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Neil deGrasse Tyson should stop talking about what he doesn’t understand

November 15, 2013

Mediaite: “‘Buzzkill’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson Ruins Your Zombie Fantasies Forever on The Daily Show” by Josh Feldman:

… on Thursday night, Jon Stewart finally gave [Neil deGrasse Tyson] his very own Daily Show segment: “Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Buzzkill of Science.” Tyson has deflated some of the most popular pieces of pop culture with things like “facts” and “scientific accuracy.” And Thursday night, he ruined all hope that a zombie outbreak like on The Walking Dead could actually happen in real life.

Stewart forces the question even after Tyson says this is not really what he does. Tyson portrays himself as finding errors in realistic science-fiction whereas he thinks zombies are pure fantasy that ignores physiology. Though when pushed, he does consider zombie possible for other planets, “space zombies” (see also AstroZombies — and contrast to Astrue zombies).

What Tyson misses is that zombies are metaphor! My problem with deGrasse Tyson is that he talks like a 5th grade science teacher, as if “facts” were knowable. He is a very educated physicist but I think he needs some classes on the social construction of knowledge and the history of science. Science is itself a metaphor set and so-called scientific facts change with history. Not only because of improved technology and new measurements but also because of cultural changes (often both changing together so it’s hard to say which changed first – as in Darwin, habits and physiology change together – instrumentalism, my dear Hegel).

Language is a virus and human minds do become zombied by ideas. The mind turns into the ideas that bite us. But Tyson likens zombies to “backwards time travel” and “love”. Both these exist…in language. And “mastication” refers literally to chewing, but chew on this, love is real. And while you ruminate on that, consider your mind traveling backwards in time as it reflects on lost loves (Cf. Proust).

And for further time travel, view last night’s 11/14/2013 episode of The Daily Show on their website [Tyson segment here].

[correction: I meant incrematalism in regards to Darwin, though Hegel is still dear, and instrumentalism sort of also applies]


From → Academics

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