While Neil deGrasse Tyson was rolling out the 13 episodes of Cosmos, we pointed out the many distortions and untruths woven into the program’s narrative, pitting science against religion and promoting the idea that neither humanity nor planet Earth is in any way special. How likely was it that Tyson, in the rest of his public activities, has hewed to the truth on science, religion — or, let’s say, politics? Not likely, you would think.
So it’s confirming and not all that surprising to read Sean Davis’s report today at The Federalist, “Another Day, Another Quote Fabricated By Neil deGrasse Tyson.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson may be a fabulous scientist, and a consummate showman, but he’s downright terrible at accurately quoting people. Or, if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person, you might say that Neil deGrasse Tyson is pretty amazing at needlessly fabricating quotes and scenarios to showcase his own brilliance.
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).
According to Tyson, in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush uttered the phrase, “Our God is the God who named the stars.” According to Tyson, the president made that claim as a way of segregating radical Islam from religions like Christianity or Judaism.
Davis has dug out the record of what the President actually said. While Tyson has repeatedly tried to score with his anecdote supposedly illustrating Bush’s stupidity and bias, his story is wrong on every detail. Bush said something about God naming stars (citing Isaiah, not Genesis, as Tyson claims) in the context of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy of 2003. He was memorializing the Columbia’s crew, not bashing Islam as Tyson claims.
Davis has documented other — what shall we call them, goofs, taradiddles? — committed by Tyson, hardly less egregious:
At this point, I’m legitimately curious if any quotes or anecdotes peddled by Neil deGrasse Tyson are true. Over the last week, I’ve examined only four, and every single one appears to be garbage. The “above average” headline. The “360 degrees” quote from a member of Congress. The jury duty story. And now the bogus George W. Bush quote. These are normally the types of errors that would be uncovered by peer review. Blatant data fabrication, after all, is the cardinal sin of scientific publishing. In journalism, this would get you fired. In Tyson’s world, it got him his own television show. Where are Tyson’s peers, and why is no one reviewing his assertions?
Davis asks his concluding question in all innocence. I’ll tell him the answer. Tyson gets away with it, in a way we never would, because his fans adore his message — on science, religion, politics — and give him a pass. What else is new?
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Photo source: Wikipedia.