FactCheck.org Plays Up Bill Nye's Honorary Degrees to Chide Palin

April 19th, 2016 4:06 PM

Vanessa Schipani ran to Bill Nye's defense in a Monday item for FactCheck.org, and underlined that "former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin falsely said she is 'as much a scientist' as Bill Nye...Nye has multiple credentials that make him more of a scientist than Palin, including a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Cornell, experience working with NASA and various patents." Schipani also touted that the former PBS host "also has six honorary doctorate degrees, including Ph.D.s in science from Goucher College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute."

The writer noted that Palin "made this statement on April 14 during the Capitol Hill premiere of 'Climate Hustle'" (MRC president Brent Bozell moderated the panel discussion at this premiere). She summarized how the former Alaska governor "questioned Nye's qualifications" during the event, and continued by spotlighting that "several surveys and scientific literature analyses show that roughly 97 percent of climate scientists believe human-caused climate change is occurring."

Schipani briefly touched on two previous attack on Nye's credentials by Rush Limbaugh and creationism advocate Ken Ham before citing the Merriam-Webster definition of "engineer" to back up the former TV host:

Since his [Nye's] background is in engineering, during that debate, he explained, "engineers use science to solve problems and make things."...

Merriam-Webster’s definition of "engineer" is not far from Nye's: "a person who has scientific training and who designs and builds complicated products, machines, systems, or structures."

Likewise, Ginger Pinholster, chief communications officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told us that AAAS considers engineering a "bona fide applied science."


The FactCheck.org writer then wondered, "So how do Nye and Palin's scientific credentials compare?" Her answer: "Palin has none. She has a bachelor's in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho. She has spent her career in politics."

Schipani followed her reference of Nye's honorary degrees with five paragraphs of supposed science credentials, including working with NASA, his three patents (including a "redesigned ballet toe shoe") and having "written books on science."

The Federalist's Daniel Payne pointed out on Monday one piece of information that the online author didn't include in her pro-Nye piece: "It does not appear that Nye has published a single paper in a peer-reviewed journal of any kind; his chief scientific exploits of the past 20 years or so appear to be tinkering with sundials and making public speaking appearances to talk about how great science is."

Nye certainly showed his inexperience with peer review in a Monday post on Twitter that attempted to link the recent flooding in Texas with climate change:

Back in 2011, Nye also misleadingly claimed that "you don't have tornadoes in Norway," as he tried to make a point about climate change.