Hey Bill Nye, ‘Can Science Eradicate Religion and Myth from Politics?’ #TuesdaysWithBill


Hey Bill. This is Aditya Bakshi. I’m a mechanical
engineer graduate from India. My question to you is why are so many people attracted
to pseudoscience and what can we as a society do to stop pseudoscience if it has the support
of religious fundamentalists and hyper nationalist? For example, the recently concluded Indian
Science Congress was criticized heavily for featuring a lot of pseudoscience and mythology.
Thank you. Greetings Aditya. I’m saying it as best I
can. Aditya? I’m saying it as best I can. I have spent just about two weeks in India
and I got to say I was very impressed with how much pseudoscience there is, how much
spiritualism there is. I guess those aren’t the same thing. And a lot of people – it’s
very common for people from my country, from the United States to go to India to get a
new way of looking at life, to get a new spiritual prospective. And as you suggested these things,
pseudoscience and the spiritual perspective seem to be tied together. But science, this
process that humans have come up with where you make an observation; you come up with
a hypothesis, a reason you think this observation happen, this phenomenon occurred, and then
you come up with a way to test it. An experiment. You test it. You see what happened. You compare
that to what you thought would happen and you know nature and this extraordinary way
that enables us to have cars and trucks and the green revolution and feed everybody and
clean water for a lot of people and electricity and spaceflight and putting things in orbit
around Mars, the Mars Orbiting Mission, ISRO, Indian Space Research Organization’s mission.
Very cool. This is a great concern. All I can say is, well not all I can say, but something
I will say about pseudoscience. Well, in the United States it’s very common to use the
phrase critical thinking, being critical of claims is that it’s a process. When you first, for example, when someone
says that he or she spiritually prepares himself or herself to walk across hot coals, which
is a fabulous phenomenon, it’s very easy for an audience member, someone unfamiliar with
the science involved, to think that it does require spiritual preparedness. But I’ve walked
on hot coals without being spiritually prepared at all. It just turns out that there’s a few
things that happen. Generally fire walkers get their feet wet, they get the grass around
the fire very wet so your feet are wet so that turns to steam. Then the big thing is
your foot is just like a piece of meat, it soaks up a lot of heat before your skin burns.
It’s really amazing. I always tell people wrap a piece of paper around an empty soda
can and hold it over a candle flame, the paper doesn’t burn for quite a while because the
heat passes right through it into the can, the same as the skin of your foot. So, along
this line you have to show people that it was not spiritual preparedness that enabled
them to walk on fire. And at first, in my experience, the audience will reject that.
No, no you have to be spiritually prepared. No, no, no you don’t. And after they try it
or review it they’ll start to change their minds. If you quiz people about the influence
of astrology, the position of the stars with respect to their personality characteristics,
at first quite often they’ll reject it. They’ll say no the stars are very influential. But
after a while they’ll think about it. People who believe they can communicate with the
dead or get the audience to believe that they can communicate with the dead, at first it
seems reasonable, but after a while you can show that it’s not true. So what I would say
is you’ve got to stick with it. You just got to keep nudging people against the pseudoscientific
beliefs. As far as the Indian Science Conference, this
spiritualism, at least when I was in India, it was deep within your culture, deep within
the Indian culture. So it’s not something that’s going to change right away. But I claim
that it’s in everyone’s best interest to embrace the process of science so that Indian agriculture
continues to feed your billion people – your, our billion people and continue to explore
space because it brings out the best in us, brings out the best in people. When a country
has its own space program, it just inherently produces more graduates in more advanced science,
which then enriches technology for everyone. And soon everybody in India will have access
to phone calls. Everybody in India will have access to higher more advanced transportation
systems. What we all in the developed world very much want is for Indian nation to skip
these fossil fuel steps that we all went through and produced all the greenhouse gas, which
has given this extraordinary quality of life in the West to be sure, but we want, by we
the world wants Indian mechanical engineers such as your self to get right to renewable
energy and become world leaders in renewable energy. And this to me is very closely related
to eschewing or setting aside spiritualism and pseudoscientific beliefs and embracing
science to solve these actual technical problems. Spiritualism is a separate thing. If people
are enriched by that it’s great, but to have spiritualism or believe in psychic powers
or psychic preparedness influence agriculture, for example, or influence electricity production
is inappropriate and is going to hold you all back and that’s why, hold us all back
and that’s why I think you’ve asked the question. But if you’re a mechanical engineer you are
using science to make things and solve problems and we appreciate your work. Carry on sir.
Carry on!

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