Neil deGrasse Tyson Is The Corny Uncle America Needs

The Importance of Science Popularizes
The Importance of Science Popularizes Fox

There’s a strong hurricane that made the news this week -- toppling Texas homes and local businesses, which means just like pompous clockwork, Neil “fuck your thoughts” Tyson has already published a deliciously acerbic tweet about it.

The, “eat my butt, you towny mouth-breathers,” is implied. While this particular tweet maybe a tad more woolly than the bracingly forthright slights we’ve come to expect from the astrophysicists, I think we all should take some time to appreciate the presence of a caustic celebrity intellectual.

Perhaps not as winsome as Hitchens, though not quite as austere as Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson is the brainy curmudgeon this country needs. While the undercurrent of epistemology is being furthered by the brilliant work of guys like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Elizabeth Colbert, Tyson puts a face to it all and reminds the hayseeds puttering throughout Middle America just how passé the age of the philistine has become. Standing in as the most prominent “science popularizer” since maybe Carl Sagan, Tyson bears an unrivaled knack for translating the exquisitely dense nature of physics into digestible chunks, without ever feeling supercilious or insipid.

For me, the most precious contribution Tyson has afforded our growing secular world, above his comprehension of planetary science and astrophysics, and above his aptitude for explaining it to others, is the way he delivers facts and reason in a way that's congruent with the sentimentality of the human experience. He rectifies theology’s most enduring counterpoint: “Without us, existence is but a prosaic sludge. You're born, you suffer you die. That’s all.” To this point, I allow Tyson to speak for himself.

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

Would anyone of a sound mind dare to brand that prosaic? It’s as elegant as anything presented by any doctrine, sans even a modicum of dogmatic hate or falsehood. Science isn’t some simulacrum of the kind of humanism offered by theism, but a deferential answer to it. A secular mind is not a mind prohibited from the joys of transcendental love or ecstasy, as Harris once said, and Tyson has done wonders in convincing the mainstream of that.

In a world of capricious ethics and social standards, it should also be noted that Tyson is a man of conviction, a true polemicist. And a less generous observer might go so far as to say, contrarian. From everything from Agnosticism vs. Atheism, to the scientific legitimacy of films like Gravity, to hot takes on Batman V. Superman. Neil deGrasse Tyson is corny Uncle America needs.

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