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October 02, 2014

Fake But Accurate: Neil DeGrasse Tyson Somehow Claims Vindication Even While Admitting Error

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a thin-skinned man, small in spirit, shabby in conduct, stingy with the truth.

I cannot express how risible and ugly his his non-apology apology is.

A Case Study: Quoting George W. Bush

For a talk I give on the rise and fall of science in human cultural history I occasionally paraphrase President George W. Bush from one of his speeches, remarking that our God is the God who named the stars, and immediately noting that 2/3 of all star-names in the night sky are Arabic. I use this fact to pivot from the present-day, back to a millennium ago, during the Golden Age of Islam, in which major advances in math, science, engineering, medicine, and navigation were achieved. The Bush reference is not written on my PowerPoint slides, which I keep sparse, but I remembered it from a speech he gave after September 11, 2001. And I presented it that way, as Bush's attempt to distinguish "we" from 'they." When eager scrutinizers [that is, people who actually check facts -- ace] looked for the quote they could not find it, and promptly accused me of fabricating a Presidential sentence. Lawyers are good at this. [Scientists should be good at verifying facts, too, one hopes -- ace] They find something that you get wrong, and use it to cast doubt on everything else you say. [Actually Sean Davis didn't do that at all -- so Tyson is assigning false motives and false actions to a critic. How unexpected.-- ace] Blogosphere headlines followed, with accusations of me being a compulsive liar and a fabricator. [No, but a serial fabricator of Factoids.--ace]

What followed fascinated me greatly. As others had uncovered, the President indeed utter the following sentences:

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.

Stop the tape, as Rush Limbaugh says. "Others" did not uncover this -- Sean M. Davis uncovered this in the original post charging Tyson with peddling falsehoods, and has mentioned it in every single post about the Bush quote since.

If Tyson is being honest here that he didn't know about it until "others" pointed it out to him, then Tyson never bothered to read his critics at all and discover what it was precisely they were saying.

And if that's the case, no wonder he feels comfortable claiming that Sean Davis charged him with these false claims in order to "discredit everything else he says."

Tyson's pretty much admitting here, I take it, he's never read Sean Davis. If he had read him, it would not have been a mystery as two when and in what context Bush mentioned the Creator who named the stars; again, Davis was the one who uncovered that, and noted from the start that Tyson must be misremembering that quote.

So if Tyson hasn't read Davis at all, how the bloody hell is he characterizing what Davis says about him?

Very scientific, that.

But I was wrong about when he said it. It appears in his speech after the Columbia Shuttle disaster, eighteen months after September 11th 2001. My bad. And I here publicly apologize to the President for casting his quote in the context of contrasting religions rather than as a poetic reference to the lost souls of Columbia. I have no excuse for this, other than both events-- so close to one another -- upset me greatly. In retrospect, I’m surprised I remembered any details from either of them.

Jesus Christ Almighty he's clapping himself on the back for misremembering things now -- "I'm surprised I remembered any details."

By the way, April 2003 is really not terribly close upon September 2001.

Now, that may sound sort of like an apology to you.

But read on. He's about to take it back, claiming This changes nothing.

f course, very little changes in that particular talk. I will still mention Islamic Extremists flying planes into buildings in the 21st century. I will still contrast it with the Golden Age of Islam a millennium earlier. And I will still mention the President’s quote. But instead, I will be the one contrasting what actually happened in the world with what the Bible says: The Arabs named the stars, not Yahweh.

I cannot explain how fuckheaded this is.

Tyson originally thought -- wrongly, as he now semi-confesses-- that Bush was endeavoring to distinguish between the Arabic "god" Allah and the Christian God. Thus, per his original misunderstanding, it made some sense to attack Bush in this way.

Now he admits that Bush had no intention whatsoever to distinguish one god from any other -- but Tyson says he will still use the quote to illustrate that Bush was wrong to say "Yahweh" named the stars (in fact, Bush named no deity), and that "Arabs" had named them.

Oddly we've now gone from contrasting Yahweh from Allah to contrasting Yahweh from Arabs.

Arabs are not gods. This makes no sense.

By the way, in Tyson's original argument -- all based on this falsehood -- he laughed at Bush for not realizing that Allah and Yahweh were one in the same god.

I know that's debatable, but that was Tyson's claim.

Now he apparently is distinguishing between them himself.

His original premise was wrong -- flat-out wrong, completely wrong -- and the entire series of assumptions and further premises building upon that premise are now either irrelevant or also wrong, but he's so determined to claim he's still right that he invents some new argument to make -- apparently now arguing that no god, Arabic or Christian or Hebraic, named the stars, but that people named them, So There.

This is so absurd: Yeah, I think we're all agreed that people actually named the stars.

So he just seems to have shifted from an argument that Bush was wrong to champion one god over another to a broader flat-out atheist argument that Bush was stupid to suggest god exists at all.

Because duh, it was people who named the stars!

In order to preserve his ego, he has to postulate that Bush was speaking literally when he said God named the stars as they appear in astronomical texts.

And Tyson wants you to know: That's not true.

Well no shit. So now you're proving that it was actually astrologers and astronomers who named the stars?

Who exactly was contesting that?

And by the way, he needs you to know that it wasn't just people who named the stars. It was specifically Arabs ( two thirds of them, anyway), so take that you racists!

Note he's still hitting this particular theme despite admitting that Bush never intended to demean any religion or race when he spoke those words.

By the way, does Tyson believe that only the Arabs named the stars? Because that would be pretty fkucing dumb, wouldn't it?

At least when he was using the false Bush quote, the logic that followed made sense. The argument was valid -- but false, as it derived from a false premise.

This new substitute argument he's made up to claim vindication makes no sense whatsoever. It's just gibberish.

It's just basically "Nyah, nyah, I'm not listening, and I have more Twitter Followers than you!"

You know, when this started, I thought this was much more about Tyson's cultists than about Tyson himself.

But now I've seen the real Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and I see him for the intellectually-insecure can't-be-wrong juvenile man-child asshole he is, the typical professor type who can't gracefully admit an error because their whole fascade of authority might collapse around them.

Even in acknowledging an error, he casts this all as a Morality Play in which he, who was Wrong, is still the Hero, and Sean Davis, who was Right, is still the Villain.

And that's Science (TM) for ya!

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Apparently a tendentious stubborness and dissembling in defense of one's ego and vanity is the highest aspect of Science.

Great men offer grand apologies; tiny men offer stunted ones.

Here are couple of more quotes:

"Self-love is more cunning than the most cunning man." -- George W. Bush, shortly after 9/11, attacking the Muslims*

"The first principle is not to fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool." -- George W. Bush, a month after 9/11, in claiming that All Muslims Are Just Terrible **

* Actually Francois de la Rochefoucauld, suggesting that vanity will trick even the brightest man into becoming a fool or a knave while calling himself a sage or knight.

** Actually truly worthy physicist Richard Feynman, who wasn't just a TV Celebrity, suggesting similarly that scientists like all other men want to believe nice things about themselves, and will delude themselves into thinking they're right, or have discovered some great and important thing, if they are not careful about this propensity to trick themselves.

Fittingly enough, that quote is from Feynman's essay, "Cargo Cult Science."

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posted by Ace at 03:51 PM

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