Ethics Dunce: Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Oh, shut up.

Oh, shut up.

Wrote acclaimed pop astrophysicist Tyson in a tweet:

“People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.”


1. Tyson cannot help himself: he frequently mixes political bias into his supposedly “just facts and science!”lectures, and in cases like this, lets the cat out of the bag: he’s a partisan hack. The news media and allies of Hillary Clinton are doing their best to help Donald Trump get nominated, because they see him as one of the very few candidates that the awful Hillary Clinton could beat in a general election. Tyson reveals himself as one of them with his tweet. This was the same kind of calculation the Republican Party made when it allowed Trump, a Democrat, to run in the Republican primaries, and didn’t that work out well?

2. Tyson isn’t exactly a member of the news media, but he’s a media personality who carries some weight, as his opinions on things he really knows little about are given undue credibility because, you know, he’s smart. Well,  Tyson’s dangerous game is dumb, and he’s also abusing his authority by playing it. It puts the U.S. at risk of a President Trump….and for what, to achieve the Nirvana of a President Clinton?  He and others trying these tactics need to remember that any candidate who is nominated has a chance of being elected, especially running against a corrupt and bumbling liar like Hillary Clinton.

3. In substance, Tyson’s statement is pseudo-intellectual trash, and it takes no genius to realize it, either. Yes, by extension we are opposing Trump supporters, who are degrading democracy by exercising their rights ignorantly, recklessly and emotionally. After all, we may have to live with the consequences of their stupidity. That doesn’t mean we are attacking the process, but rather incompetent participation in it. Tyson’s snot-dripping tweet implies that there is something anti-democratic about objecting to a mob of badly informed, ethically-muddled and educationally deficient “angry” people elevating a posing, blustering fake to a position of great power in order to teach “elites” a lesson.  Wrong. Insisting on democratic and civic competence is a duty or citizenship. Good systems sometimes deliver bad results because of human mismanagement of them, but one doesn’t impugn the system by pointing out and condemning..

4. The logic of the Tyson’s tweet is embarrassing. If I criticize Barack Obama for being a weak and divisive President, I’m not really criticizing him but his supporters, who don’t seem to comprehend his inadequacies or care? No, Professor, I’m criticizing him. His supporters are free to conclude from it what they will, though the assumption that if I hold Trump in contempt, the same goes for those who support him, is a fair one. When I want to criticize them directly, though, they’ll know it.

5. Is it unfair or in any way unethical to hold the supporters of a dangerous and unfit leader responsible for elevating that leader into a position where he or she can do immeasurable harm to a nation? Of course not.

If this tweet is an example of Tyson’s reasoning ability, nobody should care what he thinks about anything else.

44 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Neil DeGrasse Tyson

  1. Jack said, “This was the same kind of calculation the Republican Party made when it allowed Trump, a Democrat, to run in the Republican primaries, and didn’t that work out well?”

    I haven’t seen you write what’s boldfaced before – has your opinion of Trump somehow changed?

    • Earlier today I wrote this on another site;

      What are these Trump supporters going to do when they come to the realization that Donald Trump was cast in a role, to play a part, written by the political left, and he’s been selling them a bill of goods.

      It’s my opinion that there are some unethical psychological political strategists in the Democratic Party that may be genius’s but they are completely devoid of morals, they clearly believe that the ends justify the means. What is “the ends” they strive for?

    • No, I knew he was a Democrat previously. I don’t think he’s a mole, but I’ve always been pretty sure he registered as a Democrat, gave the bulk of his political contributions to Democrats, and voted for Democrats.

  2. Is he smart? Perhaps. Educated. He gained prominence in the early 90’s and has faded into relative obscurity since.

    It’s funny though, at the height of his fame, he gave an interview on FOX related to… I think it was a solar burst. I could be wrong, some kind of celestial phenomenon, and afterwards recalled thinking about it, and realizing that he was a Harvard educated black man, talking on FOX news about something other than his blackness, and thinking that he’d broken a barrier.

    It’s funny how twenty years later, he’s willing to bang the social justice drum now that his numbers are down, all the while trying desperately to pretend that the reason his numbers are down is because of racism, as opposed to say… being caught red handed as a notorious plagiarist, and not doing anything worth noting for the better part of a decade.

