Shutting down flat Earthers, Neil deGrasse Tyson style | Big Think


I don’t like debating people because in
a debate what is the construct. It’s typically two people and there’s an audience and you
debate some opposite sides of some issue. And then there’s a winner of the debate.
And then everyone walks away reflecting on the winner. So who wins the debate? It’s
often the person who’s charismatic, who’s maybe charming – that’s related to charisma
of course. Who has a good way with words, good vocabulary. And you can have someone
who doesn’t have any of that who is speaking objective truths who could lose a debate.
So then what is the point of the debate of one of these points of view is objectively
true. So I will not enter a debate where I have the objectively true side of an argument
and the other person does not. That is something that should not be debated, does not belong
in front of an audience getting debated. You want to debate something? Debate political
policy of what to do in the face of climate change. Do you have carbon tax? Do you have solar
panels? Do you subsidize them? Debate that. Don’t debate something that is or is not
objectively true in this world. The B.o.B, the rapper, I have a video letter to him the
transcript of which is in Letters from an Astrophysicist. That rose to that level of
attention because he started saying I am using laws of math and physics to show Earth is
flat. Those are fighting words. If you’re going to say using math and physics, that
is an alarm to the geekiverse that we must rise up and counteract these forces from the
dark side that are out there. So, the bat signal went up. I responded. What is the bat
signal? Oh, sorry. In my Twitter stream there are people saying Neil, you’ve got to do
something about B.o.B. Save him from himself. He’s saying Earth is flat. Then I first
said who’s B.o.B? So I quickly looked him up. Oh, he’s a rap star. Okay. These are people who follow me and B.o.B in
the Twitterverse. So what does that Venn diagram look like. How much overlap is there in the
two Venn diagrams. In this slice, however narrow, they were pleading to me to do something
and so I responded with a video letter. Just kind of putting him in his place. I think it’s important to combat people
who are claiming that they are using math, science, evidence and physics behind their
cause when, in fact, they either aren’t or they’re using it badly. That needs to
be called out. Otherwise if you just have a belief system I don’t really care. We
live in a country that protects free speech which usually also means free thought. If
you want to think Earth is flat, go right ahead. But if you start influencing other
people who have power over other people and you have no foundation and objective reality
it can be dangerous. If you influence people or you yourself become someone who has influence
over legislation, laws, rules by which we all abide in society. That’s an unhealthy
situation for civilization to be in. If your personal belief system which does not have
correspondence in objective reality starts becoming predominant in the thoughts and hearts
and minds of civilization.

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