Celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson earned the internet’s ire on Sunday when he posted a tweet that appeared to downplay the significance of mass shootings, which came after two shootings in a matter of 13 hours claimed the lives of nearly 30 people.
Tyson posted a tweet saying that in the last 48 hours, there were 34 people who lost their lives in mass shootings (official death tolls added to 29 for the two), but during that time, another 500 were killed by medical errors, 300 by the flu, 250 to suicide, 200 to car accidents, and 40 to shooting deaths.
“Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than data,” he wrote.
The tweet drew an immediate pushback, with many noting that his attempt to use scientific analysis appeared to miss the point for the focus on mass shootings and their significance in society.
“Can you also please quantify how fear affects our societies ability to function? Or the impact these deaths have on the family, friends, and communities of the victims? Or how it can inspire more acts?” one person tweeted in response. “Seriously, f*** off with this hot garbage comparison.”
Others agreed that Neil deGrasse Tyson seemed to be making an attempt to appear intelligent while failing to capture the significance of the mass shootings and why they appear to be a uniquely American problem.
“Making a didactic if factually accurate point does not always equate to intelligent or productive discourse,” journalist Andrew Baggarly wrote on Twitter. “And this was neither intelligent nor productive. Disappointed to read this from you.”
Others noted that Tyson was missing the deep political implications of these shootings, which led to discussions about gun control and the prevalence of white supremacist terrorism and what many saw as a refusal from Republicans to address both underlying issues.
The roughly 13-hour period between the El Paso mass shooting near midday on Saturday in Texas, and the early Sunday morning attack in downtown Dayton was one of the deadliest stretches for mass shootings in American history. Officials are still wading through the motivations for both shootings, though the picture in El Paso appears to be more clear.
Authorities there say they are investigating a manifesto posted online before the shooting espousing white supremacist and anti-immigrant beliefs, with local police saying that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
The motivation for the Dayton shooting appears to be murkier, with the gunman being killed by police and the victims including a mix of people of all ages and races — and including the gunman’s own younger sister and her boyfriend.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has not yet responded to the criticism from his tweet, which remained up on Sunday afternoon.