    Part of me is grateful to people like NDG, for making science… perhaps not cool, but more of an authority than it used to be. More mainstream. Unfortunately, what it’s led to are scientlebrities who care more about being cool than actually unraveling the mysteries of the universe. NDT needs to crawl under a rock, fade into obscurity, and have someone more competent take up the mantle.

      • To whom? He hasn’t had a steady job in five years, and following his plagiarism, the scientific community won’t touch him with a 10 foot pole. He’s stuck scooping out nostalgia from people who watched Nova and making bit appearances alongside Bill Nye.

        • As a science communicator, Tyson regularly appears on television, radio, and various other media outlets. He has been a regular guest on The Colbert Report, and host Stephen Colbert refers to him in his comedic book I Am America (And So Can You!), noting in his chapter on scientists that most scientists are “decent, well-intentioned people”, but, presumably tongue-in-cheek, that “Neil DeGrasse [sic] Tyson is an absolute monster.” He has appeared numerous times on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He has made appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Rachel Maddow Show. He served as one of the central interviewees on the various episodes of the History Channel science program, The Universe. Tyson participated on the NPR radio quiz program Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! in 2007 and 2015. He has appeared several times on Real Time with Bill Maher, and he was also featured on an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? as the ask-the-expert lifeline. He has spoken numerous times on Philadelphia morning show, Preston and Steve, on 93.3 WMMR, as well as on SiriusXM’s Ron and Fez.

          Tyson has been featured as a guest interviewee on The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Radiolab, Skepticality, and The Joe Rogan Experience podcasts and has been in several of the Symphony of Science videos.

          Tyson lived near the World Trade Center and was an eyewitness to the September 11, 2001 attacks. He wrote a widely circulated letter on what he saw. Footage he filmed on the day was included in the 2008 documentary film 102 Minutes That Changed America.

          In 2007, Tyson was the keynote speaker during the dedication ceremony of Deerfield Academy’s new science center, the Koch Center, named for David H. Koch ’59. He emphasized the impact science will have on the twenty-first century, as well as explaining that investments into science may be costly, but their returns in the form of knowledge gained and piquing interest is invaluable. Tyson has also appeared as the keynote speaker at The Amazing Meeting, a science and skepticism conference hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation.

          Tyson made a guest appearance as himself in the episode “Brain Storm” of Stargate Atlantis[92] alongside Bill Nye and in the episode “The Apology Insufficiency” of The Big Bang Theory. Archive footage of him is used in the film Europa Report. Tyson also made an appearance in an episode of Martha Speaks as himself.

          2010 Space Conference group portrait: Tyson with fellow television personality and science educator Bill Nye.
          In a May 2011 StarTalk Radio show, The Political Science of the Daily Show, Tyson said he donates all income earned as a guest speaker.

          Tyson is a frequent participant in the website Reddit’s AMAs (Ask Me Anythings) where he is responsible for three of the top ten most popular AMAs of all time.

          In Action Comics #14 (January 2013), which was published November 7, 2012, Tyson appears in the story, in which he determines that Superman’s home planet, Krypton, orbited the red dwarf LHS 2520 in the constellation Corvus 27.1 lightyears from Earth. Tyson assisted DC Comics in selecting a real-life star that would be an appropriate parent star to Krypton, and picked Corvus, which is Latin for “Crow”, and which is the mascot of Superman’s high school, the Smallville Crows.

          In May 2013, the Science Laureates of the United States Act of 2013 (H.R. 1891; 113th Congress) was introduced into Congress. Neil deGrasse Tyson was listed by at least two commentators as a possible nominee for the position of Science Laureate, if the act were to pass. On March 8, 2014, Tyson made a SXSW Interactive keynote presentation at the Austin Convention Center.[

          On September 29, 2015, Tyson co-reviewed Interstellar in a CinemaSins episode.

          Taken straight from Wikipedia. Degrasse is a very well-known pop culture figure in the area of science, almost to the point of overexposure, I would say.

          • Sheesh. Did the wiki editors caption this with something along the lines of ” Needs verification from other sources” or “Sounds like a press release self-generated biography. Very suspect.”

            • There were things on the list only tangentially related to Tyson… like the Symphony of Science reference. SOS took bits from various speeches and spliced them together to music. I think Tyson’s was “Onward To The Edge” they were kind of cute… But listing it like it was an accomplishment of some kind is… Well… Let’s call it an embellishment. But everything on the list actually happened. More than, in fact; they forgot Waddles the Pig and Zoolander.

