Audience members who expected to see Bill Nye “The Science Guy” conduct experiments and wow their children received quite a surprise Wednesday when Nye spoke at McLennan Community College. Nye instead addressed such topics as Mars exploration, global warming and energy consumption, particularly oil and gas. He even ruffled a few religious feathers along the way.
The scientist with a background in stand-up and sketch comedy kept spectators interested, entertained and at ease with his funny, sometimes hilarious, delivery. Speaking as part of MCC’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, Nye spoke to two audiences, one at 1:30 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m., of about 600 each. He said the first audience, though littered with young children listening to some rather adult scientific topics, “was very supportive.”
The second group also was rapt from the beginning, greeting the scientist with a raucous standing ovation upon his introduction. “You haven’t heard the presentation yet!” Nye told them. Opening with a discussion of Mars and his hopes for further discovery on the neighboring planet, Nye encouraged the audience to take interest in discovery and “change the world,” a mantra he repeated throughout. Nye indicated that the presence of water in Mars’ atmosphere - evidenced by the planet’s ability to form frost - leads him to believe that there is a strong possibility that the planet once supported life.
The Emmy-winning scientist angered a few audience members when he criticized literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” He pointed out that the sun, the “greater light,” is but one of countless stars and that the “lesser light” is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light. A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence. “We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.
Nye also was critical of what he said was governmental agencies’ lack of action, even lack of understanding, in protecting the Earth from global warming and wasted resources. Nye’s educational science show won 28 Emmy awards during its television run from 1992-98.
It seemed most in attendance were pleased to hear Nye speak, and some were even awed by the presence of a childhood icon. “How cool is that, to be face to face with the man, Bill Nye?” said Jared McClure, who worked sound and video for the event. “And he’s funny, too.”