The March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday was punctuated by rain and an appearance by William Nye, also known as Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.” As the former public television icon walked on stage, people shouted his name and jostled for position to take his photo.
Nye, 61, was the face of science to young viewers in 1990s. Now speaking to many of those children as adults, he reminded them that science is not only fun and factual, it is also very important to their future in terms of health, safety and prosperity.
The man whose appearance once suggested a mix of Mister Rodgers and a zany professor is now older, slower and grayer. He still sports a bow tie and has become an impassioned activist in his golden years, concerned that science is being washed out to sea by a tide of magical thinking.
Nye told the Washington Post that he always feared this day would come. The current wave of climate denial and anti-vaccination propaganda is dangerous, but Nye said people were turning away from science 40 years ago during the height of the pollution crisis.
He added that children are the future when it comes to saving the planet. He created his television series to get kids interested and excited about science and to prepare them for the battle ahead, which has now arrived.
While Nye has stated the battle for science is political, he emphasized that it is not partisan. Despite this, he has been criticized from a partisan point of view by Sarah Palin who has questioned his qualifications by claiming that he is no more a scientist than she is.
Nye admits that he is not a classic research scientist like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a fellow celebrity in the scientific world. He does have an engineering degree from Cornell, which led him into creating a special sundial for NASA. He also leads the Planetary Society with Carl Sagan. Nye’s education and life have both adhered to the scientific method, and he says that it does not take a fancy education or set of credentials to see the damage inflicted by climate change or understand why evolution makes sense.
Nye said his main concern is the rise of magical thinking, or the idea that simply believing in something makes it as true as a scientific fact, which is “objectively wrong” and harmful.
Bill Nye’s day at the march ended at the Capitol Building, where he led a chant from his old television series, ending with the word “science” shouted by the gathered crowd.