The Rather-ization of Neil DeGrasse Tyson


A couple of days ago we looked at the exploits of serial fabulist and pop-science impressario Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Sean Davis, writing at The Federalist, took the time to dig into the various anecdotes Tyson lards his lectures with which are designed to make him look smart and those he doesn’t like look dumb. Of particular interest was a quote that he attributed to President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. A quote that he didn’t say, in fact, one that is jarringly out of context with everything we know about the man.


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.”

Get it? Bush is dumb.

When Davis exposed this as the rather low-bred calumny that it is, Tyson’s followers retaliated by trying to delete The Federalist’s Wikipedia entry, showing, at once, their Talibanized value system and their lack of respect for truth. Tyson responded in character:

I have explicit memory of those words being spoken by the President. I reacted on the spot, making note for possible later reference in my public discourse. Odd that nobody seems to be able to find the quote anywhere — surely every word publicly uttered by a President gets logged.

FYI: There are two kinds of failures of memory. One is remembering that which has never happened and the other is forgetting that which did. In my case, from life experience, I’m vastly more likely to forget an incident than to remember an incident that never happened. So I assure you, the quote is there somewhere. When you find it, tell me. Then I can offer it to others who have taken as much time as you to explore these things.

One of our mantras in science is that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.


One would have expected a man of character to have owned up to the mistake and offer an apology. At first this seemed as though this might be a possibility:

I was wrong about when he said it. It appears in his speech after the Columbia Shuttle disaster, eighteen months after September 11th 2001. My bad. And I here publicly apologize to the President for casting his quote in the context of contrasting religions rather than as a poetic reference to the lost souls of Columbia. I have no excuse for this, other than both events — so close to one another — upset me greatly. In retrospect, I’m surprised I remembered any details from either of them.

But he just couldn’t stop himself:

Of course, very little changes in that particular talk. I will still mention Islamic Extremists flying planes into buildings in the 21st century. I will still contrast it with the Golden Age of Islam a millennium earlier. And I will still mention the President’s quote. But instead, I will be the one contrasting what actually happened in the world with what the Bible says: The Arabs named the stars, not Yahweh.

So now he will use a quote Bush did say, out of context, to make a point that is profoundly stupid and ignores the obvious “who created the Arabs?” issue.

Sean Davis:

Now, Tyson may think the Bible is stupid (the Bush quote affair has already demonstrated that highly attested history isn’t exactly his strong point), but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing internally inconsistent with God knowing the names of stars and people on earth giving names to stars.


I still find it shocking the lengths to which Tyson went — up to and including repeated and obvious fabrications about the president of the United States — to make such a pathetically bad point. His story is the Rube Goldberg machine of stupid stories: completely pointless, and hopelessly fragile. You’d think somebody intent on pointing out a massive internal contradiction would, oh, I don’t know, spend some time researching whether there was actually an internal contradiction. But then again, you’d probably think that somebody would make sure a quote actually existed before repeating it as gospel.

As I said earlier in the week:

As we’ve noted before, on the secular left science is not a process of inquiry, it is an ersatz religion. It has its own creation myth (evolution, the Big Bang), its own story of the Fall of Man (industrialization, organized religion, global warming), and a tale of redemption and salvation (environmentalism, no perversion left behind, and reason). Tyson is not a scientist in the sense of someone who honors scientific method. He knows everything and, therefore, has nothing left to learn.

Were he a scientist he would not go about making up anecdotes, slandering people, and insisting that his own memory is infallible and that a press corps that pounced on every verbal misstep by President Bush missed something this glaring. Rather a scientist would at least entertain the possibility that they were in error.

Tyson is as rigid and unyielding in his disdain for anyone one who would disagree with him as any imam who ever crawled out of tribal Afghanistan. His followers would be a Taliban if they were smarter, better educated, and had more ambition.

Tyson now resembles nothing so much as Dan Rather shamelessly defending the “fake but accurate” documents that he hoped would prevent President Bush’s re-election. Both have perpetrated a fraud on the public, their fraud was exposed, and rather than do the honorable thing they have doubled down.






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