I first saw Bill Nye the Science Guy on Back to the Future the Animated Series. As you might have guessed from the title of the show, it was animated, but the show featured live skits with Dr. Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) performing science experiments. He had a lab assistant, Bill Nye.
Shortly after that show came to an end, Bill Nye received his own TV show, Bill Nye the Science Guy. From that point forward he became a household name.
However, more recently he’s made headlines for his strong positions on less kid friendly subjects. He’s engaged in national debates surrounding creation, and about a week ago he decided to join the abortion debate. Working with BIGTHINK.com, he posted a video titled “Can We Stop Telling Women What to do With Their Bodies?”
I like to call videos like this, “High Five” videos (at least that’s the image that pops into my head). These are videos where someone addresses a divisive subject with intense authority. They present themselves as if they’re speaking matter of factly to help people who disagree with them to understand their position. However, in reality they’re just preaching to the choir. They’re throwing red meat to their crowd.
When these videos inevitably go viral, the comment sections are filled with people who agree with them praising them for telling it like it is. It’s as if there’s a gigantic metaphoric high five happening. Eventually the video gets praised by countless media sources for settling matters once and for all.
Billy Nye received this honor from the website feministing.com who gave him the “Quote of the Day” award. The article is titled “Bill Nye Schools Anti-Choicers on Science.” BuzzFeed was less flamboyant with their article, “Nye Addresses Anti-Abortion Politicians in New Video.”
Bill Nye, The Science Guy?
Before I respond to the specific contents of the video, I wanted to address something important. As best I can tell, Bill Nye only has a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. He’s an entertainer and educator with a mechanical engineering degree. His resume appears to be very similar to (or less than) that of most of our high school science teachers. Contrast that with Neil deGrasse Tyson who’s list of degrees is rather long and impressive. If someone should be “The Science Guy,” it’s Tyson.
Nye may be educated on science, but he is not a definitive expert on it. He’s an educator and an entertainer.
With that in mind, here are a few things Bill Nye had to say about abortion. If you didn’t watch the video before, I highly encourage you to watch it before reading my response.
Who Should We Imprison Over Miscarriages?
If you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized, it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison?
Bill Nye starts off by pointing out that while many eggs are fertilized, they often don’t implant into the uterine wall. His point is that if life begins at conception, we should imprison someone every time a fertilized egg doesn’t lead to a baby.
There are two problems with this line of thinking:
- Not all deaths are crimes. People die every day because of natural causes, disease or accident. You don’t always need someone to blame, sue or put in prison.
- Miscarriages ARE horrible times of loss for families.
You Apparently Literally Don’t Know What You’re Talking About
You apparently literally don’t know what you’re talking about.
This was his condescending response to the idea that life begins at conception. His only rational is the argument above about there being more to it than just conception. Of course, I don’t think anyone has argued that there isn’t more to it than conception.
Leave It to Women
When it comes to women’s rights with respect to their reproduction I think you should leave it to women.
Sexism – prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex
As much as we decry sexism in our society, it seems like an awful lot of people are awfully comfortable telling men they aren’t allowed to have an opinion on abortion because they’re men. I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but that is blatantly sexist. To suggest that you can’t think critically about pregnancy and abortion unless you’re a woman is illogical.
More importantly, if we’re just talking about science and facts, what does that have to do with your gender?
A Book Written 5,000 Years Ago…
Passing laws based on…Your interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago...
I think he’s talking about the Bible, but where did the number 5,000 come from? The New Testament was written 2,000 years ago. The bulk of the Old Testament is less than 3,000 years old. The Pentateuch is attributed to Moses, but even those books are only dated back to 3,500 years old.
What is he talking about?
This is the guy that less than 30 seconds before this used the phrase, you “literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” Now it appears he literally doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
The Bible Teaches Sex Always Leads to a Baby
[You believe a 5,000 year old book that] Makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby.
If he’s referring to a different 5,000 year old book than the Bible then I’m open to a different interpretation. However, it seems we’re talking about the Bible.
What verse is he referring to? Is this a teaching in the Old Testament I’ve never heard referenced before? I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about. Or perhaps, he doesn’t know what he’s taking about.
So to Pass Laws Based on that Belief…
So to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.
Can someone pinpoint a single politician that believes every time “a man and woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby”? Has anyone claimed anything remotely similar to that?
He just accused the pro-life crowd of not knowing what they’re talking about. Now he’s presenting an entirely fictitious version of the pro-life perspective.
It’s Hard Not to Get Frustrated With This…
It’s hard not to get frustrated with this…
I would agree with him that that would be frustrating, but he’s currently frustrated by a false narrative he’s created.
What He Didn’t Discuss…
I think it’s important to note that Nye’s rebuttal dealt with three arguments:
- Many fertilized eggs don’t lead to a child.
- The Bible was written a long time ago and teaches faulty things about sex (though I’m not sure the Bible teaches the example he gave).
- We shouldn’t tell women what to do with their bodies.
When discussing abortion, he only spoke about VERY EARLY stages of pregnancy. What he doesn’t discuss are viable unborn babies. What he doesn’t discuss are 6 pound babies.
It’s very easy for him to discuss abortion when talking about the first few days. The laws being discussed have almost nothing to do with what he’s talking about. The laws being passed deal with fetuses with arms, legs, and heartbeats. It’s very difficult to speak so confidently in support of abortion when you’re talking about a viable 5 pound baby.
I can fully appreciate that there are people who disagree with me on abortion. There’s an important discussion to be had. Bill Nye isn’t joining that important discussion here. Here Nye is presenting a straw man version of the pro-life position. He’s created a caricature of the position, and that cartoon version of the pro-life position is easy to knock down. This isn’t honest discussion.
Unfortunately as a nation we’re not having any of the discussions we need to be having. We’re talking over and around one another. There’s no value in constructing artificial narratives about what others believe instead of simply asking them.
Before we tell people what that they don’t know what they’re talking about, we should probably make sure we know what we’re talking about.