Nice to be back after a very busy time with work and vacation. And we start off with a fun one. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the leading science-prophet of our day, gives us the 8 most important books to read and the lessons he hopes we learn from them.
Here are Tyson’s eight selections, along with a one-liner he gave during his AMA on the importance of each book:
1. “The Bible,” to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”
2. “The System of the World,” by Isaac Newton, “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”
3. “On the Origin of Species,” by Charles Darwin, “to learn that we have a kinship with all other life on Earth.”
4. “Gulliver’s Travels,” by Jonathan Swift, “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are yahoos.”
5. “The Age of Reason,” by Thomas Paine, “to learn that the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”
6. “The Wealth of Nations,” by Adam Smith, “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”
7. “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu, “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”
8. “The Prince,” by Machiavelli, “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”
Oh lordy what a blowhard. Starts off hot by taking potshots at the Bible (but really, just Christians because there’s no way he has the balls to go after Jews or Muslims, the other People of the Book) since that seems to be his bread and butter. Then on to the predictable lessons about capitalism, Science®, and how people suck.
My responses to his “lessons”
- Yawn. Old joke, hombre.
- OK that’s not bad.
- Don’t think that was the message of Darwin’s book but whatever remakes people’s minds into what you think they should be.
- Except for you, right my man?
- And if the people who vote don’t make the “rational” choice, then we get to circumvent them! (I know your politics, homie.)
- I agree — the communists or even feudal lords had a much better take on economics.
- We need a book to know this?
That last one brings up another question: Does this list even need books? I mean, the authors’ (all of whom were more intelligent or insightful than Mr. NdT) intents weren’t really on Neil’s mind when he wrote what we should learn from each book. (That’s what you took from Adam Smith, Neil? Christ.) Couldn’t we just get a list entitled, “Things I want everyone to believe because then they’ll be smart like me but not just like me because I’m still smarter than everyone else.” Oh. Right. That’s essentially what we got. NM.
The Bible one still bugs me so let me stick up for it for a second. This is the lesson to learn from hundreds of pages of scripture? Huh. Nothing about the multitude of literary devices (poetry, chiasmus, symbolism, allegory, metaphor, etc.) or its effect on world events and history. Its implications about the universal quest for spirituality and understanding, especially considering the diversity of the religions that hold to it — that could be useful. Or maybe we could just learn about the faith of over half the world’s population and thus expand your kinship with your fellow man. Nope, that’s not what we need to learn, right Neilie? According to Tyson, you should just remember when you’re reading the Bible how fucking stupid everyone is that believes in it.
Let me do a little math for Nd to the T. Human intelligence as measured by IQ is distributed roughly normally. I’ll give Neil some credit and say he is 4 standard deviations away from the mean (the average intelligence of a human). As each standard deviation represents 15 points, that would give Neil an IQ of 160, putting put him at the level of Einstein and many others. This corresponds to the 99.997th percentile. Given that information, out of say 10 billion believers in the Bible over the past few centuries, 300,000 of them would be smarter than Neil. Even if we allow Mr. Tyson to be in the highest category of intelligence we have, the Mega Society, that still leaves us with 10,000 people (99.9999th percentile) all smarter than the Great deGrasse. Hear that, Neil? Still feel like taking a shit on their beliefs and intelligence? Maybe you should just shut the fuck up.
It’s also interesting that, given his support of certain policies and political demagogues, Neil hasn’t really learned lesson numbers 4, 5, and 8. What the hell am I talking about? Here ya go:
- Advocacy for the Environmentalist movement that would only grant more power to those who “will do all they can to keep it”
- Mocks the religion of billions, including the author-heroes he lists
- Supports causes like feminism and affirmative action by appealing to conventional thinking and emotions instead of hard statistics
- Disparages capitalism, implying superiority (at least in part) of other systems, despite every other system’s embrace of greed and power
What’s worse: this guy pontificating or morons posting it on Facebook? I’m giving NdT +150 odds on that one. Those Facebook people are the worst.
*To be honest, I really do think Tyson is extremely intelligent and while listening to his most recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, I found him quite engaging as well. But everyone has their own self-delusions and gaps in their self-awareness and the fact that he thinks he’s above those things is annoying.