Murmurs of anticipation filled Lisner Auditorium as the sold out venue prepared for the night’s special guest: William ‘Bill’ Nye (the Science Guy) on Wednesday. The event was presented by the Smithsonian Association. After a gracious introduction reemphasized Nye’s contributions to the promotion of science education, the star was welcomed with a thunderous applause. With his signature bow tie in place, every audience member quickly quieted down for the talk to begin.
Joining Mr. Nye on stage was Joe Palca, an NPR science correspondent currently working on his series “Joe’s Big Idea.” Palca discussed Nye’s recent debate against Ken Ham, Founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis. The debate questioned whether or not creationism should be viewed as a credible scientific view of how the world has evolved. Defending his position, Nye talked about tree rings, ice formation, and fossil deposits that all disprove the 6,000 year old age of the earth that Ham and his people have made school curriculum about.
“The earth can’t be 6000 years old, it just can’t be…I’m working as hard as I can to change the world,” Nye began, receiving chuckles from the audience. “Grown-ups won’t change their mind [that fast], it’s like a cigarette in the way that it will take years of chipping away to change anything.”
The focus shifted to climate change. Nye argued that the lack of public interest is the greatest threat to the earth. “Just like how the [LGBT] community was successful in making their issue known, it was then accepted in society.” Nye argued that if we did this with climate change, we would see policy changes.
Palca asked some questions the audience had written down for Nye. Some were more serious, talking about topics like GMOs and food distribution; others were sillier, ranging from the possibility of Nye running for president to his plans to genetically revive extinct species. Warmly responding to Nye’s interplay of personal stories and science, the audience left with with better understandings of what they could do to make changes to science education.
Mark Switzer, who came with his 11 year old son, appreciated Nye’s encouragement of education.
“Its very simple advice but very direct advice. He has a certain sense of humor with the creationists, but helped me figure out how to educate my son to have faith but not to have blind faith.”
Freshman Philip Rizk was thrilled to get the chance to see one of his favorite celebrities in person.
“I watched a lot of his videos in class and it was just so cool to see him live.”