Bill Nye The Science Guy

November 18, 2013

Famed educator, engineer and “Science Guy,” Bill Nye Joins our host Josh Zepps for this week’s Point of Inquiry. They discuss Bill’s start as an Engineer and part-time stand-up comedian to his groundbreaking work in television educating a generation on science. They also delve into Bill’s view into the future of science, science education, as well as how to become excessively rich using the tools of science to change the world.

This is point of inquiry for Monday, November 18th, 2013. 

It’s 20 years ago this year that PBS and Disney took a punt on commissioning an educational children’s show that became one of the most iconic of all time. 

Over the course of five seasons, in one hundred episodes, Bill Nye, the Science Guy, won 19 Emmy Awards and inspired a generation of kids. I will not mention that at Star Cocreator was recently a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Now that he sits performing, nursing a leg in a brace thanks to an injury incurred their own bill. Thanks for joining us. 

Oh no, it is RI who must thank you. Before we go too far, won 18 Emmys, not 19. Someone needs to update that we have the outage. My sense listening to you is that you’re not from the US. I’m not from the U.S. So it’s not that Disney punted. 

There would be more like it more as though they threw a Hail Mary pass in Australian English English. 

Taking a punt means taking a gamble, not passing on Citizens United parcel of something in U.S. football. It means you’ve reached your limit and you’re just going to see other 13. 

Well, what’s not so fascinating, though, is this logic. So taking a punt, taking chance means it means a bit. 

So if you take a bet, then you take a bet. You take a punt. 

Every single day you learn something you do. That’s the majesty of science, of learning, of education. 

How did how did the show come about? It seems like an unlikely thing in hindsight. 

Well, not really. First of all, I was doing I was doing standup comedy while I was working as an engineer at Boeing at this point in our story. I was at another very similar company called Sunset and Out of Control, which is now Honeywell. But if you have a badge of a drawing board, the same, there’s organization charts. Org charts, there’s direct reports, the same old. It’s very similar. So they Sundstrom made all the black boxes for airplanes by all most. The black boxes. These would be flight data recorders. And you were a mechanical engineer, engineer, vibrations and heat transfer the problem in avionics. Before that, I was a Boeing and hydraulics was flight controls. It’s all fair. OK, so other piece. 

It’s all second order differential equations. Come on. It doesn’t of that. And how much of your stand up is about second order differential equation too much. The crowds love crowds. A lot at stake. Depends on the crowd. 

So I. I get frustrated with people I was working for who I thought were from top down interested in making a profit every quarter, every three months. And you can’t do that when you’re trying to make a brand new product. And I just got frustrated with it and it was a cultural thing. So I went to the next most logical order to audition for writing for a comedy show in Seattle. And so I during the course of working on that comedy show, I we developed a character, Bill Nye, The Science Guy. And then it took a couple years by sort of three years, four years to get people to think that that would be a worthy thing to be us. We had a guy called Mr. Wizard who was Don Herbert to be the next Mr. Wizard, which is tell it the science on television for young people. And the reason you would do it for young people so that in the future. So about now, 20 years later, these people would come of age and dare I say, it changed the world. And so we’ll see how that shakes out. But it’s I must remind everybody, there’s no big breaks in this thing. There just breaks. You just chip away at this for years and years. And eventually I got to show now, in those days, we had Tipper Gore, Al Gore’s wife at the time, who was very concerned about the influence of television on young people. And so they managed to set rules in place in the US broadcasting that you had to have three hours of educational television a week, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot when you’re trying to make money at your TV station. And so we happened to have this product, this idea for the Science Guys Show. At the same time, there was this rule being proposed to direct or restrict or establish requirements for the use of public airwaves. And so we we got funding requirements that no longer exist. Not as such. No, but you see, the world has changed. With regard to television now, there’s so many television stations if you’re a parent. And you have control of your remote control. You can have your children watch what you feel is educational television show. 

I mean, on the other hand, the flip side of that, I guess, is that there is not no one can monopolize the airwaves and become an icon. 

I guess in the way that you were or the way that Carson was or someone who is in the public consciousness was who looms so large when actually all the groceries Neil deGrasse Tyson may take over the world come this spring because they’ve redone Cosmos, the series that Carl Sagan. Yes, a huge inspiration for me and I’m sure. Yeah. Yeah. Well, so I had Carl Sagan for astronomy when I was in school through some remarkable clerical error at the university. And so I was greatly influenced by him. 

