‘Science Guy,’ CEO of Pasadena’s Planetary Society Bill Nye Attends State of the Union, Polarizing the Science Community

Published : Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 8:45 PM

The decision by Bill Nye, otherwise known as the “Science Guy,” to attend this week’s State of the Union Address as a guest of President Trump’s current nominee for NASA Administrator, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, has angered many in the science community.

Nye, who is also CEO of the Pasadena-based Planetary Society, announced his decision to go via Planetary Society Casey Dreier Director of Space Policy on the organization’s website earlier this month.

“When a Congressman and current nominee for NASA Administrator asks you to be his guest at the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., how do you respond? For us, the answer was easy. Yes, Bill would be there.” Dreier had said in the announcement.

Dreier also said that accepting the invitation was in no way an endorsement of the administration or its policies.

Despite this, many in the scientific community were not happy, since Bridenstine is a Tea Party conservative who has espoused climate denial myths in the past.

In an editorial published this week on Scientific American’s website, a group known as 500 Women Scientists argued that “by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies and his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large.”

“Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission,” the editorial said.

“As women and scientists, we refuse to separate science from everyday life. We refuse to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. As someone with a show alleging to save the world, Bill Nye has a responsibility to acknowledge the importance of NASA’s vast mission, not just one aspect of it. He should use his celebrity to elevate the importance of science in NASA’s mission—not waste the opportunity to lobby for space exploration at a cost to everything else.”

Dreier responded to the editorial saying, “I want to restate the fact that attending the SOTU as Bridenstine’s guest does not mean that either Bill Nye or The Planetary Society is endorsing his nomination. The Society does not make endorsements for NASA Administrator nominees—we are committed to working with whoever serves in that position….Space exploration is one of the few areas of politics that still offers significant opportunities for bipartisan rapprochement. A shared passion for space can lay the groundwork for a relationship between individuals of very different political beliefs.”

Nye, who said ahead of the trip, that he hoped “to hear the present president plans for an ambitious, science-driven space exploration agenda” was not in luck on that score — Trump’s speech contained nothing about NASA or the future of America’s space program.