Bill Nye does a lot of things really well in his new book, Undeniable, but what I think works best about the book is his overflowing love for science itself. I listened to this book in its audio form and his joy and passion come across so well that it excites the listener just be hearing his voice; his sense of wonder and amazement about the natural world and our understanding of it is infectious. I’m sure the book reads fine as a traditional book, but it absolutely soars as an audiobook that I have to recommend you forgo reading it and simply listen to Nye explain key aspects of the world to you.
Much of the book is a response or a continuation of his debate with creationist Ken Ham, which was held in 2014. I remember watching the debate and not really thinking much of it either way; I thought Bill Nye handled himself adequately, but overall very little of the debate really impressed me. Having heard him here, I wish that he had brought some of the authority and poise he has in this book to that debate. The simple and straightforward way he explains things is refreshing and very educational. Understanding concepts like bottlenecking, good enough organisms and how evolution really functions is very enjoyable. He also takes time to explain the fallacious way creationists use the Second Law of Thermodynamics to argue their case. That part of the book especially spoke to me because I lived many years believing that underhanded interpretation of that law. Nye writes, and speaks, with an even keel that makes his ideas and evidence easy to understand and digest. With few modifications, just some slight editing really, this book would make a welcome addition to any classroom that is seeking to teach kids how science works and how science based people view the world. My only real complaint about this part of the book is that he doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining how much evolution is reinforced and supported by even our most simplistic and basic aspects of medicine.
The later part of the book delves into a variety of topics, from GMO’s to human cloning to a general talk about science and it’s future and how it explains human actions. I found his explanation of altruism and the human drive to help each other to be a little dubious; it’s not that it doesn’t make sense it’s just that it doesn’t quite come together for me by the time he is done. I know that his section about GMO’s caught some controversy and that he later retracted or modified some of his statements from the book but I honestly didn’t find that stuff to be all that objectionable. At the core of what he is saying is simply a call for us to be vigilant, to look at how we modify food and to constantly check on how they will or might effect us. I know that so far there is no substantial evidence about GMO’s being bad for us but that doesn’t change the fact that we should scrutinize them because we very clearly should. It’s important to better understand the world and our food is no exception. I do wish he had gone into more depth explaining how modified food has saved millions upon millions of lives. One of the biggest problems with the debate bout GMO’s is that many people don’t seem to understand how much we already rely on them or even how long they have been around. And that’s not even getting into just how little evidence we have to support that they hurt us. But taken as a whole, both his chapters in this book and his reaction to the wealth of evidence that was sent his way, we get a really cool, real-time lesson in the mind set of a science based person. Bill had a certain set of beliefs or at the very least some suspicions, and when he was shown all the science based evidence that counters his belief, he modified his beliefs and accepted the new evidence. Thats the real beauty of science.
Bill Nye has always been a gifted speaker and ambassador for science and science education. He explained so much to people my age when we were children it’s cool that he gets to explain science to me once again as an adult. Undeniable is a wonderful primer on evolution, but it’s also a send up to science in general. Nye imparts the glory and knowledge of science and scientific research with a simple and easy to read style that really hits home. I would recommend this book to anybody, young or old, but especially the young. Nye has always had a gift for explaining things to children and this book is yet another example of that extraordinary gift.