William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Analysis Of A Sermon From The Secular Scientism Priest Neil deGrasse Tyson

Say Cheesy. Our man is on the far right.

Say Cheesy. Our man is on the far right.

It’s not that anybody of stature claims Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of our greatest minds; instead, it has been said he is a harmless entertainer. In this there is some truth. But he is also a sort of snide yet jolly secular priest, and a harmful one because the religion he preaches—scientism—is a false one. Don’t believe me: let’s let Tyson prove this in his own words, taken from his sermon “What Science Is — and How and Why It Works“.

Science distinguishes itself from all other branches of human pursuit by its power to probe and understand the behavior of nature on a level that allows us to predict with accuracy, if not control, the outcomes of events in the natural world.

This sounds like a boast, but it is only a definition. Who didn’t know the job of science? We could have also said, for example, Literature distinguishes itself from all other branches of human pursuit by its power to probe and understand the behavior of people on a level that allows us to probe with accuracy, if not control, the outcomes of events of people’s lives. Science is only one branch of knowledge.

The scientific method, which underpins these achievements, can be summarized in one sentence, which is all about objectivity:

Do whatever it takes to avoid fooling yourself into thinking something is true that is not, or that something is not true that is.

However, this “method” is also the one that applies in literature, philosophy, mathematics, theology, and so forth. Science has no special case to make in the pursuit of truth. Yet Scientist Tyson intimates that because science does a superior job at discovering scientific truths, scientific truths are superior to other truths. This is obviously false, not the least because science could not do its job without the truths from the other areas of human endeavor. Indeed, a strong case can be made that scientific truths are the least important to mankind because no scientific truth gives us any insight into life and death, the purpose and meaning of our lives, morality, and so forth.

Since [Galileo and Bacon], we would further learn not to claim knowledge of a newly discovered truth until multiple researchers, and ultimately the majority of researchers, obtain results consistent with one another.

A “newly discovered truth” is a truth regardless of how many researchers believe or can prove it. This is just Tyson writing poorly. He meant to say that we should not say new claims are true until the claims have received consistent verification. Yet since the advent of Big Science, we know that grandiose claims made by breathless press releases often receive the biggest reward. And those claims which further the Establishment (particularly government) are often claimed to be true contrary to evidence.

Science discovers objective truths…

Once an objective truth is established by these methods, it is not later found to be false. We will not be revisiting the question of whether Earth is round; whether the sun is hot; whether humans and chimps share more than 98 percent identical DNA; or whether the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen.

Science is not alone in discovering objective truths, and science can only discover truths about the contingent world. Also, science would a dull field indeed were it only to catalog contingent objective truths. It doesn’t take a full-fledged “scientist” to say the sun is hot or even that the earth is round (despite the many fictions that have grown up claiming mankind only knew this latter objective truth recently). Science is therefore not a dry collection of objective truths, but an attempt at understanding the (secondary) causes of these truths. Why is sun hot? That requires an explanation, a theory, which is subject to revision, to revisting.

So the only times science cannot assure objective truths is on the pre-consensus frontier of research, and the only time it couldn’t was before the 17th century, when our senses — inadequate and biased — were the only tools at our disposal to inform us of what was and was not true in our world.

Once again, Scientist Tyson has confused observation with explanation. And somehow he forgets that our senses—inadequate and biased—are still the only tools we have to make sense of the data presented to us. It is only the case that we have created tools which provide our inadequate and biased senses with new data. A microscope still presents to the eye an image which must be interpreted.

Objective truths exist outside of your perception of reality, such as the value of pi; E= m c 2; Earth’s rate of rotation; and that carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases. These statements can be verified by anybody, at any time, and at any place. And they are true, whether or not you believe in them.

This is the product of a mind overtaxed. Not all these statements can be verified by anybody. But that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, for instance, is of itself of only minor interest. How much influence it has is another question entirely. Tyson does not appear to understand the difference.

Meanwhile, personal truths are what you may hold dear, but have no real way of convincing others who disagree, except by heated argument, coercion or by force. These are the foundations of most people’s opinions…You don’t have to like gay marriage. Nobody will ever force you to gay-marry. But to create a law preventing fellow citizens from doing so is to force your personal truths on others. Political attempts to require that others share your personal truths are, in their limit, dictatorships.

