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Bill Nye, our science guy

by Donald Prothero, Sep 12 2012


Compared to nearly every other industrialized country, our culture is abysmally illiterate in science. As I have pointed out in previous posts, we fall near the bottom of the developed nations in science literacy, among nations like Turkey with strong religious fundamentalist influences and a fraction of our spending on education. Many studies have shown that our science illiteracy begins partway through childhood, where kids go from excited about dinosaurs and astronomy and other topics when they begin school to way behind kids of other industrialized nations by the time they leave high school. A lot of different reasons have been suggested, but certainly we are fighting a rearguard action against a culture which values jocks and pop stars more than scientists or scholars. This is especially apparent in teen culture where science seems to move from “cool” to “nerdy” as soon as puberty kicks in. Then the social pressures seem to turn kids off, no matter how hard their high school science teachers work and try to keep their attention and interest.

In this bleak setting, one of the few bright lights has been “Bill Nye, the Science Guy.” Bill was the star of his own cutting-edge science show for kids which filmed over 100 episodes from 1993-1998. The show used MTV-influenced fast-cut editing and lots of dramatic sound effects and camera angles, some slapstick humor, and edgy music, to convey simple but interesting science messages. It was the appropriate vehicle for making science “cool” for kids with short attention spans, since they were exposed to many hours of music videos and fast-paced movies and TV. The show was a smash hit on public TV and elsewhere while it was on the air, and a whole generation (such as my eldest son’s peers) grew up with Bill Nye as their model of science, just as older generations grew up with “Magic School Bus” or Don Herbert’s “Mr. Wizard.” Bill himself played the character straight, wearing his trademark bow tie and light blue lab coat, although he showed a flair for slapstick comedy and sight gags as well. Bill is a mechanical engineer (trained at Cornell, he took classes from Carl Sagan)  who worked for Boeing for a while before his interest in standup comedy led him to television, and eventually to his groundbreaking show. Sadly, when it went off the air in 1998 there has been no equally effective replacement show on TV. Most of the old episodes don’t seem to be widely aired any more, and only some of them are available on YouTube or on Amazon.com. Nye himself continues to make many appearances on TV and elsewhere, and has been involved in several science-based TV series for older audiences, but nothing has captured the excitement of his original show.

Even though the original show was frenetic and fast-paced, Bill himself is very relaxed and easygoing, and about as inoffensive as they come. He uses simple words and explanations, and is infinitely patient with ignorant TV reporters who ask him dumb questions about global warming, showing their complete ignorance of the basics of weather and climatology. (Naturally, Fox News has attacked him on numerous occasions for having the temerity to explain the consensus in the scientific community to their science-denying audience). When I have seen him live or appeared with him on stage, he strikes a balance between the deadpan comedian who loves to get a laugh, the amateur who is fascinated with science, and the expert who explains it. Without appearing arrogant or overbearing, he manages to talk about science clearly and simply and honestly in a way that convinces people much better than the rest of us science popularizers. If his mentor Carl Sagan was the face of science in an older generation, Bill is perhaps the most trusted face of science to much of American society today. In fact, his relaxed and inoffensive manner is so well known (both his public persona and what I’ve seen of him privately) that there have been numerous satires where Bill is “quoted” with a ranting statement full of profanities—and almost everyone realizes this is a parody on his squeaky-clean, low-key image.

Bill’s original series did not shy from talking about evolution or other controversial topics, but its audience was mostly kids. Most of the time Bill does not take the role of passionate proselytizer for the scientific community, although if asked about global warming or evolution, he will clearly explain the scientific evidence. Nevertheless, the anti-science forces in this society are stronger and more polarized than they were when his did his series in the 1990s. For example, when he gave a recent talk in Texas, some of the audience was offended not by his defense of global warming, but when he explained that moon did not have its own light but shone with light reflected from the sun—and several religious fundamentalists walked out in anger because the Bible talks about the “two great lights”. The original accounts report:

Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector. At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!”

