Neil deGrasse Tyson
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (“NdT”) is a scientist. He holds a PhD in astrophysics, and is director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. If he was only that, chances are we would never have heard from him. But Dr. Tyson is also a science educator. And he's good at that; NdT's natural eloquence, combined with his broad knowledge and understanding, makes him extremely popular as a science educator. Dr. Tyson holds several honorary degrees and serves on several advisory committees, and in 2007 Time Magazine voted him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Tyson is also the author of several popular science books on astronomy and cosmology.
In the year 2000 People Magazine named Neil deGrasse Tyson “the sexiest astrophysicist alive”.
Many people regard Neil deGrasse Tyson as the heir of that other popular science educator, Carl Sagan. So it's not surprising that Tyson was chosen to host “Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey”, a follow-up series of science documentaries to the “Cosmos” series made by Sagan in 1980.
What was surprising was that “Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey” was released on Fox, whose audience is mainly conservative Christians, and which is not exactly known for being very open to science.
While most of the world embraced the series, “Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey” wasn't received well by the conservative Fox audience. So Fox seemed to think they owed them something, so they gave white supremacist and racist McInnes a nation-wide forum to slander Tyson, ignoring the message, and attacking the messenger instead: “I hate this guy . White liberal nerds love this guy so much, he could defecate on them like Martin Bashir’s fantasies and they would dance in the streets. All he does is, he’s drunk with adulation. And he talks about things like ‘when I was young in New York I would get racially profiled when I’d go into stores.’ Back then he looked like he was in the The Warriors. He had a huge afro and a cutoff shirt and New York was a war zone. Sorry, you fit the profile.”
This is a message the Fox audience loves. And instead of learning something about science, they learn to hate an Afro-American scientist, who they feel threatened by, because he's black and (yet) smarter and more eloquent than all of them combined.
Neil deGrasse Tyson and religion
On Christmas Day 2014 NdT tweeted the following:
Innocent in itself, and it may have educated some people. But not the fundamentalist Christians in the US. They felt offended, for Pete's sake! One of the most intelligent tweeted reactions was a long series of “FUCK YOU”s. Are religious people in the US that narrow-minded? Well, it seems they are. Neil deGrasse Tyson has the mission to educate people, especially these people. He explains: “Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday. Christmas day in England - 1642. And perhaps even fewer people know that before he turned 30, Newton had discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravitation, and invented integral and differential calculus. All of which served as the mechanistic foundation for the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that would forever transform the world.”.
In this video Neil says he's not an atheist, but an agnostic. I have the feeling that he says that because in most of the US the word “atheist” is more toxic than the words “Satan”, “evolution” “global warming” and “socialism” combined, and let's not forget the word “science”. (BTW, there are Christians in the US who actually believe that atheists really are the devil.)
Tyson can't afford to be categorized as an atheist if he wants to communicate with and educate these morons. So when, in the Q&A after a talk, he was asked by a ten year old if he believes in god, this was his answer . Like Kristi said in the comments, he doesn't beat around the bush, but lets the boy think about it for himself.
Neil's favorite science joke
Warning: high geekiness index
Neil deGrasse Tyson on YouTube
Dr. Tyson gives a lot of public talks. That's what science communicators do. Many of those talks end up on YouTube. I'm not going to put them all here, if only many of them are very similar. A few noteworthy videos though:
- Stephen Colbert interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson . Filmed on 29th January 2010 at Montclair Kimberley Academy.
- SciCafe: Life the Universe and Everything with Neil deGrasse Tyson , 2nd June 2010
- The most astounding fact
- Neil deGrasse Tyson Lecture at the University of Washington, May 2014
- Neil deGrasse Tyson at Authors@Google , to discuss his book “The Pluto files”
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson in The Amazing Meeting
- Adventures of an urban astrophysicist