By Tim Pearce
The Planetary Society defended CEO Bill Nye Tuesday after his decision to attend the State of the Union caused a furor in the science community and beyond.
Nye accepted an invitation from GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the federal space agency NASA, to watch Trump’s address to Congress live. Critics weighed in by the thousands, accusing the science community’s unofficial spokesman of legitimizing xenophobia, homophobia and racism.
“As scientists, we cannot stand by while Nye lends our community’s credibility to a man who would undermine the United States’ most prominent science agency,” the group 500 Women Scientists wrote in Scientific American. “Scientists are people, and in today’s society, it is impossible to separate science at major agencies like NASA from other pressing issues like racism, bigotry, and misogyny.”
The Planetary Society responded, defending its CEO’s choice and reiterating Nye’s claim that attending Trump’s speech as Bridenstine’s guest is not an endorsement of the administration or the congressman to be NASA’s administrator.
Space exploration and research is one of the few areas where Republicans and Democrats can come together in widespread agreement, The Planetary Society’s Director of Space Policy, Casey Dreier, wrote in a blog post. By accepting the invitation, Nye hopes to influence politicians and public discourse to align more with The Planetary Society’s goals.
“Treating people as apostates is not a path to changing their minds, it will only ossify them in opposition. It may not always work, but our ideals demand that we try,” Dreier said.