Bill Nye the Science Guy and I discussed everything from I-Pods to God in a diner on Madison Avenue yesterday. Frenetic and peripatetic, he led the discussion from the starting point of each question I asked to the fork in the road of his answer. I was David Letterman to his Robin Williams, just sitting back, smiling amazed, trying to maintain control as he shot in unanticipated directions. Innocent like a child, wise like a seasoned comedian, Nye explored ideas, contradicting himself from time to time the way most interesting people do. I watched his eyes flash, watched him smile and laugh as he made little discoveries in his own statements. It was like watching Dave Brubeck perform on stage.
Nye, wearing a periodic table bowtie, ordered a plate of the diner’s “World Famous French Toast.” I drank cups of coffee. He was on California time–11:00 a.m Eastern meant breakfast for him. We had the diner pretty much to ourselves for a while. Then the lunch crowd filed in with their double takes—“Hey, that’s Bill Nye,…The Science Guy!”
Here is one of my favorite stretches of transcript (verbatim®), including a perfectly-timed visit from the waitress:
Bill: The biggest health problem we have in developed countries is that people just eat too much. I don’t mean to be weird on you. But, if you could go back in time to Ogg the Cave Guy and say, “Hey Ogg, I’m from the future. Check this out. I’ve got food with no calories!” he’d go, “What’s your deal? Check us out, man, we’re in Cave Times. All we do is get calories. That’s our business. Are you high? What’s wrong with you, man of the future?”
Me: That’s an interesting point. To what extent has science taken us away from our basic human nature?
Bill: Science is a human idea. Humans made up science.
Me: Well, who took the calories out of food?
Bill: Scientists did. Is that what you mean?
Me: Yeah. They did a lot of other things. They invented TV. There is an interesting book called Galileo’s Mistake, written by Wade Rowland, who headed the news operation for Canada’s pubic broadcasting network. His point is that the Inquisition didn’t take Galileo to task strictly for espousing Copernican ideas about the universe–Galileo got sent up for insisting that the only way to comprehend truth is through the application of science to the exclusion of faith and revelation. The book asks whether our quality of life is essentially better now than it was in the Middle Ages—it takes a good look, really, at the dehumanizing effect of the Age of Reason.
Bill (to waitress): Can I get some bacon?
(Stay tuned for the next episode of My California-Time Breakfast with Bill Nye, the Science Guy or Blowing Stuff Up is Really Cool!)
Photo by Rick