A few weeks ago, there was a big firestorm of controversy on the internet over Bill Nye’s YouTube video “Creationism is not appropriate for children.” Part of series called “The Big Think” featuring other prominent scientists and skeptics like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Penn Jilette, and others, it is shot with just a talking head on a stark white background.  In his classic low-key, understated manner, Bill casually points out that evolution is the central concept of biological sciences, that rejection of evolution is analogous to not accepting plate tectonics, that it makes the world make sense and explains the complexity that is otherwise unexplainable. He finishes by point out that adults may want to cling their own beliefs, but we need to have children who are properly educated in science because they are our future. And in his final statement, he suggests that the creationist myth may disappear in a few more generations (as it already has in most industrialized nations in Europe and Asia). Most of us who saw the video on line said “AMEN!” because the message needs to reach a wider audience, and Bill is one who has credibility across the entire U.S. population. In Bill’s words:

And I say to the grownups if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s entirely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it, because we need them; we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future… we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems. It’s just really a hard thing, a really hard thing.

Naturally, the hyperactive creationist community today viewed that video (but not the others by Tyson and Kaku, which also tread on biblical literacy) as a challenge. Australian creationist Ken Ham of  the “Answers in Genesis” ministry (which built the atrocious “Creation Museum” in Petersburg, Kentucky) launched his own video response. Naturally, he puts down Bill Nye as being a mere engineer and not a real scientist (never mind that Ham has no scientific training whatsoever). He also tries to undermine Bill’s credibility by calling him a “humanist” (since he’s received well-deserved awards from humanist organizations), even though Bill has not made as many statements about the religious implications of science as people like Tyson, Penn, or Dawkins. Then he pulls a Gish and argues that since Nye was once a Boeing engineer, he should know that nature looks designed (a version of Gish’s favorite “707 in the junkyard” argument, which I debunked in an earlier post). The rest of the video is based on the phony distinction creationists make between “observational science” (which they accept, since you can watch it in real time and can’t deny it) and “historical science” (which they deny). No real philosopher of science regards this distinction as meaningful in any way since all scientists use a mixture of historical inference and real-time observations to make scientific discoveries as testable hypotheses. Only creationists keep raising it again and again as a way to denigrate “historical science” and allow their mythology to be substituted for it. If such a definition were actually valid in science, nearly all of science we perform today would be impossible. This includes not just evolution and geology, which have lots of historical components, but also astronomy (viewing events of the past whose light is just reaching us), and most of chemistry and physics at the submicroscopic level, which cannot be directly observed but must be inferred from its behavior and making assumptions that the laws of nature apply at every scale, and in the past as they do today.

If Ham’s attack on Nye weren’t pointless and ineffectual enough, Ham then posted videos from some of his AIG “scientists” who have sold their souls to fundamentalism. Each video proves that although the speaker may have had some advanced science training, they went in with fundamentalist blinders, and cannot see or understand most of the research in their field that clearly points to evolution. Their claims come from the standard creationist playbook (e.g., the claim that there is no mechanism for genetic complexity, which has been shot down many times; quote-mining something out of context). All of their arguments have been debunked many times, yet they persist in making them. Even though these people may have legitimate doctorates in science, they only demonstrate that if you go into science with religious blinders, you’ll miss the forest for the trees. One of them, David Menton, argues that creationism is widespread in other cultures—and then points to the Muslim world, which most American creationists tend to hate, with their dismissal of other religions, particularly Islam! Most of the rest of the cultures he mentions are equally scientifically backward, while Bill is rightly pointing out that the developed nations we compete with (found in western and northern Europe, plus industrialized Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China) have almost no influence of creationism.

