The overtly religious behavior of supposedly secular, anti-religious opponents is becoming increasingly obvious, but the reaction to revelations of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s plagiarism are surprising even to me. This, my friends, is what happens when you tip a sacred cow.
The story comes from Sean Davis by way of The Federalist. Davis has done some digging and has found that many of the punchiest and most perfect quotes Tyson uses to excoriate religious believers who don’t grasp the magnificence of science are punchy and perfect because he made them up.
The fabrications were not a one-off thing. They were deliberate and calculated, crafted with one goal in mind: to elevate Tyson, and by extension his audience, at the expense of know-nothing, knuckle-dragging nutjobs who hate science. Tyson targeted journalists, members of Congress, even former President George W. Bush. And what was their crime? They were guilty of rejecting science, according to Tyson.
There’s only one problem. None of the straw man quotes that Tyson uses to tear them down are real. The quote about the numerically illiterate newspaper headline? Fabricated. The quote about a member of Congress who said he had changed his views 360 degrees? It doesn’t exist. That time a U.S. president said “Our God is the God who named the stars” as a way of dividing Judeo-Christian beliefs from Islamic beliefs? It never happened.
That’s already a pretty interesting story, but before I had a chance to write about the other shoe dropped. Folks, naturally enough, started adding this information to Tyson’s Wikipedia page. This is pretty standard fare: whenever a person with a Wikipedia entry gets connected to some major controversy, there’s usually a section in their entry dedicated to discussing the charges. But, in this case, Wikipedia editors did not take kindly to anyone besmirching the honor of their patron saint!
According to a review of the edit history of Tyson’s page, one long-time Wikipedia editor deleted an entire pending section summarizing the issue of Tyson’s fabricated quotes. Another editor attempted to insert a brief mention of Tyson’s fabrication of the George W. Bush quote. That mention was also deleted. When it was reinserted, it was deleted yet again by an editor who describes himself as a childless progressive and an apostle of Daily Kos (h/t @kerpen)… Literally every single mention of Tyson’s history of fabricating quotes has been removed from Tyson’s Wikipedia page.
The only thing possibly worse than the fanatical desire to protect Tyson’s image from reality is the viciousness with which Davis, for daring his sacrilege, is pilloried by his opponents. It is, as he describes, overtly religious.
These lovers of science don’t actually love science, because science requires you to go where the evidence takes you, even if it goes against your original hypothesis. What many of Tyson’s cultists really like is the notion that one can become more intelligent via osmosis — that you can become as smart and as credentialed as Tyson by merely clapping like a seal at whatever he says, as long as what he says fits the political worldview of your average progressive liberal.
Davis’s analysis is particular interesting from a Mormon perspective, because the Book of Mormon closely identifies false prophets with flattery. Examples:
- And he [Sherem] preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ. – Jacob 7:2
- Yea, and [the people] also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them. – Mosiah 11:5
- And [Nehor] had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; – Alma 1:1
- But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; – Alma 30:47 (This is Alma speaking to Korihor, another false prophet)
It’s not just a generally religious template that Tyson is enacting. It’s some of the worst religion has to offer: the promise that if you give a prophet loyalty this means you are superior to your neighbors. It’s a message seductive as it is sinister.