Three Star review, originally posted here on December 5, 2015.
The main problem with Bill Nye’s “Undeniable” is that I read it so soon after reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. Bryson is a writer. Nye is not a writer. So while both books covered a lot of the same ground, I had a hard time enjoying Nye’s book because it just paled in comparison to Bryson. I was really hoping that Nye would be able to pull off this same feat, since he is the king of making science accessible. I LOVED “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” when I was a kid. LOVED IT! And I love anytime I get to watch Nye speak. He is a serious hero if mine. He is the king of making science fun, so I thought this book would be fun. And parts of it were. But a lot of parts seemed unfocused, unstructured, and rambling. He must have written it in a hurry, since his debate with Ken Hamm was only a few months ago, and he claims that was the catalyst for his decision to author a book. I understand wanting to strike while the iron is hot, but I think some more time and editing could have benefitted this book immensely.
The way that I made the book work for me was to try really hard to force myself to hear Bill Nye’s voice while reading. In this regard, I’m thinking the audiobook version could be seriously enjoyable, because the passion and energy that Nye has for his subject would come across much clearer than just reading text.
The other major flaw I saw in this book was that it doesn’t have a target audience as far as I can tell. If it is meant to provide logical proof against creationism, sorry, Bill, but those people are nutcase, and they are not going to buy any of your science, no matter how compelling or logical. In the off chance that someone out there is on the fence and decides to pick up this book, I’m not sure it would work to convince them. If someone is questioning evolution vs creationism, chances are they either have been poorly educated (meaning have never taken a real science class), or had a hard time following in science class. In either case, this book would likely go over their heads. If you’re already a science-minded person, chances are you don’t need this book. I guess where this leaves the target audience is people like me: people who suck at science but have plenty of respect for it and could use a hand debating creationists. But, like I said at the beginning, there are better books for people like me where the writing is done by and for non-science people.
There was still plenty of merit in this book, though. Basically, anytime Nye started a sentence with something like “creationists like to argue X, which may seem logical at first, but doesn’t hold up because of Y,” that was good stuff. And there was plenty of it. But it was kinda drowning amongst lots of other stuff, or would start by making sense and then would get a little roundabout until I’d forgotten what the original argument was (again, editing and tighter writing would have fixed this). I also appreciate the careful respect which Nye awards to his creationist opponents and their religious affiliations; he clearly thinks that these people’s beliefs are not just batshit crazy, but also severely damaging and dangerous, but he is very measured and logical in explaining why he feels this way without ever slinging mud or insults (which must be tough to do, because these people are dangerous and batshit crazy). He has a great line where he says that to him creationism would seem so silly it’s not worth his time and effort, except for the fact that these beliefs are getting passed on to children, which is just plain immoral and puts all of our futures in jeopardy. I give mad props to Nye for fighting the good fight, despite how frustrating it must be for him.
Finally, I don’t know why, but I LOVED Nye’s corny ongoing joke about his old boss. At first I kinda rolled by eyes, but by the end I was just losing my shit laughing at every “my old boss” reference. I think it was a reminded of who was writing the book, like Nye’s going “Hey, I know this is getting a little dense ands serious, but, uh, Look! I’m that goofy guy who made you pay attention in middle school! Science is fun, remember!”. And then I’d go “Oh yeah, there’s a reason why this guy is my hero (even if he’s not a writer).”