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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?

Bill Nye graduated from Cornell University in 1977 earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical EngineeringMechanical engineering:

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.[1][2] 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:

NOUN

  1. 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:

NOUN

  1. the sciences concerned with the study of inanimate natural objects, including physics, chemistry, astronomy, and related subjects. Often contrasted with life sciences.

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.

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17 thoughts on “Is Bill Nye really a scientist? And, what good is science anyway?

  1. Brilliant post. The question isn’t whether Bill Nye is a scientist, it’s whether or not Palin actually qualifies as a sentient, intelligent being. Sentience implies self awareness and an awareness of the world around you. Palin shows neither of those traits. Idiot. Total, complete idiot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Noel. Looking at Palin’s educational history, she’s only marginally qualified as a journalist:

      After graduating from high school in 1982, Palin enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.[25] Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Palin transferred to Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu for a semester in the fall of 1982 and then to North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d’Alene, for the spring and fall semesters of 1983.[26] She enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow for an academic year starting in August 1984 and then attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska in the fall of 1985. Palin returned to the University of Idaho in January 1986 and received her bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism in May 1987.[26][27][28][29]

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        • “X” marks her spot! Did Palin ever work as a journalist? Yes, for a very short period of time; but, she landed that gig as a local on-air sports reporter primarily because of her beauty contest experience. From the Wikipedia article:

          During her senior year, she was co-captain and point guard of the basketball team that won the 1982 Alaska state championship, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” for her competitive streak.[18][19][20]

          In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant,[21] then finished third in the Miss Alaska pageant.[22][23] She played the flute in the talent portion of the contest.[24] One author reports that she received the Miss Congeniality award in the Miss Wasilla contest (but this is disputed by another contestant and classmate of Palin’s)[21] and a college scholarship.[18]

          […]

          After graduation, she worked as a sportscaster for KTUU-TV and KTVA-TV in Anchorage[31][32] and as a sports reporter for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman,[33][34] fulfilling an early ambition.[35]

          In August 1988, she eloped with her high school sweetheart, Todd Palin.[36] Following the birth of their first child in April 1989, she helped in her husband’s commercial fishing business.[37]

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  2. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    So well written. I do not like this current dismissing of science and education. Education is very important. In the post we can clearly see where Mr. Nye is an educated scientist and Mrs Palin is a rather backward, uneducated, half wit who is not qualified to discus either Mr Nye or anything scientific or even educational. Thanks and hugs

    Liked by 1 person

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