Neil deGrasse Tyson: Want Scientifically Literate Children? Get Out of Their Way. | Big Think





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Published on May 13, 2013

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Want Scientifically Literate Children? Get Out of Their Way.
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Are UFOs actually alien spacecraft visiting Earth? They might be, says Neil deGrasse Tyson, but if you want to make that claim you better bring the evidence to support it.

Eyewitness testimony is the lowest form of evidence. To measure what is true or not true in the world, we require data -- and when it comes to alien appearances, it's as astronomer Carl Sagan said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

"So what can you do to prove your alien abduction story? Take selfies, live-stream video to the internet, and if you happen to find yourself in a spacecraft getting your "gonads poked", then grab an item from the alien lab as evidence before they release you back on Earth. Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to believe, but not until he sees the data.

Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. He is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson".

Tyson's new book is Letters From an Astrophysicist (2019).

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: There are many people who see things in the sky and are sure – they can't explain it, so they're sure it's aliens visiting. Well, if you were really, really sure of that, you are not likely to write me a letter. Unless you're writing me a letter to convince me of your point of view. But that doesn't make for a fertile exchange. If you see lights in the sky and you don't know what they are and you want further insight on what they could be and write me a letter, that's a meaningful exchange.

If you can't explain what it is and it's flying and it's an object, it's an unidentified flying object, period. You just said you don't know what it is so that sentence should not continue beyond that phrase. You can't say I don't know what it is, therefore, it must be aliens visiting from another planet. If you don't know what it is it therefore must not be anything.

Okay, so maybe we are getting visited by aliens daily. In all of these sightings, it's aliens. I don't have a problem with that. My issue is what you are presenting as evidence in support of that claim. If it's entirely grounded in your eyewitness testimony you need to know that eyewitness testimony on the totem of weight of evidence it is at the bottom. A little scary because in the court of law it's considered pretty high evidence. People say, "I need a witness!" No, you want data. That's what you really want. You want information that didn't have to pass through someone's sensory system so that you can minimize bias, delusion, the filtering that we always do as the world outside of us comes through our senses for us to then decide what is and what is not going on around us. It's why we invented science. So that we wouldn't have to depend on our senses as the ultimate measure of what is or is not true in the world.

Science and its methods and tools. The telescope, the microscope, the recorders, chart recorders, all of this. So, the best thing is—and by the way, I don't care what your pedigree is. I don't care if you're a military colonel, pilot, Air Force. Are you human? That's all that matters. After that give me better evidence. And yes, Carl Sagan's famous dictum, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." So the best thing is to drag the alien into town square and you'll be rich and famous overnight. You don't have to argue with me. I'm not stopping you. Go ahead. But do you know what's more significant than that fact is that today, worldwide, we are uploading to the internet a billion photographs a day. Everyone has a camera and a video camera. Remember all those reports of pe...

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