By Caleb Diehl /// Editor-in-Chief
Bill Nye is like a trout. Ensnared in Campus Activities Board’s $40,000 net last Saturday night, he floundered. Dangled above an ocean of onlookers in the Pamplin Sport Center, he flopped and thrashed for two hours, skipping from sundials to Mars rovers to space sails. Inexplicably, we began with a rock-cracking dad and an enigma-cracking mom and wound up shooting asteroids with laser bees.
The only enigma left to us was Nye’s point. Besides “change the world,” he offered no concrete life advice. His jokes were tepid. He preached a gospel we already practice—creationists are crazies bent on indoctrinating our kids. He offered advice on laser pointers and laser bees. His speech was as canned as a Coke—a decades-old flat Coke that fizzled quickly.
Nye didn’t try that hard. The audience left a voicemail with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but that’s the stuff of a $20,000 talk. Nye could have dialed any number in Tyson’s area code and we wouldn’t know better. A $40,000 talk means calling Neil DeGrasse Tyson beforehand and asking him to pick up the phone at a specified time.
Of course, watching all of this was fun. We were happy to receive Nye. It was a spectacle that would have been a shame to miss. It was fun to watch him imitate a rocket shoving off an asteroid—with and without sound, to watch him twiddle the laser pointer around the projector screen, to watch his bow tie.
CAB knew it could get away with just that much. All that mattered, it appears, was that Bill Nye paraded out onto the stage wearing a bow tie and stood there for two hours. While he stood there, he could say whatever he wanted. Meanwhile, we ogled the bowtie. Visiting Nye in Pamplin was like visiting an orangutan at the Portland Zoo.
For $40,000, we could have learned something we didn’t learn from watching “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Instead of proceeding like a wind-up toy air-dropped into yet another liberal arts school that paid the right price, he could have betrayed the fact that he was at LC for the first time. He could have talked about why his crusade to end creationist teaching in schools is relevant to LC students, and told us how we could help, other than by “changing the world.” At a minimum, he could have talked about Portland.
Remember “An Evening with Bill Nye” as amusing, but also remember that we sacrificed the equivalent of one student’s year of tuition on the altar of Nye. Indulging in nostalgia is healthy, but at a certain cost, we expect more than face time. We might remember a focused and sincere commencement speech for a lifetime, but in less than a week, we’ll forget what Nye said. He was good, but he wasn’t $40,000 good. With all that money, we could have at least printed the guy an outline.