August 26, 2015 7:55 pm

First COSMOS, now StarTalk: Is science trending at the Emmy® Awards?

Graphic showing that StarTalk has been nominated for an Emmy® Award.

Click to learn more about StarTalk on the National Geographic Channel.

Just a few short years ago, at Mount Holyoke College’s 175th Commencement Ceremony, Neil deGrasse Tyson said that “I need the rest of you to help me fix the world. The rest of the world is getting stupider.”

While that assessment reflects a much larger set of issues, in one small measure, there is a glimmer of hope that it’s not all downhill.

Last year, COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey on FOX was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards, four of which it won, including Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming.

This year, StarTalk on the National Geographic Channel has been nominated for the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

That’s two years in a row that a TV show devoted to increasing science literacy among the television viewing public has been nominated for an Emmy® Award. And that’s not even the whole story.

Neil has been nominated for an Emmy® Award as narrator for Hubble’s Cosmic Journey – also on the National Geographic Channel. Other science-oriented nominees include Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory, which, although a comedy, is steeped in science. As Neil has mentioned on numerous episodes of StarTalk and in his one-man shows, The Big Bang Theory has been the one of the most popular comedies on TV for the last few years, and was the top scripted TV show of all kinds in its 7th season. The Big Bang Theory has won 7 Emmy® Awards and been nominated for 28 others since it premiered.

Just to be clear, we’re not counting our chickens before they’re hatched. In fact, as Neil recently said in an interview on The Wrap.com,  “The awards are nice but I don’t see them as the measure. They’re a measure, and sometimes not even the best measure.”

More importantly, Neil told The Wrap that he concerns himself with creating content that will increase science literacy in our culture. “We live in the twenty-first century and your fluency in science–science literacy in general–is going to be very important in the future that you choose, particularly if you live in an elected democracy.”

Increasing science literacy is critically important in today’s world, where we are confronted with challenges and choices that require an informed populace, including climate change, alternative energy, GMOs, funding for science and education and more.

You all know it without me saying so. How many times have you had to patiently explain a theory (like evolution) or a law (like Newton’s Third Law) or even a historic event (Apollo 11 landing on the moon) to someone whose opinion is based on something other than scientific facts or data? We get comments all the time from our fans about sharing our show with their less scientifically literate friends and family members, specifically with the hope that StarTalk will change their minds on a specific topic when other input has not.

So let’s not go thinking that StarTalk being nominated for an Emmy® Award is, on its own, going to change the world, as Bill Nye might say.

Rather, let’s look at it as an indication that even an ecosystem that has brought us Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, there is room for hope, and, dare I say it, evolution.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons