We’ve already established that a newspaper headline touted for years by Tyson likely doesn’t exist. We’ve also established that the exact quote he uses to bash members of Congress as being stupid also doesn’t exist. And then we established that the details within one of Tyson’s favorite anecdotes — a story of how he bravely confronted a judge about his mathematical illiteracy while serving on jury duty — seem to change every time Tyson tells the story.
In addition to those two highly questionable quotes and one highly questionable story, we now have another blatantly false quote peddled by Tyson. He has peddled this quote for years (including at a presentation on Sunday night at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle).
And that’s what’s so valuable about the hysterical responses to my research on Tyson. These lovers of science don’t actually love science, because science requires you to go where the evidence takes you, even if it goes against your original hypothesis. What many of Tyson’s cultists really like is the notion that one can become more intelligent via osmosis — that you can become as smart and as credentialed as Tyson by merely clapping like a seal at whatever he says, as long as what he says fits the political worldview of your average progressive liberal.
Tyson may be a great scientist, but what he’s selling at a price of $70 per ticket isn’t science. He’s selling the self satisfaction that comes from moral preening. Neil Tyson is adored by people who want the sweet feeling of smug, intellectual superiority without all the baggage of actually being intellectually superior in any way. They love math and science up to the point at which one of them needs to figure out a restaurant tip, and then out comes the iPhone calculator. The more self-aware ones will just round up to the nearest dollar and then pretend it’s because they’re generous. But overall, we’re dealing with people who love science so much that they picked college majors just to avoid the subject they allegedly love so dearly.