I'm going to be attending a talk given by Neil deGrasse Tyson this Thursday. If I can corner him afterwards (I don't want to bring it up during an official question/answer period, for various reasons), I'll ask him for his thoughts.
Wow! I love Neil Degrasse Tyson. He is brilliant, and a true science educator. I'd love to attend a talk by him. I'd definitely love to hear your report of the event. Feel free to PM me if you feel it's not relevant to the boards.
I didn't get to speak with Dr. Tyson, and the topic mentioned in the OP of this thread didn't come up. But fwiw, here are some random thoughts about tonight...
- This was an awesome talk, and I am so
glad I got to go to it. Between the talk and the Q&A it was about two and a half hours.
- During the Q&A, two or three people started their question with "um" and Dr. Tyson (the first time) said something along the lines of: "This is an institution of higher education. We don't start sentences with "um". You lose your turn!" He did it in a joking way, though, and always came back to the person. It was sort of funny when he came back to the one guy, because he had to pause for several seconds and collect his thoughts so that he was sure that he didn't start with "um" again (though he still sprinkled ums through the rest of his question, lol)
- Not everything that Dr. Tyson said was necessarily agreed with by all. For example, he said that the phrase "Good always triumphs over evil" could not be true, and that it must also be true that evil has triumphed over good before. I think, at best, that that position would need to be unpacked quite a bit for some agreement to be reached.
- Dr. Tyson's talk was both entertaining and energetic, and he's a very charismatic guy.
- The talk was titled "The Sky is Not the Limit". Even though that's the title of one of his books, he said that what he would be saying tonight wasn't in anything he had written.
- One of the points that he wanted to make was to say that America has begun to go off track as far as science and innovation. He believes (and showed evidence for the idea that) America is still fairly productive in the sciences, but that we are on a gradual downward slope. He said that one of the reasons for this is that we've lost our desire and/or ability (my words, not his) to dream. He pointed out that a generation or two ago there were lots of dreams... the "kitchen of the future" would like like this, and "car of the future" would look like that. Some of those dreams came true, some did not, and some things happened that we couldn't have imagined in even our wildest dreams. But the point was, we dreamed, we imagined. Dr. Tyson believes that we're not doing this today, and it's hurting us.
- Dr. Tyson also said that part of our problem in America is scientific illiteracy. One of the more interesting examples of this was a brochure put out by a pharmaceutical company (I forget which off hand). The company would send some of it's people (chemists, etc.) to schools to speak about their area of expertise. The brochure in question was apparently supposed to be motivational material for these people. One problem: the example they gave of teaching science was something like: "Do your best to teach kids about how a heavier object falls faster than a lighter object". Yeah. As Dr. Tyson pointed out, several people would have had to have seen that statement before the final product was published, and apparently no one caught the problem.
- Dr. Tyson also brought up the Tsunami of 2004, 9/11, and the levees breaking in New Orleans. However, this does not mean that his talk was depressing and pessimistic. On the contrary, despite dealing with several heavy/serious issues, the overall impression that Dr. Tyson's talk left was a positive one. Admittedly, this impression probably wasn't hurt by the fact that Dr. Tyson purposely ended his talk with a discussion of something positive. He pointed out how many people see the advances of science, our place in the universe, etc. as making man feel small and insignificant. He, on the other hand, felt that science was motivating and ennobling, so long as you didn't approach it's findings with an overinflated ego.
Here's my favorite image of Dr. Tyson... it has a very "You talkin' to me, punk?" look to it...