          • So…. My criticism of him not having a regular job, and not working in his field… is met with a lot of small pop-culture jobs. And you think you’ve added what… to the conversation… exactly?

            I mean… let’s list them, in order:

            Jon Stewart .
            The History Channel
            An NPR Quiz Show
            Who wants to be a Millionaire?
            Ron and Fez
            Joe Rogan
            The Symphony of Science
            9-11 !!!
            Keynote Speaker x2
            “The Political Science of the Daily Show”
            StarGate Atlantis
            The Big Bang Theory
            Reddit AMA’s
            A Superman Comic
            A SxSW presentation
            and Cinema Sins

            And specifically since 2010?

            “The Political Science of the Daily Show”

            Stop…. Just stop.

            • Here are his actor credits, from imdb:

              Actor (10 credits)

              2016 Ice Age: Collision Course (post-production)
              Neil deBuck Weasel (voice)

              2016 Zoolander 2
              Neil deGrasse Tyson

              2016 Family Guy (TV Series)
              Neil deGrasse Tyson
              – Scammed Yankees (2016) … Neil deGrasse Tyson (voice)

              2015 Brooklyn Nine-Nine (TV Series)
              Neil deGrasse Tyson
              – The Swedes (2015) … Neil deGrasse Tyson

              2015 Lazer Team
              Neil deGrasse Tyson

              2015 StarTalk (TV Series)
              Host / Himself
              – Richard Dawkins (2015) … Host / Himself

              2014 Gravity Falls (TV Series)
              Smart Waddles
              – Little Gift Shop of Horrors (2014) … Smart Waddles (voice)

              2013 Dark Universe (Short)

              2010 The Big Bang Theory (TV Series)
              Neil deGrasse Tyson
              – The Apology Insufficiency (2010) … Neil deGrasse Tyson

              Here are recent appearances as himself:

              2016 Fight for Space (Documentary) (post-production)
              Himself – Astrophysicist (rumored)

              2016 What’s a Podcast? A Documentary Film (Documentary) (filming)

              2016 For the Love of Spock (Documentary) (post-production)
              Himself (rumored)

              2016 MythBusters (TV Series documentary)
              – Mythbusters: The Reunion (2016) … Himself

              2015-2016 The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (TV Series)
              Himself / Himself – Panelist
              – Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s B.O.B. Smackdown (2016) … Himself

              – Aaron Hernandez Verdict & Conspiracy Talk (2015) … Himself – Panelist

              2015-2016 The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (TV Series)
              Himself / Himself – Guest
              – Steven Tyler/Gaby Hoffmann/Lapsley (2016) … Himself

              – Seth MacFarlane/Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2015) … Himself – Guest

              2016 Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (Video short)

              2015-2016 Conan (TV Series)
              Himself – Guest / Himself – Star Talk Host
              – Jack McBrayer/Neil DeGrasse Tyson/Joe List (2016) … Himself – Guest

              – Timothy Olyphant/Rebecca Frankel & Retired Wardog, Robbie/Punch Brothers (2015) … Himself – Star Talk Host

              2015-2016 StarTalk (TV Series)
              Himself / Host
              Show all 19 episodes

              2015 Sports Jeopardy! (TV Series)
              Himself – Clue Giver
              – Episode #2.13 (2015) … Himself – Clue Giver

              – Episode #1.50 (2015) … Himself – Clue Giver

              – Episode #1.31 (2015) … Himself – Clue Giver

              2015 The View (TV Series)
              Himself – Astrophysicist / Himself
              – Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2015) … Himself – Astrophysicist (as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson)

              – Guest Co-Hostesses Raven-Symone & Caroline Rhea/Christina Ricci/Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2015) … Himself

              2015 Today (TV Series)
              – Episode dated 23 November 2015 (2015) … Himself (as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson)

              – Episode dated 16 April 2015 (2015) … Himself (as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson)

              2015 Climate Change in the Pacific (TV Mini-Series documentary)
              – Food (2015) … Narrator

              – Coasts (2015) … Narrator

              …and so on. He is easily one of the most famous and recognizable scientists out there. For an astrophysicist, I think he has made great inroads into pop culture. He has 5 million+ Twitter followers, and 3 million Facebook followers. I don’t think he qualifies as “obscure.”

              • Neil deBuck Weasel… Save me.

                Now that you’ve posted fully half of Wikipedia here, you want to have a unique thought on your own? My point has always been that he has faded into obscurity. A decade of cameos counts. He’s a discredited scientist voice acting cartoon PIGS for Christ’s sake.

