Thursday June 15, 2017

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson says learning about science is more important than ever

American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for his space-themed television shows — Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and StarTalk.

American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for his space-themed television shows — Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and StarTalk. (Miller Mobley)

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Neil deGrasse Tyson fondly remembers the first time he saw the stars.

He was nine-years-old and his parents had taken him to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he was born and raised.

"I was star-struck," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I grew up ... where nobody has a relationship with the night sky. It's just non-existent. You look up, you see a tall building. You don't see the sky," he explains. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Neil deGrasse Tyson believes there is a 'missing cog in the educational wheel' when it comes to science. (W. W. Norton & Company)

"So that visit showed me the universe ... as I ... not only had never seen it, as I had never imagined it."

Today, Tyson is the director of that same planetarium that deeply captivated him nearly five decades ago. He's also a well-known astrophysicist and science educator with a knack for making complicated science interesting, and more importantly, digestible.

Tyson believes there is a "missing cog in the educational wheel" of science and its discoveries, especially when people reject scientific results when they conflict with their personal beliefs.

"Many people don't understand that when you have an emergent, objectively established truth by the methods and tools of science, you do not have the luxury of standing in denial of it because it is true, whether or not you believe in it," he says. 

'You could bash him [Trump] on the head and remove him from office, but how about the 60 million people who voted for him?' - Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist

The current state of U.S. politics bring unique challenges when it comes to taking action for issues like climate change.

When asked about the country's scientific progress under the Trump administration, Tyson says the American president is not necessarily the issue.

"You could bash him on the head and remove him from office, but how about the 60 million people who voted for him?" he points out.

"I'm an educator. So my task is to go to those 60 million people and say, 'The policies of the person you elected will have these consequences and not all of these consequences are in your long-term interests. Here's why," he says.

"If science is denied as a foundation for this decision, it will have consequences. Here's why."

Listen to their conversation at the top of the web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.