I’m guessing where a migrant to hold at knife at Scientist Tyson’s throat, his “personal truth” that murder is wrong would at least come to his mind if not his lips. Would he try to force this personal truth on his would-be slayer? That murder is wrong is not, of course, a scientific answer. Science is mute on morality and on, for instance, gay marriage. It is only a mind saturated in scientism that could say if you don’t like gay marriage, you don’t have to participate in it. It’s like saying that you don’t have to like murder, you don’t have to participate in it.

Note further that in science, conformity is anathema to success.

It is here I doubled over in laughter and could not follow the remainder of the sermon to its end.

33 Comments

  1. “Indeed, a strong case can be made that scientific truths are the least important to mankind because no scientific truth gives us any insight into life and death, the purpose and meaning of our lives, morality, and so forth.”

    I don’t follow you at all here, Briggs. Why does the inability to address the great unanswerable mysteries of existence make it the least important? Also, insight is a slippery word. Just about anything can be said to give insight. I am also curious about the so forth.

    I do agree that Tyson’s article is just boilerplate and contains very little insight. 😉

  2. Sometimes I think the only thing that Tyson knows how to do is to be amazed at the meaningless fact that our atoms came from stars. The rest is just terrible philosophy, snark, and self-importance.

  3. “You don’t have to like gay marriage. Nobody will ever force you to gay-marry. But to create a law preventing fellow citizens from doing so is to force your personal truths on others.”

    I wonder how Tyson would feel if we said:

    “You don’t have to like global warming skepticism. No one will ever force you to be a skeptic. But to create a law preventing fellow citizens from doing so is to force your personal truths on others.”

  4. Tyson plays the rhetorical magician here, making simple statements that uncritical people take at face value but direct them to false conclusions. The sad/funny thing is he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. “Personal truth!” What an idiot.

  5. Top picture: Three adult male idol worshippers taking a photo of the idols they worship. The only reason to take a selfie is you worship yourself as an idol. That’s not scientific, Neil darling.

    Tyson apparently doesn’t recall that heated argument, coercion and force ARE the ways global warming belief is enforced. I’m sure it just slipped his mind.

    Agreed that according to Tyson, all laws such as those against homicide, etc, are personal beliefs and as such he cannot say that Ted Cruz is a bad politician or that ISIS is wrong for viewing all opponents as deserving of death. These are not scientific truths in any way, shape or form. In fact, violence and murder have been the way of the world for most of history, so scientifically speaking, violence is probably more normal than nonviolence.

    I am really curious what “when our senses — inadequate and biased — were the only tools at our disposal to inform us of what was and was not true in our world” means. Without sight, hearing, touch and taste, how do we gather scientific evidence, create scientific methods, etc. Does the great God of Science just telepathically send down the information?

    The uncontrollable laughter is understandable. I am always amazed at how human beings can so engage in projection and double-think without a bit of conflict inching in. It is quite remarkable. (Also, deadly, but that’s how it goes.)

  6. In some ways Tyson is an example what’s wrong with our society. He thinks that “science” can answer the fundamental questions of life, and that he, or rather people like him, can manage their fellow men into better lives using the insights so gained. The unconscious arrogance is an awesome sight to behold. The damage it does can be seen in part by the atrocities of the last century.

    As for his misinformed opinion about not being forced to “gay-marry” he should check with some bakers, photographers, and florists.

  7. Like many before him, he displays a shocking ignorance of history. Tyson is beloved by many small minds for the same reason that NPR is.

  8. Tyson is something of a joke in the actual physics community , having produced little or no original research. Like Jon Stewart, he professes a popular secularist religion that is popular among millions of people who who want to appear smarter through association instead of having to actually do any work of actually studying science.

  9. I am not sure I am all that offended by NdTs opinion piece. All I see in it is the same challenge of describing something that can’t quite be described. I point to Popper’s falsifiability ideas as an embodiment of “Science”. Some folks in other places have jumped on that as being not quite correct. I know it isn’t perfectly correct. I also know it is closer to correct than the idea of Hypothesis, Test to prove hypothesis. In my estimation, science is always trying to prove that you are wrong. EVERYTHING. Every premise we have we check every day. Except we can’t check everything.