                • My point is that he is not obscure. He is probably one of the top two or three most famous living scientists today (Probably behind Stephen Hawking). How many astrophysicists do you know that are asked to cameo in anything at all? You get asked to cameo under the assumption that people know who you are and can recognize you. He recently helmed the Cosmos series on Fox, which won a bunch of awards. He is about as well-known as a scientist is ever going to get these days.

                  • You got hung up on the word obscure, when I said “relative obscurity”. You’re talking about these cameos like they’re relevant… They make him a pop-culture icon… sure, but so is Psy. My point, which you are not addressing, is that he isn’t a practicing scientist anymore.

                    When he isn’t voicing cartoon animals, he’s talking about Climate Change. You’ve said it yourself…. He’s an Astrophysicist. He doesn’t have any background in meteorology, so what does he bring to the table that say… Al Gore doesn’t? Oh right! He’s the guy that did that science stuff! He’s a pundit for hire abusing a veneer of science and nostalgia to sell his political view to people too ignorant to know he’s full of it.

                    I don’t care if he gets slimed by Nickelodeon on the White House front lawn… He’s a sad caricature of what he used to be.

                    • Ah, ok. I don’t think we are in too much disagreement then, if that was your point. While he still runs a planetarium, he doesn’t do as much direct science-y stuff anymore. He’s too busy getting rich and famous explaining science-stuff to laypeople. I can’t knock his hustle.

              • Deery, quit already. The great bulk of that is mediocre to trash. His popularity as a guest puts him on par with 3,000+ others who have agents, and slightly below the Kardashians for Twitter and Facebook. Verification of his scientific knowledge or accuracy, repute, character any other qualification is not accomplished via either “pop culture” or social media. Unless his main followers are all Trump supporters, which might make sense.

                • I don’t think Deery was making any point about Tyson’s prestige in the scientific community. He was arguing that Tyson is not obscure. That’s a fact; he is one of the best known scientists in America. His name is as well known among kids today as Bill Nye’s was to my generation, and that’s because of his pop culture exposure. That doesn’t say anything about his expertise.

                  • I must say, this thread took a turn I never expected it to take. I assumed Cosmos made Dyson the current, though inferior, version of Carl Sagan, with the unwelcome forays into race-bating, politics, and faith-mockery. Sagan was more discreet, and that was a good quality to have.

      • I was too, and tried to give him some examples, just in case he has been out of the country for the last five years or so. But, you know, the usual response.

        • Witty sarcasm and brilliant repose?

          Really guys, NDG has a cameo in the upcoming Zoolander and Ice Age movies, which is a high from a failed Podcast in 2015 And “Waddles the Pig” in a kids cartoon in 2014. He hasn’t published anything peer reviewed since 2008 (And even then he was the last name on the list), hasn’t written a book since 2000 (Anthologies don’t count), and hasn’t seen a workstation in longer.

          Despite that, he’s still being given awards, honors and honorary doctorates with increasing frequency. It’s almost like those things aren’t actually tied to accomplishments. Huh. Unless being a political shill is an accomplishment.

        • I think I figured it out. Deery and I are nerds and, right now, NDG might as well be crowned King of the Nerds. He is our Angelina Jolie or fill-in-the-blank Kardashian to the lay folk out there.

          Maybe he has taken a step back from doing hard science. So what? He is almost 60 and has had a full and productive life. I don’t care if he does a bit of acting — he’s good at it — unlike most scientists. He is doing a lot now to inspire kids to go into science, and that’s vitally important.

          Did you catch his Cosmos series last year? Amazing.

          • His trolling Christians gratuitously (with his Newton tweet) showed me that he’s an arrogant and mean-spirited creep. Stephen Jay Gould would never have done that, and he was an evolution expert.

          • I think I figured it out. Deery and I are nerds and, right now, NDG might as well be crowned King of the Nerds. He is our Angelina Jolie or fill-in-the-blank Kardashian to the lay folk out there.

            Yes, I think it is perhaps the nerd thing. But, considering the size of his following, we have plenty of company in nerdland.

            His trolling Christians gratuitously (with his Newton tweet) showed me that he’s an arrogant and mean-spirited creep.

