On Friday, April 21, 2017, Netflix launched all 13 episodes of the new original series Bill Nye Saves the World, starring, of course, the bow-tied Bill Nye. Nye is known for his popular 1990’s children’s TV show Bill Nye the Science Guy, and this new show appears to be aimed at those kids who are now Millennials and grew up watching his show.
Bill Nye Saves the World seems to be styled after a late-night talk show and features a high-quality stage, including a lab for Nye to demonstrate various simple science experiments. On each episode a different “expert panel” of scientists, journalists, authors, or others (such as a farmer and an astrologer) joins Nye in a discussion of the topic at hand. During the show, Nye played videos that were filmed by several correspondents around the world, in places such as India, Venice, and NASA.
Despite being aimed at adults, many episodes contain segments that come across as rather childish with cheesy (and often inappropriate) songs, skits, and demonstrations performed by various special guests including athletes, comedians, actors, and others. The show contains a good deal of crude humor and various vulgarities, including taking God’s name in vain. This is certainly not a children’s show, nor is it intended to be (Netflix rated the show TV-14).
The show is not purely about science—in many ways it pushes a particular interpretation of the evidence and a secular, skeptical worldview.
It’s styled as a talk show for science that intends to debunk popular misconceptions and explore various issues from a scientific perspective. Some episodes accomplish this better than others. Rather than presenting a scientific critique of the issue at hand, certain episodes rely on sarcasm and the degradation of those who disagree. The show is not purely about science—in many ways it pushes a particular interpretation of the evidence and a secular, skeptical worldview.
The overarching theme of all 13 episodes was “trust science.” Nye frequently declares, “We might even, dare I say it, save the world?” His show attempts to foster a blind faith in science as the only force that can save the world. And what does Nye mean by “save the world”? It seems he means save the world from humans destroying it via man-made climate change, and save humanity from many of our problems such as disease, violence, infertility, and population growth.
Now, science can and has done amazing things. Many of these accomplishments, developments, and discoveries, such as pain relievers, the MRI, and organ transplants, have bettered our physical lives and even extended our lifespans. But while we can use science to fight the physical effects of the Curse, it can’t take away the Curse entirely.
The problems we see in our Western society, and in other societies, do not stem from a lack of trust in science or science education. They all have one root problem—sin. Sin is even the root problem for the troubles we see in nature.
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:22)
Every one of us is a sinner (Romans 3:23), and this sin impacts everything from our treatment of the planet to our treatment of each other. And because we are all sinners, we all deserve death (Romans 6:23). The only solution to this sin and death problem is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can find new and eternal life in Jesus Christ through His death and Resurrection.
Bill Nye won’t ever accomplish his lofty ambition of saving the world. He might convince some people of his views, but the job of saving the world has already been accomplished by the all-powerful Creator.
Setting aside the overall problems such as vulgarity and the obvious bias toward skepticism, several troubling issues played out in specific episodes. Though space prohibits us from dealing with all of them, we will deal with a few of them here.
It’s no surprise the first episode, “Earth’s a Hot Mess,” dealt with climate change. Nye dealt with some of the science around climate change but, predictably, solely blamed humans for causing it. During a segment called “Bill Needs a Minute,” which is basically a rant from Nye, he railed against “climate change deniers” claiming that it’s their fault the United States isn’t a leader in fighting climate change. At the end of the episode, filmmaker Zach Braff claims Nye never shuts up about climate change, to which Nye leads the audience to respond, “We will shut up about climate change if we finally do something about the problem.”
Now there are few people who actually deny climate change entirely, but it’s not us at AiG—a fact Ken Ham has pointed out to Bill Nye before. What some scientists and others do deny are the claims that man is causing all or nearly all climate change. To claim that those who disagree with one specific interpretation of very limited data are “climate change deniers”—when it’s obvious that climates change—is untrue and does nothing to further Nye’s argument.
You can learn more about climate change in Dr. Alan White’s article “The Globe Is Warming, But It’s Not Your Fault!”
Episode five dealt with “the original Martian invasion,” otherwise known as panspermia, the idea that life on earth was seeded from Mars. This is an idea Nye sees as “extraordinary but not whacky.” This episode dealt with the idea of life on other planets as well as the origin and evolution of life here on earth. It was rather light on science because there is not one shred of evidence to support life on Mars (or any other planet) or an extraterrestrial origin for life on earth.1
Interestingly enough, in episode 11 Nye talks about confirmation bias and how “in science we try to prove ourselves wrong.” He urges his viewers to “question things” using critical thinking skills, yet he dedicates a whole episode of his show to a speculative idea that has no basis in science. Indeed, despite the complete lack of evidence, he treats panspermia as scientific fact (even calling it a “theory,” which, in the science world, implies it has a good deal of evidence to support it). That’s not really questioning things!
Bill Nye has no choice but to somehow explain the origin of life by means of natural processes.
