Neil deGrasse Tyson is a name that’s been bandied about the office in the last several weeks as a potential guest. While scanning RSS feeds, one keys in on keywords one may not have paid attention to previously.

In this interview with The Humanist, the popular astrophysicist has some intriguing things to say about beliefs, education, and communication. When asked if he’s a humanist:

I’ve never identified with any movement. I just am what I am and occasionally a movement claims me because there is resonance between my writings and speeches and what they do, and that’s fine; I don’t mind that. But no, I have never been politically or organizationally active in that way. Astrophysics—that’s what I identify with.

On television and education (a la Winston?):

I gave a talk to the National Science Teachers Association. That is an important group of people, K-12 educators in science. I asked by show of hands how many people—because I knew it would get an interesting reply—didn’t own a television. Half of the hands went up. Of those who owned a television, I asked how many only occasionally used it to watch a movie, and half of the hands went up. So fully three quarters of that audience whose job it is to teach the next generation science don’t watch television, yet the average American watches thirty or forty hours of television a week. That disconnect is pedagogically fatal.

…and when I say pop culture I don’t mean only the TV shows that are kind of cool and interesting. I also mean the hit shows. I’m talking about Dancing with the Stars. I’m talking about the reality shows most educators thumb their noses at as being of no educational or intellectual value. Yet clearly millions of people watch them every week so there is a disconnect. Once there is a disconnect, you’re not communicating.

On a new atheist’s style of communicating science:

In the category of worst practices, there are occasions where people—either humanist or atheist—are just completely obnoxious in a conversation with others. I even had a tussle with Richard Dawkins (I think it’s my most viewed YouTube clip) in which I accused him of being completely ineffective because he is so sharp of wit in the service of his point of view, and he is so well educated that he may fail to fulfill the directive of his title, which at the time was Professor of the Public Understanding of Science. That implies that your conversation with another person is an act of persuasion in some ways, not hitting them over the head. You want to understand what is going on in another person’s mind and meet them there. Otherwise, you’re not as effective as you could be.


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Reflections

I am afraid I agree with Mr.Tyson. My guess is that our dear friend Mr. Dawkins appears to be more of a religious fundamentalist than a neutral empirical explorer of the human psyche. I would suggest to Dawkins that his fundamentalist point of view probably comes from an underlying fear of "no God equals no meaning." He desperately wants meaning, and one he can be sure of. The world is a quite uncertain place, and fundamentalists of all kinds need to find some degree of certainty. Atheism gives his live the meaning and the certainty he is so desperate for. I would suggest to him that he can find out empirically that love needs no God, no atheism, no human rationale. I suspect Tyson understands this.

Yes, please do your best to get him on the show! I listen to the program religiously (get it?), and some of my favorite episodes are those with a scientific bent. I will be waiting with anticipation

deGrasse Tyson on target with comments to dawkins. please get him on SOF!!

deGrasse Tyson is on target with his comments to Dawkins. even if it shows how clever & witty one is, over-intellectualization alienates the masses.

please have deGrasse Tyson on SOF!!!

I love them both and we need both men and their approaches.  After all, this is war!