Neil deGrasse Tyson Drops the Mic on the Problem of Science Denial in America

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We live in a time of bizarrely prevalent denial of objective truth, and nowhere is that more easily visible than in the world of science. That’s bad for everyone, even the people who are staunchest in their disbelief, because scientific truths are true whether people believe in them or not. Naturally, recognizable science advocates like Neil deGrasse Tyson have some things to say about that.

In this video on the importance of recognizing scientific truth, Tyson makes an incredibly relevant point: we have to be able to agree on the truth before we can have a reasonable political difference of opinion about how to solve a problem. That’s at the root of why political discussions have become so polarized lately, on scientific topics and beyond. It’s why discussion on some things has broken down to the point that there is no common ground to be found. Instead of disagreeing on how to fix a problem, we find ourselves disagreeing on whether a problem really exists at all or what that problem is.

And we have politicians who openly embrace that obfuscation of what’s true—who not only base their policies on what they want rather than reality, but who actually thrive on and gain support from discrediting the idea that anything is objectively true. The clip of Mike Pence is especially telling; Pence either doesn’t understand that “theory” in science doesn’t just mean a personal hypothesis, or he does, and he’s purposefully trying to use the term to discredit science anyway. Either way, he’s intentionally trying to discredit basic logic—the core of the scientific method—because if nothing is objectively, logically “true,” it puts personal beliefs on the same footing as reality.

Unfortunately, while Tyson nails the problem as well as we’d expect from him, it’s hard to know what the solution is—especially since, as he notes, society has never been perfect anyway. It’s not like we can just go back to some perfect time period where everything was great (no matter what certain politicians will tell you). We have to move forward, and we need to bring people back to respecting logic, science, and objective truth. We need science personalities like Tyson and, for example, Bill Nye, who just launched Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix today to, hopefully, do just that: save the world by educating people on how science works.

We need that more than ever right now.

(image: screengrab)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.