But, you know, so if the mission of the show, which you just said was to create a generation of people who would then grow up to exert a positive scientific influence on society. That’s right. Yes, exactly. You succeeded. I mean. Well, it was 20 years ago those people were in their teens. They’re now in their mid thirties. 

I think really the show is aimed at people who are of eight or nine. So they’re in their late 20s. One is what we’ll see. How long does it take to become a captain of industry? A lot of mosquitoes. Fortieth birthday a few years, two years ago here in Africa. 

So did you hear that he’s making the James Bond amphibious car, by the way? No. So that amphibious kind of just drives off a pier and goes into the water. Attention to it turns into a submarine. He’s actually making it. 

Okay. It’ll be heavy. But more power to him. I just. That’s a pun. I guess it’s pretty electric. Just a little a little aside. I don’t know what it’s powers. I had lunch with him. He’s an acquaintance of my now best friend. By any means. I know he’ll answer in my email if I keep it short. Do you think the public understanding of science is getting better or worse? Both. It’s diversion to see. Well, I think we have a generation of people who are really interested in science and really embracing it. And then we have a generation people that are general, a set of people who are ignoring it and moving away from it. I think we’re getting a divergence. I don’t want to say bipolar, a polarized, polarized electorate. And this is you don’t want that. We want everybody to be scientifically literate. 

I mean, I wonder whether the polarization is in addition to being a polarized electorate and polarized between people so polarized within people’s own minds. 

I think people like the fruits of science and the fruits of everybody’s a gadget, especially when they need to. But do they either refrain from getting a vaccination because they think the flu shots are going to give their kids autism? 

It’s a great concern. That’s Jenny McCarthy. I hope that she gets her views get discredited strongly, you see, because it’s very fashionable. I mean, wealthy people from we’ll call it a as a general term Silicon Valley, it’s fashionable right now to be a libertarian or to declare oneself a libertarian. But the fundamental problem with that is the idea. The idea is that everybody’s in it for himself, that if everyone just acts in his or her own best interest, the world will come out the best, in a sense, in a natural sense, comparing with evolution. The good designs get eat, the bad designs and so on. But that isn’t it doesn’t work that way in practice with human systems because not everybody gets an even start. If you’re born, let’s say, for example, historically, if you’re born a slave that’s destined to die in the Roman Coliseum, it’s quite different than if you’re born a middle class kid in, let’s say, Monroe, Washington, and you’re gonna go to a very good state school. Your chances of success are quite different. But here’s the insight or here’s my claim. Rather, it’s in nobody’s best interest to have people who are disadvantaged in your society. They’re committing crimes, being nonpoor. They don’t pay taxes. How about that? And then the other problem for me with libertarianism right now is sure it is reasonable that you need protection from the government, which everybody’s reading your email there. But are there drone striking you there, taking your resources? They’re taxing you and making you requiring your driveway to only be so wide or whatever. Your house can only be so tall. Okay. But the other thing is laws exist to protect me from you. Like, maybe you aren’t that great. And it bugs me. And that’s why we have laws. And so those are the to me the problems with what’s currently fashionable libertarianism. So I’m hoping guys like you. Millennials will come around and see the value of working together and having a society where everybody’s trying to benefit everybody. 

Funnily enough, libertarianism is on the rise in my generation. That’s what I say. Ah, yeah. Yeah. As you say, it is hip. And the point you also make about it being deleterious for everybody, I think is a valid one. 

Stay with me if you disagree with that. We are in the States. You know, we think of ourselves as being a nation of of a classless country. But in fact, the number of the proportion of people in the bottom 20 percent who have a make it up into the top 20 percent is smaller even in the States than it is in almost any other industry. 

And it’s getting the debts that it’s getting worse, which is troubling. The rich are getting richer. And so I just don’t think that’s in anybody’s best interest. 

Since we’re talking economics, briefly, before we get back to science, what do you make of the kind of state of economic politics in the US? We just come out of the debt ceiling crisis yet again. We’ve had a government shutdown. 