    I can’t say that NdT said anything different than that in that piece. I can align the ideas I see in the piece with the ideas I see in Briggs writing.

    I have the same challenge with Richard Muller. Muller writes like I expect a scientist to write. It is only when he starts talking about Climate Change that he starts tap dancing the wrong way. Even there, he still talks like a scientist. But he is hedging. There is a trap in data analysis. Muller has said that the earth is warming and that warming (as seen in the data) is mostly caused by humans. Anthony Watts absolutely agrees with him. Matt Briggs absolutely agrees with him. I think it is pretty clear though that neither Anthony Watts NOR Matt Briggs thinks that the globe is dangerously warming. Oddly, neither does Richard Muller. There is a trap in the analysis. Anthony Watts has shown that the data has increased and that that increase is largely caused by site location. The site locations are caused by people. Briggs has shown us quite clearly all the ways that models cause us to see things that aren’t really there. Models were created by people.

    We are all good at hearing the things other people “intend” to say. We make connections that may or may not be there. Bill Nye in that photo annoys the …. out of me. He put a drop of ink into a gallon of water and says “See.. you can see the change”. All I can say is exactly. Plot the data on an absolute scale. Put in an actual increase in overall temperature top and bottom, and you can see the change on an absolute scale.

    We are all biased by our backgrounds. Science has at its core the philosophy of several thousands years attempting to separate itself from the irrational. The irrational was part of the core of fight in philosophy. We can’t get rid of the irrational. Life is irrational.

    Climate Change is not the fight. Allocation of resources is the fight. Whether is is smoking, carcinogens, or global warming, the goal is to get funding for next year AND if you are lucky for the next 30 years. Getting the masses to BELIEVE is a key to that.

    NdT does not appear to truly be in that fight. He is just trying to point to the tools that will more likely help us make better decisions. We can read into it what we want. It is always a tap dance though. There is no glass ceiling except for those who see it. If you see the glass ceiling, you don’t belong on the other side. Yes that just came out of no where.

  10. Brad: Reading this piece only, NdT may seem harmless. However, NdT does not in any way follow the ideas he claims to espouse here. Read his twitter account. He injects his own bias into everything he does. As far as I can see, he preaches a great sermon and expects others to follow it, but exempts himself. That’s problematic when you’re arguing for science, rather than religion or political dominance.

  11. Sheri,
    “I am really curious what “when our senses — inadequate and biased — were the only tools at our disposal to inform us of what was and was not true in our world” means.”

    Are you really curious? Clearly he is referring to instrumentation that extends our feeble human senses to parts of the electromagnetic spectrum beyond the visible, to the detection of ionizing radiation, to the very small (microscopes) and the very distant (telescopes), to inaudable sound, etc to give a few examples.

    Leo,
    “The damage it does can be seen in part by the atrocities of the last century.”

    It has been many years since I’ve heard such a blatant attempt to blame all (or part of) the evil of the world on science. The evil scientist movie villain has been largely replaced by the evil capitalist. The atrocities of the last century were due to the philosophy of socialism in its various forms not science. Or as I used to say to my Humanity (Arts) colleagues: it was the humanity majors who started the world wars and the Scientists who were obliged to end them. I said this only after enduring a rant of the evils of science.

    Briggs and I have a long standing debate as to the usefulness of the term scientism. Too many people use it to mask a visceral dislike of science.

  12. Scotian: But are we not using our “inadequate and biased senses” to create and interprets these findings? I know people keep telling me we can “see” inside atoms, but what are we really seeing? How can we “see” building blocks of matter? Magnification only goes so far before those biased senses kick in. Same for any phenomena outside our senses. We still have to explain those phenomena using words and ideas our senses understand.

    I do agree that science is not reason for the damages of the last century. Before science, there were all kinds of atrocities and there will be even in science manages to damage itself beyond repair (unlikely, of course) or just becomes a branch of politics with no semblance to what it originally was. There are all kinds of reasons for atrocities and bad behaviours, some scientific, some political, some religious.

