Saturday, September 27, 2014

Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Lie About a Member of Congress and a Journalist Being Innumerate?

Tyson has claimed that:

1) at least one member of Congress didn't understand the difference between 180 degrees and 360 degrees, and,

2) at least one journalist wrongly thought that “Half the schools in the district are below average." was newsworthy.

In 1998, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said of Republican Rep. Henry Hyde “You have done a 360-degree turn,” Waters told Hyde. “I’m a little disappointed. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that you would have such a conflict in views about perjury and lying.”

Tyson's quote of an unnamed member of Congress was: "I have changed my views 360 degrees on that issue.” Not an accurate quote, but it's hard to see it as a complete fabrication. The key point is that the speaker thought that turning 360 degrees left you facing in the opposite direction.

Here is a quote remarkably close to #2: But it doesn't exactly follow the wording of "Half the schools in the district are below average." so Tyson's opponents can claim that he invented the quote.

1 comment:

John Mikesell said...

Tyson is trying to get people to wake up and realize what's going on by telling parables. He was trying to get across serious issue in a few sentences in a way that would entertain an audience. He could have detailed it to his audience as scientists talk to other scientists, but then there'd only be scientists in the audience. The things that members of congress and presidents don't bother to understand now are more complicated than degrees on a compass, but the compass story illustrates what's going on in a few sentences. The situation he is trying to illustrate is far worse than his parables.