To prepare for the March for Science, pro-science activists better prepare to engage with conspiracy theorists hell-bent on shaking the foundations of the cause. Anti-vaxxers, Chemtrails enthusiasts, and NASA moon landing conspirators are notoriously difficult to engage with in rational dialogue, but the flat-Earthers are arguably the most difficult to debate with because their claims are so wildly off-base. Bill Nye, however, has a foolproof way to shut their arguments down at the March on Saturday.
When asked about his method for dealing with flat-Earthers at a press event at New York’s Paley Center for Media on Tuesday, Nye revealed his brilliantly simple go-to move.
“First of all, to anyone who is able-bodied enough to see pictures of the planet, you can tell it’s round,” he said. Explaining further, he said that getting a flat-Earther to see the truth simply requires asking them to find it for themselves: “Hey, man on the internet, why don’t you drive to the edge of the Earth and take a picture? Then post it. Drive to the edge of the Earth. We’ll be here,” he said.
Don’t let Nye’s pithiness detract from the elegance of his strategy. Inherent in his response is the idea that effective science communication is less about trumping another person’s beliefs with facts — that will inevitably lead to a fruitless shouting match — and more about getting them to see the facts themselves.
On stage, Nye envisioned what this exchange would sound like. “Hey, I’ve been driving and driving, and there’s no edge,” he said, putting words in the mouths of flat-Earthers such as Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neal (maybe), and Tila Tequila.
“Dude,” he imagined the more rational conversationalist would say in response.
Nye will be addressing pseudoscience of this nature — and how anyone can assess it critically — in his new Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World, which will be released in full on April 21. In a world rife with fake news and conspiracy theories, teaching audiences to think critically is key to ensuring our society’s decisions are rooted in reality. However, as the flat earther discussion illustrates, it’s arguably equally as important to teach rational thinkers how best to engage in conversations with people who disagree with them.
Of course, the notoriously sharp-tongued Nye wasn’t willing to give up a few laughs at the expense of the ludicrousness of flat Earth theory. During a discussion with the audience about the “counterculture” flair flat-Earthers enjoyed, Nye quipped, “Corporate pigs with their round Earth — fight the power!”