Perhaps the ultimate measure of who is more credible and respected can be seen in the relative popularity of the videos. Bill’s video went viral, passed among the many users who were science-literate on the blogosphere and Facebook; as of this writing has over 4.4 million views and growing. The two AIG videos got only 80,000-120,000 hits in over two weeks—pretty pathetic. This may not be a true measure of their influence, since the internet and YouTube tend to be populated by more media-savvy, science-conscious people. By contrast, as Matt Taibbi showed in his deliciously sarcastic book The Great Derangement, fundamentalists live in highly closed communities where they get most of their information from their ministers and their peers and avoid the media (even Fox News), and definitely do not expose themselves to books or videos which might tempt them with the idea of science or evolution. Neverthless, the ratio of 4.4 million to about 100,000 is quite revealing.

But the success of Bill’s video reminds of us another sad fact: since “Science Guy” left the air, there has been no comparable show to take its place and reach the attention of the current generation of kids. A lot of our biggest popularizers of science, from Don Herbert to Carl Sagan to Stephen Jay Gould, are no longer with us.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson is working on a new version of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” (written by Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, and co-produced by Seth McFarlane of “Family Guy” and “Ted” fame), but that reaches a mostly grownup audience.  Where are the TV science shows for kids? Bill still has his popularity and his talent. Why doesn’t some producer revive “Science Guy” in some new format that will appeal to today’s kids? It’s a grand opportunity that is being missed, and our kids (and our cultural science literacy) are that much poorer for it.

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41 Responses to “Bill Nye, our science guy”

  1. MikeB says:

    Great piece. I’ll be showing it to my writing students at the U where I work as an adjunct instructor. One of their writing projects will be to look at the phenomenon of dis-belief in science among the populous in our highly-advanced scientific country. Weird paradox.

    • Jerrold Alpern says:

      Mike B,

      You could also use one of the greatest books ever written, E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” as an example. White used his own extended, patient observations of spiders, pigs and other animals, plus archival research, to create the realistic, credible barnyard that is its setting. See “The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic” by Michael Sims and “Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating” by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig for documentation.

  2. Adam N says:

    Mr. Nye is supposedly going to do a show on the Nerdist youtube channel, hopefully all this will help draw attention to that project. It seems like team logic and reason tend to be poor at PR and self promotion, why isn’t the return of Bill Nye the Science guy common knowledge?

  3. Zerodash says:

    So, are skeptics giving Nye a pass on that whole magical water thing?

    • Student says:

      Except they didn’t, although I’m guessing your information is the same as the link I’m going to post where this very blog pointed out Nye’s blunder? http://www.skepticblog.org/2010/04/22/bill-nye-selling-out-to-the-man/ . By no stretch of the imagination is that, “giving a pass”. It’s calling him on it. And “magical water” is a gross oversimplification of what anyone was saying.

      While Nye may have made a mistake, that’s not the thing they’re talking about here. They’re talking about the usefulness of a beloved science communicator, in a period where those are few and far between. Now, clearly, some have seen that, and used it for what may be less than admirable aims. That doesn’t change the fact that a) He’s a good communicator. b) He’s well known for his connection to science. c) He’s popular. These are potentially more important than one maybe credibility-damaging incident.

      Actually, I noticed I hadn’t seen a follow up to that, so I ran a couple of searches and came up with these:
      http://terahertzatheist.ca/2010/05/14/the-peak-has-bill-nye-sold-out/
      http://www.billnye.com/for-the-nanobubble-skeptics/
      Which seem to cast a different light on the scenario compared to how it first appeared. Not sure what conclusion to come to, but the claim seems more interesting now than absurd.

    • Molly says:

      I was sort of wondering the same thing… I hate to dredge up ancient history (in internet years) but it seemed like everyone was oddly soft on Mr. Nye about the Activeion thing. It seemed very anti-skeptic.

  4. Jeffery2010 says:

    More power to the Science Guy. We definitely need more shows like his. And once my kids got older we were pleased to discover his series on DVD for older kids that included subjects like cloning and stem cell research. It is called “The Eyes of Nyes”. If your kids have outgrown Magic School bus (which we loved) try it.