What’s going on? Well, I, I, I hope but I also believe that the US system of government that the great thing about the U.S. system of government, you know, the problem is people born in the US, we think everybody wants to be like us, which is, you know, a little nutty. But nevertheless, people do move to the United States a lot more than they move to pick your place. Genea can, for example. Yeah. And so so built into the US government is change. And I hope that all in all in and balanced and accounted for. I still think the U.S. government is strong enough to withstand this current this current unusual behavior. That is to say, we have people who got elected to government who don’t really think government’s good. Why did you take this job if you don’t like the government? 

Al Franken has a line that Republicans ran on the platform, that government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. 

Oh, yeah. Well, it’s not just Republicans right now. For me, it’s this fringe of the conservative movement. That’s what’s. So what’s we’re going to shut down the government over this? Or why? What? And of course, the military is part of the government. I don’t want to shock anybody, let alone all the other things that I think the scientists generally believe in. But National Institutes of Health, let’s have roads without potholes which have requirements and motor vehicles to not kill people so easily and stuff like that. So we’re at it. I don’t think it’s a turning point. We’re at a pendulum swung pretty far to one side. And I still believe I really do believe the US government is going to withstand this, that this will this way of thinking will be eventually outmoded and discredited. 

I mean, it’s a it’s a pretty low bar to say the US government will withstand this. Yes, we will go on. I mean, we’ll survive. The system is sufficiently robust to continue to work with other governments that go out of business around the world. 

Governments go out of business all the time. You have to buy new maps and things get. No, seriously, the. 

To air in the modern industrialized world for a company I grew up with, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. What do you do? Are you kidding? Because of the Second World War. 

Go on. 

So I’m just saying I would if I were a betting man, I would take a punt that Australia, Canada, the US, New Zealand, the UK, France, Germany, Denmark will be constituents constituted the way that they currently offer at least the next hundred years. 

I also I can’t I don’t have no evidence that I’ll be here in a hundred year. I would like to be or I think I would like to. All right. 

So let’s let’s backpedal from that. Anyway, at the point that you’re making is I think that this rump, this fractious rump of the right wing of the Republican Party is is not going to be with us for the long haul. 

Yeah. But in the meantime and it’s quite a while, and if you’re a coming of age and you’re gonna become a captain of industry, we have to redistrict these voting districts. We have to reconfigure them. They’ve been in a mean spirited fashion adjusted. So it’s very hard for people not to get reelected. 

And that’s going to take 10 years. I don’t know why you wouldn’t just take it out of the hands of politicians altogether. And a lot of countries like my home country of Australia, there’s an electoral commission, an independent, impartial body that looks at the demographics and draws the boundaries. 

Hi, welcome to what used to be our world. But it’s political. Clever politicians or like minded individuals have defeated that largely in very important areas. 

So do you see a good correlation between the perhaps imaginary economic policies on the right and. Imaginary scientific policies is always a constant party of the pro-business party takes us to the brink of of of default and creates chaos in the markets and also disbelieves in evolution. 

Well, this is our this is our world. I don’t like to paint with a broad brush, but I. I can see the picture you are creating. So we have it. You just keep in mind the United States. We had a civil war not that long ago in historical terms because we had an economic system that wasn’t sustainable and that’s still with us, just enormous populations of poor people, enormous populations of people that were cut off from higher education for the better part of a century. It takes a long time. I’m not saying it’s OK. Just takes a long time to fix or change something like that. But I know what you’re saying. People are very conservative people. I think the problem or a feature of their world is they don’t interact with people from other parts of the world as much as you do if you live on the coasts or if you live near big rivers, you know, in North America where you interact with people from other parts of the earth. And so you just have a different world view that is more inclusive. And the big thing is education. You have to we want to educate as many people as possible, especially women, especially girls and women, because that’s what slows the birthrate. The most effective that’s the most effective way to slow the birthrate, which is something that humankind is going to have to do or seven billion people going on. Twelve living on this planet has turned out pretty small. I’m not changing the subject. We’re talking about knows you’re talking about economic policy. I’m saying the place to invest is education. 

What role does the media play in all of this? I mean, part of one of the things like bumping up against in my career is you’re a media professional, medium and professional is show is the sense in the media that good journalism is about providing two sides to every story. This is a and it’s frustrating. It’s like if you were doing something about know where babies come from and on the one hand you have stories, you have this theory guy and the other hand you have this is the thing about especially when it comes to climate change. 

