Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has targeted science denial in his latest video, posting that science has helped to make the United States one of the greatest nations on the planet. However, he points out, there has been a social trend toward the denial of facts, including science facts, that stands to jeopardize the country and even undermine democracy itself.
In a video posted to Facebook, titled “Science In America,” Neil deGrasse Tyson went on the offensive against the current predilection for a vast majority of Americans to deny science and established facts. He encouraged today’s Americans, the inheritors of a rich scientific heritage, to embrace science and become more scientifically literate. As LiveScience reported, he explained the importance of the scientific method as it applies to critical thinking and even warned that continuing on a path of science denial, a path that appears to be increasingly well-trodden in the 21st century, could lead to the dissolution of American democracy.
In fact, Tyson prefaces the video by saying that the words recorded therein may be the “most important words I have ever spoken.”
“I offer this four-minute video on ‘Science in America’ containing what may be the most important words I have ever spoken. As always, but especially these days, keep looking up.”
The astrophysicist notes that the United States has become one of the greatest countries in history, and it has science to thank for it. Listing just a few of the accomplishments of Americans, he points out that it was the U.S. that put the first man on the moon, built the first personal computer, and developed the internet. “We pioneered industries,” Tyson says. “Science is a fundamental part of the country that we are.”
But then a trend began to establish itself, becoming more apparent in the 21st century, he says. When it comes to science, he says, “People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not. What is reliable and what is not reliable. What should you believe, what should you not believe.
“And when you have people who don’t know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.”
He then presents a montage of video clips showing those denying scientific research, like human-caused global warming, the anti-vaccination movement, and the fear of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) He even includes a clip of the current vice president, Mike Pence, who as a congressman proposed that educators in America “teach evolution not as fact, but as theory.”(It is here that LiveScience asserts, citing the National Academy of Sciences, that evolution, given a preponderance of evidence, is an indisputable scientific fact.)
Tyson further laments that this is not the country he grew up in. Even with all its social and political problems through the 60s and 70s, there was no denial of science. Becoming impassioned, Tyson says, “One of the great things about science is that it is an entire exercise in finding what is true.”
He then goes on to explain the scientific method, the formulation of hypotheses and the testing of it, subsequently followed by rivals who do additional tests that gather evidence to support or dispute the initial findings. It is in the corroborative tests where advances are made and, as Tyson puts it, “out of this rises a new, emergent truth.”
The video is not Tyson’s first foray into the fight against science denial and basic science ignorance. He’s been doing it for years. He touched on the same themes back in January shortly after President Donald Trump, a known climate change denier, was inaugurated and immediately signed executive orders curtailing regulations enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture.
He said, when it comes to science, “If you base policy on things that are not objectively true. . . it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Tyson told Page Six, denying scientific truths could lead to “the unraveling of all that drives the growth of wealth in our nation and in the world.”
He went on to say that innovations in science and technology were “the engines that drive tomorrow’s growth economy. If you don’t recognize that. . . you are undermining the future wealth of the nation. If there is no science happening here, other countries. . . will pass us by, and that’s inconsistent with the idea of making America great again.”
Tyson went on The Nightly Show last year to refute several social media postings by rapper B.o.B., who claimed that the world was flat. Performing to a beat, the astrophysicist, after taking off his jacket and handing it to show host Larry Wilmore (who had asked for Tyson’s “help” in presenting B.o.B. with some basic science truths), rapped a scientific evisceration of B.o.B.’s misinformed Flat Earth theory.
“So, that’s right, B.o.B.,” he concluded, “when you stand on the shoulders of those who came before, you might just see far enough to realize the Earth isn’t f**king flat. And by the way…,” he said, dropping the microphone in the current fashion of adding finality to his words as he walked away, “this is gravity.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson is not only an advocate for science, he is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, the author of several books, and he starred in the award-winning revamp of Cosmos. He also currently hosts Star Talk on the National Geographic Channel.
The video “Science In America” has gone viral, closing in on 18 million views in just over 48 hours on his Facebook page alone since he posted it.
[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]