Sunday, April 23, 2017

Part-Time Review: Bill Nye Saves the World

I watched just two episodes of Bill Nye's new Netflix series BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD and it's surprisingly much closer to an episode of Pat Robertson's 700 CLUB than the adult edu-tainment I was expecting.

The essential premise of the show is that Bill Nye is a scientist who employs the process of science to answer many of the pressing problems of our day. I watched the pilot episode on climate change and a later episode on the sexual spectrum.

Despite its claim, the show is not a scientific examination of the data. In fact, there is a surprising lack of actual science on display in the two episodes I viewed. Granted, this is not meant for an academic audience, but given the show's claims of saving the world through science, you'd think a large portion of the show would be given to overviews and presentations of science or by scientists.

Instead, the show is scientism married with philosophical naturalism and progressive politics. This isn't necessarily a problem, Nye can do whatever show he wants. The problem, and this is common of "popular" scientists, is when they are not even aware of how they hijack scientific findings with their philosophical and political views. This strikes me as no different than many Christian scientists who obliviously move beyond the data and erroneously extrapolate it into the "scientific" position that it most certainly is not.

The episode on climate change (I'm a believer in warming who believes we should take appropriate steps BTW) features a couple basic scientific principles that get extrapolated into large-scale explanations for the phenomenon. Additionally, anecdotal segments are presented (rising waters in Venice) alongside your standard panel of experts interview segment. It's a pretty bland and childish presentation (John Oliver probably does more educating in his main segments than this does).

A real problem for the show is the kinda smug "I can't believe we have to have this conversation" presentation that reminds me of the worst kind of religious presentations. The science is elementary, the jokes are awkward and bad, and the argumentation preaches only to the choir.

While the global warming episode presented a minimal amount of science, the sexual spectrum episode is nearly devoid of it - and is even contradicted later in the show. The opening segment, featuring Derek Muller of the Youtube channel Veritasium (which I love) as a correspondent, attempts to explain the spectrum of sexuality: biological sex, gender, attraction, and expression. The problem is, this is mostly just asserted without any serious explanation of the science behind it. The thrust of the argument is, "I'm a scientist, trust me." Whether he is correct or not, that's a decidedly unscientific way to go about it.

Whether I agree or disagree with his assertions is irrelevant, this is a travesty given the show's prideful boasts about being devoted to science. The implication is given that someone can be all over the place in each of these sexual categories, however the show later mocks those who believe in conversion therapy by having different ice cream flavors argue about which one is the right one; thus the show implies that people are BORN with particular natures that they can't change. If people can be on a spectrum and change throughout their life, doesn't conversion therapy (which I lean against generally) actually make sense under your presentation of the spectrum?

This isn't a science show and that's unfortunate because our culture could really use a well-presented and entertaining look at some of the science behind major cultural issues. Instead, Nye uses "science" as a way to promote his personal views and insulate them from criticism since the biggest direct and indirect response to critics on the show is, "you're a science denier."

I find this odd, since Nye has shown a willingness to engage other views before, but his show (even on his expert panel) is devoid of genuine opposing viewpoints, which is actually more representative of the scientific process. I guess science can't be seen as having opposing views?

Aside from the central premise not being true, it's a badly produced show with poor attempts at relevancy and humor. The live audience clapping along enthusiastically to punctuate points made by Nye makes the show feel closer to Bill Maher's humorous political show, except it lacks the actual humor part of that show. The young correspondents and updated "lab" and demonstrations feel less organic and more like strained attempts at feeling relevant to a young adult audience. This isn't a far cry from youth pastors wearing skinny jeans, employing fog machines, and peppering their sermons with Family Guy references.

If I've made a lot of comparisons to religion it's because the show reminded me of all the worst parts of Christianity's attempts to respond to cultural issues through "science" and "relevancy"; it's over-produced, awkwardly forced, and ideologically insulated. In other words, it's just poorly produced propaganda.

Grade: D

FWIW - I've been a pretty big fan of Nye for most of my life

1 comments:

Will Sanders said...

Your joke about it being closer to the 700 club was funnier than anything on. The show, trust me I've seen at least five episodes.

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