Monday, August 24, 2015

Neil Tyson -- Incompetent Ass

A little more fact and a little less fiction, please

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

Ummm….   No.

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.

Tyson's "Apology"

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.


Robert Clark said...

Hey, man. That image is really, like, far out man ...

Bob C.

George Turner said...

He irritates me, too.

The remake of Cosmos was particularly annoying, but I did have fun debating people who believed it hook-line-and-sinker.

In the first episode he expounded on how we might one day unlock the incredible secrets of photosynthesis to power our civilization. But that would mean replacing our 20 to 40 percent efficient solar cells with new ones that are about 3 percent efficient.

He goes on about the burning of the library of Alexandria by a mob, when it was actually burned on accident by Caesar's troops. It was also not the center of learning, but one of many libraries. Centuries later there was an a attack by a religious mob in Alexandria, but nobody mentioned destroying any scrolls, only some pagan shrines that weren't even at the library.

He goes on about the murder of Hypatia, but his story was based on an irate Protestant version made up long ago to slander Catholics as murderers bathed in ignorance and hatred. Hypatia was killed because she put herself in the middle of a violent religious dispute between Roman (secular) authority and church authority. After her death her school kept teaching the same things to the same students.

People became more ignorant and misguided just by watching it.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong about the so-called "Bush talk". That was a short segment of a much longer talk about Intelligent Design. You'll see the segment in your video link is around the 24 or 25 minute mark of the following link.

I'm pretty sure this is what Tyson was talking about when he said "Of course very little changes in that particular talk." Given the haughty tone of your blog, I expected zero errors. I am disappointed. I'm sure if I combed through the rest of your blog, I wouldn't find any other errors.

Hollister David said...

Anonymous, in the video you cite 9/11, Bush, and Arabic star names is small portion of his presentation. However in the video I cite, Bush is the central focus.

So no, one isn't a short segment of the other. They are two separate videos.

And the video I cite is the one Sean Davis bought to Tyson's attention. The main point of that video is the xenophobia and idiocy of George Bush.

I am pretty sure you try to fertilize your yard with shoe polish.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's a separate video, but it's the same presentation. He uses the same PowerPoint slides. He's not reading a script, but it's the same subject (Intelligent Design). You can find multiple versions of the talk on the internet if you bother to actually look, but I don't think you're interested in the truth. You just don't like Tyson and are doing the exact thing you accuse him of doing. Surely someone as magnanimous as yourself would be aware of this irony.

Hollister David said...

Anonymous, can you give yourself a handle? If several posters use the label "anonymous", it's not clear who I'm responding to.

The presentations do share a few power point slides, yes. Does that make them the same presentation? Ummm… No. That's a horribly idiotic statement. Once again here is the video in question. Title of the video is "George Bush and Star Names". The focus of the video, as the title implies, is George Bush. Not one mention is made of Intelligent Design. If you were interested in the truth you would bother to actually watch the video I linked to.

Anonymous said...

Hollister David,

The video you linked is just a segment of a much longer presentation. The full version of that exact presentation can be found at this hyperlink:

The video segment you cite (which occurs at 52:38 in the full presentation linked above) is just a mere 4 minutes of an 88 minute presentation.

So, when Neil wrote in his Facebook post, "...very little changes in that particular talk," he meant that he's only going to be changing the 5% of his full presentation that you and others demonstrated was inaccurate.


Hollister David said...

In reply to yet another "anonymous" who doesn't identify him/herself --

This long rambling presentation includes many different talks. Each particular talk is preceded with the talk's title projected on a screen.

Of course Bush's actual 9-11 speech does not change Tyson's talk on UFO Sightings. Nor do terrorists flying planes alter Tyson's talk on Terminal Cancer. The Golden Age of Islam doesn't have much to do Swami Levitation or Birthrates & Full Moon. Bush, Islam and 9-11 has nothing to do with most of that presentation. It is excruciatingly obvious the topic being discussed is the segment titled "George W. Bush".

Your defense is a dishonest red herring. Ok?

By the way, some of the talks in that presentation are addressed in my blog post Fact Checking Neil deGrasse Tyson Tyson's Surviving Terminal Cancer talk is pretty ridiculous. The Bush shtick has been included in Tyson's naming rights talk which segues into the Fall of Islam. Regarding the Fall of Islam, Tyson's characterization of Al Ghazali is bogus.

Nothing Wrong with Anonymity said...

You don't appear to want to grasp what I'm saying. I'm sorry that, out of all the human life on this planet, you've chosen Neil deGrasse Tyson as your sworn enemy. I hope it works out for you and your quest for truth.

Hollister David said...

Nothing Wrong, Yep. When Tyson says he'll leave in the part about terrorists' planes and continue to quote Bush, I just can't accept he's referring to the snippets on Terminal Cancer or UFOs. Silly me.

Out of all the human life on this planet, Tyson isn't the only playground bully who's gathered an obnoxious cult following. I also dispute the doctrines of Paul Spudis, Robert Zubrin and Tom Murphy, for example.

I actually have admiration for most the folks I criticize. But it angers me when fans deify the object of their worship. I will give Tom Murphy as an example. I sympathize with his call to reduce consumption and preserve our planet and resources. But I disagree asteroid mining is a fool's errand. I will go to various forums and counter Murphy's arguments with math. I'll point out Murphy doesn't patch conics correctly. Or that there are plenty of asteroids closer than 5 km/s to the earth-moon system. Oddly enough, Murphy's "Do The Math" crowd invariably counter with personal attacks devoid of math.

Talking about toxic subcultures, Tyson's following is among the worst. Plenty of folks who memorize a few Klingon phrases and proclaim themselves nerds. Never mind that they flunked out of high school math and physics. Tyson says Clarke was the first to calculate altitude of geosynchronous orbits? Why, then -- it must be true. Tyson has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, I'm informed. He is the smartest man on the planet! We don't need evidence or cites because Science! Feynman must be spinning in his grave. Of all the personality cults, perhaps Tyson's is the most deserving of ridicule. Although Trump's following gives them competition.

Turtle said...

I get Anonymity's point that this was a small part of a talk.
I get Hollister's point that this was an important part of that section of the talk.

The section of Tyson's post that was the apology was appropriate. The primary purpose of the post was not to apologize though. Which is why he followed up with the explanation of how it didn't change the overall talk. The part where he explains that he'll continue to mention the president's quote is the important point of contention but it is entirely dependent on how he uses the quote. If he continues to use it in some misleading way then his apology was insincere. Maybe he won't actually quote Bush but still use the scripture to as a bridge to talking about stars and Arabic names. That would probably be fine. But until he gives a talk that uses these talking points this is all conjecture and about as pointless to argue about as this very post I'm making trying to resolve an internet argument between two people I don't even know.

I guess my point is it's good to be passionate about things but let's accept Tyson's post for what it was and get those bees out of our bonnets. I think those bees have more important things to be buzzing about.

Hollister David said...

Kudos to you Turtle for trying to play the role of peacemaker.