    PS. How sad is it that channels like Discovery, History, and The Learning Channel are more and more running crap reality shows or woo-woo shows?

  5. Carter says:

    “our culture is abysmally illiterate in science. As I have pointed out in previous posts, we fall near the bottom of the developed nations in science literacy”

    As I’ve pointed out before, on the PISA test of science literacy, white American students had a higher average score than students in every OECD country except Finland, Japan, and Korea.

    • LovleAnjel says:

      “…white American students had a higher average score than students in every OECD country except Finland, Japan, and Korea.”

      What about the rest of the country?

      • Chris Howard says:

        I don’t think it’s because they’re white. It probably has more to do with the fact that “white” neighborhoods usually have a better tax base, because Anglo SES, per family, tends to be higher than most non-white families/neighborhoods. The schools in those neighborhoods have more money for teachers, current text books, learning materials, and the necessary equipment to teach the various scientific disciplines effectively.

        Minority school districts tend not to have the same resources available to them, because they don’t have the budget. When the resources are there the test scores tend to go up, as well as understanding. The American Sociological Association has a great deal of very good data on the subject, specifically under military sociology.

        And since most other countries federalize their education system there isn’t the problem of “rich” vs. “poor” school districts, or uneducated citizenry making decisions, via school boards, about subjects that they know next to nothing about, or worse maintain willfull ignorance because they don’t want to believe the truth. In short it’s evidence based education vs. Nelsonian Knowledge based education.

      • Max says:

        Asians have slightly higher scores, and Blacks and Hispanics have much lower scores.
        http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012026/figures/figure_13.asp

      • Max says:

        By the way, Asians have higher scores in reading too, contrary to stereotype.

      • Chris Howard says:

        Yeah. The theory (sociological) behind that is asian culture in America tend to value science and math education, and so that’s where the focus is. The theory tends to break down though in poorer school districts, regardless of ethnicity, or race. If a school doesn’t have the resources then it doesn’t matter how badly one wants to learn, in all likelihood it’s not going to happen.

        The second issue is safety, and time. I worked with gang members and other troubled youth for over six years. My culture shock moment came when I realized that poor kids from bad neighborhoods didn’t worry about learning, they worried about staying alive going to school, being in school, and coming home from school. Their environments were so violent that thinking about anything other than survival got you killed.

        The kids also had to find some way of providing for their families, as well. The parent(s) usually worked two minimum wage jobs which barely covered living expenses. So the kids usually had to find work, or crime, too. This was the case regardless of wether the kids were black, white, Asian, or “other.”

        So there’s a lot going on here, as far as education goes. It’s a resources/poverty thing regardless of race, but to say (especially in the U.S.) that race doesn’t matter, especially when discussing education, and poverty is disingenuous at best.

        Wether we like it or not the reality is that if you are a minority living in the U.S. you will tend to be less educated, have more health problems, have a decreased life expectancy, be whiteness to, and be a victim of violent crime, higher drop out rate, drug addiction, ad nauseam. And the one key factor that ties it all together is lack of resources, via poverty. This is true of poor white areas, as well, like Eastern Kentucky.

        That’s why when military sociologists look at education of military dependents the scores even out, because there’s only one color in the military, and that’s “green.” equal access to educational resources, and a living wage (Maslow) create an environment in which everyone has better odds of success.

    • tmac57 says:

      Carter-Could you give me a specific location where I can check the data that you cite (page number,graph,direct link etc.)? I have found the PISA 2009 report,but I am having trouble finding data that singles out skin color as it relates to performance.
      In any case,since people of diverse ethnic backgrounds comprise the United States,how does that change our rankings against those other countries? Unless,of course,you want to assert that some of our citizens do not count as being part of our country.

      • Carter says:

        http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012026/figures/figure_13.asp

        http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_408.asp?referrer=list

        It’s dishonest to claim “our culture is abysmally illiterate in science”, when it is obvious from white scores that it isn’t culture at all.

