Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas Tweets

National Review: Smarter than ThouIn an indirect way, I’ve been very critical of Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve written a couple of complaining articles about Cosmos, the most recent being, Cosmos and the Lack of Politics. And the truth is, I’m not a fan of Tyson. I think it dates back to seeing him talking about how the gravity differentials as you were pulled into a black hole would cause you to be be ripped apart. That’s fine, but Tyson said that it would probably be the coolest way to die. All I could think was that this guy either suffered from a lack of empathy or a lack of imagination. But I’ll admit that since then, he’s seemed like an all right guy.

Thanks to the good people at The Young Turks, I learned about a collection of Christmas tweets from Tyson that greatly improved my opinion of the man. Here is the first:

It’s just kind of mindless fun — not very meaningful. But it offended some for the usual reason: American Christians don’t like the idea of anyone claiming that theirs is just a religion like many others. I really like this one because it is a truth that many do not like to hear:

The reason for the season is shopping. Get over it Christians! And start taking Easter more seriously because it really ought to be the one really important holiday for you if you were at all serious about your religion — which you aren’t. Okay, but enough religion. Let’s get on to the real Christmas physics:

There’s a sociological side to this too. What happened to Benny? I assume he starved to death because Santa couldn’t find any use for him. If he was very lucky, he was good at dentistry and got a job working for Hermey. But here is the tweet that caused the most fuss:

Indeed, the Christmas before last, I featured Newton in the birthday post, Happy Newton’s Day! Anyway, I think the tweet speaks for itself. But if you want more, read Tyson’s article about it, My Most Retweeted Tweet. There is no doubt that Newton is more important in the history of the world than Jesus. I say this because if it hadn’t been Jesus, it would have been some other mythical being. There is nothing special about Jesus. But I don’t expect Christians to agree with me.

Afterword

On new year’s eve, Tyson tweeted out his four favorite Twilight Zone episodes. One of them was, “The Invaders” — a truly great episode despite the silly art direction. It’s more than made up with by a great performance by Agnes Moorehead and a great ending. Similarly, “Monsters on Maple Street” is a great one — as true today as it was in 1960. “The Shelter” perhaps shows that Tyson is something of a cynic. But fourth on his list was, “To Serve Man.” I don’t understand this. This is a favorite episode for many people. But it’s just a stupid pun expanded into a half hour of television. And what is that all about? The scientists can translate the title but not the text? The alien language would have the same ambiguous word meaning both “care for” and “prepare for dinner”? And why would the aliens give their cookbook to the humans? It’s just the silliest episode ever.

4 thoughts on “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas Tweets

  1. Since you bring it up, we watch Rudolph every year. My Daughter loves it. She’l be nine in April. And we have the tree ornaments that look like the characters. But what I now see that I didn’t when I was her age is how awful everyone behaves. It makes much more sense if you imagine that Rudolph is black and Hermey is gay in early 1960’s America. I wonder if Rudolph could possibly be some kind of clandestine protest film, or simply the product of a culture that is completely oblivious to the callous treatment of minorities. Probably the second thing.

    • It was made in 1964, so I assume that was very much what was on the filmmakers’ minds. Ultimately, it is a celebration of diversity — a reaction against the broadcast ideal of American conformity. But it is timeless because every culture has had (and continues to have) minority groups that it just wouldn’t accept. What distinguishes liberals from conservatives is that liberals wake up to this a little faster than conservatives.

      As a kid, I didn’t especially like the show. It seemed to me that the Island of Misfit Toys was the place to be — much cooler than Santa’s McCarthyite workshop. But I suspect these thematic currents are more for adults. Funny that 50 years later, roughly half the nation just wishes that Hermey wouldn’t rub their noses in his “dentistry.”

    • Hermey being a “wimpy” dentist (as opposed to his elf supervisor, who is a rough, gruff jerk) is one of the nicest things about the show! Good catch, both you posters, on the nonconformist themes. And the songs are all fairly decent, too; “Rudolph” is probably the worst of the bunch. (They were all written by the same guy, but he wrote the other songs specifically for the special.)

      • You made me look it up: Johnny Marks. Wikpedia says, “Although he was Jewish, he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards…” Of course Christmas has as much to do with Christianity as my morning tea.

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