Is Bill Nye the captain of our national scientific debate team? (UPDATE: Another score for Nye)

Now he takes on the topic of global warming.

“Meet the Press” to host climate change “debate” between GOP’s Marsha Blackburn and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” – Salon.com.

This Sunday, “Meet the Press,” the renowned televised political news forum, will host a discussion of climate change — perhaps the single most pressing issue of our time — featuring a professional children’s entertainer and a Republican member of Congress. Yes, David Gregory will be refereeing a “debate” — their word — between “Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ and Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.” Nye will be arguing the pro (climate change is real and bad) and Blackburn will be arguing the anti (climate change is made up and not bad). By the end, America will be just a little bit more stupid and doomed.

The Salon writer is not a fan of this spectacle to come. Once again, as with the Creationism debate, we have a ridiculous denialist idea given space on the stage with a well-supported, scientifically sound explanation of what is actually happening. Once again, a scientific position must go against and ideological position. But I don’t agree that Mr. Nye is such a bad choice. He’s riding a high on the pummeling of Bible thumping Ken Ham and people like him. To choose a climate scientist to debate gets things exactly wrong. They are busy doing data collection and statistical analysis and writing papers. Nye does the science communication stuff. He gets it better than they might. So, while I think these science vs anti-science spectacles are wacky, we sort of knew this was coming. Next, abortion?

UPDATE (16-Feb-2014) See how it went.

The key gotcha moment in the debate came when Nye called out Blackburn for failing to lead on the climate issue. “You are our leader,” he said to Blackburn. “We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

“Neither he nor I are a climate scientist,” Blackburn noted during the debate. But as Nye observed, only one of them is a politician, whose job is to use the best information that we have at our disposal to make the world work better.

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  10 comments for “Is Bill Nye the captain of our national scientific debate team? (UPDATE: Another score for Nye)

  1. AngelaSangster
    February 14, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    I think Bill has the personality to make science and critical thinking appealing to people.  And that needs to happen more often.  I’d cheer for that team.  I don’t like the idea of some of this stuff getting the credibility of air time, however that is going to happen anyway.  I think he’s just the guy to bring home some logic to the general public in considering what some of these climate-change denialists are saying.

  2. Guerilla Surgeon
    February 14, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    Watching a real scientist would be like watching Num3ers.  As soon as they mention the word algorithm I fall asleep.

  3. Perry
    February 14, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    Also, Nye wears a bow tie like the 11th Doctor, so he has the cool factor going for him.

  4. Chris Howard
    February 14, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    I’m fairly certain that a specific demographic within the GOP is so motivated by fear-based politics that they are delusional.
    No amount of logical, well-reasoned debate will change their minds about global climate change, evolution, gay rights, or the economy, because within that demographic scientific denialism, and anti-intellectualism is worn like a badge of honor.
    These episodes aren’t real debates because one side lacks the ethical, and intellectual, integrity to even consider that they could be wrong.
    Denial of reality has become a twisted reaffirmation of political faith, in some circles.
    Thier wilfull ignorance IS synonymous with identity within this sub-culture. The most delusional claims are seen as ideologically pure, and proof of virtue.
    Unfortunately, debating a person who can’t admit that they are wrong is futile.
    The people we are debating global warming with have based EVERY aspect of their ideology on faith. They have even gone so far as to officially attempt to ban critical thinking.
    Economics via The Austrian School? Faith. Sex education? Faith. Climate change? Faith. Substance abuse? Faith. Sexual assault/abuse? Faith. Human and planetary origins? Faith.
    This wouldn’t be such a huge issue except that their ignorance is adversely effecting others. I’m afraid that these debates act as a kind of reinforcer for nonsense.

  5. Guerilla Surgeon
    February 14, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Chris Howard  I agree, except it’s worth doing, because there are young people out there who are perhaps less indoctrinated, and therefore more likely to change their minds.  They deserve our best efforts :-).

  6. One Eyed Jack
    February 15, 2014 at 5:53 AM

    Bill Nye will do well, but as with Ham, this will not be a science debate. Nye will crush them with science, and Congresswoman Blackburn will speak persuasively without relying on any factual evidence (politicians do this for a living).

    I agree that Nye is a better choice than say Michael Mann. “Debates” like this need good public speakers more than research scientists. Given the choice, I’d pick Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Brian Cox (everything sounds better with a British accent) because they both project a stronger presence when speaking, but Nye will be a capable advocate.

  7. Karin
    February 15, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I hope Nye gets a good deal of money out of such spectacles. I can hardly see any other reason to “debate” science denialists (except perhaps to sway some people off the fence on which they sit, but who knows if such people would even be interested in a boring debate. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the one between Nye and Ken Ham even though it was up for free and I have fond childhood memories of watching Bill Nye the Science Guy.). However, I don’t think he is giving platform to these people by “debating” them; they are all over media anyway.

  8. drwfishesman
    February 15, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    I think if you’re going to popularize science as Nye has chosen to do, at some point you have to directly engage and get your story out there to be talked about. Otherwise, if you spend your time talking to like-minded, well-wishers you accomplish very little. For too long there have been claims unchallenged in the public arena. It’s time to rectify that.

  9. February 16, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    My response to this is pretty much the same as my blog entry on the Ham on Nye event: yes, it’s an uphill battle and maybe even hopeless but it has to be done anyway. Too many people believe the nonsense; we can’t lay down arms yet.

  10. February 16, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Here’s a poll on how Americans compare to those in other countries on knowing basic science facts – it’s rather short and perhaps questionable, but the low US score in two questions does show the influence of creationists in the USA:
    http://news.msn.com/offbeat/what-americans-dont-know-about-science

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