By Robert A. Vella
That prodigious living monument to her own ego, Sarah Palin, is at it again. This time she’s questioning the professional qualifications of Bill Nye “the science guy.” Palin, a one-time vice presidential candidate and self-admired expert on all things far beyond her cognitive capacity, doesn’t appreciate Mr. Nye promoting science in America and trying to educate a sorely uneducated populace on the very serious realities of climate change.
While it’s easy to dismiss the incoherent ramblings of a political caricature, who by the way served a partial term as Governor of Alaska, let’s play along and answer Sarah’s not-so intriguing question. Is Bill Nye really a scientist?
is the discipline that applies the principles of engineering, physics, and materials science for the design, analysis, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the design, production, and operation of machinery. It is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering disciplines.
The engineering field requires an understanding of core concepts including mechanics, kinematics, thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis, and electricity. Mechanical engineers use these core principles along with tools like computer-aided design, and product lifecycle management to design and analyze manufacturing plants, industrial equipment and machinery, heating and cooling systems, transport systems, aircraft, watercraft, robotics, medical devices, weapons, and others.
Mechanical engineering emerged as a field during the industrial revolution in Europe in the 18th century; however, its development can be traced back several thousand years around the world. Mechanical engineering science emerged in the 19th century as a result of developments in the field of physics.
Here’s the definition of scientist from Oxford Dictionaries:
a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.
Here is the definition of physical sciences from Oxford Dictionaries:
Since mechanical engineering is part of physics, and physics is a physical science, and a person who has expert knowledge of the physical sciences is by definition a scientist, then Mr. Nye is indeed a scientist.
Okay, so Palin is wrong once again. That shouldn’t be surprising. But, what good is science anyway?
For all you Palinites out there, I’ll keep the answer very simple. Think of science this way:
Science is a broad term encompassing many individual fields of study which all share one really important thing in common. For scientific speculation (i.e. hypothesis) to be accepted as scientific fact (i.e. theory), the basis for it must be documented through verifiable observation and/or experimentation (i.e. empirical evidence) and publicly submitted for peer review (i.e. scientific method).
Such a rigorous process for separating opinion from fact is how science establishes the attainment of objective knowledge. It provides valuable expertise in a given field. Professional expertise is especially valuable when the stakes are high. Even Sarah Palin would want the most expert surgeon available should she – heaven forbid – require a major heart operation. Without medical science, her chances for recovery would be extremely slim.
The Earth today is analogous to an ailing human patient. Its circulatory systems are breaking down and its biosphere (i.e. its living body) is heating up. Without a major operation, the many species that live on it will begin to die. In fact, many are already dying and some have already died. Earth needs a skilled surgeon. It, and we, need climate science. And, we need more scientists like Bill Nye.
Thanks to Makagutu for bringing this issue to our attention.