Science will rule the night April 7 when Bill Nye the Science Guy speaks on campus as the last guest speaker of the University Lecture Series this semester.
The former Boeing 747 engineer, who pulls off wearing a bow tie with a lab coat, gained popularity in the 1990s as the eccentric host of a PBS show that aimed to make science exciting to young viewers.
Though each episode focused on the same concepts that put young students to sleep in their school’s labs, Nye’s quirky enthusiasm inspired awe in millions for the wonders of science.
The show ran for five seasons until its cancellation in 1998. All 100 episodes have been uploaded on YouTube where they are available to nostalgic admirers and a new generation of science fans alike.
Though Nye hasn’t stopped teaching through laughter, he’s recently taken a more serious tone when publically speaking about the latest challenges to science.
One of the more recent outspoken moments came during the “DeflateGate” scandal. In an online video, Nye experimented to see whether cold weather could explain the deflation of a football, but then took an unexpected turn to what he felt was a more pressing concern.
“While we’re all obsessed with DeflateGate, let’s keep in mind there’s something about which you should give a f—,” he said. “Yes, like Tom Brady, the world is getting hotter and hotter, and you know why? Because we humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
Nye also uses the national spotlight to pronounce religious creationist views as dangerous to U.S. education and rational belief.
The controversy escalated in 2014 when Nye debated Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham on the merits of evolution versus creationism. Tickets to the debate sold out within minutes and 3 million viewed via its online stream.
Much of the debate came down to the legitimacy of the evidence indicating the Earth is more than 10,000 years old by about 4.5 billion years. Nye also criticized the story of Noah’s Ark, arguing that the construction detailed in the Book of Genesis wouldn’t make for a boat that could stay afloat.
The media, viewers and the scientific community had mixed reactions to the debate. Some critics argued that giving a platform to creationism gave it legitimacy, while others thought creationism needed to be humiliated in the spotlight so viewers could realize its absurdity.
Similar to his outspokenness against creationism, in recent years Nye has also crusaded against other pseudo-scientific beliefs. He’s used his public platform on NBC and other outlets to let people know about the safety of genetically modified food and vaccines.
Nye’s first attempt at gaining the ears of older audiences started in 2005 with “The Eyes of Nye,” which aired on a PBS affiliate. The show delved into adult topics, exploring the science behind addiction, sex and race. It also didn’t shy away from examining potential consequences and moral complexity behind cloning, nuclear energy and climate change.
As he continues to wade into the fray of controversy, however, Nye stands by his belief that, through education, the public is capable of scientific thought and can still turn things around, especially when it comes to climate change.
Nye is the third speaker of the University Lecture Series and will be one of the main events for this year’s USF Week. Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien spoke in January and “Lost Boy of Sudan” John Bul Dau spoke in February.