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Bill Nye Wins In Praise of Reason Award

January 20, 2012

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Bill Nye “The Science Guy” received the In Praise of Reason Award, the highest award of the Com­mittee for Skeptical Inquiry, at the CSIcon New Orleans 2011 conference awards banquet.

The In Praise of Reason Award is given in recognition of distinguished contributions in the use of critical inquiry, scientific evidence, and reason in evaluating claims to knowledge. Previous recipients include Carl Sagan, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen Jay Gould, Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Nobel laureate physicist Leon Lederman, among others.

Nye has a long string of television credits that promote good science, starting with his Emmy Award–winning 1990s series Bill Nye the Science Guy. An aeronautical engineer by training and early experience, Nye drew on his scientific and engineering background as a solid foundation for his demonstrations of scientific principles that are at the core of his communication of science to the public. Subsequent programs include The Eyes of Nye, 100 Greatest Discoveries, Greatest Inventions with Bill Nye, and Stuff Happens. His Bill Nye’s Climate Lab is a new permanent exhibit at the Oakland, California–based Chabot Space and Science Center.

Nye is now the executive director of the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California.

“If you think Bill is popular among skeptics, you should attend a science teacher conference where he is speaking,” said Eugenie C. Scott, a member of CSI’s Executive Council, in presenting the award. “The National Science Teachers Association draws upwards of 12,000 [to] 15,000 teachers; I think all of them attend his talks, because although the organizers schedule his lecture in the largest ballroom in the conference center, there still are people standing in the back and in the aisles.

“It is obvious why,” said Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education. “Ken Frazier spoke at the opening ceremonies about the sense of exhilaration that skeptics feel in enjoying science—and that skepticism is ‘fun.’ Hardly anyone has as much fun as Bill Nye when he is talking about, and especially when he is demonstrating, principles of science.

“If you have seen any of his programs discussing astrology or other, to quote Carl Sagan, ‘extraordinary claims,’ you will soon see why he was made a fellow of the Committee for [Skeptical] Inquiry. He is a longtime skeptic and proponent of critical thinking—obvious in all of his television programs.”