Sunday, February 04, 2018

Nye was right

To attend the State of the Union speech as a guest of the climate-denying Trump nominee to lead NASA, Jim Bridenstine. Obviously, it's controversial:


A science guy is heading to Capitol Hill to watch an anti-science president address the nation on Tuesday.

Bill Nye the "Science Guy" is going to watch President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in person, and of course, not everyone is happy about it.

More than 28,000 signatures have been added to a petition asking that Nye refuse to attend the State of the Union.

I'm sympathetic to the Climate Hawks campaign against attending, but I have to disagree. I don't see it as fundamentally different from Al Gore's sit-down with Trump - you should take an opportunity to make your case, even if the odds of success are low. It's also worth noting that Bridenstine is a young guy and likely to be around in politics for a while. Getting an idea into his consciousness now could pay a dividend sometime in the future.

And yes, Bridenstine is using Nye as a prop, but I don't think that's going to swing a single confirmation vote in the Senate. Beyond that, Nye has responsibilities as head of the Planetary Society:

But here's the thing about Bill Nye: While he's an outspoken advocate on issues like climate change and a harsh critic of Trump in that respect, he also needs get along with the White House. Nye is the CEO of the Planetary Society, an organization that advocates for space exploration.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that he needs to make nice with the administration that will effectively set space exploration policies for at least the next three years. If nothing else, getting a little face time with the administration could benefit the Planetary Society in the future. 

So yeah, purity takes a hit, but Nye has additional responsibilities beyond communicating about climate change. There are occasions when you have to draw the line - if Bridenstine were an overt Trump-level racist, say, - but I wouldn't do it in this case.

Beyond this, there's the interesting fact that the Republican War on Science has a truce, mostly, when it comes to planetary and space science. I haven't seen much discussion about this. With the inconclusive issue of attacking NASA earth science studies because Republicans can't handle the truth about climate change, the Republican Party has been comparable to and occasionally better than the Democrats on funding space science. Worth thinking more about whether this means anything.

Anyway, I expect I'm in the minority on agreeing with Nye's decision. (Personal bias note: I'm a space nut and member of the Planetary Society.)

5 comments:

Fernando Leanme said...

I sure hope Trump turns out to really back space exploration. Unfortunately, Obama slowed it down, and focused on other expenditures.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Manned space travel is related to Utopianism.

For good or ill, this is it for us. On Earth.

Bernard J. said...

At the risk of once more circling in an orbit that has been well-filled with space debris in the past, I concur with Jeffrey Davis. Space is wonderful, and we should study it as best as we can manage, but let's not kid ourselves that we're going to escape and populate in any substantive way any rock (or tin can) that is not the Earth. We know enough about the laws of physics and thermodynamics that It Ain't Gonna Happen.

Echoing Jeff, for better or worse humanity and its brethren species (except perhaps for a few types of microbe) are forever and inextricably linked to this little blue marble. We either learn to live on it, or to die on it. There's no interplanetary/interstellar bolt-hole waiting.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

If the Planetary Society's founding CEO could canoodle with the Kremlin, why shouldn't his successor make nice wirth the White House?

These days it may be a twofer.

BBD said...

With the inconclusive issue of attacking NASA earth science studies because Republicans can't handle the truth about climate change, the Republican Party has been comparable to and occasionally better than the Democrats on funding space science. Worth thinking more about whether this means anything.

Nationalism. Aerospace tech as projection of US power.