The the largely energy companies, fossil fuel companies have really hired people to introduce the idea that scientific uncertainty plus or minus some percentage is the same as doubt about the whole thing. And that’s wrong. So, I mean, we’re going to we’re going to fight it. I mean, this is my business is discrediting the people trying to discredit climate science. And it’s a it’s happened. You know, you’re a millennial. Yes. Yeah, we are just you guys, I can see you just coming at us with pitchforks and torches because we’re living it. Just turning point. If we can get on it right now, we could preserve a very high quality of life for billions of people. But if we go another decade or decade and a half, it’s going to be really hard to give people. A reasonable quality of life to sea level is going to rise. The storms are going to increase. Certain areas that we rely on arable land for farming are going to change. And people just can’t we can’t displace populations that fast. And so we fight the fight. But I can see your shoulders slumping. Springfield’s weary visage. Well, hope springs eternal. So I’m optimistic that if we get enough scientifically literate voters and taxpayers to come into their own come into business now, we’ll make better decisions and there’ll be enormous innovations. 

Haven’t we been saying for ten or fifteen years that the time is now, now, now? We absolutely need to change it now. We’ve gone up to what is a 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, which everyone said once we get their way with 450 is really the one. Well, you know, that will happen within the next few years. Oh, yeah. There’s no there’s no framework even within which conversations that are happening at a multinational level. 

Well, this is it. To do anything about this 10 year horizon looks optimistic. 

I mean, what happens if we go another 20, 30 years or so, by the way, another you know, I’m an engineer born and raised in the United States. If the United States guts gets on this, the world will follow Tarma international cooperation. I mean, if you’re Norway or Denmark, there’s more there are more people in California than there are in Norway and Denmark, where I guess by a factor of five. And so when. The US, so if the US were to to lead the world in less inefficient transportation systems, more efficient farming practices and be efficient, I mean long term sustainable farming practices. And raising the standard living of women through education. The world would follow. And everybody kind of knows that. But it’s such it’s such a it looks like such a daunting set of tasks that people are reluctant. Apparently, this apparently this guy in off from Oklahoma who’s written a book about climate change being a hoax and certainly not so. He’s a real risk. Those are your words as a congressman? Yeah, I was a senator. He’s a senator, which is more powerful. So everybody’s got to keep in mind that Oklahoma voters are generally more powerful than California or more populous state New York state voter because the fewer people elect senators. And so this guy used to be concerned about climate change till he found out how much it would cost. And then he he veered off. But the longest journey begins with a single step. So the sooner we get started, the better. 

Why do you think I’m an optimist? Do you think that ultimately a price on carbon is what is the only thing is going to change this? Right. Insistently doing it. Without that, they’ll be great. 

Well, it’s just a great idea. But I think more reasonable would be to have advances in technology that have great economic benefit, where you save enormous amounts of money and people come along with you on that. Nobody really likes it. I mean, on their clothes, for example, nobody really likes all the trouble you have to go to to take carbon out of the emissions from coal fired power plants. But if there was a way not to have coal fired power plants, I think people would embrace it. We need we need this energy distribution thing. We need to be able to move electricity all over the world a more more efficiently. These are things easy to say. We need a better battery. And I keep saying this. Wherever the engineer or the chemical engineer comes up with that or the material scientist or comes up with that is going to get rich. Yes. I tell you, stop religion. Oh, yeah. 

What’s your personal sense of I mean, I think part of the challenge when we’re talking about religion is that people’s sense of their own consciousness, of their own, of what is spiritual, of what is divine, is all caught up in the formal doctrines of a particular faith. You alluded to Carl Sagan earlier. 

He’s someone and you are someone who had really been able to to inspire people with a sense of grandeur and a sense of awe and a sense of something greater than themselves rather than having to creation for the units. 

Right. Are we all doing here? I mean, just get here. Is this part of the trick of figuring out a way to. Because I think a lot of people, religious people, think that they’re going to lose that if they lose their faith. 