      • Max says:

        Or it isn’t “our” culture, but some subcultures.

      • Adam says:

        There’s nothing wrong with breaking down this problem into demographics if that’s truly a symptom of the problem, but if you’re serious about understanding it you better put just as much time into looking at economic factors, location, religion, school curriculum, etc.

        Claiming the problem doesn’t lie with “your” culture is a hand-waving excuse for middle-class white people to not do anything about it. There are millions of white adults in this country that won’t accept 5th grade biology and earth science concepts, and I’m not going to let them off the hook because poor black students do worse on standardized tests.

      • Chris Howard says:

        Yeah, I suppose it depends on ones operational definition of “our” and “culture.”
        If one views all people’s in the United States, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity etc., as “our culture” then the argument still holds that, on the whole, we’re a science/math illiterate society, regardless of differences between subcultures.

      • tmac57 says:

        But what is the point in averaging out scores by skin color? Would you go to a black student who scored 549 on science literacy,and tell them that they needed remedial science instruction because they are black,or tell a white student that scored 438 that they are doing fine because they belong to the higher average skin color group?
        Doesn’t it all come down to individuals,and not groups?

      • Max says:

        Because it shows where the problem is. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

      • Max says:

        “Would you go to a black student who scored 549 on science literacy,and tell them that they needed remedial science instruction because they are black”

        No. Would Donald Prothero go to American students who scored 549, and tell them that they needed remedial science instruction because they’re American and “our culture is abysmally illiterate in science”?

      • tmac57 says:

        But the point is Max,that you have to access and address the problem on an individual student basis.You don’t test ethnic/racial/cultural ‘groups’,you test ‘a’ student to see how ‘that’ student is doing,and what ‘that’ student needs.
        If you tested some poor inner-city kids and found that the group average was quite low,you would still want to find the students in that group who were excelling, and not put them through the same remedial process as the ones who needed help.
        Why is the concept so hard for people to grasp?We are not ‘groups’ to be lumped into treatment categories,we are all unique individuals.Your kind of mindset is where racial discrimination and prejudice gets a foothold.It is a kind of quick and dirty way to view the world and it leads to some nasty misunderstandings on all sides.
        I’ll let Donald speak for himself,but to be fair,regarding your comment,he/we live in the U.S.,and that’s where we have some level of influence politically and economically,so of course,that’s where he will try exert influence,but I bet that he does not limit his concern only to the U.S.,as I would guess that you wouldn’t either.The main reason for comparison is that we should probably study the success of other countries to see what they can teach us,and of course,we do compete with those countries economically,so we should be wary of falling behind.

      • Max says:

        tmac57,

        It’s the scientific mindset. Some people smoke all their life and live to 100, but smokers are still worse off on average. Recognizing this doesn’t mean you have to treat every smoker for lung cancer even if they don’t have it.

      • tmac57 says:

        Max,that is a very poor analogy.Use your own good reasoning to figure out why.I am disappointed.

      • Max says:

        When you said, “We are not ‘groups’ to be lumped into treatment categories, we are all unique individuals,” it reminded me of CAM proponents decrying clinical trials. I’m disappointed.
        Prothero starts by lumping all Americans into a single huge group, and compares whole countries. That’s pretty rough, but it shows which countries have problems. Looking at differences between subgroups shows which subgroups have problems.

  6. Jim Kirkland says:

    What’s sad is that solid science programing gets equal billing with that of pseudoscience and the paranormal on most networks. Much of the public if not, sad to say, most, puts it all all, on an equal footing.
    We need people representing “peer” approved science like that of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye all over television. The bottom line is that television is mostly for profit (you still have to fund public television). You can get a ton of viewers watching a reality show produced for virtually nothing, about auctioning off peoples belongings lost to the recession or spend hundreds of times as much doing quality programing that may not get an audience.
    AND we have to keep the politics out of it. We need each generation to be well-schooled in empirical science and able to make well-reasoned decisions about an ever changing world. The world need people who can communicate the joy of learning how this universe works and how it affects all our lives.
    Presenting quality science programing is a public service, maybe more shows can be underwritten by foundations as it is done on public television. Getting your name associated with presenting the “real deal” cannot be a bad thing; can it?

