I used to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy when I was a kid, and his show stands as probably the earliest discernible science-related influence I can remember.
Imagine my disappointment when I happened across Brian Dunning’s post over at Skepticblog that discusses Nye’s recent promotion of a cleaning product called Ionator from the company Activeion. Essentially, the company has recruited Nye to endorse a line of water ionizers the cheapest of which is priced at $169 and the science behind which is unproven and dubious.
I’m not going to get into the debate over the science of their claims. You can scroll through the comments on Skepticblog, which do a decent enough job of hashing out the quandaries, and you can read an article by Dr. Stephen Lower, a retired chemist from the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, that Dunning links to and which discusses the general quackery of ionized water claimants and provides an interesting remedial chemistry lesson about the subject.
My overall impression is that at best, Activeion’s product is a ripoff that does what they say it does despite the fact that its effects could be achieved for a few dollars and without the aid of the ionizer, and at worst, it’s a pseudo-scientific scam. (If you’re interested in specifics, I highly recommend reading the discussion.)
I don’t agree with Dunning’s reasoning that we should withhold judgment if Nye took up the job because of money woes. If Bill Nye knowingly promoted snake oil, he has done so at the peril of his credibility within the skeptical community as a science advocate. If he was duped, at least he wasn’t a witting scammer, but even so, it’s fair enough to say he should have vetted Activeion’s claims and checked with one of his many contacts that would have had access to pertinent knowledge.
Either way, my opinion of Nye is diminished.
This article is a cross-posted at Foolish Human.