Bill Nye Is Marching Because 'Science Is Part of Politics'

Bill Nye
Bill Nye promotes his new show, "Bill Nye Saves the World," at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. (Image credit: Courtesy of The Paley Center for Media)

NEW YORK — Bill Nye, the acclaimed "Science Guy," wants to know: "Are you planning to march?"

The March for Science is Saturday (April 22) and Nye invites everybody — scientists and science advocates alike — to march in support of scientific research, which may see deep cuts if the Trump administration's 2018 proposed budget is passed.

Science leads to innovation, and "the economy depends on innovation," Nye told a packed audience on April 18 in New York City, who had come to see a preview of his new Netflix show, "Bill Nye Saves the World," which debuts Friday (April 21). [Best Supporting Role: 8 Celebs Who Promote Science]

"You cannot compete on the global stage unless you are innovating," Nye said. "Innovation comes from basic research. So by cutting basic research, you are actually shooting yourself in the proverbial foot, which is undesirable, by the way."

Bill Nye, popularly known as "the Science Guy." (Image credit: Courtesy of The Paley Center for Media)

Nye, who is an honorary co-chairman for the March for Science, may have a point about the economy. The amount of published research in the physical and chemical sciences predicted economic growth in middle-income countries such as Ukraine, Latvia and Belarus, according to a 2013 study in the journal PLOS ONE. The link is one of correlation rather than causation, but scientific productivity is still a better predictor of prosperity than other growth markers, including competitiveness and globalization, the researchers found. 

However, it's hard to gauge how much science helps the economy, editor Colin Macilwain wrote in the journal Nature in 2010. Research is important, but it's difficult to create a reliable model that delivers research's "corresponding economic outputs" in a way that can be quantified, Macilwain wrote.

Even so, Nye added that science generally improves the lives of people worldwide.

"Think of the amazing quality of life we have as a result of the technologies that are derived from science," Nye said. "Like being able to drink clean water from an object made of solid rock that's transparent. That's all from science."

Nye said he hopes the March for Science will send a strong message to Congress and the White House, which have stalled on addressing climate change and even floated ideas of bogus science, including that vaccines might cause autism (they don't) and that carbon dioxide isn't a main contributor to global warming (it is).

"We want to remind our lawmakers that science is part of politics," Nye told Live Science. "Science has historically [been part of politics] and should inform policy."

Even the U.S. Constitution, in Article 1, Section 8, refers to the progress of science, stating that Congress should "promote the progress of science and useful arts," he said.

Nye, an engineer by training, said he hopes the new Netflix series will inspire people — especially voters — to learn more about science and exercise their critical-thinking abilities, he said.

"We want it to be a lifelong habit: evaluating evidence and critical thinking," Nye said. "We want that to be something you continually do every day in every aspect of your life."

Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.