    The major problem with science at the moment is over-confidence in some areas. I am definatly not anti-science, but I do believe that scientists should be very honest about how much they know and how much they are guessing at. Perhaps because I am also very familiar with how psychics and marketing work, I worry when certainty is ascribe to something that is anything but certain.

  13. It took Briggs two sentences to assert [without foundation] that “scientism” was being preached.

    Recall: “Scientism is belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most “authoritative” worldview or the most valuable part of human learning – to the exclusion of other viewpoints.” A definition from Wikipedia.

    Brigg’s repeatedly references “scientism” as science asserted to universally applicable…and what’s so patently obvious to so many is that the real issue is that real science (the scientific method properly applied) is generating unassailable truths that are uncomfortably close to cherished beliefs he & so many others “want to believe” (to paraphrase the X-Files quote).

    How the asserted “scientism” fits with deG.Tyson’s remarks is unclear – Tyson went to great lengths to describe the PROCESS of science, its self-regulating methodology that finds results and only after independent objective duplication/validation is a finding then accepted as truth. It may have been truth…nay it was truth…the moment found, but acceptance is cautious (and some accepted truths are occasionally amended & rejected based on new information).

    Again, the scientific METHOD, the cautionary PROCESS used to discover “truths” is the focus of the presentation.

    What Briggs focuses on, thru clumsy attempts at satire, is to invoke “scientism” as the basis for rejection of what is fundamentally an objective process — and scientism, as he repeatedly notes, is his assertion that science is applicable to everything, everywhere.

    And therein is the clue:

    In invoking “scientism” Briggs is “tap dancing around the bush” trying to implicate that FINDINGS/TRUTHS learned from the PROCESS of science are to be rejected … because science can’t really address everything (a point that even Tyson acknowledged in his commentary!).

    Which is to say that science is progressing uncomfortably close to reaching objective findings that conflict with his (and other’s) views of what does/doesn’t constitute personally significant aspects of reality. Rather than acknowledge that some personal beliefs may be wrong (akin to Santa Claus doesn’t really exist) and adjust accordingly, the PROCESS that is revealing facts is attacked instead.

    And the attack is nonsensical –

    The delusion is maintained by a self-contradictory stratagem, also invoked nearly continuously — identify examples where someone/some group has poorly or wrongly applied the scientific method, and instead of noting the error as being attributable to the person’s mistakes or willfully corrupt motives, the error is attributed to “science” (Aha! See how THEY did all these things wrong, it just shows how SCIENCE is limited/inapplicable/itself wrong!!).

    The delusion is patently obvious to most, however, as the self-contradiction manifests in a very particular way:

    When flawed people mis-apply the scientific method, the method is blamed…except…for the part of the method that involves the mis-application of statistics — then, and only then, statistics is held sacrosanct and the flawed implementation by ignorant or worse individuals is acknowledged and addressed.

    That is:

    When ANY tool associated with the scientific method is mis-applied by individuals, “scientism” is invoked (overtly by name, or, with an appeal to reject “science”), never or nearly never the errors of the individuals;

    however,

    When ANY misapplication of statistics is observed, the sanctity of statistics is automatically held and then, and for the most part only then, are the errors of the individuals addressed.

    In Briggs’ world, “scientism” encompasses all tools of science EXCEPT statistics.

    Once you observe this, the pattern and this particular inconsistency is impossible to not notice.

  14. scientism:

    So the only times science cannot assure objective truths is on the pre-consensus frontier of research, and the only time it couldn’t was before the 17th century,

    …take heart for I bring you good news,

    ‘in science Conformity is anathema to success.”

    “a consensus is when everybody agrees to say collectively what nobody agrees individually”

  15. Ken: I haven’t seen any scientific unassailable truths that are uncomfortably close to cherished beliefs. Interesting that you seem to.

    Your comments about someone in science doing something wrong and then having it held against science look exactly like your comments about priests and the Catholic church and how that negates everything in the Catholic religion (and possible others). Seems Briggs is not the only one with major inconsistencies in application of ideas.

    I am also amazed at how personally and rabidly some respond to a statement that science has problems. Serious problems threatening the objectivity of the practice. If the process is being corrupted, one would think scientists would be the first to rush in and investigate and hone out the bad stuff. But no, science rushes in an makes excuses, hides data, etc. The precise things said to be problems in other areas outside of science. There is indeed a double-standard here.

