I don’t usually watch astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on television since I figure topics of discussion are way beyond me. Yet when a recent letter to the editor in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune referenced a YouTube video he appeared in, I had to find it online and watch.
“Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Universe While Eating Spicy Wings” was filmed in May 2017 by First We Feast. The 26-minute video features the host and Tyson discussing a range of topics while eating chicken wings with progressively hotter sauces.
Not only was it entertaining to watch Tyson go bite-for-bite with his host before reaching the ultimate Mega Death (with Liquid Rage) sauce finale, the show also was educational and thought-provoking.
I tuned in specifically to hear him discuss how he responds to those believe in conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are not new. They’ve swirled around for some time, such as ones that questioned if the Holocaust and moon landing actually happened, and who really killed JFK.
This is what Tyson had to say:
“I’m an educator. My task, if not to debunk the crazy ideas of adults, but to establish an educational system that is incapable of producing an adult that thinks that way in the first place.”
The host then asked if the number of people who believe in conspiracy theories has increased. Tyson said he thinks the number of people may be the same — it’s just that now they can write blogs and share with the world what they think.
Tyson replied: “[Before the internet] you’d be alone with your own view that has no correspondence to objective reality, and [now] you type it into a Google search, and it will find every other person like you who thinks the same way, giving you the false sense that you’re actually onto something, that you have some deep insight into the world that no one else has. This is delusional. The internet landed in our laps without creating a curriculum that empowers you to know when someone online is full of shit.”
Wow. Nothing like zeroing in on critical thinking skills and conducting research beyond your usual sources. Correlations to two major current events quickly came to mind.
Thousands of people refuse to believe the 2020 election results, even though little evidence exists of their being false, and that more than 60 lawsuits filed have failed to overturn outcomes.
And closer to the farm, how about using animal drugs to treat COVID-19? Some people believe ivermectin is the answer.
Livestock farmers know ivermectin is a dewormer. It also has limited approved use in humans. In tablet form, the Food and Drug Administration approved it to treat some parasitic worms. As a topical, FDA has approved it for use on skin to treat head lice, and some conditions like rosacea.
FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals. You can learn more about that by listening to the 15-minute November 2019 AgriSafe podcast hosted by the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.
More food for thought
Toward the end of the video, Tyson really lays it on thick when he says people are not special, even though many promote and believe that.
His reasoning? Our bodies are made of four atoms — hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. The top four chemically active ingredients in the universe are hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen.
So, individually, each of us are not special, he concludes. Rather, we are special because the universe lives within us, and we are all the same.
We are the same.
We are the same as those who threaten board members regarding their stance on masking and in-person learning. We are the same as those who criticize our elections, locally staffed by friends and neighbors.