By Michael Maharrey
Debate continues to rage about whether Bill Nye is really a “science guy,” or if he’s just an entertainer pushing a political agenda, but one thing is certain: Bill Nye is not the “Constitution guy.”
In an interview on CNN during the so-called “March for Science,” Nye made the case for federal funding of science by quoting one-half of a constitutional clause.
“If you suppress science, if you pretend climate change isn’t a real problem, you will fall behind other countries that do invest in science, that do invest in basic research. And it’s interesting to note, I think, that Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution refers to the progress of science and the useful arts, and useful arts in 18th century usage would be what we would call engineering, or city planning or architecture.”
Nye isn’t wrong. A clause in Art. 1 Sec. 8 does refer to the progress of science and the useful arts. But it might be a good idea to put those words in their full and proper context.
“Congress shall have the power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”
So, what exactly does this particular congressional power have to do with funding science?
Known as the copyright clause, or sometimes referred to as the intellectual property clause, this constitutional provision does in fact authorize Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” but only by granting copyrights and patents. Not by any means necessary.
Yes, Bill, you do have to consider all of the words in a constitutional clause to understand its meaning.
In fact, the Constitution does not delegate the federal government any authority to spend money on scientific research. Whether or not you agree with Nye’s view that the government should promote science, you simply can’t make any case for its constitutionality.
Nye masterfully executes constitutional butchery to advance his particular political agenda. Sadly, nobody on the show called B.S. on his erroneous constitutional claim. It kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it — if his scientific facts are also tailored and cherry-picked to advance some kind of political agenda?
This article was originally published at The Tenth Amendment Center.