On Tuesday, April 14th, Bill Nye the Science Guy made an appearance at Reed College. Although the event was not sponsored by the Reed Secular Alliance, RSA member Matt Steele had the honor of introducing Nye. Even though he admitted that he was nervous, Steele did an excellent job of welcoming Bill Nye to Reed College.
The event was packed to Vollum Lecture Hall’s 430-person capacity. “I was shocked at the sheer electricity of the crowd,” Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, explains. “Never before at Reed College have I seen an audience this moved by a speaker.” And Zukor has been to plenty of Reed lectures, including bell hooks, Julian Bond, and Daniel Dennett.
Nye, who was greeted by a standing ovation, discussed climate change, life in outer space, and his skepticism about aliens. “Science is the best idea humans have ever had,” Bill Nye emphasized. The lecture was aimed at what Nye called “The Climate Generation”, those who were born in 1988 – the year that Congress was first alerated about global warming - and after.
When asked if the universe’s improbability was proof of God’s existence, Nye demurred. “I have more reverence for the universe as a scientist,” he explained, “than many of the so-called religious people.” Similarly, Nye emphasized the absurdity of the Virgin Birth, and was met by chuckles from audience members, including Leslie Zukor.
However, in his lecture, Bill Nye did more than just humor the crowd. The television host who was an icon of our generation also had a serious message for Reed students. “You can change the world,” Nye stressed. “8% of the world’s electricity is consumed by electronic devices on standby,” he explained, advocating a “Green Switch”, among other devices and potential inventions.
“I want you to get rich,” Bill Nye the Science Guy explained, tongue-in-cheek. Invent a better battery, reduce carbon emissions by 95% by 2050, and promote an energy-efficient bike tunnel, were but a few of Bill Nye’s suggestions for politically-engaged Reed students. He also suggested maximizing wind-power, and stressed that global warming is indeed man-made.
When asked in the Q & A how to respond to global warming skeptics, Nye explained, “They say that there are cycles of warming and cooling. But never before has the earth warmed this quickly.” In short, it’s the rate of temperature increase that’s concerning. Furthermore, Nye explained that man-made climate change is not a conspiracy. “People on the International Panel on Climate Change have won Nobel Prizes.”
For all the inspiring points of his lecture, Bill Nye the Science guy was most impressive in the way he comported himself. When the sponsors suggested that he only take one more question, Nye refused, saying that the audience was entitled to five more questions. “I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that,” Zukor remarked. “Usually speakers rush to finish their talks,” she said, “but Bill Nye was different.”
“I am glad I went to see Nye speak,” Leslie Zukor explained. The audience was equally thrilled. “Now I feel so inspired to teach science to middle school kids,” one audience member remarked. And another Reed student felt similarly. “That lecture was definitely worth my time,” she explained. And given the workload at Reed College, the students’ engagement with the lecture was the best testimony for the transformative power of science.