On the one hand, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas day tweets are the kind of obnoxious trolling that tends to give atheists such a bad name, so I could see if they annoyed people. On the other hand, as obnoxious trolling goes, these are pretty tame. I didn’t think he was being mean-spirited. I just thought he wasn’t being as clever as he thought he was being. Besides, I wrote about his bigger problems back in September, so I was going to just let these go by without comment. But then Ro sent me this article highlighting three unintentional ironies behind Tyson’s quote, and I thought it was definitely worth sharing: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s (Unwittingly) Ironic Trolling.
The main points are:
- Isaac Newton Shows how Religion and Science aren’t Opposed.
- Newton’s Birthday Reminds us of the Church’s Role in Promoting Science.
- Tyson Gets Basic Historical Facts Wrong.
Check out the article for full explanations.
3 thoughts on “About deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas Tweets”
Newton has been called the last of the magicians, too.
Here we go, John Maynard Keynes said it in 1946.
“In the eighteenth century and since, Newton came to be thought of as the first and greatest of the modern age of scientists, a rationalist, one who taught us to think on the lines of cold and untinctured reason.
I do not see him in this light. I do not think that any one who has pored over the contents of that box which he packed up when he finally left Cambridge in 1696 and which, though partly dispersed, have come down to us, can see him like that. Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago. Isaac Newton, a posthumous child bom with no father on Christmas Day, 1642, was the last wonderchild to whom the Magi could do sincere and appropriate homage.”
I’m used to Tyson being sloppy with anecdotes so this tiff isn’t surprising. The blogger is similarly sloppy.
1) Newton’s attempt to show that religion and science aren’t opposed has, in the long term, shown that only the scientific half of his canon is useful. It was Newton’s Protestantism that led him to oppose switching to the better-except-that-it’s-Catholic Gregorian calendar. There’s a concrete example of religion impeding science.
2) The church’s role in correcting the calendar had more to do with commerce and social influence than science. Easter was drifting later and later in the year, placing it after a Roman pagan equinox holiday, and making agricultural schedules confusing.
3) The blogger claims the mithraic religion was the first to copycat Christmas, when winter solstices were celebrated since at least 2400 BC, according to stonehenge, and probably much earlier.
ps) The irony of an uber-Catholic blogger praising rabidly anti-Catholic Newton.
Political factions fighting over patron saints is a silly exercise designed to stir the pot of discussions, and thereby distill ad revenue. Tyson is more of a PR genius than a scientific one: If he never said anything wrong, nobody would talk about him. Maybe that’s the linked blogger’s tactic too.
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