He is better known as “Bill Nye the Scientific Guy,” but William Sanford Nye (born November 27, 1955) is an American mechanical engineer who is also a science communicator and television host. Bill Nye the Scientific Guy (1993–1999), Bill Nye Saves the World (2017–2018) on Netflix, and numerous more appearances in popular culture as a science educator have made him a household name.

Nye began his career as a mechanical engineer with Boeing in Seattle, where he designed a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube that was used on 747 flights. Nye was born in Washington, D.C. His departure from Boeing in 1986 was motivated by his desire to pursue a career in comedy, namely writing and acting for the local sketch television show Almost Live!

Bill Nye Controversy

Bill Nye the Science Guy was successfully presented to Seattle’s public television station, KCTS-TV, by Nye, who hoped to become the next Mr. Wizard. From 1993 through 1998, the show aired in national syndication, proclaiming in its theme music that “science rules!” As a result of the show’s “high-energy presentation and MTV-paced portions,” it became popular with both children and adults; it received critical praise; and it was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, winning 19 of them.

Nye went on to lead The Planetary Society as its CEO, a position he still holds today. Evolution and the Science of Creation (2014) and Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World (2016) are two of his best-selling books on science (2015). The Big Bang Theory, Dancing with the Stars, and Inside Amy Schumer are just a few of the series he’s featured on.

Bill Nye: Scientific Guy, which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2017 and was awarded a New York Times Critic’s Pick in October 2017, is a documentary on his life and work as a science advocate. Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves the World premiered in 2017.

Bill Nye is not our voice, nor is he the voice of science.

 

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Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s choice for NASA administrator, will be accompanied to the State of the Union address by Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” tonight. NASA is “the finest brand the United States has” and “Nye’s attendance should not be… interpreted as an approval of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community,” according to Nye, who is accompanying the Congressman.

As a guest of Rep. Bridenstine, Nye has implicitly backed these policies and put his own personal brand above the concerns of the scientific community. Refusing to acknowledge human action as the primary cause of climate change, Rep. Bridenstine has proposed legislation that would remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mandate.

In addition, he has tried to erode civil liberties by promoting immigration crackdowns, a ban on same-sex marriage, and the elimination of the Department of Education, among other things.

Scientifically speaking, we cannot stand by and allow Nye to use our credibility as a community of scientists in order for him to delegitimize our country’s most recognized science organization. As a science entertainer, Nye has a duty to speak out against a government that is anti-science, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist, and ableist.

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In today’s culture, research at prominent institutions like NASA cannot be separated from other serious concerns like racism, prejudice, and sexism because scientists are humans.

Not only should we address these difficulties in order to develop our own scientific community, but we should also do so in order to better serve the general public, who frequently pays for our research.

Rep. Bridenstine’s anti-science record and stance on civil rights have been excused by Bill Nye, who has chosen to use his public persona to support a position that would diminish the agency’s work studying our own planet and its changing climate rather than draw attention to the need for science-informed policy.

Dismissing the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and its harm to our own planet while conducting space exploration and research on other worlds is not only risky but also dumb and self-defeating.

He’s also working on behalf of the scientific community, but not with our consent, from his position of power and public popularity. By limiting research, the Trump administration is harming the health and well-being of the people, and no amount of money for space exploration will reverse this.

Our Dreamer colleagues live in terror because of the racist rules that restrict them from pursuing scientific careers in the United States, and no amount of gleaming new satellites will be able to change that. And no new trip to the Moon will be able to make our LGBTQ colleagues feel welcome at an organization led by someone who votes against their civil liberties…

 

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We, as women and scientists, refuse to separate our work from our personal lives. As long as we’re alive, we’re not going to keep our mouths shut. Bill Nye has a responsibility to acknowledge the importance of NASA’s overall mission, not just one component of it, as someone with a show that claims to rescue the world.

He should utilize his fame to raise the relevance of science in NASA’s goal, rather than wasting the chance to fight for space exploration at the expense of everything else.

However, the real tragedy is that Bill Nye is still the public’s favorite scientist because he is so well-known. We may agree that expanding the public’s awareness and support for science is crucial, but Nye’s TV image has reinforced the negative misconception of scientists as geeky, argumentative white guys in lab coats—a caricature that does not reflect our own experiences as women in STEM. In spite of his catastrophic failures in debate and politics, he continues to abuse his position of authority carelessly.

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In 2014, he sought to confront creationist Ken Ham—against the opinion of evolution experts—which only helped to generate the finances required to develop an evangelical theme park that propagates misconceptions about human evolution.

By agreeing to participate in television arguments with climate doubters who aren’t scientists, Nye helped create the misleading impression that climate scientists are still divided on fundamental issues. While appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in 2017 to “discuss” climate change, Bill Nye disseminated disinformation and raised money for anti-climate organizations.

Those of us in the scientific community who have to safeguard not just the integrity of our research, but also our fundamental right to do so, do not speak for Bill Nye or any other member of the scientific community.

Others have requested Bill Nye not to attend the State of Union address, and we support their request. As a result of Nye’s involvement, he is not on the same side as scientists who have a forward-looking perspective on science’s future and its place in society.

During a time when science and freedom of expression are under assault, our public champions and our institutions must do a better job of representing our interests.

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