            The Newton thing was a joke, with a classic set-up and misdirection. I don’t think that particular one was mean-spirited. I think the Jesus automatic weapon one was more mean-spirited, even if it was in response to erroneous information floating out there. He is not an atheist, but an agnostic, though he has no formal religious affiliation.

              • Newton celebrated his birthday on Christmas Day, and today it is generally also marked on December 25th. England was a little slow adopting the Gregorian calendar, but most people did not shift the date they celebrated their birthdays upon the adoption of the new calendar. Everyone pretty much marks it as December 25, 1642. So…eh?

                On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642

                Just wanted to directly quote the tweet. There is nothing there offensive about Christianity or Jesus. He is wishing Newton a happy birthday. I think people were reaching for something to be offended about on this one.

                • Spinning. I am not religious or hyper-sensitive to Christian-bashing, but I immediately interpreted the tweet as implying that Jesus either never existed or hadn’t transformed the world, and it was highly predictable that many Christians would take this is a potshot, which, of course, it was. (He’s so smart, and didn’t predict this? Please.)

                  If he made the same kind of “joke” about Muhammad, he might have to go into hiding. When agnostics make jokes about other people’s religions, they are not benign. he was playing to fellow non-believers, and if it upset Christians, that was his intent. Not nice, not on Christmas.

          • I think a book could be read on the difference between nerd culture and actual science enthusiasm. Matt Taylor did more in astrophysics before the age of 30 than Tyson did his entire life, despite his stupid shirt. What Tyson did was make astrophysics ‘cool’ for the mainstream… And that was great! Getting people excited about science is noble! Except he gradually shifted into a pattern of cheap popularity and using his cred as a ‘smart guy’ to push political positions he doesn’t have the same standing in.

            Your comparison to a Kardashian is strangely apt, but perhaps not how you meant it.

            • a pattern of cheap popularity and using his cred as a ‘smart guy’ to push political positions he doesn’t have the same standing in. . . . . Your comparison to a Kardashian is strangely apt

              This is exactly the same impression I got from reading his media itinerary. Coincidentally, I made the same comparison with the abominable K-family Kulture (several posts up from here) before reading all the way down the replies — shouldn’t DO that, I know.

  3. I’ll admit it, the tweet is not parsing out very well for me. The way that I read it, Tyson is agreeing with your stance from earlier posts that it is wrong and anti-democratic for anti-Trump protestors to stop people from voting for Trump.
    But you see it as urging people to vote for Trump, so that Hillary can beat him in the general? I don’t see it offhand, but like I said, this is a difficult tweet to understand anyway.

    • Stopping someone from voting by physically restraining someone or threatening them with violence IS wrong and undemocratic. Telling someone they’re an idiot and trying to convince them to be less stupid is a moral duty, and absolutely democratic.

      It’s why I reply to you.

    • How do you get THAT? I’m anti-Trump—I’m not in favor of stopping people from voting for Trump. The most likely meaning is that we shouldn’t impugn Trump supporters.

      That’s ridiculous.

      • “But you see it as urging people to vote for Trump, so that Hillary can beat him in the general?”

        Yes. That’s clearly what it means.

        “I don’t see it offhand, but like I said, this is a difficult tweet to understand anyway.”

        Difficult only if you’re trying to make it say what it’s clearly not saying. It’s as clear as day.

  4. I’m glad you were able to parse some meaning from that tweet, Jack–I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

    He also tweeted something earlier in the week to the effect of, “If there were any species for whom sex hurt, they would have died out.” Which…OK, he’s not a biologist, but neither and I, and even I know that’s stupid.

  5. NDG is a smug, egotistical jerk. But he IS a POP culture icon, whether or not anyone likes that fact or believes he deserves status. This is not debatable. People pay attention to the stupid things he says and writes. That’s what makes him dangerous.

  6. Hey, if only I had a really great, obvious, recent example of NDT putting his foot in his mouth regarding something scientific… hmm…

    And as an added bonus, imagine a republican politician saying that sex must be pleasurable, or natural selection would have selected against it. Would TYT say “everyone makes mistakes”, or would they be pointing out how misogynist that must be.

  7. Mixing science (or scientific reputation, at least) has become all too common as academic radicalism and the competition for federal grants have ramped up. But Carl Sagan (Tyson’s mentor) wasn’t above doing that in his original production of “Cosmos”. Then, of course, you have the further phenomenon of politicians who take on the airs of an academic researcher while having had no formal training in the subject whatsoever, but is still supported in his scam by genuine scholars

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