Science, Ethics and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Image Credit: Fajar Sullivan Corporation

It’s a really good thing Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts Cosmos rather than performing cost estimates. You can say “Billions and billions and billions!” to awe the easily-impressed rubes watching Cosmos and write it off as a ROM. In Cost Estimation, this is referred to as an onagerous estimate.* It seems he should stick to schlocky, public, propaganda-laden !SCIENCE! rather than anything that requires a close affiliation with precision or accuracy. Here he tells us just how expensive it gets if you’re not loveably brilliant like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“During the heat of the space race in the 1960s, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided it needed a ballpoint pen to write in the zero gravity confines of its space capsules. After considerable research and development, the Astronaut Pen was developed at a cost of approximately $1 million US. The pen worked and also enjoyed some modest success as a novelty item back here on earth. The Soviet Union, faced with the same problem, used a pencil.”

Ed Driscoll

Reality beckons and Tyson is off by three pretty rough orders of magnitude here. “In December 1967 he sold 400 Fisher Space Pens to NASA for $2.95 each,” equaling $1180 of taxpayer money, not a million.” And you can’t have good, obligatory made-for-Lefty-TV !SCIENCE! without some thoroughgoing dishonest slandering of President George W. Bush. Tyson is off by another few orders of magnitude below.

TYSON: Here’s what happens. George Bush, within a week of [the 9/11 terrorist attacks] gave us a speech attempting to distinguish we from they. And who are they? These were sort of the Muslim fundamentalists. And he wants to distinguish we from they. And how does he do it? He says, “Our God” — of course it’s actually the same God, but that’s a detail, let’s hold that minor fact aside for the moment. Allah of the Muslims is the same God as the God of the Old Testament. So, but let’s hold that aside. He says, “Our God is the God” — he’s loosely quoting Genesis, biblical Genesis — “Our God is the God who named the stars.”

Sorry Aetheistkult! Your favorite !SCIENCE! guy is about as accurate as an old Roman Priest casting haruspices. Now a week or two after 9/11 (give or take a 17 month margin of error among chummy geniuses) President George W. Bush did commemorate the crash of The Space Shuttle Columbia with a speech in which he made the following remarks.

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

Of course Neil deGrasse Tyson’s !SCIENCE! has about as much to do with truth as the last Gnarles Barkley CD. Maybe I’d trust a quote from Danger Mouse before I’d accept a proclamation of truth from Neil deGrasse Tyson. The man as put showmanship ahead of accuracy to the extent that if he worked in pharmaceuticals, he’d be peddling Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Let’s hope we don’t need truth or knowledge from our scientific establishment any time soon. They seem more intent on giving us exactly what we pay them for instead.

*-Here’s what an onager is. It’s not good for an estimate to be compared to an Asiatic Wild Ass.