It’s Monday, and this past weekend marked both Earth Day and an abundance of marches in the name of science. Reports have been strongly positive about the protests, having lacked the kind of aggression and tension other protests have erupted into as of late. It could be the reason the media has been largely silent on the matter since the marches happened; it simply wasn’t sensational enough. Nevertheless, the marches went off without a hitch and standing prominently at the front of the march on D.C. was every 90’s kid’s favorite science teacher, Bill Nye.
And of course, the internet responded with nothing but charming enthusiasm at his presence, right?
I was not able to attend the March for Science – Boston due to other obligations that kept me away. Eager as I was to attend, it’s only natural that I would want to find out exactly how everything worked out. But no sooner than I looked at the first article’s comment section (first mistake) I was greeted by a flood of boiling, bubbling, pitch-black hate at a man I admired greatly as a child. The most common theme of the comments, however, was the oh-so-shocking reveal that–get this– Bill Nye only has his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Step back, the floodgates are open and here comes the tidal wave of bullshit.
Leading Climate “scientist” @BillNye is a mechanical engineer. Can’t make this shit up
— Daniel Wright (@MadFiest) April 23, 2017
@redsteeze but some how mechanical engineer Bill Nye knows everything about science issues and can lecture us
— Shrek84 (@Shrek84) April 24, 2017
@elvisduran don’t listen to bill nye, he’s not even a scientist, he’s a mechanical engineer and actor. Research flat earth, please.
— ?everything (@questeverythg) April 21, 2017
On the surface, it appears that the issue everyone has is that a TV personality with only a Bachelor’s degree under his belt is giving them information on global climate change. Surely, if someone more versed in science spoke up about it, they would listen.
Spoiler alert: They don’t.
I get it. You’re thinking, “But NDT and Bill Nye are not climatologists, they have no say in climate science!”
Which school did Jenny McCarthy or David Wolfe get their doctorates in pathophysiology, microbiology, virology, or even biochemistry in order to insist that vaccines cause autism? Which climatology school or political science program did Donald Trump graduate from in order to assert this fucking gem:
Clearly, it’s not the degree people have a problem with. It’s the message. This election cycle has been a beast and we’ve been bombarded by alternative facts being blasted at us by celebrities and talk show hosts and talking heads and we have gotten incredibly emotional about the lines we have drawn along the political spectrum. Climate change is a talking point, used by politicians on either side as a tool to sway voters. We’ve become so enthralled in the fight between the left and the right that our appreciation of the pursuit of science has been completely lost. This is how people come to follow the words of Michelle Bauchmann and Donald Trump on matters that they have no experience in while simultaneously ousting Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye as “uneducated hacks”.
The problem with that? Bill Nye is a scientist, because Mechanical Engineering is a science. If all you know about mechanical engineering is that it’s what Howard on The Big Bang Theory gets made fun of for doing, then stop. Seriously, just stop watching The Big Bang Theory. There’s like, a hundred reasons for that, but we don’t have time now.
Take a look at the coursework at Cornell University, which just so happens to be where Bill Nye got his degree:
Compare those to the coursework done by the average joe spouting off psuedoscientific hogwash on Facebook and Nye looks pretty impressive.
Now look, I’m not saying Bill Nye is to be taken as the ultimate authority in all things science. I’m also not saying that Bill hasn’t said some truly boneheaded things in the past. But when you belittle his education, you’d better be speaking from a place of higher education in a relevant topic or else your argument is, by your own rules, invalid. Have an Associate’s degree in HVAC? Hands off the keyboard, pal. Got a doctorate in climatology? Speak up, man.
But whatever Bill Nye is, above all things he is a champion of the pursuit of science. This was the purpose of the March for Science to begin with. All we want is the freedom to disseminate actual science as freely as everyone else is allowed to disseminate complete nonsense. If the President can, without fear of legal action, claim that vaccines cause autism, then scientists should be able to publish their findings without having to pass them through Washington for approval first. Anything that doesn’t fit the narrative is likely to get axed, fact or not.
Bill Nye should be respected for the work he has done inspiring generations to pursue science and helping to elevate scientific thought into the limelight when other media outlets seem determined to silence it. So Bill Nye isn’t a doctor, or a climatologist, or a physicist. It doesn’t make his contributions to the world of science any less meaningful or his mission to promote science education any less important. Don’t take his or anyone’s word as gospel. Instead, do what any good scientist would do; submit it for peer review.
Psst. That means research it yourself.