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Bill Nye on Trying to Save Science From the Politicians and the Haters

The host of Netflix's "Bill Nye Saves the World" isn't afraid to stir up controversy if it helps make the planet better.

Bill Nye Show

Eddy Chen/Netflix

Bill Nye is a man who elicits a lot of strong emotions from the world around him — good and bad. An entire generation of science nerds grew up loving him, including the correspondents who contribute to “Bill Nye Saves the World,” Netflix’s new effort to make science education fun for the masses — while also returning television’s most famous bow tie to our screens.

READ MORE: ‘Bill Nye Saves the World’ Review: Teaching Scientific Literacy to Millennials Makes for a Fist-Bumpy Ride

“It was a freaking mindblowing dream come true,” Emily Calandrelli said to IndieWire at the Los Angeles premiere, about getting asked to join the show led by Nye.

Bill Nye Show

Joanna Hausmann agreed. “I grew up with him my entire life. I’m from Venezuela, and even there we would watch Bill’s old stuff.”

However, there are people out there who don’t share in this love for Nye, people the science icon has no trouble labeling as “haters.” Or more importantly — deniers. Why exactly? IndieWire asked.

When IndieWire revealed that the show was happening last fall, what was surprising was some of the vitriol that came out on Twitter. 

What did I do? What did I not do?

People were just angry. Perhaps because you’ve been so outspoken about climate change and other issues?

Well, one guy’s outspoken is another guy’s ignoring a situation you do not wish to acknowledge. Haters gonna hate, as they say.

The thing that fascinates me about the Twitter trolls or mean-spirited Twitter people is where do they get the time, effort, and energy for that? You know, I mean I hate everything, but where do they get all the time to spend hating?

Bill Nye Saves the World Netflix

And also, why hate science?

People like to attack my credentials, which is a very common thing when you’re in denial about anything. You know, when you hear an advertisement for, “Doctors don’t want you to know…” or, “There’s a conspiracy.” These are both attacks on authority. One of the ways you manage your worldview conflicting with evidence is by dismissing the people who provide the evidence. This is true of anything, of anything you’re in denial about.

Haters gonna hate.

It’s a good attitude to have.

Well, I mean, bring it on. I mean, I’m not going to say climate change is not happening cause you hate me. Sorry.

In terms of production, you guys shot the episodes last fall. Was there any worry in your head about certain elements getting out of date? 

Oh, yeah that was a big concern, so we did our best to avoid that. I think we did. We were just disciplined about not citing current regulations, or “You remember last week when this happened?” We left out any of the stuff like that out of the script.

Bill Nye Show

But you couldn’t have also imagined what kind of political climate it’d be launching in? 

We imagined it and didn’t think it was that likely, but it sure came to pass. But we tried to discuss any topic from a scientific point of view, which it is to be hoped is irrelevant to a political viewpoint or tradition, or plan.

Is that really possible, though?

Well, it used to be. I think what you’re, if I understand where you’re going, you’re talking about science becoming politicized.

Has it become politicized?

Well, it is in the U.S., for now, but I don’t think it’s sustainable. I don’t think you can continue to deny climate change very much longer. By that I mean through many more election cycles. Have you ever seen the map, the electoral college if only millennials voted? I think that’s indicative of what will happen in the coming decade. Millennials are very concerned about climate change. Climate change denial is almost universally age-related, generational. Once in a while you find a young person who’s in denial about climate change, but very seldom, in that example. Vaccinations, on the other hand, is just a weird anti-science thing that’s going on.

There isn’t any such connection, but if you have this world view and then you’re presented with evidence that contradicts it, you deny the evidence, and deny the people who are providing that evidence. It’s very similar, I mean maybe it’s even identical effect, in psychology. Cognitive dissonance resolved by denial.

Rachel Bloom and Bill Nye, "Bill Nye Saves the World"

Rachel Bloom and Bill Nye, “Bill Nye Saves the World”

Eddy Chen/Netflix

The thing that’s fascinating about vaccines is that somehow it’s gotten tied up culturally in a healthy living mindset.

Well, that’s the weird thing. We’ve lost track of the history of science. I mean, I went to elementary school with a guy who had polio. You do not want polio. People, you just do not want polio. You can eat all the freaking carrots you want, but if you come in contact with a polio virus, it’ll get ya’. Eat all the pomegranate you want. Ain’t gonna stop the polio virus. But what will stop it is getting the vaccine. So, come running to us on the science side.

You mentioned that science has become politicized in the U.S. 

In the case of climate change, for sure.

Bill Nye Show

“Bill Nye Saves the World”

Eddy Chen/Netflix

What are the countries that you look to, where science has its proper place and science is treated with respect?

It’s being attacked everywhere. I mean, Sweden, Norway, but even in those places there are climate change deniers. Everybody used to look to the U.S…Japan respects science, generally, Japanese culture. I think, as they say, the pendulum will swing. I don’t think it’s sustainable denying climate change. Just the voters will … the denier voters are going to age out.

To wrap up — of the episodes that you shot, which do you think will have people talking the most?

Oh, I think sexuality. Human sexuality will be the one. Yeah.

Is it just because it’s fun to talk about sex?

Well, and also it provides information I think very few of us have ever been exposed to. There’s four aspects, or attributes, to human sexuality. This is current scientific thinking. If in three years this is superseded by new scientific thinking, then we’ll have to make a new show, or reporters’ll ask me about the new scientific thinking, but it is fascinating. There’s your sex, which are your chromosomes that you’re born with, your gender, which is how you feel about yourself, your sexuality, your presentation to the world, how you present yourself sexually, and then to whom you’re attracted, your attraction. These four things, we spell them out on the show, and it’s cool. It’s a scientific look at sex. Who doesn’t love that, you know?

“Bill Nye Saves the World” is streaming now on Netflix.

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