Conservative radio host Neal Larson wrote an op-ed on Tuesday slamming astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. There’s nothing surprising about a conservative attacking a scientist, but it’s the source for Larson’s attack that makes this story great.
Most of Larson’s attacks were typical, disagreeing with the scientist’s beliefs on evolution and taking issue with Tyson’s “snarkiness.” However, before concluding that Tyson is a “horse’s astrophysicist,” Larson claimed that Tyson publicly humiliated a 9-year-old for wanting to live on Jupiter.
“In one of his worse moments,” wrote Larson “Tyson mocked a 12-year-old girl who suggested she’d like to live on Jupiter. He ridiculed her in the midst of a crowd, then later, several times, on Twitter. That told me everything I needed to know about Neil deGrasse Tyson.”
Larson’s claims come from an article on Clickhole, a satirical website owned by The Onion that satirizes “clickbait” content and social media. The article describes Tyson shutting down a 9-year-old girl who wanted to live on Jupiter, then includes several (fake) tweets that show Tyson mocking the girl for wanting to live on such a deadly planet.
Tyson quickly commented on Larson’s op-ed and set the record straight while calling out Larson’s skills as a journalist and a fact-finder.
“The ‘incident’ with a 9yr old girl never happened,” wrote Tyson. “It looks to be a hoax. No such tweets ever existed on November 29th, 2015, or on any other day. So you abrogated your journalistic integrity by not verifying what you read in somebody else’s article, before using it as a foundational pillar in yours.”
You can read Tyson’s entire comment on Larson’s article below:
First, I’ll forgive you for not spelling your name correctly.
Second, and more importantly, I don’t mind being labeled a horse’s astrophysicist (I see what you did there), provided it’s based on factual information. So what we must do is subtract the false information from your article, and then re-assess what name you choose to call me. If it still justifies “horse’s astrophysicist”, then so be it.
1) FYI: The cosmic perspective is all about having a second look at what, on the surface appears to be important, special, ego-boosting, etc. The Olympic medal count is not immune from this analysis. In fact an even better measure is medals per GDP per capita. This will tell you how efficiently and effectively a country is spending its wealth on athletic excellence. The Tweet, though based only on population, was a playful plea that we could be winning even more medals than we are.
2) I am agnostic, and actively disavow the atheist label:
[Audio: 6m30s]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnHY1cC9a4A
[Video: 3m 48s] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzSMC5rWvos
3) People who deny human-induced climate change are badly misinformed. This position is neither politically Liberal nor Conservative. It’s factual. Although one could argue that all those who want to preserve the environment are the real conservatives in this discussion.
4) You use “Liberal” as a tag to characterize my politics. Since I have no active public political position, that’s a hard task to accomplish. Climate change deniers are misinformed. But so are people who think vaccines gives you autism. And so are people who think genetically modified foods are bad for you. These science-denying postures cross political boundaries, as I clumsily attempted to convey recently on Bill Maher.
5) The “incident” with a 9yr old girl never happened. It looks to be a hoax. No such tweets ever existed on November 29th, 2015, or on any other day. My only tweet on November 29, 2015 (as my followers can attest, and as anyone can see from scrolling my Twitter page was:
Starship Enterprise versus Millennium Falcon. Oh yeah, I went there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMH1vDDd1xc
So you abrogated your journalistic integrity by not verifying what you read in somebody else’s article, before using it as a foundational pillar in yours.
6) I am 3x appointed by President George W. Bush, serving on commissions to advise him on the future of the American aerospace Industry, on NASA, and on the annual Presidential Medial of science winners. So your disapproval of my views is not shared by others on the conservative spectrum.
7) Lastly: my research output as a scientist is not hidden. You can find it here, if you are interested: http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/curriculum-vitae
So when you factor in (or simply subtract) all these elements from your writeup, If what remains still justifies labeling me a horses astrophysicist, then, as I said, I’m okay with that.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, New York City
p.s. FYI: I have relatives who live in Idaho. And I’ve loved every visit. Last they visited me, prompted this Tweet:
Nephew from Idaho, puzzled by locks on my NYC apt door. I asked, Don’t you have locks at home? He replied, No, just Shotguns.