Bill Nye Shows Us the Most Important Part of Science—Adapting in Light of New Information
It’s pretty amazing that Bill Nye, who for many of us provided an awesome introduction to science when we were kids, has continued to fight the good fight on behalf of science well into our adulthoods. Part of that fight, it seems, is retroactively correcting outdated ideas and methods of presentation in light of new scientific information.
As we all know (and love!), Netflix not only streams Bill Nye’s new show, Bill Nye Saves the World, but also has his classic show, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Last week, we told you about a faked meme that was going around, the ultimate point of which was to showcase the “horror” of Bill Nye “contradicting” the science on gender. You know, by acknowledging that gender isn’t as binary as we’ve been led to believe in the past.
Well now, angry folks are taking to the Internet to “prove” that Bill Nye is basically Thought Policing us all by editing out a segment on gender from a classic episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy now that it’s available on Netflix. Here’s the scene:
In the clip, a young woman is explaining chromosomes to the kids watching and comes to the conclusion that that “See, there are only two possibilities: XX a girl, or XY, a boy. The chance of becoming a boy or a girl is always one-in-two, a fifty-fifty chance either way.”
What’s interesting is that this clip was originally part of an episode on probability. In the clip, the young woman is explaining chromosomes and how they work, but she’s not doing so to teach about gender. She’s illustrating the idea of probability—a fifty-fifty chance, eventually coming around to the idea of flipping a coin.
So, in this episode of a children’s science show (which is already only giving the very basic information on any topic it teaches) on probability that aired in 1996, it made sense to use the gender binary as an example of something that is fifty-fifty.
However, in the classic episodes that are currently on Netflix, this clip was omitted, going from Nye’s teaching about the bell curve, to a segment about car insurance. While angry folks were upset at Netflix for making the change, according to the Washington Free Beacon, “The series was delivered that way by Buena Vista TV, according to a Netflix spokesperson.”
This probably happened for a couple of reasons: 1) because gender is infinitely more complicated than a binary, and so it really isn’t a fully accurate example to use to illustrate a fifty-fifty chance of something. So, this clip really doesn’t fit in with the main topic of the episode it’s in, and 2) while explaining gender as a binary to start out with might have been fine for kids in the 1990s, children today are more aware of the infinite diversity around them.
As more children come out as transgender in some way, shape, or form, more children will become aware that gender isn’t simple. Kids today deserve a more nuanced look at gender that includes all the information available, not simply the parts that make us comfortable and jibe with what we’ve always been taught. More information is always better than less.
That’s the thing about science. Science is all about learning, and growing, and changing. It’s about acknowledging that when new facts are presented, or when there are different variables and exceptions to consider, ideas can change. Astrophysicists are pretty damn sure that the Big Bang happened in order to create what we know as our universe. However, it’s still referred to as the “Big Bang Theory,” rather than the “Fact of the Big Bang,” because science will always leave room for new information.
I wish the same were true of most individuals.
(image: screencap/Buena Vista TV)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org