That may be, I think, the big thing people get out of traditional religions, at least in my experience in the US, is community. They get together and share space and time talk. And especially in the US, there’s tradition of dressing up. Son, you put on your Sunday best and this gives a level of decorum that people look forward to and embrace. And so I can imagine a day when the literal claims of many traditional US religions become not as important. Instead, the community takes over. But this is something that’s not going to happen in 20 minutes. This is decades, because I think when you can equate the observation of aliens of alien autopsies with this extraordinary claims made by many traditional religions, this guy died. First of all, his mother had a baby without ever getting laid. And and then that guy was dead for three days and then he came to life. I think people really compare that to modern magicians or charlatans. They can see the enormous numbers of people could be fooled by clever tricks. And that’s a much more reasonable explanation for these phenomena than what. 

What about the lodge? What about the large group of moderate religious people who would respond to that by saying, look, I don’t know whether Mary ever got laid. I don’t know what happened about Jesus coming back. I do know that something unusual happened a couple thousand years ago in the Middle East. There was a guy who who had Orien fantastic teachings. And I want to I out to model my life on on his principles. And I grew up in a Christian family, and therefore I’m nominally Christian. What’s wrong with that? 

Knock yourself out. I really I just am not going to bust anybody’s chops about that. But when you want to deny women contraception based on that idea, that’s when you start your. Hey, that’s not appropriate. 

And when you want. I mean, already in the US, these organizations don’t pay taxes on their land. So let’s just have a deal. Okay, you got that. We’re not going to have under God in the Pledge of Allegiance if, as I mentioned often, if Major League Baseball wants to sing God Bless America in the seventh inning. 

OK. OK. But it’s not a requirement that people don’t have to because that’s a private organization. And this idea that the US is a Christian nation. That’s just wrong. 

I mean, just read the founding. Yeah. 

You know, it’s just that’s not. That’s a First Amendment. No, no. I read it. What do you what are you saying? And so the U.S. founding fathers put that in there because they saw all the strife that was created by religions. And I hearken to the two Gulliver’s Travels, which still cracks me up where they had your stats upon. They were having a war. The Lilliputians were having a war about which end of this soft boiled egg you should crack open the small end of the big end. And this was important to them. In the same way, I, as an outsider, have a lot of trouble distinguishing between a Baptist and a Lutheran or whatever. And. And but those people, they can carry on. That’s just not going to bust anybody’s chops about that. The trouble is when they want to restrict or pass laws based on these beliefs, which I mean, for me, I’m a nonbeliever. They strike me as pseudoscience. And so just let’s just agree to disagree. And it’s in the Constitution for now. We’re not going to we’re not going to take this meeting. Did I answer your question? 

Did you. OK. It reminds me a little bit of the video that you made last year where it was unsafe. 

It would be unsurprising in any other in any other rich developed country to say what you said, which is basically that we shouldn’t teach religious mythology in science class. That’s right. Well, especially. And it caused a big stir. Oh, yeah. I went crazy. It’s still stirring. 

It’s getting up to six million views. So it’s arguing by analogy is the weakest form of argument. Nevertheless, it’s pretty good analogy. If someone came running around and said the world is flat and I want to put that in science textbooks in the state of Texas. I hope everybody just stands up. It goes, no, it’s the world is not flat. What do you know that’s silly. And in the same way, when somebody says the earth is 10000 years or six thousand years old. That’s just wrong. That’s clearly wrong. No, we’re not putting that in science textbook. So to us, it was just a modicum of science literacy that’s completely inappropriate. 

And we have to fight that. We have to resist that. So that’s what that that was an interview? 

It was. I won’t say there. Offhanded remarks, but they weren’t they were hardly the point of the interview. Just a couple sentences I tossed in there having to do with a specific question. When you say you’re not religious. 

Does that mean that you don’t believe the doctrines of any particular faith? Or does it mean that you’re certain, fairly certain that there’s no great meaning to this universe beyond the fact that it just exists? 

I think both. 

I don’t know. I see. Say meaning to you. Well, I ask because there’s I mean, one of the fastest growing religions is, I guess, sort of this fuzzy no religion, maybe DJ Grothe show was sort of, you know, that conscious that we’re all consciousness. And I mean, it’s it’s a belief, I suppose, in some fuzzy thing that’s greater than ourselves and it doesn’t quite get to atheists. 

I, I. Here’s the here’s where I draw the line is what is your claim? What’s the claim? Your claim is that we have consciousness beyond our physical bodies. I see absolutely no evidence for that. It sort of doesn’t make any difference until you want to pass laws or restrict or direct people’s behavior based on that. 

