Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophyicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He has become a very public figure, frequently speaking out on topics of science education and scientific literacy, in the mold of Carl Sagan from the 1980's and, more recently, Richard Dawkins. He has become a very public figure, having been featured on various popular media programs such as the History Channel, where he has promoted his scientific worldview.[1] He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium [2] and a member of the Planetary Society, but is not a professor. In 2014, Tyson was the host of 'Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey' [3] which is an updated version of Carl Sagan's 1980 documentary entitled Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Speaking Out about Scientific Literacy and Science Education

Since about 2015, Mr. Tyson has been very vocal about science education and scientific literacy. He believes that, for the United States to maintain its preeminence as a nation, it must maintain preeminence in science. He is particularly concerned about denial of evolutionary science and denial of anthropogenic climate change. He produced a video, published on Facebook on April 19, 2017, that states his concerns very directly. [4][5]

Science is not something to say 'I choose not to believe E equals mc2.' You don't have that option. When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe it.

—Neil deGrasse Tyson, April, 2017

On April 21, 2017, no doubt in connection with "Earth Day" and the various pro-science rallies to be held around the nation on April 22, he issued another Facebook essay.[6]

When Einstein derived his equations, I’d bet neither he nor anyone else was thinking “Barcodes!” or “Lasik Surgery!” or “Rock Concerts!”

—Neil deGrasse Tyson, April, 2017

In this latter essay, he listed 9 Presidents—5 Republican and 4 Democratic—that made wise choices about national science policy.

Quote Fabrication Controversies

Fabrication of a George W. Bush quote

Tyson has been repeatedly accused of fabricating quotes that he uses in his presentations.[7] The most damning accusation is that he fabricated a quote that he attributes to President George W. Bush. Tyson claims that Bush said, "Our God is the God who named the stars" in the week shortly after 9/11 as a way of separating Christians and Jews from radical Muslims.[8] However, there is zero evidence that George W. Bush ever uttered that phrase. He had a similar line in a February 2003 speech given after the Columbia space shuttle disaster: "The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today."[9] The quote had nothing to do with Islam, nothing to do with 9/11 (it happened a year and a half after 9/11), and no reasonable observer could conclude that the line was meant to separate Jews or Christians from Muslims. Every aspect of Tyson's story about Bush and the quote about stars was found to be false.[10]

Fabrication of a newspaper headline

Tyson was also accused of fabricating a newspaper headline that he regularly uses to question the numerical illiteracy of journalists. The quote he uses in his presentations is, "Half the schools in the district were below average."[11] He attributes that quote to "Newspaper Headline." However, extensive research using Google and Nexis records has revealed that such a headline does not exist.[12] Although a small handful of news articles contain similar phrases, none contains the verbatim phrase that is quoted extensively by Tyson.

Even if such a headline did occur, it might well be sensible if it were a shortened form of saying that half the schools in the district were below the state average. But without the story, it is impossible to say whether there was some mathematical stupidity.

Fabrication of a Member of Congress quote

In addition to using a newspaper headline that does not appear to exist, Tyson has also been accused of fabricating a quote which he says was uttered by a "Member of Congress."[13] Tyson uses this quote in his presentations to illustrate the mathematical illiteracy of politicians. The quote cited by Tyson is, "I have changed my views 360 degrees on that issue."[14] Tyson has also used this line in college commencement addresses.[15]

As with the other quotes which Tyson is accused of fabricating, there is also zero evidence that this particular quote has ever been uttered by a member of Congress. Extensive searches of Google, Nexis, and the Congressional Record found no instance of the quote spoken by a member of Congress.[16] A similar quote was spoken by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in 1998, but she was attacking a colleague, not referring to her own views.

“You have done a 360-degree turn," Waters said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I’m a little disappointed. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that you would have such a conflict in views about perjury and lying.”[17] If Tyson was referring to Waters' quote, it is unclear why he mangled it and then refused to cite her as the quote's source.

Nor it is clear why Tyson objects to the term "360-degree turn". A politician might well reverse his views on an issue twice, and that could be described as a 360-degree turn.

See also

Notes

  1. Is Neil deGrasse Tyson an atheist or agnostic?
  2. Hayden Planetarium - About
  3. Cosmos
  4. https://www.facebook.com/neildegrassetyson/videos/10155195888806613/
  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/degrasse-tyson-science-deniers_us_58f99e89e4b06b9cb91572a1?f1l&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009
  6. https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/science-in-america/10155202535296613/
  7. Another Day, Another Quote Fabricated By Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Federalist (September 16, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  8. Neil deGrasse Tyson: George Bush and Star Names. YouTube (Unknown). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  9. George W. Bush: The American Presidency Project. YouTube (February 1, 2003). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  10. Another Day, Another Quote Fabricated By Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Federalist (September 16, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  11. Neil deGrasse Tyson - Fear of Numbers - 2012. YouTube (2012). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  12. Super Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson Doesn’t Understand Statistics. The Federalist (September 10, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  13. Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Try To Justify Blatant Quote Fabrication?. The Federalist (September 15, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  14. And it's not just journalists who don't understand data.... Twitter (September 10, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  15. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Doctor of Science. YouTube (May 21, 2012). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  16. Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Try To Justify Blatant Quote Fabrication?. The Federalist (September 15, 2014). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.
  17. Never Condoned Lying Under Oath, Hyde Says. The Los Angeles Times (December 9, 1998). Retrieved on September 16, 2014.