Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science Deniers In Power Are A Profound Threat To Democracy

By Karla Lant | 21 April 2017

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Neil deGrasse Tyson posted a four-minute clip on Facebook that he claimed contains what might be the most important words he has ever spoken. In the video, he warns that science denial could cause our democracy to collapse.

The greatest threat

In a Facebook post on April 19, Neil deGrasse Tyson commanded the attention of his followers: “Dear Facebook Universe, I offer this four-minute video on ‘Science in America’ containing what may be the most important words I have ever spoken.”

He starts the clip by reminding us that the United States was an underdog, an upstart that achieved something amazing, transforming itself from a “backwoods country” into “one of the greatest nations the world has ever known,” thanks to science and an unwavering trust in its pursuit. That’s how we traveled to the Moon and got online, and it has always been a fundamental element of what America was — until now.

A disturbing trend has gripped our nation in the 21st century, a time when people need science and a rigorous method for testing truth more than ever: “People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not,” he said. “It’s not something to say ‘I choose not to believe E = mc^2.’ You don’t have that option.”

Tyson highlights issues that have somehow become highly controversial despite overwhelming scientific evidence that should stamp out any such dispute: human-caused climate change, evolution, and vaccinations, for example.

He then points out that some of the people who both understand science the least and deny it the most now hold the most power in our society, and he calls this catastrophically dangerous situation out: “That is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.”

Scientific literacy on the brink

The scientific method is more important than ever in this era of “alternative facts.” Tyson explains the elements of the scientific method — hypothesis, experimentation, and how they work even more effectively when rivals employ them — in the space of about 30 seconds. Applied properly, these tools lead to emergent truths, and they do it more effectively than anything else. “The scientific method does it better than anything else we have ever done as human beings,” explained Tyson.

Emergent scientific truths don’t care about your opinions; they are true regardless of your beliefs about them. “And the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us,” said Tyson in the video.

That is why scientific literacy is more important than ever in this age of lightning-speed innovation. Each moment of science denial only delays the potential solution. The end result is the same problems, worsened by neglect and ignorance. Tyson wants citizen-voters to understand how science works so we can make more informed decisions. As Tyson asserts, we are the only ones who can: “It’s in our hands.”

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  1. This is nice, but deliberately ignorant, to avoid pointing at the real problem – religion. He can’t remember when there have been so many science deniers? There have ALWAYS been science deniers, and they still rule the world, trampling over science.
    Why? Because fooling people for power over them works really well, and religion is the most powerful, highly-evolved tool for doing it. Because smart con artist rulers routinely beat out liberal democracy and science. Because too many people are too lazy to do the hard work of thinking for themselves. Because they’ve been taught since infancy that FAITH is a virtue, and they totally believe it. They’re ignorant and proud of it, smugly demeaning the educated as unworthy elites. They evangelize for faith over science, and proclaim its glory. It’s just easier to trust in a God and an associated strong-man authority figure.
    This will NEVER change UNLESS more people confront this problem directly. Oppose religion and challenge its power over us. If you value science, fight for it, fight its primary enemy – religion. Our future freedom and prosperity depend on respect for science. In science, skepticism is a virtue and faith is a vice. In this struggle, ATHEISTS are the heroes, and they deserve our appreciation and respect.

  2. I adore Mr. DeGrasse Tyson and would vote for him in a heartbeat but you have absolutely put my thoughts into words. I agree with every word you’ve posted. Thank you.


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