Because he is committed to an evolutionary, naturalistic, and atheistic worldview, Bill Nye has no choice but to somehow explain the origin of life by means of natural processes. Yet we know that life doesn’t come from nonlife—that’s the law of biogenesis. So how does Nye get around that problem? He just claims life evolved somewhere else and somehow managed to make it to earth! It’s storytelling, but it’s not science.
There were many references to morality throughout the show. Some were vague, such as a sticky note that appears in episode 2 claiming “you’re a good person, Bill.” Or the directive from Nye in episode 13, “don’t be a big selfish sponge,” and a statement, from episode 11, saying that the peddling of “malarkey” wouldn’t matter except “people take your money.”
But other references to morality were overt declarations of right and wrong. This was most clearly seen in episode nine, “The Sexual Spectrum.” This episode declared that, when it comes to gender and sexuality, “we have to listen to the science. And science says we’re on a spectrum . . . [we] are just catching up with this truth.” Interestingly, despite saying “science says,” very little science was presented in this episode.
But to make up for the lack of science, there was a whole lot of moral teaching which can be boiled down to “just do what feels right” when it comes to gender or sexuality. And if you disagree? “Just get over it!”
This teaching came through a vulgar, explicit song and dance routine as well as a suggestive, bizarre ice cream cartoon. This cartoon was a straw man argument against those who disagree with homosexuality and transgenderism. It set up those who disagree as arrogantly and stubbornly insisting that “vanilla” (heterosexuality) is best, based on nothing more than their personal preference. And, because they arbitrarily define “vanilla” as best, everyone else better make themselves vanilla. This is a straw man fallacy because, for those who start with the Bible, homosexual behavior and becoming transgender is wrong, not based on personal preference, but on the authority of God’s Word. It mocked “the Big Ice Cream in the Sky” (presumably God) and said temptation to try other flavors of ice cream (different sexualities and “genders”) is good. The cartoon finished by promoting indulgence (promiscuity).
Episode 12 dealt with designer babies, an up-and-coming technology of editing the genes of human embryos using tools such as CRISPR. This episode showed little regard for unborn life, discussing “designer babies . . . even the phrase is creepy, like we’re talking about a Gucci handbag, not a person.” In a segment about IVF (in vitro fertilization) they showed how doctors can look at the pre-implanted embryos’ genes to see if they have an “undesirable or desirable set of genes,” allowing “parents more control over their own family’s destiny.” Basically, this allows parents to decide which embryos—unborn children—get a chance at life and which ones do not. To their credit, those on the show brought up some of the ethical questions and asked who gets to decide what should and should not be edited, but they didn’t really have an answer because they have no starting point except their own human wisdom.
Remember, Bill Nye has no foundation on which to offer any kind of morality, whether he’s claiming he’s a “good person” or saying all sexual acts are “good.” As an atheist, he has rejected God’s Word as the authority. He claims there is no Creator who sets the rules. So who decides what’s right and wrong? It’s nothing more than his opinion grounded in nothing but . . .his (or, at best, the majority’s) opinion. He has no foundation for morality, yet he insists his personal opinion of right and wrong is the right one, and if we disagree, we need to just “get over it.”
Homosexual behavior and transgenderism are sins and go against God’s very good design for mankind.
But there is a foundation for morality, and it’s God’s Word. As the Creator, God has the authority to define right and wrong, and He has done so in His Word. We can make statements of moral absolutes because we have a foundation for morality. Homosexual behavior and transgenderism are sins and go against God’s very good design for mankind. Life is sacred and the taking of a life—born or unborn—is murder. It is irrelevant whether or not you, our culture, or Bill Nye agrees. As the Creator, God sets the rules and will judge us according to those rules.
Unsurprisingly, Bill Nye Saves the World takes some shots at creationists and Answers in Genesis. Though Nye never mentions us directly, there were two obvious jabs, one by Nye and one by a guest. In episode five an overloaded, fairytale Noah’s Ark is on the table full of props that Nye is using to explain the supposed history of the planet, seemingly put there as a gag by Nye’s prop crew. He grabs the Ark and says, “Really? . . . no, there’s no freaking Noah’s Ark,” before shoving it under the table.
In episode seven, which dealt with video games and addiction, a guest on the show was demonstrating how you can use virtual reality to draw on a digital screen. His drawing featured an angry orange head and, as he showed the drawing, he said, “I like to call this one ‘debating a creationist.’” Showing the inside layer of the drawing, he explained that it’s called that because “he has a little, tiny brain,” which got some laughs from the live studio audience.
Bill Nye’s starting point is obvious in his show. He rejects the Creator and His Word and instead relies on human reasoning to solve the world’s problems (real or perceived). And though origins/evolutionary science won’t solve anything, man’s God-given intellect in a designed universe makes it so observational science can be used to alleviate some of the problems. But man can’t fix what we broke in Genesis 3. That’s why we eagerly wait for Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth He will create where there will be no more death, suffering, pain, or Curse. And we pray that Bill Nye and unbelievers watching his show will bow their proud hearts, stop trusting in their own wisdom and morality, and humbly place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ—the only way to God the Father (John 14:6)—and His finished work on the Cross.