Last week I watched Schindler’s List on Netflix and was startled by a contrast with what I had been watching, just the day before, at the same place. In an episode of the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, called “Earth’s People Problem,” Nye has an exchange with Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder. (I write about this more here.)
In the episode, Nye asks, “So, should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?” Rieder says he is open to the idea — which I’ve called spiteful and inhuman — and Nye seems eager to get started. But what really stuck with me was Mr. Nye’s choice of words, describing human beings as “extra.”
These two shows on Netflix depict entirely opposite views of the world and of humans.
Contrast this with the deeply moving scene in Schindler’s List (inserted below). Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, was a Nazi industrialist and bon vivant who woke up to what was happening to the Jews and was unexpectedly galvanized to take action. Rather than protesting, which would have had no effect, he nevertheless risked his life, using a combination of charm, lies, flattery and bribes to buy and save lives. He pretended that these Jewish men, women and many children were “essential” to the war effort. He needed them, he claimed, to work in his factory. But for him, they would all have been murdered at Auschwitz. In this way, exhausting his own wealth, he rescued more than 1,100 Jews (including two, as my older daughter discovered the other day, with our family name — presumably distant cousins).
In the last scene, when the war has just ended, Schindler is saying goodbye. His “employees” present him with a ring, fashioned from dental fillings, inscribed with a saying from the Talmud: “Whoever saves a life is considered as if he saved an entire world.” He breaks down, crying that he could have saved more lives. Could have made more money to save them. Could have sold his car to the mass-murdering concentration camp commandant he paid off. He says that would have bought ten lives. He could have sold the gold Nazi Party lapel pin he wears throughout the movie. He berates himself, saying that would have saved two, or at least one life.
His Jewish accountant, played by Ben Kingsley, and others of his “workers” crowd around and embrace him. But he refuses to be consoled and weeps bitterly.
Nye and Rieder ‘Consider’ the ‘Extras’
Compare Schindler’s perspective with Nye and his blithe talk of Earth’s “people problem.” What to do, he wonders, about “extra kids,” these extraneous human beings.
Rieder and Nye “considering” the idea of punishing people who exceed a maximum allotted number of kids perfectly expresses the eugenicist ethic. It is totalitarian. We see where “Science,” in the hands of people like this, is trending. It’s the kind of thing that many in the March for Science, which Nye served as honorary co-chair, were protesting for. Clearly they were, or the March’s organizers wouldn’t have opted for Mr. Nye as their leader.
Ultimately, the debate we deal with here reduces to the question of what a human is, and whether a life matters intrinsically.
Bill Nye and Rachel Bloom can make laughingstocks of themselves with their sex dance video. That’s pathetic, creepy, but not threatening. I don’t see foresee Netflix signing up for another season of Saves the World, since even some folks sympathetic to Nye’s views aren’t thrilled by his persona as an entertainer (See “Bill Nye Spends Most of His New Netflix Show Yelling at the Audience” at Gizmodo).
We should take Dr. Rieder’s comments more seriously, though. The idea of punishing parents for bringing extra “emitters” into the world is spiteful, inhuman and frightening, because academics and “ethicists” aren’t dismissed out of hand for entertaining it.
The Value of Human Life
These two shows on Netflix depict wholly opposite views of the world and of humans.
Science does touch on the question, at least at its root. Ultimately, the debate about biological origins reduces to the question of what a human is, why a life matters, whether it matters intrinsically, whether a person reflects a designer’s care and purpose, or not.
There is some heavy science behind that debate, of course. But the ultimate meaning is about just that. The view that sees purpose and design in life supports a humane vision. The Darwinian and materialist view, advocated by Bill Nye, easily leads down a path to revived and rebranded eugenics. To hear it discussed so lightly — amid dumb gags and gyrating song-and-dance acts promoting transgenderism — is just obscene.
Adapted from EvolutionNews.org. Reprinted with permission.