Neil deGrasse Tyson and his podcast/show “Star Talk Radio/Live" promote space, science and science literacy.
Aside from Star Talk, NDT is an outspoken advocate and recognized public figure for science, science literacy, education, the STEM fields, NASA, space exploration and overall critical thinking.
NDT respectfully plugs the sponsors between commercial breaks, one of them happening to be Netflix. We all know everything on Netflix is not science/critical thinking-supportive, but - and I don’t know if this is enforced by Netflix within their contract - he endorses the show like this:
"Thanks to Netflix Instant Streaming for supporting Star Talk. Watch thousands of TV episodes and movies on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or TV, all streamed instantly to you by Netflix, saving you time, money and hassle. It’s one of the best entertainment values around. If you happen to be a fan of sci-fi - like I am - Netflix Streaming has lots of options for you. You can watch past seasons of Supernatural, Walking Dead, Lost, X-Files, Warehouse 13, Buffy, Charmed, and even Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica. And my favorite - I think the best TV series ever in the history of the universe - The Twilight Zone. You can watch these sci-fi series on Netflix Instant Streaming. And check out thousands of other TV shows and movies while you’re at it, during a free 30-day trail. It’s a free trial of Netflix Instant Streaming at netflix.com/startalk. Be sure to sign up today at netflix.com/startalk.”
This is truly embarrassing for me to listen to, personally. This is what it’s come to? Science funding is so low in this country that he has to pander to corporate media this way?
STOP: Before you think I’m being too cynical, listen for yourself. Go back through the Star Talk series and listen to his co-hosts interject throughout the interviews, listen to his plugs between commercials, pay attention to some of the topics presented in his show and pay attention in general to where the conversations lead. Then evaluate what knowledge you gained from each episode. You can visit the Star Talk YouTube channel for quicker access as well.
I understand how it works: Netflix has to promote their top shows, most notably the ones that reflected peak interest in their audience throughout the year, paying attention to any highs and lows during each quarter. Got it. But no one else has shown enough support to endorse NDT’s show other than Netflix? No one? Neil (or whoever handles this) couldn’t turn this endorsement down or at least make appropriate revisions to the
It’s one thing for NDT to promote Netflix at all, because there’s a lot of great material on Netflix. But to be promoting the already dumbed-down American culture by actually suggesting his audience watch a bunch of shows about the supernatural? This is where I have a serious problem. And why I stopped tuning in to Star Talk Radio for quite awhile - main reason being: I was waiting for the next season of Brian Cox and Robin Ince’s far-more intellectually stimulating show, The Infinite Monkey Cage.
STOP: Now pick any episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage and pay attention to the same things as before. See the difference? Yeahhh. It’s called intellectual conversation amongst people (and co-hosts) who actually contribute to the topics at hand without taking away from the main focus of the show itself.
The American media is a joke. The programs on television, most of them, are ridiculous. American politics are the laughing stock of global affairs. You don’t see Brian Cox plugging supernatural programs and you won’t. Ever. Sure, they’ll come up in conversation to discuss the rationality of them and their origins throughout history, to be discussed openly and torn down if necessary. And that’s the difference between UK news, media and its scientific programs.
I’m calling you out Neil.
You’re a public figure, a “showman of science” just as Carl Sagan was pinned. You credit Carl as being your main inspiration/mentor, you’re even the host of “Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey,” - paying direct homage to Carl Sagan and his legacy. You have a voice. You speak powerful and poetic words about the threat of ignorance/religious influence, deflating our conceits, revolutionizing the educational system, the lack of scientific literacy amongst politics, government, throughout society (specifically American culture/society). You have within your influence, the pulse of science literacy.
Now ask yourself: what would Carl do? Would he take to the airwaves? Sure, he did. Would he support other media outlets who offer financial support to shows like his that benefit science? Absolutely. Would he promote pseudoscience and the supernatural - the very things he spent his career speaking on the pitfalls of? Unequivocally no. If the funding to his program/s became threatened, he would find another way or finance it himself.
I know Neil isn’t Carl. I’m a fan of Neil’s, which is quite clear by the material on this blog. But I think it’s quite obvious that this would be viewed as a sign of hypocrisy regarding the very things that Neil stands up against. He talks about fielding/responding to all these kooky questions, conspiracy theories and rampant pseudoscience throughout our culture, yet……he’s promoting this. On his own show.
Gut-check, Dr. Tyson. There’s no excuse for this.
The Infinite Monkey Cage: iTunes | twitter | YouTube | BBC
NOTE: Take this seriously, people. I’m not trying to be an ass just to pick a fight. It’s too easy for anyone to become lost and disillusioned with all the conspiracy hokum all around YouTube-land, so much that they question the motives of NASA along with all of those putting in the time and work to advance all these amazing fields of science. We can’t have any blurred lines here. If you stand for something, you stand for it. You don’t draw the line in the sand then stand on the line.
"There’s no greater sign of the failure of the American educational system than the extent to which Americans are distracted by the possibility that Earth might end on December 21, 2012. It’s a profound absence of awareness of the laws of physics and how nature works. So they’re missing some science classes in their training in high school or in college that would empower [them] to understand and to judge when someone else is basically just full of it. Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you".
- NDT via Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Internet personality test, June 24, 2009
Before anyone starts to send any hate mail my way, take the time to go through the links I’ve inserted and weight the two programs. Not as if the content of the programs take away from the fact that Neil is still doing this and promoting these pseudoscientific programs, which presents a blow to his scientific merit amongst the general public who desperately need a trustworthy advocate for science literacy. Thus the reason we have films being promoted like Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss’ The Unbelievers. These guys are drivers for science literacy, doing exactly what NDT has stated his goals are: to teach HOW to think, not WHAT to think. We all need to be reminded of what we’re doing or brought back to our own “mission statements”. This has been on my mind for over a year and a half now, when I was simply bothered by the lack of intelligent conversation going on within the program. But this was a bit too much not to not bring attention to.
Promoting pseudoscience and supernatural (indirectly or not) fights against the cause he so adamantly defends.
Related: Neil deGrasse Tyson On Literacy, Curiosity, Education, And Being ‘In Your Face’ via NPR