I guess I’m asking about your own sense of I mean, the claim might be consciousness can exist beyond death. It might be the universe is self aware. 

I have to say, as you if you observe people age, if you watch people as they lose their faculties, lose their ability to remember things and the ability to reason. And a very well respected colleague of mine couldn’t remember whether or not he had had lunch, not what he had for lunch, but whether or not it just looks like consciousness exists in the vessel of your brain. I see no evidence to that. Consciousness exists beyond that. With that said. Minded individuals can accomplish a great deal together. And so I can you get. I think it’s very much part of our human tribal nature to seek out like minded individuals to accomplish things as a team, and that if you feel like there’s this something bigger than you are and and you even many of us feel like it’s worth fighting for people. You know, my father and I don’t recommend this. My father spent four years in prisoner of war camp because he was involved in a conflict that he believed in. I do not recommend that sounds like a real drag. 

But many of his comrades died over this. They felt it was worth dying for. And this is got to be part of our nature. Our ancestors who did not have this feeling of team or community or something bigger than an individual probably didn’t succeed the way we have. That is that we wouldn’t be here. That is to say, I mean, to claim that the universe has a consciousness seems extraordinary, unprovable. And I’m not going to spend I don’t see any reason to spend my energy on pursuing that. 

Some happens. I’m open minded. Bring it on. If I see ghosts, for example, I would like to take a meeting with the ghost. It’s never come up. And the thing just personally to talk some more about me. Oh, I had to do. I read the Bible twice and I had the maps and I follow these guys around. 

And I just decided that it just, Jim, clear that God was something that people made up. I’m quite reasonable forces. 

Things are happening in nature that you can’t control. It’s literally mysterious. So one thing leads to another and it seems logical. 

And then was you these guys, these people started out with many gods to give different responsibilities for the different phenomena they were observing. I see responsibilities. Whatever gods, those gods are involved in the cause and effect. They were they were was attributed to them. 

Then you you think about it some more and you analyze more unit with just one with one unknowable thing. And a lot of religions have converged on one unknowable thing. But I thought a lot about the one unknowable thing. I think it’s something that people made up through lack of understanding. 

Not not for lack of wanting to understand, but just didn’t have the tools. 

I just think what the next century will be in science. Just think what’s gonna be discovered with stuff we can’t even imagine stuff we. 

We literally can’t imagine. We’ll be discovered. Just astonishing things. And that’s exciting. I want to be a part of as many of those discoveries as possible. But you gotta play the hand. You’re done. 

I was born in the 1950s. You’ve lived over a pretty decent period of scientific advance. Oh, man. 

I just think about my grandmother. So my grandmother told me this story and had no reason to think it’s not true. I grew up in the city of Washington, D.C., and she and her mother, my great grandmother, went to see the Wright brothers in College Park, Maryland, which is where the University of Maryland is. It’s on the on the Beltway, the road, the highway that runs around Washington, D.C. But in those days, it was the middle of nowhere. It was a field. And the Wright brothers were giving people rides in these planes. And my grandmother really wanted to go. She was a girl, you know, and my great grandmother watched the planes and she said, no, no, you’re not the best thing that’s going to kill you. No, but my grandmother lived to see the building of the 747, which I have loyalty to. I worked on 747 forty lines, a bone. And if somehow you could arrange a headwind inside the fuselage of a 747, the cargo version with no seats. The very first flight powered flight of the Wright Brothers airplane would fit inside a 747. 

Wow. So my grandmother lived through all that the entire flight. Not the first flight. The actual flight from takeoff to. Yeah. It would be done. It wouldn’t be inflated inside. I mean, bear in mind, there’s some issues. And the first flight the Wright brothers would work towards emergently landed. So it wasn’t. 

It wasn’t. Hey, let’s try to fly across the English Channel anyways. That is sobering. And, you know, I remember you’re saying we’re recording this digitally. I remember when my father had a wire recorder, which was quite the gizmo was like a tape recorder, but it used wire and recorded sounds magnetically. And we had turntables and we had magnetic paper disks and we had VHS tapes. You probably lived through those as the older millennial. And these are technology such as technologies, a way of thinking. Expectations that the next thing’s going to be cooler and better. We’ve gotten the five s. Have you gotten the six? Have you gotten the thirty eight C or whatever the heck it is? And this is this is a wonderful thing to have that optimism. 

