Olivia Goldhill in Quartz:
There’s no doubt that Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is extremely intelligent. But it seems that, when it comes to philosophy, he’s completely in the dark. The beloved American science educator and TV personality posted a video last week where he responded to a question from a philosophy undergrad about whether philosophy is a “meaningless topic.”
The video, which made the entire US philosophy community collectively choke on its morning espresso, is hard to watch, because most of Nye’s statements are wrong. Not just kinda wrong, but deeply, ludicrously wrong. He merges together questions of consciousness and reality as though they’re one and the same topic, and completely misconstrues Descartes’ argument “I think, therefore I am”—to mention just two of many examples.
And Nye—arguably America’s favorite “edutainer”—is not the only popular scientist saying “meh” to the entire centuries-old discipline. Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has claimed philosophy is not “a productive contributor to our understanding of the natural world”; while theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking declared that “philosophy is dead.”
It’s shocking that such brilliant scientists could be quite so ignorant, but unfortunately their views on philosophy are not uncommon.