  16. Sheri,
    “science rushes in an(d) makes excuses …”

    What does this mean? Are you personifying science or is this a typo?

  17. Scotian: Multiple typos or failure to pay attention to what I’m typing. “Serious problems threatening the objectivity of the practice. If the process is being corrupted, one would think scientists would be the first to rush in and investigate and hone out the bad stuff. But no, science rushes in an makes excuses, hides data, etc. ” should say “Currently, serious problems threaten the objectivity of science. If the scientific process is being corrupted, one would think scientists would be the first to rush in and hone out the bad stuff. But no, scientists rush in and make excuses, hide data, etc”
    Hopefully that makes more sense. I did not intend to personify science.

  18. Leo Katzenstein

    January 29, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Scotian,

    Blame science? No. I blame the scidolators.

  19. Frederick Colbourne

    January 29, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    “Science discovers objective truths…”

    Since when? If that were true, then I would not have had to change so often during my lifetime the scientific theories that explain facts, recently discovered and already known.

    Before 1960 or so I had to memorize the theory of geosynclines to explain mountain-building. With new observations the theory of plate tectonics was developed. This new theory explained both the old and the new observations.

    When Louis Agassiz presented his first paper on glaciation, Swiss villagers told him that they had already known for generations the facts he had discovered.

    Many of us had rejected isostasy as the driver of mountain building. Only later did I see the geosyncline theory as Neptunism’s last stand.

    So which are the objective truths that are discovered? The observations or the theories? And is there such a thing as a theory-free fact? Or do we interpret facts according to theory, as did Galileo and Ptolemy?

    Anyone interested in exploring these ideas should have a look at the work of Ian Hacking and Nancy Cartwright, both entity realists who reject the notion that theories are real rather than constructs for relating entities.

    Thomas Kuhn is also a good read. Some take his ideas to establish norms rather than empirical descriptions of how scientists behave. As a science historian Kuhn described how science works in practice. But his philosophy does not help much to fix the problems he described.

  20. Leo, I can’t improve on my comment when this term was introduced.

    http://wmbriggs.com/post/10145/

  21. “…humans and chimps share more than 98 percent identical DNA…” – Neil Tyson

    Now it’s “more than” 98%. Not so long ago it was 98%. Anyway, wasn’t this belief debunked a while back? Isn’t it the case that we only share something like 92% of our D.N.A. with chimps? According to this source,

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-Much-DNA-Do-We-Share-With-the-Chimps-40594.shtml

    it is only 93 or 94 percent, yet he is claiming this ‘fact’ (i.e. more than 98%) as being unassailable, like the fact that the Earth isn’t flat. Even if the “greater than 98%” figure really was accurate, he, and others like him, seem to forget the fact that all D.N.A. codes for are the proteins; they don’t determine how talented a person will be, how intelligent, ethical, or any of the other things that actually matter when it comes to determining what it is that differentiates people from chimps and other apes. For these things we need to look elsewhere, not to D.N.A.

  22. “When flawed people mis-apply the scientific method, the method is blamed…” – Ken

    Exactly. It isn’t the method itself that is inadequate or unreliable, but the idiots who don’t know how to use it.

  23. Peter,
    These percentages depend on what you are comparing, base pairs versus genes for example.

    “For these things we need to look elsewhere, not to D.N.A.”
    Where do you suggest we look?

  24. Scotian,

    You should try harder on finding an improvement for your comment.

    Tyson has attracted an army of people who seem to think scientific literacy is the capacity to agree with scientific experts and follow up with tweets such as “I <3 science!" Surely that's a form of foolishness that deserves its own word.

    What word would you use for someone who is sniffing indignantly about American science literacy in evolution but is sent scurrying for Google when you ask him to complete the sentence, "Evolution is a theory of X?"

    Scientifically illiterate on the theory of evolution? Of course. Hypocrite? Certainly. Imbecile? Maybe or maybe not.

    There's a clear need for a word to describe a movement composed scientifically illiterate buffoons who wanders around demanding scientific literacy of others.