    Thanks; Bill Nye, you speak for many.

  7. tmac57 says:

    I would like to put my nomination in for the Squigglevision cartoon series of Science Court that ran from 1997 to 2000,as another entertaining,but often overlooked science show for kids.
    It was done by the same people who produced Dr. Katz Profession Therapist,and was funny as well as informative for both kids and adults.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_Court

    • Chris Howard says:

      Every time I watch it I’m reminded of Archer, and Bob’s Burgers because of H. John Benjamin.

      • LovleAnjel says:

        Now I have to see it. H. John Benjamin brings a certain “feel” to a character, regardless of the context.

      • tmac57 says:

        I agree.I love Jon’s ‘Ben’ character in Dr. Katz as he interacts with his dad and Laura.It’s been a long time since I saw any of the Science Court shows,but if you are familiar with Dr. Katz,you will immediately see the similarity.

  8. Ben says:

    Maybe it has never been broadcast in the U.S. but the British show “Brainiac” ran from 2003-2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainiac:_Science_Abuse
    I often show clips from this to my high school science classes as well as clips from Bill Nye The Science guy.

  9. Daniel says:

    Forget ranking near the bottom in science literacy… we have school districts in this country where something like 50 percent of students are barely literate at all. And they are given diplomas. In Atlanta there was rampant cheating on basic proficiency exams that was spearheaded by the teachers themselves, because, as one teacher put it, her students “were dumb as hell.”

    This problem has virtually nothing to do with religious people, creationists or global warming skeptics. Those are all distractions from the problems that plague the education system in the US, mainly the absence of discipline (learning science or any other intellectual pursuit requires it), absentee fathers, and, in some cases, an actual disdain for education itself beyond mere anti-intellectualism.

    You could rid the country of creationists, people who believe in ghosts and psychics, and people will still be scientifically illiterate as they were before. (If anything, not being a creationist or otherwise being superstitious, is neither necessary or sufficient for having scientific literacy. You’ll meet plenty of successful doctors, who presumably know a thing or two about biology, who believe in Genesis, just because). Making science “cool” and “fun”, is also a worthless pursuit.

    • tmac57 says:

      Science by it’s nature is already cool and fun.It takes real effort to make it dull and tediously boring.

      • Daniel says:

        That was kind of my point. So we’re told anyway, the US is becoming more and more scientifically illiterate, yet we’re getting more Bill Nyes and more channels that broadcast science based programming, imperfect as it might be. If you’re smart, have parents who care enough to instill basic discipline, and have some interest in learning, all the tools that you need to achieve scientific literacy, or even make a living out of it, are already out there.

      • Max says:

        Yeah, math has a bigger image problem. The only shows about math that I can think of are Numb3rs and Donald in Mathmagic Land, which packed some BS about the Golden Ratio.

  10. Johnny says:

    “Many studies have shown that our science illiteracy begins partway through childhood, where kids go from excited about dinosaurs and astronomy and other topics when they begin school to way behind kids of other industrialized nations by the time they leave high school. A lot of different reasons have been suggested, but certainly we are fighting a rearguard action against a culture which values jocks and pop stars more than scientists or scholars. This is especially apparent in teen culture where science seems to move from “cool” to “nerdy” as soon as puberty kicks in.”

    This is true for Europe too (well not the first sentence for semantic reasons). Jocks and pop stars are much more valued than science and learning. The more religious countries tend to be Catholic (the Vatican accepts ecolution) while the historically Protestant nations are largely secularized. Thus Europe doesn’t have a strong creationist lobby since it is a specifically religiously based pseudoscience, but there are other forms of pseudoscience around here, like the opposition to GMO. Even very secular people here hold woo beliefs, which is to be expected due to it being the default in northern Europe. I have a strongly anti-religious co-worker who occasionally consults psychics. In any case, Europe is hardly an example of a strongly pro-science, science literate place.