Do you think that that pace of advance is sustainable moving forward? I almost wonder whether, although the scientific technolog technological advances will continue apace for my generation, the ecological damage and social dysfunction will tape take a bit of that sheen off throughout the 21st? 

The answer is it depends. This is to say, if it becomes fashionable to do things in an energy efficient way, I think things will change very, very fast. And here’s the example for the better. Here’s the example I give you. When I was a kid, we would go to Delaware, the first state, the diamond state, and this one. You live in Washington, D.C. You know, this the really talks about the Jersey Shore are the Delaware shore because it’s due east. It’s just you don’t have to go north or. Anyway, it was a big deal to see dolphins, to see a dolphin in the Atlantic Ocean close enough to shore, to observe people come running down, take pictures. Oh, my goodness. It’s a dolphin. And people would have open containers of gasoline. This should be like a film can or the the lid to a can of potato chips. I’ve ever seen partnerships that come in cans. It’s a high end gourmet thing now, but it used. I’m institutionally going. I used to be pretty commonplace. You’d return to and get the game anywhere. You put gasoline in there. So before you came in the house, you get the tar off your feet because the beaches in the US had so much tar on them and this tar came from the bilge tanks of cargo ships, they were allowed to just rinse their ballast tanks out with bilge water, which had oil in it, and which was so commonplace that people would have it wasn’t weird at all. Open containers that gasoline smell and from those front door during the summer and dollars in rental houses, which is what we did, and now they’re dolphins. Every day there’s 50. There’s pods of 50 of 100 dolphins every day because of those bleeding heart liberals and their Clean Water Act. So the cleaning up water is a result of passing regulations and they’re really to everybody’s benefit, including the dolphins and the ecosystems near the shore. So changes can happen really fast if you if people believe in it. And I mean, the possibilities that we have to control the environment and and keep it clean and raise the standard of living for so many people are astonishing. They fill me with joy. But we have we’re a tough political situation right now where the pendulum’s got to be got to we got to push it back, not just let it swim. Do you wish there were a God? Well, oh, answer that with an aphorism. If things were any other way, things would be different. This is to say, if there were a God and he or she took a meeting with me daily or regularly, then my expectations about where possible would be very different. In what way? Why would the God be a happy guy or gal that wanted people to be happy or mean spirited? I’m going to crush your smokes. 

Got here. I think he’s both any. Well, I mean in literature is both. But isn’t Judge Mental Raffel loving sweet baby Jesus has all kinds of problems. 

But just keep in mind also that Jesus was coming along when slavery was the way of the world. And so slavery was gonna be unpopular one way or the other. If you’re a slave, you’re down or you’re not a fan, General. I’m not saying you don’t accept your fate. You don’t play the hand you’re dealt. But I think, you know, life pretty much sucked in the way they kept you in line. They demand the Roman army or or the slave owners in the United States or around the world in Haiti or Jamaica would have the way they kept people in line is gruesome. This is horrible physical punishment. So that wasn’t gonna be popular one way or the other. So Jesus influence people to not right away, but eventually overthrow a system of slavery. Boy, it really if you’ve ever been to Pompeii, this Roman city that was buried in strophic eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, you see they had enormous amounts of energy available to them to build these remarkable structure. These beautiful things, and instead of getting your a billboard, you’d make a state, you’d get a statue of yourself made. If you were a politician and they were able to do that because they had slaves, they had enormous amounts of human workforce, hours and capital available to them. 

You heard it here first, folks. Bill Nye supports slavery. That’s it. That’s not exactly what I said. So I said that was gonna be unpopular. 

And it’s gets overthrown and people are so much more alike than they are different. Do you want to be a slave? No. 

I cool. It’s not very good. You don’t have to have much imagination hosts. No, not really. What? I’ll buy one dies down. But I’m interested already in what and what field of science you’re most excited about. 

