Neil DeGrasse Tyson blinding Bob Lutz with the incontrovertible truth of science

Everyone’s favorite super cool scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, had what I found to be an interesting exchange with GM’s former chairman, Bob Lutz, on Bill Maher’s program a couple of days ago. The ball got rolling when Lutz, who, as you’ll recall, was quoted in 2004 as saying that global warming was “a total crock of shit,” doubled down on the idiocy, stating that he knows for a fact that global warming isn’t a problem because he owns a house in the Florida Keys that isn’t underwater. If the dire predictions made by climate scientists a decade ago had turned out to be true, he said, that wouldn’t be the case. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, our generation’s great defender of evidence-based discovery, and all things sciency, came back with the following quote… “There’s a saying in the scientific community, that every great truth goes through three phases. First, people deny it. Second, they say that it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say that they’ve known it all along.” Lutz grudgingly acknowledge that we’ve been having some weird weather, but qualified the statement by saying that unusual weather patterns were nothing new. In evidence of this, he offered the following observation. When he was a kid, in 1941, he said, there had been hurricanes in Scarsdale, New York. Apparently, it would seem, this observation from a man who was nine years old at the time, merits discussion right alongside the findings of the International Climate Science Coalition. (Thankfully, Bill Maher didn’t give him the opportunity to present his next scientific finding… that the ocean doesn’t feel any warmer when he sticks his feet in it now than it did when he was a toddler.) This, apparently, is what things have come to in post-reality America, where opinion is given the same weight as fact, and the former chairman of GM can tell us with authority that we can keep burning fossil fuels because he remembers a bad storm in 1941, and because the basement of his vacation home has yet to flood.

Here’s the video.

I particularly like the part where Tyson discusses the incremental change being made on the right, as former global warming deniers, confronted by overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence supporting the existence of climate change, are taking refuge in the convenient fallback position – “We never said that there was no such thing as global warming. We just don’t believe that human activities on earth are to blame.” In other words, they’ve found a way to save face, present themselves as being something other than the anti-science buffoons that they really are, and, most importantly, justify their inaction when it comes to conservation and the environment.

It would be funny, looking back over our shoulders for the next several decades, waiting for these individuals to catch up to modernity, but, sadly, we don’t have the luxury of time. As we’re sitting at the tipping point, we can’t afford to wait. And that’s what’s so frustrating about living in the United States right now, where, instead of trying to educate the citizenry, our would-be leaders are trying to outdo one another in an all out sprint toward the extreme, suicidal right. On one hand we have Romney trying, if you can believe it, to distance himself from his greatest political achievement – finding a way insure the people of Massachusetts while Governor of that state. And, on the other, we have Santorum, who proudly says that he’s the best suited to be President because he’s refused to even consider the scientific evidence in support of global warming. This is the world that we’ve created, and, because of it, we’ll go down as the worst generation in history – the one that inherited a country with a robust space program and schools that were the envy of the world, and turned it into one in which people are seriously considering rolling back child labor laws, and suggesting that contraception be made illegal.

But, there may be hope. I’m not used to quoting New York Times columnist David Brooks, but I’m taking some comfort in what he wrote yesterday about the future of the Republican party. “Here’s what I think may happen,” he said. “Romney gets the nomination and is defeated. Republicans decide they are sick of nominating ‘moderates’ and next time they go haywire. Then the party gets really crushed and sanity returns.” The question is, can we wait another five years for sanity to return?

And, while we’re on the subject of hopeful quotes, here’s another one from Dr. Tyson that I’m quite fond of… “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

So, take that, Lutz.

update: Almost immediately after posting this, I stumbled across another good piece of audio from Neil deGrazze Tyson on the interconnectedness of man, and his oneness with the universe. I’m not crazy about the music in the background, but the quote itself is quite beautiful and uplifting.

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  1. Posted March 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another good quote from Typson’s, taken from his conversation with Lutz.

    “You take all the scientists who author these papers, get them to pool their money and invest in companies that would benefit from global warming. And take all the people who are in denial of global warming, take all their money and invest in companies that would presume there is no global warming. And I would predict… you will all go broke in the next 50 years.”

  2. Posted March 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    One last thing, while we’re on the subject of the Republicans, and the ever-shifting intellectual sands upon which they stand. It’s not just in the global warming debate where they’re moving the goalposts, but also in Presidential politics. Here’s an example. I know a guy who, last year, said to me that Obama was a bad President because he couldn’t turn the stock market around. And, now that the Dow is at 1300, he’s saying that Obama is bad for America because he’s killing small business. (Apparently the stock market is no longer the barometer of whether the economy is going well.) By way of evidence, he offered the fact that a local store in his neighborhood just closed its doors after 25+ years in business. The reason, he assumes, has to due with the onerous provisions of “Obamacare.” How does one have a meaningful discussion with a person who insists on changing the ground rules midway through the game?

  3. Erika
    Posted March 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Sigh. Don’t you sometimes wish that you could just be blissfully ignorant, like so many other people? Intellectual curiosity will eventually kill the cat…via high blood pressure and lament.

  4. Posted March 6, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    intellectual dishonesty is a hallmark of the “evil greedy bastards” (Dylan Ratagan’s label).

  5. Posted March 6, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    You should press your friend on how “Obamacare” caused his local hardware store to close.

    His head would probably explode at having to think.

  6. Posted March 6, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I don’t know, man. I hear a lot of batshit ideas based on little evidence from liberal folks, too. Not to say it justifies Republican nonsense, it doesn’t, but I just think this trend of American stupidity is an all encompassing one.

    Humans work with imperfect knowledge, so imperfect at times that the don’t really know how imperfect it is. Americans, having one of the worst educational (non) systems in the developed world work on almost complete ignorance. Moreover, being raised on Hollywood fantasies that everyone can be a rock star if they wait long enough, and a self interested and myopic generation of spoiled boomer generation parents and their progeny, have made this, in my opinion, one of the most depressing eras in my memory.

  7. Eel
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    My father.
    Observes snow outside.
    Determines global warming to be a hoax.

    America needs a reboot.

  8. Anonymous Mike
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    My father.
    Observes President to be black.
    Determines America to be Socialist.

  9. Redleg
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Trees like various spruces no longer growing well in southern Michigan, our growing “zone” being equated to what was the norm in Tennessee just 30 short years ago- Just wait until the termites finally decide that it isn’t all that cold around here. They’ll absolutely feast.

  10. Meta
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Neil deGrasse Tyson just answered ten questions posed by Time magazine readers.

  11. anonymous
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    He also took a ton of questions on Reddit not too long ago.

    During the exchange he said that he was impressed that Captain Kirk could have sex with aliens.

    I’m not sure if that’s why he went into science.

  12. Thom Elliott
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Disregarding the preceeding predictable bullshit about how some billionaire mechanical man has nonsensical beliefs and can only mendaciously backpeddle and dissimulate, I have to say the video by the scientist on existence was fascinating. While all the beauty of Maya is undenyable, what he is describing is really the Atman/Brahman nexus, I am That (Brahman), the subject is the object as Hegel said, or “Being is a One” as Parmenides said. Unfortunately the scientist (because of their hopelessly blind materialism) never goes further then the description of our real indistinguishablity from the universe. They never give the meaning or truth of this ontology, because they are unable. Only PHILOSOPHY can.

  13. K2
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    My favorite scientist is Pat Robertson.

  14. Knox
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    If you liked Neil DeGrasse Tyson before, you’ll love him now. He’s collaborating with Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA on a new album. It’s to be called Dark Matter.

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