    • Max says:

      Science illiteracy correlates with math illiteracy. Both are explained by culture that doesn’t value education, but math illiteracy is hardly caused by religion or lack of skepticism.

    • prd says:

      I disagree on the statement that “Europe is hardly an example of a strongly pro-science, science literate place.” On one side, Europe is not a handy concept to evaluate science literacy (and literacy in general), since Europe -let’s take the EU for the sake of argument- is a heterogeneous puzzle of 27 member states and, subsequently, 27 educational systems.

      Whereas one can easily check strengths and weaknesses of each single system using PISA scores, it is undeniable that the threats that science faces in the US is nowhere to be found, even in Catholic countries; even despite the creepy Vatican influence, never ever have Creationism or Intelligent Design been an issue in my own native country, Italy, and I can attest the same for Portugal and Spain, and the “half-Catholic/half-Protestant/virtually secular” Germany I now live in. Same goes for climate change denialists.

      Also, my impression is that opposition to GMOs is nary the only consequence of pseudoscientific gullibility or gut feeling, but rather of skepticism toward a technology that is regarded as not thoroughly researched -and thus safe- yet, and of worries about the outcome of handing the “copyrights on crops” to large-scale market operators, which would jeopardise small-scale farming and regional variety, which in many EU countries are still hallmark for quality and sustainability.

      • Johnny says:

        “Whereas one can easily check strengths and weaknesses of each single system using PISA scores, it is undeniable that the threats that science faces in the US is nowhere to be found, even in Catholic countries; even despite the creepy Vatican influence, never ever have Creationism or Intelligent Design been an issue in my own native country, Italy, and I can attest the same for Portugal and Spain, and the “half-Catholic/half-Protestant/virtually secular” Germany I now live in. Same goes for climate change denialists.”

        Can’t say I disagree with you here. My point was that pop stars and famous sportsmen are more valued in Europe than famous scientists and scholars, which was in reference to Prothero saying it was so in the US.

        “which would jeopardise small-scale farming and regional variety, which in many EU countries are still hallmark for quality and sustainability.”

        As a person living in an affluent northern European country who gets to subsidize those uncompetitive farms through the retarded CAP, I have a less rousy view than you of these farms.

        In my experience, much of the skepticism toward GMOs is based on being scarred of technological advances in general.

  11. @blamer says:

    Someone please give naive Nye a head’s up:
    1. teaching evolution isn’t uniquely problematic for the US, it’s a uniquely PUBLIC controversy (US creationists are litigious, law-makers).

    2. the worldview of Genesis 1:1-3 isn’t disappearing, and where creationism’s popularly wanes it isn’t a LACK of evidence doing it. It’s exposure to more credible counter-evidence.

    3. academic protocol cares if an idea appears “crazy, untenable, inconsistent” but the individual human animal is practically blind to that.

    Exhibit A: the blinded human-animal Mr Ken Ham.

    Ham ham-fistedly poisons the well:
    1. the science/humanist/liberal/academic “agenda” is: insisting that states resist teaching their citizens FICTIONS about their world

    2. we agree with you wanting to protect kids from indoctrination, it’s just that we’re pretty sure that Genesis 1 is the only “doctrine” in town.

    3. if the enemy of scriptural teachings you have in mind is this sinister “HISTORICAL” science, then listen to catholic Santorum: all of academia is your antichrist. University departments in concert are undermining the historicity of that Genesis character. Even if miraculous biblical fictions are in fact really real historical facts.

    • @blamer says:

      …it can only be GOOD to teach kids what our most scholarly experts say are the “theories” and “facts” (perhaps mistaken, miraculously) of today.