engineering, and he once had a night-time gig as a stand-up comic. The evolution into a TV personality seemed natural.

But lately, Nye has ventured into the adult world, with embarrassing results. I mentioned Nye in my last column because he recently advocated penalizing families who had too many children – bringing just a touch of communist China to the United States.

There are certainly other points I disagree with Nye on, but that’s not the problem. It’s his approach that is arrogant, condescending, misleading, and, sometimes, indecent. Science is vital, but somehow that has Nye proclaiming infallibility.

Nye remains a personality who is trying to portray himself as an expert. (You remember the TV commercial that began with the actor saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”?)

When he attempts to be the end-all, know-it-all, it falls flat.

Last year, Nye dismissed the study of philosophy, misinterpreting Rene Descartes’s famous quote about the beginning of self-awareness.

Nye:  “I think therefore I am. What if you don’t think about it, do you not exist anymore?”

But Descartes is speaking about self-awareness, not self-actualization.

I get that Descartes can be confusing. I’m a philosophy major – although I’m no expert since I lack post-graduate degrees or TV credits – and it took me weeks to come close to understanding him.

But that’s what philosophy does – it makes you think, reason, critically analyze. Or you can skip all that, and substitute sarcasm for wisdom.

Did I mention that Nye was once a comic?

Nye is pro-choice and I’m pro-life. I’ve had reasoned conversations with those who disagree with me on the subject. Not possible with Nye. He says a pro-life view “reflects a deep scientific lack of understanding. You literally don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I’ll be sure to tell that to the medical doctors who are pro-life.

Have I mentioned Nye’s background is in mechanical engineering?

On Nye’s latest show, Bill Nye Saves the World – the one where he advocates the extra-kids penalty – he also tries to explain transgenderism with a cartoon featuring ice cream cones. The vanilla cone is trying to convince all the other flavors that they must be vanilla, too, “if you want to get right with the big ice cream in the sky.”

When the vanilla cone is feeling defeated, it prays, “Big ice cream in the sky, help me.”

Subtle. Real subtle.

Of course, the cartoon ends with vanilla giving in – it shows the ice cream cones all licking each other. Maybe it’s a reference to an orgy, as some have claimed, or maybe it just Nye’s way of being clever.

Like sarcasm, cleverness does not substitute for wisdom, or any real learning.

But where Nye really loses credibility – if he had any – was the introduction of actress/comedian Rachel Bloom on his show, to sing a song about sexual liberation. Among Bloom’s credits is an “award-winning” music video titled “F*** Me Ray Bradbury.”


“So you guys,” Nye says in his introduction, “seriously, the next thing, I feel, is very special.”

Bloom’s song features the refrain: “Cause my sex junk is so oh, oh, oh … Much more than either or, or, or.”

Bloom refers to her vagina and sings of various sex acts. “I’m down for anything,” she sings. One of her concluding lines: “Sex how you want. It’s your g-d right.”

The camera pans to Bill Nye, the scientist, who is dancing to the beat.

When the song concludes, Nye comes back on stage, applauding.

“That’s exactly the right message, Rachel. Nice job … Nice, beautiful.”


We have different definitions of beauty.

Nye recently served as one of three honorary co-chairs of the March for Science a week ago. He served along with a real doctor and a real biologist, both accomplished individuals. But, according to a Washington Post story, “Nye is the only bona fide celebrity of the three co-chairs … exactly the kind of person you’d expect to headline a science march.”

Really?  This is the man chosen to represent the science community?

I thought we were supposed to take science seriously.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.