Bill Nye (Photo courtesy of Nick Graham)
Back in the ‘90s, Bill Nye was best known for being, well, the Science Guy.
While Nye still holds a special place in the hearts of grown-up millennials today (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!), he’s also becoming increasingly well-known for speaking his mind on controversial subjects in health, policy, and science. Last month, Nye caused buzz when he appeared in a video regarding women’s reproductive rights, in which he states: “When it comes to women’s rights, with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women.” Instead of talking about the solar system and phases of matter, Nye is openly debating controversial issues such as creationism and evolution and getting vaccinated. He even offers his take on having children when you have an inheritable disease.
He’s also adding fashion collaborator to his résumé, teaming up with Modern Menswear designer Nick Graham for a limited-edition collection of bow ties featuring planetary symbols, periodic tables, and other designs. Today (Nov. 10) is also the release date of Nye’s second book, Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World, which is about climate change.
Yahoo Health got the chance to speak one on one with the former TV star, mechanical engineer, and Planetary Society CEO to talk about GMOs, trendy diets, and science on TV. He kindly asked us to “consider the following.”
On the science/health topic that people are most misinformed about:
One word: “Vaccinations,” Nye says.
“The reason we want you to get vaccinated is to protect me from you,” Nye adds. He explains that the flu vaccine, for instance — while not 100 percent effective — doesn’t only protect you against the flu, it also helps protect those around you.
On genetically modified organisms (GMOs):
Nye once stated that GMOs were a bad idea because no one was sure what impact they would have on the planet. But he changed his mind after recently visiting a lab at Monsanto, where he watched scientists sequence genes of crops.
The public reaction to Nye changing his tune on GMOs “has been mixed,” he says. “In my own defense, the technology has advanced in the last 10 years by an extraordinary factor, by 10 million. Other people say, ‘Bill, you should have seen that coming,’ but I did change my mind.”
On reproductive rights:
When it comes down to it, “the right to an abortion in the United States is in the law. I did not make that up — that’s U.S. law,” Nye says.
“I cannot help but notice the overwhelming majority of people who want to defund organizations, those people are almost all men,” he adds. “To tell women what to do with their bodies — I don’t recommend it.”
On health and science education today:
“What we want in science education is science every day, in every grade — including preschool,” Nye says. “There’s another odd controversy about Common Core [curriculum]. It’s a very reasonable idea that we’d have minimum standards for every U.S. school student. Everybody is going to learn the same few things. This means hands-on science; students are required, or given the opportunity, to make discoveries about nature … and appreciate the scientific method.”
On what today’s version of Bill Nye the Science Guy is:
Well, let’s be real, there’s only one Bill Nye the Science Guy. But Nye says, “Who doesn’t love a good MythBusters episode?” (Though he notes that MythBusters is a bit different from Bill Nye in that it doesn’t talk about wetlands, for example.)
On health trends like the Paleo diet:
“It’s OK. It’s another diet,” Nye says. However, he notes that what we think of as the Paleo diet today probably isn’t what the Paleolithic man or woman actually ate.
“There are almost 7.3 billion people in the world. They’ve come a long way through history without thinking much about the so-called Paleo diet,” he says. “If it works for some people, more power to them.”
He takes care to note, though, that to live a truly healthy lifestyle, you need to consume a healthy diet and exercise regularly. “The fewer calories that you take in that you don’t need, in general, the healthier you’ll be,” he says.
“We in the skeptical community — we don’t believe in ghosts, we don’t believe in haunted houses, we don’t believe in psychics, we don’t believe in astrology — we also don’t believe in vitamins,” Nye says, with one “really important exception: women and iron. A lot of times, it’s hard for women to get iron.”
“In general, vitamins produce expensive urine,” he adds. “It’s very easy to take in way more of a certain type of vitamin than your body absorbs, in general. … Taking megadoses of any vitamin is a waste of money because your body can’t absorb it all.”
On the one simple thing people can do to benefit their health:
“A lot of people don’t eat breakfast. I don’t recommend that,” Nye says.
“Breakfast is the runner of the day. You’ve got to eat something in the morning.”
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