Well, I mean, I came of age with this U.S. space program. And the Cold War and the race to the moon. So I’m. Physics is my thing. That’s what I mean. Mechanical engineering is all the application of physics. I mean, that’s your business. So physics is the thing I’m excited about with. With that said, I’ve been brought up in a slightly different moment in history and so different things were happening. I mean, the discoveries that are being made in genetics are, Stosh. I mean, if we can engineer algae to make motor oil, that will be just fantastic. I mean, I guess it’s been done on a limited basis, but it will change the world. And that’s being done. And that’s life sciences, biology. It is reasonable that we will have a new type of antibiotic that will be a cocktail of these. There are bacteria that fight the bacteria in your stomach for every bacterium. There’s another bacterium that wants to beat it up or take its DNA. And so there there’s now, you know, the thing about life, science or biology, they’re always making up words, which I’m sympathetic to. So they’re bacteria since these are poisons or toxins against other bacteria. So maybe we will have we will have cocktails of bacteria arson’s that will eliminate a great many diseases. Wouldn’t it be easier without the common cold, wouldn’t it? 

I hope so. I mean, also where we’re screwing ourselves with the current spate of of antibiotics because we’re using them so much in agriculture. That’s right. Livestock. And that’s a solvable problem. 

And that was what I always say is we just didn’t know any better. It wasn’t. It’s now. Do we know now? I still have. Yeah. Well, I mean, it takes a few weeks to change these things. So much more patient than I am, Bill. I mean, this is what happened, certainly. I’m not kidding. It’s relevant when you’re older. Your expectations about the rate of change change. 

Not saying I’m not passionate and raving and fist pounding on the table, but you can see it happening. That is, if we are able in Washington state right now, there’s a proposal to label foods as genetically modified or not that literal of law. I only have a cursory knowledge of it, but if it leads to this idea that raising cattle, for example, with aggressive use of antibiotics is not really in your best interest, and even the medium run, let alone long run, they’ll be part of the process. 

That’ll be progress. And there’s an argument that nobody should eat beef anyway because it uses so much water as an international source. We’ll see how that shakes out. Humans have been going to sea and eating fish for as long as urban humans. Humans have been trying to catch squirrels or what have you to sustain themselves an inefficient way since there have been humans. So that’s a that’s a tough thing to try to declare. But I claim we’re making progress. And when this political pendulum is swinging back, I think things will change very rapidly. I mean, I just think it’ll be exciting because really, you guys, we have the Internet. 

When I was a kid, you had to go to the library and look things up in a book. And it was just tedious. It was a whole skill. You had to learn to look things up in which data were trustworthy and which aren’t. In the same way, you have to learn skills to work things up on the Internet because a lot of it’s not true or not true enough. But there’s so much information that you can get. You can get to right answers much more quickly in the beginning. Big thing is we can share this stuff around the world. I go to Staples office supply store and buy a machine that makes plastic parts from scratch. Parts that you could not machine. You could not cut because they’re built up. They’re built from the inside out. If you told my father that, let alone my grandfather, he would just think you’re crazy, you know? Yeah, this is happening. And so. 

Not saying that technology is the answer to everything, but I’m saying information sharing is changing the world. 

Revolutions are being televised. There is the potential to raise the quality of life for everybody everywhere at an astonishing rate. 

So I’m excited about that. At the same time, we have to separate church and state. 

Everybody deserves rule right there. First Amendment right there. They thought about it for a couple of years. You know, we need these amendments. 

And so the out of them. And this is a genius. Genius. And then I’ve heard they used to sit with a Mormon guy, say, well, they were divinely inspired. The U.S. founding fathers. Really? What makes you say that, really? 

There’s no evidence for that. I think they just thought about it and they left the Fair Isle there because. Because of religious persecution. Here we are. 

Well, I love your optimism. I love talking to you. Oh, thanks, man. But it’s going to be you know, it’s not trivial. 

The idea is that that nonbelievers, atheists and people who don’t accept religious doctrine as a way to make governments should stick together. 

Yeah. That we have our community and we have a way of thinking that’s quite reasonable. And people might embrace. 

And if you disagree with us, so be it. But we still are going to separate the church and the state. It’s right there. 

They already are separated. We just have to keep them. I have to keep them part. Well. All right. Let’s change the world, everybody. Thanks, Bill. Thanks for being on the planet. 

Josh Zepps

Josh Zepps

An Australian media personality, political satirist, actor, and TV show host. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. He was a founding host for HuffPost Live.