Neil deGrasse Tyson, a fairly adequate scientist, a pretty solid administrator, and a generally effective and quite respected science communicator, just got owned on Twitter by the social media coordinator for Steak-umm. 😆
Tyson: The good thing about Science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.
Steak-umm: Nope. Science itself isn’t “true”; it’s a constantly refining process used to uncover truths based in material reality, and that process is still full of misteaks. Neil just posts ridiculous sound bites like this for clout and he has no respect for epistemology.
The irony of Neil’s tweet is that by framing science itself as “true”, he’s influencing people to be more skeptical of it in a time of unprecedented misinformation. Science is an ever refining process to find truth, not a dogma. No matter his intent, this message isn’t helpful.
NOTE: I’ve corrected capitalization and punctuation in transcribing this sequence of tweets. I have, however, left “misteaks” in place under the assumption that it was intended.
Sure. It would have been more succinct and probably more fitting for Twitter if Steak-umm’s response had been just, “The real thing about science is that it’s probably wrong, whether or not you believe in it.” But, that wouldn’t have been as much of a burn I guess.
And it’s true. Science as we understand it in any field or context within a field is almost certainly wrong. That’s why what science “says” changes all the time. Perhaps the most fundamental example of this is the Law of Gravity. Sir Isaac Newton originally codified it, but a generation later Pierre de Laplace had to correct the formulae, then, a century-and-a-half later, Albert Einstein, changed our whole understanding of what gravity actually is, and various experts in Quantum Mechanics are again altering our understanding of the fundamental nature of gravity.
Or we could just turn Tyson back onto his own, earlier words:
The scientific method is do whatever it takes– whatever it takes– to not fool yourself into thinking something is true that is not, or into thinking that something is not true that is. That’s the scientific method, whatever it takes. And that pathway– it’s not straight. It’s curved. It has off-ramps that lead nowhere.— Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Scientific Method Master Class
Honestly, like way, way, way too many people of notoriety and influence, Dr. Tyson really should log off of Twitter. The platform encourages short, inevitably stupid statements like the one he recently made.
And, to dispel certain sorts’ accusations, I actually like Dr. Tyson. Not only have I greatly enjoyed his lecture series, which I have watched so very many times, my admittedly quite few, personal interactions with him were eminently pleasant and sometimes educational.
And, again to dispel certain sorts’ accusations, I and my wives at various times pre-Panicdemic, volunteered at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) which the Hayden Planetarium (Dr. Tyson’s bailiwick) is part of.