Bill Nye: The Real Message We Should Pay Attention To

Published August 6, 2017

There was a minor uproar over a recent Bill Nye comment that is summed up in this article: “Bill Nye: Climate Change Scientists Need To Wait For Older People To Die.”

But let’s look at this for what it really reveals.

First of all, Bill is stating a fact. Many in the “resistance” to climate change are Bill’s age and older. But this generation was brought up differently than the current group of people, many rising through academia. We were taught to question authority. We were also encouraged to reject groupthink. Perhaps it had to do with Eisenhower’s farewell speech where a warning against the military-industrial complex —which when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s was being used as a rallying cry against our involvement in Vietnam — was a big deal. But those of us in our formative years then who are now in the generation that Bill is talking about also took note of the other part of Eisenhower’s speech.

Let me borrow from this Wikipedia link. The legacy of the speech from the article above attests to my assertion about its importance in relation to Vietnam:

Although it was much broader, Eisenhower’s speech is remembered primarily for its reference to the military-industrial complex. The phrase gained acceptance during the Vietnam War era and 21st-century commentators have expressed the opinion that a number of the fears raised in his speech have come true.

The part referenced in particular was this:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Here is one of the greatest generals of our nation warning against the military-industrial complex, and many took it to heart.

But we of that generation also knew about the second part of his warning.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government. …

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocation, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet in holding scientific discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Ike was right.

Here is where Nye is correct. He understands that the people who were brought up in the form of Americanism and who believed the individual should question authority are getting older and will not be around when the new vanguard takes over. Enlightened he believes himself to be, and I suspect others like Al Gore think they are simply leading the new wave to replace the old wave. But instead of attacking Nye and making it seem like he has a death wish for his opponents, why don’t people actually look at the facts of what he is saying and what that actually means for things like critical thought and skepticism? Those things are essential not only to the scientific method but also for the basis for man to use his free will to better himself. The bottom line is that Nye’s statement does not identify a problem with Nye, it identifies a problem with what has happened over the post-Vietnam generations. Nye, and the climate issue looked at deeper, reveal a deeper problem that strikes at the core of what has lead to the elevation of the nation to where we are.

Bottom line: Nye is right about the inevitable result. It does not make him right about CO2 being the climate control knob. But Nye is not the demon here; he is more a messenger of the very changes that Eisenhower warned us about in his speech. And what is apparent is that the generation which followed that speech took his word to heart over one thing but went the opposite way on another.

Some may be tempted to think I am going soft on Nye. I am evaluating what he said in an objective manner. I would suggest instead of tearing at the messenger we look at the message. For in his message is the real danger not to the people that are aging but to the very methodology essential for those who follow to continue to build upon the successes that solid foundational skepticism and freedom make possible.

[Originally Published at the Patriot Post]