Neil deGrasse Tyson at Hamilton College On Scientific Illiteracy in the US
Neil deGrasse Tyson came to lecture at Hamilton College to talk about Scientific Illiteracy in the US and much like Bill Nye last year it felt like a revelatory insight into our world.
Tyson started with a few comparisons of currency from around the world to demonstrate how other countries view scientists and societal advancements. The highlights of course were his comments about Nikola Tesla and how even Benjamin Franklin was regarded for heresy for his advancement with lightning rods.
“It’s God’s will that lightning struck that church and burned it down…you’re interfering with God’s will…”
This drifted into my favorite aspects to analyze and just happen to be two of my favorite subjects that I address in class and use for my writing.
Belief and Perception.
Neil deGrasse Tyson recounted how he had been summoned for Jury Duty and actually looked forward to it. In his first instance he was questioned about what he taught in his classes. When he said that he was teaching how faulty eyewitness testimony could not be trusted and perceptions are not objective he was summarily dismissed from duty. When summoned again, Tyson was questioned why the judge was describing a quantity of illegal drugs as 3000 milligrams as it was only about the weight of a dime. It was apparent that those without knowledge of the measurements would see it as a great quantity when in reality it was not. Tyson was dismissed again. In a third Jury Summons he was asked if he could make a conviction in a case where there was only two witness statements. Tyson asked if there was any other evidence and the Lawyer asked other potential Jury members if they felt that they couldn’t convict without more witness testimony. It took another Jury member to point out that wasn’t what he had asked, but nevertheless he was dismissed.
These examples that he offered were a perfect example of how utilizing only one point of view or perspective could create a false representation of an event. The unreliable narrator is a common example of this however, this is often used to manipulate and appeal to beliefs. Much like the 3000mg example Tyson discussed. The lack of knowledge can be used to manipulate beliefs of a group simply by changing their perception of the situation.
Utilizing this tactic on a larger scale is often how a person can come to lead a group in a direction and impose those beliefs on others rather than establish a perspective on objective information.
Neil deGrasse Tyson continued this descent through how perception cannot be relied upon but often is utilized and manipulated to sway beliefs.
Tyson wrapped up his lecture by showing a number of staggering statistics on how the US is no longer a leader in science and then transitioned to ‘the blue dot’ and a great quote by Carl Sagan.