Like many things “How I Heard It” podcast host Mike Rowe does, his “Off the Wall” segments are always a good read. Through them, Rowe dishes out some common sense wisdom by answering a question or comment from a fan, or in some cases, someone who isn’t a fan at all.
In his latest “Off the Wall” Rowe answered a comment made by a woman named “Rebecca Bright” who is less than fond of Rowe due to what she assumes are his beliefs and stances. Bright is a fan of the show “How the Universe Works,” which Rowe does the voice over work for, but asked for Rowe to get kicked of the show because, according to her, he’s somewhere between Hitler and the devil.
“I love the show How the Universe Works, but I’m lost on how the producers and the Science Channel can allow anti-education, science doubting, ultra-right wing conservative Mike Rowe to narrate the show,” wrote Bright. “There are countless scientists that should be hired for that, or actors, if you must, that believe in education and science that would sound great narrating the show, example: Morgan Freeman. Cancel this fools contract and get any of your scientists so often on the show to narrate it.”
As usual, Rowe didn’t immediately launch into a tirade about how Bright is a bigot who makes a lot of assumptions. In fact, he didn’t respond with any insults of his own whatsoever. Instead, Rowe began his response by talking about…black holes.
“First of all, I’m glad you like the show,” began Rowe. ““How the Universe Works” is a terrific documentary series that I’ve had the pleasure of narrating for the last six seasons. I thought this week’s premiere was especially good. It was called, “Are Black Holes Real?” If you didn’t see it, spoiler alert….no one knows!!!”
Rowe highlighted how the existence of black holes have not been proven, and that many scientists chomp at the bit to prove or disprove the black hole theory since a large swath of what we know about the universe depends on their existence.
“As I’m sure you know, it’s OK to make assumptions based on theories. In fact, it’s critical to progress. But it’s easy these days to confuse theory with fact,” continued Rowe.
Rowe added a story about how scientific discovery changes what we know about the known universe by the day, showing that assumptions based on theories are oftentimes the way we pursue scientific fact, but are in no way akin to fact itself, though we often see a thing as proven when the theory is popular enough. That’s why skepticism is important in scientific pursuits.
As Rowe puts it:
This is an important point. If I said I was skeptical that a supernatural being put us here on Earth, you’d be justified in calling me a “doubter of religion.” But if I said I was skeptical that manmade global warming was going to melt the icecaps, that doesn’t make me a “doubter of science.” Once upon a time, the best minds in science told us the Sun revolved around the Earth. They also told us the Earth was flat, and that a really bad fever could be cured by blood-letting. Happily, those beliefs were questioned by skeptical minds, and we moved forward.
But as Rowe finished his set up, he finally turned his attention to Bright herself, writing “let’s consider for a moment, your very best efforts to have me fired.”
But still, Rowe wasn’t cruel. In fact, he used Bright’s own ammunition against her:
You’ve called me an “ultra-right wing conservative,” who is both “anti-education,” and “science-doubting.” Interestingly, you offer no proof. Odd, for a lover of science. So I challenge you to do so now. Please provide some evidence that I am in fact the person you’ve described. And by evidence, I don’t mean a sentence taken out of context, or a meme that appeared in your newsfeed, or a photo of me standing next to a politician or a talk-show host you don’t like. I mean actual proof of what you claim I am.
Also, please bear in mind that questioning the cost of a college degree does not make me “anti-education.” Questioning the existence of dark-matter does not make me a “dark-matter denier.” And questioning the wisdom of a universal $15 minimum wage doesn’t make me an “ultra-right wing conservative.” As for Morgan Freeman, I agree. He’s a terrific narrator, and a worthy replacement. But remember, Morgan played God on the big screen. Twice. Moreover, he has publicly claimed to be a “believer.” (gasp!) Should this disqualify him from narrating a series that contradicts the Bible at every turn? If not, why not?
Rowe continued by pointing out that Bright prides herself as being a strong defender of what’s right, and holding her ground. Yet, Rowe pointed out that she’s not defending what’s right, but is really acting like a closed-minded bully would.
“Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think the ground you’re standing on is worth defending,” wrote Rowe. “If you truly fear “no one & nothing,” it’s not because you’re brave; it’s because you’re unwilling to expose yourself to ideas that frighten you. And while I can see that you like to fight for what you think is “right” (in this case, getting people fired that you disagree with,) one could easily say the same thing about any other misguided, garden-variety bully.”
That’s when Rowe finished with an uppercut.
“In other words, Rebecca, I don’t think you give a damn about science,” he finished. “If I’m wrong, prove it. Take a step back and be skeptical about your own assumptions. Take a moment to doubt your own words, and ask yourself – as any good scientist would – if you’ve got your head up a black hole.”