Neil deGrasse Tyson wants people to think scientifically – about everything
In an interview with KPCW’s “Cool Science Radio” hosts, Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed his new book's focus and shared how long he’s been meaning to write this one.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a world-renowned astrophysicist, best-selling author, and an Emmy-nominated host of the “Star Talk” podcast.
His latest book, “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization,” argues why science and the scientific mind can help analyze current political and cultural issues people discuss daily.
Tyson told KPCW’s “Cool Science Radio” this book has been gestating since he was scientifically literate which began for him in early middle school.
“I'd see grownups who I think should know better, saying things or doing things that just made no sense, where they believe they had some deeply formed view on how the world works," he said. "And that was just not the case. And I said, how rampant is this.”
Tyson said he kept silent records of what he observed in societal, cultural and political systems, which form the core of “Starry Messenger.” He said it’s a lifetime's reflection on what people do and why they do it as a society and a civilization.
“There are ways to see so many arguments, not from the middle where you're compromising, that that could be a solution as well," he said. "But cosmic perspective forces you to take a few steps higher. And then you look back down on the arguments you were constructing, and realize maybe you didn't have arguments at all, or maybe your opponent also didn't have arguments and that you can meet in a new place.”
Tyson said the concept of what makes something true is a main theme in the book. He tackles the nuances of truth by dividing it into three categories. The first one is personal truth.
“If you have a personal truth, for example, that Jesus is your savior, or or Abraham is your is your prophet, or, or Mohammed is the last of all prophets," he said. "If you have some, some personal truth, and you are certain this is the case, in a free society, especially in the United States, where religious views are protected, no one's going to take that away from you. The problem is if somebody else has a different personal truth, if you rise to power over laws or legislation, and then create laws that have to apply to everyone else in this pluralistic land, that is the seeds of unrest.”
The second category of truth Tyson discusses is political.
“These are truths that just become true because you heard them repeated. It's, it's the seeds of propaganda," Tyson said. "That's how propaganda works, you just start saying it and, and the brain doesn't know how to interpret, it begins to think that if it hears, if you hear it a lot, it must be true.”
He said the third category in his book is objective truth.
“This is what the methods and tools of science are exquisitely tuned to establish. These are the operations of nature that are true whether or not you believe in them.”
Tyson said it all comes down to one sentence.
“Do whatever it takes to not fool yourself into thinking something is true, that is not or that something is not true that is, period.
Tyson said he wrote “Starry Messenger” to get people to think a little more deeply about their actions.
It’s available wherever books are sold and on various audio book platforms.