Friday, February 4, 2022

"Everything All At Once" by Bill Nye--Nonfiction Review

As the man says—we’re changing the world today, Obscurists! Well, at least a little, you will have at least read this review, and that’s a change, a little one, sure, remember though an ocean is but a large collection of drops and all that. Anyway, we’re discussing Bill Nye’s “Everything All At Once.”

Bill Nye

What I love about this book:

I’ve said this in other quarters of the internet and at least obliquely referenced this in my review of “Cosmos”—Bill Nye is a hero of mine. Starting with “Bill Nye The Science Guy,” over the course of nearly thirty years, I’ve probably watched most of the shows he’s been featured in. Also, this is the second book of his I’ve read. So, I’m a fan of Bill Nye, and listening to his audiobook read by him was a real treat.

I admire most about Nye—and really all good scientifically minded people—his capacity to take in new information and admit when he was wrong, which he does in this book. 

The stories about Nye’s life, as a kid and as a young engineer at Boeing, were enjoyable excursions down his memory lane. However, what I appreciated most about these stories is they all had a point for why he was bringing them up, and they fit in with whatever theme he was talking about at that moment in the book. I think Nye is one of the most gifted science communicators I’d ever come across—which you might want to take with a grain of salt because I’m sure nostalgia has more than a little influence on my opinion.

On the topic of petty loves, each chapter of this book was just about at my sweet spot of favorite chapter-length—somewhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes to read.

What I don’t love about this book:

Like I said above, I love Bill Nye, and I’m very familiar with his work—if not quite an expert. This isn’t precisely a familiarity breeds contempt situation, but Nye regularly strays into a level of absurd corniness. He might be every dad joke that ever was or will be uttered, fused into one being that personifies them all in one avatar.

I rolled my eyes a few times, is what I’m saying.

On the front, of not an actual problem with this book or its author, and just things I don’t like about the world that this book brings up—It often feels like we’re just dead set on being on the wrong track as a species. Despite the excellent work this book and others like it do, and even though from a macroscopic perspective, we as a global society know climate change is killing us—the will to do better is still low and disappointing.

It’s like knowing the house is on fire, and too many members of the human family just shrug and suggest, “well, there is a lot of house to burn before there is no house.”

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as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Author’s Website:

Parting thoughts:

It is my observation that in all our various human cultures and societies, we suffer from an endemic of thought—a resistance to the idea of ever being wrong. This is the counter impulse to the scientific method, a mental cancer, which insists on magical explanations. It refuses to accept others’ expertise over our own unexamined opinions and feelings.

But most of all, this plague of our minds and discourse demands one thing above all else—that it is a weakness to admit it when you are wrong. It is far better to deny, deny, and deny even when the point has become ridiculous. Instead of admitting fault, it is again better to lie, lie, and lie in the public square until you’re blue in the face. How far should you take it? Just ask the anti-vaxxers lying in early graves or the dead capitol police officers.

The problem has only gotten worse.

Here is the thing, though, all of us have been and will be wrong. In fact, the only thing that moves us forward as a species is taking in new information, admitting our previous theories aren’t robust enough, and refining them, over and over, without end. Absolute knowledge is so far, and likely always will be, impossible.

I, too, don’t like being wrong. It makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed to admit it when it is true. But no matter how I might feel about the subject, it doesn’t make it any less so—ever. I have said many things that turned out not to be accurate even on this blog, I’m sure.

The last thought I want to leave you with today is: being wrong isn’t necessarily bad if you can admit it when it happens. When you can put aside your ego, own your mistakes, and move on—new vistas and new knowledge await. That process of refining old ways of thinking is how we cultivated crops, domesticated animals, learned to fly, split the atom—and yes—even created vaccines.

That is what we all need to do a little more going forward.

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