Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Pedantry of Neil deGrasse Tyson or Someone Finally Awakens from Petty Science

This referenced essay is a bit over the top, but, if you understand it at all, it miraculously captures my dissatisfaction with Neil deGrasse Tyson and the scientific oobleck currently covering all thought. When Tyson first came on the scene, he seemed great! Recently, I haven't been able to figure out why he has become disturbing. This article articulates it all.


Mike said...

I'll buy it, but doesn't pedantry come with the job? It's when they make the jump into moral and political philosophy that I start to get annoyed. It's like, keep the machines calibrated and shut up.

James R said...

I'm not sure it does come with the job. I'm not cynical enough to think pop science is pedantic. Science should be exciting and thought provoking, even for us masses, and there are plenty who can teach it well. Here's one of my favorite videos on very basic science.

I agree that a scientist's jump into moral and political philosophy may quickly get annoying, which is a big part of the referenced article. But even that isn't really the point. The real point, for me, is treating science and any related moral and political philosophy as a certainty unlike any other knowledge. That repeatable empiricism goes somehow beyond human perception into a god-trick truth, which is what makes science dull—the loss of acknowledging its humanness. The other Polyani brother, Michael, dealt excitingly with the moral and political philosophy of science, but not in a pedantic way.

So I agree, often a scientist should keep the machines calibrated and shut up (There's an old saying among quantum physicists: "Shut up and keep calculating."), but an even better scientist and teacher should present some scientifically sound moral and philosophical dilemmas.