  25. Briggs

    January 29, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Joe Triscar,

    We have it: scidolatry.

  26. “These percentages depend on what you are comparing, base pairs versus genes for example.” – Scotian

    Well, strangely enough, NdGT within that article does not specify to which (base pairs or genes) he is referring: he just straight out says, “humans and chimps share more than 98% of our D.N.A.” I was simply responding to this, rather vague (how much “more than” 98%?) statement of his, and the reality that many people like to quote this figure as though they actually knew what they were talking about.

    As for where else to look, I made that comment to emphasise the point that D.N.A. cannot tell us everything we need to know, and isn’t the ultimate solution to all we discover in biology. The answer may not necessarily lie within the field of genetics, and may be a problem that only neuroscience (for example) can tackle, for that which makes us truly different from all else in nature is the nature of our minds which, I don’t need to emphasise, is immaterial, not physical (like D.N.A.).

  27. Sheri – “I haven’t seen any scientific unassailable truths that are uncomfortably close to cherished beliefs.”

    The Creation Museum & that darling of young-earth creationists, Ken Ham, would beg to differ with you.

  28. Frederick: “Science discovers objective truths…”
    Your comment is quite correct. What the statement really means is “Science discovers theories and formulas based on current methodology, instrumentation and data available at the moment. These theories and formulas are subject to change in the future as method, instruments and data are changed or added.” Objective truths is a very questionable term. Even gravity had to have air friction added to explain why feathers drop more slowly than lead balls. The mathematical formulas are probably the closest to “objective” yet they are corrected at times, including the universal “constants”. Not by much, but they are changed.

    Peter A: Tyson’s twitter feed has some interesting “statistics”, many of which appear to be simply made up.

    Joe Triscar: How about pompous jerks? It’s not limited to the field of science, but it seems appropriate.

    Nate: I suppose one can find a belief that conflicts with gravity (actually, a relative told me quite seriously that if one believed one could jump off a very tall building and not be hurt, they would be able to achieve this feat) if one looks hard enough. Yes, there are beliefs that are being challenged by science, though I’m not sure one can actually prove, other than mathematically, how old the earth is. So faith in math and the calculations and assumptions included therein replaces faith is God. It’s still faith—and I would note that the age of the earth is constantly amended and “corrected”, so obviously, certainty and a final answer do not exist at this point in time. And, since people tend to think that my pointing out that science does not have a definitive answer means I’m a young earth believer, I am not. I believe that we have no real idea what we are speaking of in many of the areas of “certainty” in science and should be honest enough to say so. Evolution and the way the earth was formed are two such areas. These are extremely tenous theories that scientists constantly ignore errors made and missing pieces because these theories are seen as a way to eliminate God and put science in his place. Anyone who thinks we can possibly know with certainty what happened billions of years ago is a fool.

  29. Sheri: I read NdT tweets. Back to November or so. I don’ t see what you see. I see a guy saying things inside 140 characters that seem to align with what I see people here trying to say. He repeated Objective Science in a way that reminds me of Ayn Rand. I can’t say I loved Rand’s writings. I respected what she was trying to say. I hated Fountainhead. I could see an idea that she seemed to be pointing to. An idea, that if explicitly declared seems uncaring.

    There are many things that we can point to with concrete certainty. If you break your arm, the doctor can make sure the bones are lined up properly (using x-rays as a guide, if available), cast it and let the bones heal. Not aligning the bones properly is not a good idea. If you have an ulcer, there is a really good chance H. pylori has something to do with it and a “healthy” dose of anti-biotics can alleviate the problem. We can point to the action and fairly clearly connect the solution.

    Then there are the not so clear places. Should we screen folks for disease? Briggs breast cancer screening tool contains a hint of the not quite completely understood problem. Voicing the problem is awkward. If the people on the other side of the conversation are already “in the know” they have a chance of hearing what you say. How many folks get sick and then get well again with moderately serious diseases that our lovely medical establishment will treat is they knew it was there. How do we find the people who have the illness and don’t know it and the illness disappears without us ever knowing it?

