Below is a 5-minute video Neil deGrasse Tyson just posted on his Facebook page, saying that it contains perhaps “the most important words” he’d ever spoken. Although I’ve had my differences with Tyson, this video, outlining the benefits of science, calling out society for losing the ability to judge what is scientifically true, and criticizing those people who “rise to power” despite their ignorance of and contempt for science—yes, this video is eloquent and powerful. Tyson’s main example, at 1:14, is Mike Pence in Congress saying “Let us demand that educators around America teach evolution not as fact, but as theory.” What a maroon! (Pence is now, of course, America’s Vice President.) Tyson also alludes to GMOs, global warming, and vaccination.
Tyson’s message is this: today, more than any time in his lifetime, he sees people “standing in denial of science.” He briefly discusses the toolkit of science and how it produces truth, which it does “better than anything we’ve ever come up with as human beings.” Those truths, he adds, should be used to inform political conversations like that about global warming. What we decide to do based on those facts may be moral or philosophical or political choices, but science can inform them.
The message to me: science is not politics itself (it’s a toolkit for finding truth) but should be used to inform politics whenever possible. THAT, to me, should have been the overriding message of the Science March. Period—perhaps with a few examples of the type Tyson gave. And had that been the Science March message, I’d be out there in the streets behind Tyson—though I haven’t heard whether he is marching. Note that he said nothing about the problems with the nature of America’s scientific establishment or about identity politics. I suppose there are those who would argue: “Wait a minute: he should have added say that science is bigoted, oppresses minorities, and has done bad stuff!” But there’s a reason he didn’t use this video to flagellate the field.
THIS is the guy who should have been the honorary chairman of the Science March.