Neil deGrasse Tyson Isn't Only Taking Hits from Us, You Know
Cosmos fans are upset with us for criticizing their favorite program. They seem to think if only ENV stopped harping on it, Neil deGrasse Tyson would have no detractors. Not true!
Massimo Pigliucci and Damon Linker are concerned about a Nerdist podcast that Tyson did back in March where, in a jokey way, Dr. Tyson seemed to dismiss the value of philosophy as so much navel-gazing. As Pigliucci points out, he's said much the same in other forums that were less jocose.
Pigliucci is at pains to emphasize what good buddies he and (the more famous) Neil Tyson are:
It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse Tyson has done it again: he has dismissed philosophy as a useless enterprise, and actually advised bright students to stay away from it. It is not the first time Neil has done this sort of thing, and he is far from being the only scientist to do so. But in his case the offense is particularly egregious, for two reasons: first, because he is a highly visible science communicator; second, because I told him not to, several times.
Damon Linker, meanwhile, hurls insults in defense of the great philosophers: "[Tyson] is a philistine." "He should be ashamed of himself."
Frankly, I'm not all that anxious to hear Neil Tyson philosophize. A person in public life should be judged not by how he does in the tasks he doesn't set for himself, but how he does in the tasks he does set for himself.
With Cosmos, Tyson seeks to explain, with particular attention to the younger audience, the history of science especially as it pertains to origins, cosmic and biological. Executive producer Seth MacFarlane said from the beginning that the program has intelligent design in its crosshairs.
Tyson is an amiable man. It's hard not to be charmed by him. But Cosmos conceals from viewers the truth about the role faith has played in the development of science. It tells a false story. And it has refused to acknowledge that the scientific question of origins is a lot more ambiguous, complicated, and interesting than the media generally admit.
Let Tyson tell the whole truth about these things, history and science, the self-assigned ambit of the program that he hosts. Let him do the job he actually undertook. Then if there's time left over, and there won't be, I'd like to know what he thinks about philosophy.
I'm on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.
Photo source: Fox TV.