Ignorance Breeds Misinformation

May 1, 2017 7:03pm
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I haven’t had a chance to watch much of Bill Nye’s new show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World yet, however I found myself doing a bit of research into one of the segments on the show after a Facebook comment criticizing Bill of thinking that families with extra kids should be taxed higher.

Wha???

So I found the segment in question – it was the roundtable discussion during Episode 13 entitled Earth’s People Problem – and Bill and his three guests spent about seven minutes talking about overpopulation and ways to address it through education and family planning, and also the impact that different populations (e.g. in the developed world vs developing countries) make on the environment through how they utilize resources, create pollution, etc…

The exchange itself took place like this:

Bill Nye: So should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?

Dr. Travis Rieder: I do think that we should at least consider it.

Nye: Well, ‘at least consider it’ is like ‘do it.’

Rieder: One of the things that we can do that’s kind of least policy-ish is we could encourage our culture and our norms to change…

Dr. Rachel Snow: I would take issue with the idea that we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children. I think it’s all about … this is where it’s justice, it’s human rights … we’re really clear – people should have the number of children they want, the timing of children, and if some families have five or six children – god bless them. That’s fine, but most people end up with fewer.

Dr. Nerys Benfield: But when you talk about penalties, who are you going to end up penalizing, right? Even in a rich country like the United States, we’ve gone down that road before and who ends up being the people who are penalized is poor women, minorities, disabled women…

Nye: How are they penalized?

Benfield: There was forced sterilization that was legal in the United States even up into the 70s, so we really have not come at it from a place of justice necessarily in the past…

It’s a good, open discussion that sees a question posed and then is almost immediately rebuked by the other experts on the panel … and even the guy who is willing to entertain the idea (not Bill Nye, BTW) only said we should consider it! And yet somehow all of that got construed into this…

Anyone who actually watched the discussion in its entirety – or even the 65 seconds around this specific notion – could vouch that the host wasn’t suggesting “higher taxes” or penalties at all. He merely posed a policy question to address the problem, as the leader of the panel, and then allowed his guests to explore the subject.

The problem is, many people will never watch the actual segment in question – arguably, I have doubts as to whether some of the writers of those articles ever did – but instead, they’ll share these stories around on social media and have discussions about how terrible liberals like Bill Nye want to tell you how many kids to have and then remind you that Bill Nye isn’t really a scientist, anyways – he’s just a TV host whose spent the last 25 years focused on educating people about and advocating for science.

What’s sad is, if any of them really wanted to know what Bill Nye’s perspective is on overpopulation, they could watch this interview he did with Big Think a few months ago. SPOILER: It doesn’t mention higher taxes or eugenics even once… 😛

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