    I don’t fully support NdT. I can’t quite get myself to convict him the same way I am happy to convict Bill Nye, Michael Mann, Phil Plait, or Michael Shermer. Those folks have danced other side of science even though they are apparent “pillars” in it. Not very many have stood up and denounced the anti-science rhetoric that flows from their mouths. Richard Muller is the only one who comes close.

  30. Brad: A “healthy dose” of antibiotics is not how my gastroenterologist described treatment of H. pylori. I assume that’s why the scary quotes.

    Screening for some diseases has been shown to be worthless, but most people don’t care about the actual studies. My husband’s new PA wants a PSA test, even though many studies show these do more harm than good if acted on improperly. Once a person believes something, it’s very hard to change their minds. Breast cancer screening falls under that catagory also. Early detection does not actually seem to decrease death rates. As one writer said, we need to know how fast the cancer grows, not just that it’s there.

    Obviously, we cannot find people who had a disease and didn’t know it and recovered. That’s not really a valid question, nor is it scientific. You can’t find what is not seen and leaves no trace. It cannot be measured.

    As for Neil–
    “As Earth warms, and Arctic ice melts, Santa will lose his habitat too. Soon we’ll see photos of him clutched to an ice floe.“
    “All this talk about Polar Bears suffering with Global Warming — nobody thinks about Santa, the Arctic’s most famous resident”
    (I’ve address these types of comments and Santa before at http://www.climate4kids.blogspot.com/2015/12/happy-holidays-no-doom-and-gloom.html)

    His gun statistics appear to be made up. I cannot find a source for these statistics but they are retweeted everywhere. The fact that he lists no source is disturbing. Yes, it’s Twitter, but he can write more than one tweet on the same subject and he has no problem linking in other tweets. Failing to indicate the source of the data is not being scientific. Plus, he’s using a propaganda technique here, especially since he calls them “household guns”, whatever that means. I could find any number of statistics that match gun deaths and claim therefore that guns are evil, but it’s really quite irrelevent. I could compare guns deaths to heart disease, auto accidents, over-eating, house fires, attacks by wolves, etc. It’s all designed to lead one to a conclusion that may not be relevent at all. Rephrased, it’s not scientific in any way.

  31. I don’t share any of my DNA with no stinkin’ chimp.

    The value of pi isn’t science; it’s a ratio which was defined 2500+ years ago and even fairly closely calculated back then. It didn’t take “science” to know or to calculate its (approximate) value. Or to produce an algorithm that provides the exact value if we can run it long enough, which we know we can’t. It isn’t TRUE, it’s a definition. We don’t “verify” it; we agree with the definition, or we don’t. We know it, or we don’t.

    The earth’s rate of rotation. Hmmm… 1/day? That’s science? THAT it rotates is science, or a scientific discovery. It’s rate of rotation is another definition, isn’t it?

  32. There are a lot of people in the public arena that say stupid things…they make one proclamation and 2 sentences later they contradict themselves, but this is a supposedly educated scientist.

    The fact is Tyson is a confused fool. He speaks as if he had missed a couple thousand years of knowledge. It’s almost as if he is not even from this universe……like he is completely unaware that the philosophical ideas he is commenting on have been vetted by some of the most brilliant men to ever lived.

    When commenting on the Bible’s book of Revelation he actually said of the verse where it says “the stars will fall from the sky”…we now know that stars cannot do that…hahahahahaha !!!!!!!! As if he just taught us stupid believers his impeccable wisdom. As if Science just disproved God in that verse alone.

    I crap you not, he was rambling on these astonishingly pathetic retorts that were so horrible, with that smug all knowing arrogance he wears, that after I realized he wasnt joking, I was actually embarrassed for him. This guy is retarded or something, or maybe he is just so far gone in mocking God he has become demented. He Walks the earth as a simpleton but thinks he’s a Jedi Master.

  33. Michael: He suffers from the “media star” disease, which also rapidly infects MD’s, psychologists, physicists and any other “learned” person. Anything they knew or understood is quickly discarded in favor of being a “star”. MD’s will embrace psuedoscience, to the point of being shocked at why Congress would ask them why THEY are selling fake cures. I have always maintained that getting a series or frequent appearances on TV should be immediate grounds to strip one of their academic creditials, before the disease sets in and taints science and medicine.

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