At one time I was a Neil DeGrasse Tyson fan. Our culture needs more charismatic pop figures promoting science and rational thought.
But Tyson has a propensity for just making stuff up. A true devotee of science makes it a top priority to disseminate accurate info.
I'll give a few examples.
Tyson likes to promote space exploration -- that's a good thing. He also notes our space programs have generated spin off technologies that help the economy -- also a good thing. But he exaggerates and embellishes. Here Tyson credits the space program for miniaturizing electronics:
The urge to miniaturize electronics did not exist before the space program. I mean our grandparents had radios that was furniture in the living room. Nobody at the time was saying, "Gee, I want to carry that in my pocket" Which is a non-thought
Making electronics more compact, less massive and less expensive was an extremely obvious thought. Tyson's statement is utterly ridiculous.
Tyson would do well to read Wikipedia's history of the transistor. There were efforts to replace vacuum tubes as early as the 1920's. TR-1, the first transistor radio, hit the market in November of 1954.
NASA was formed in 1958.
The Regency TR-1 transistor radio hit the market in 1954,
4 years before NASA was formed.
NASA and military aerospace have made substantial contributions to the development of electronics. For example, the funding of integrated circuits R & D. Let's crow about these real contributions. But please don't give our space program credit for the notion of miniaturizing electronics.
It damages our cause when someone like Tyson spouts complete B.S.. The tendency to exaggerate and embellish is one of the reasons space advocates suffer from a lack of credibility.
"He's an entertainer," Tyson defenders might say. "Embellishing the truth is standard practice to boost ratings. If he can recruit more supporters, who cares if he doesn't cross his t's and dot his i's?" I didn't buy that but had to acknowledge the man has gathered a following. So I didn't grumble too loudly.
Then Tyson stepped over the line.
A malicious fabrication
(Just to be clear -- by "fabrication" I mean a made up story. Not necessarily with intent to deceive)
Like everyone else, I was horrified by the events of September 11, 2001. I braced myself for President Bush's reaction. I thought Bush would use the tragedy to demonize Muslims. Exploiting xenophobia is an all too common political device.
But Bush's response was a pleasant surprise:
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.
When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.
America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.What Speech did Tyson recall hearing after 9-11? He remembers Bush loosely quoting Genesis "Our God is the God who named the Stars". Tyson says he was "attempting to distinguish we from they".
Watching the Tyson's video I'm scratching my head. Bush wasn't trying to stir up hatred against Arabs, just the opposite. And where did this stuff about star names come from? Below is Tyson's rant. Tyson starts talking about Bush at around 1:30.
Bush did give a speech where he quotes Genesis saying God named the stars. But it wasn't a post 9-11 speech slamming Arabs. It was a eulogy for the astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
From Bush's Columbia disaster speech:
In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power, and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home. May God bless the grieving families.
And may -- may God continue to bless America.Somehow Tyson conflated Bush's Columbia disaster speech with post 9-11.
Chemically enhanced perception?
How on earth did Tyson manage to conflate 9-11 with the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster? I have a theory. Carl Sagan, Tyson's hero and mentor, was thought to indulge in a little weed now and then.
Perhaps Tyson has discovered psychotropic drugs can be used as a vehicle to explore other worlds and alternate realities. I'm not the only one speculating Tyson's a stoner.
In a Facebook post Tyson admits conflating the two events. And he reposted this admission on July 1st, 2015. The more recent admission is still open to comments as of this writing.
Well, he makes the admission buried in the 10th paragraph. The first six paragraphs are devoted to glowing descriptions of Tyson's favorite subject: himself. The seventh paragraph he slams those petty and small minded "lawyers" who doubt Tyson's word. How dare they question his credibility just because they catch him in the act of making stuff up?
Here's Tyson's admission:
What followed fascinated me greatly. As others had uncovered, the President indeed utter the following sentences:
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.
But I was wrong about when he said it. It appears in his speech after the Columbia Shuttle disaster, eighteen months after September 11th 2001. My bad. And I here publicly apologize to the President for casting his quote in the context of contrasting religions rather than as a poetic reference to the lost souls of Columbia. I have no excuse for this, other than both events-- so close to one another -- upset me greatly. In retrospect, I’m surprised I remembered any details from either of them.This is all Tyson needed to say. Had his apology just consisted of these few paragraphs, he might have salvaged a little credibility.
But Tyson goes on to write:
Of course very little changes in that particular talk.Utterly and completely wrong. As usual. That talk was about President Bush's idiocy. The whole Arabic star name thing was to "confound Bush's point". Sadly for Tyson, the point being confounded comes from an imaginary Bush that lives in Tyson's crack pipe.
And still more B.S. from Tyson:
I will still mention Islamic Extremists flying planes into building in the 21sth century. I will still contrast it with the Golden Age of Islam a millennium earlier. And I will still mention the President's quote. But instead, I will be the one contrasting what actually happened in the world with what the Bible says: The Arabs named the stars, not Yahweh.Of course the Arabs named the stars. Does that falsify the passage from Isaiah? No. How does Tyson know God didn't name the Stars? God's existence or nonexistence isn't something that can be demonstrated with experimental evidence. His confident assertion isn't a testable hypothesis. It is beyond the purview of science.
But then again, Tyson's cult of personality has never been about science.