Neil deGrasse Tyson's rational advice for life under an irrational administration.
Neil deGrasse Tyson for president?
But that wasn’t all he had to say on politics.
Surely no question gets just an easy “no” from Tyson. Photo by Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.
While picking up the Lincoln Leadership Prize on March 10, he dropped five to-the-heart points for his fellow American citizens:
1. Why aren’t there more scientists in government? Because people vote for charisma over knowledge.
Getting different types of people in office would mean “we have to really rethink what we are as a democracy,” he said. “Voting for someone because of what they know — what a concept!”
He makes it seem so mind-bogglingly simple. Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Popular Science.
2. Don’t blame politicians. Blame voters.
“You voted for these people! … If you have issues, your issues are not with the politician. Your issues are with your fellow voters,” he said.
At first, it seems Tyson is repeating what so many do: Voters can just vote out leaders they don’t like. But there’s more to it, he explained, because just thinking this way — that merely changing one person at the top will make everything be fine — “implies that we’re all just here, the electorate, and don’t really matter.”
Does Tyson have a fix for this kind of dysfunctional electorate? Oh, yes.
3. Fix the electorate by arming them with science!
“I will go to the electorate and say, ‘Here is what science is and how and why it works, and here’s how you can become empowered thinking that way,'” he explained.
It’s the best kind of evil plan, isn’t it?! There’s no time for a presidency when you’re already working to make a better government by arming voters with objective facts for their personal philosophies so they can be choosier about their leaders.
Knowledge really is power!
4. What about the EPA being headed by a climate-change denier? He says: Watch for actions, not just words.
The Trump-appointed Environmental Protection Agency head, Scott Pruitt, denies humans are causing climate change and has even sued the EPA multiple times. While you might expect a science whiz like Tyson to fire up arguments against a denier, he leaned on logic and voter responsibility.
“We live in a free country; you should think what you want,” he said, and that includes Pruitt. But what the country can and must do is push back against misinformation when it turns to legislative and regulatory action.
5. Defending the truth means defending democracy.
“When people are fighting over what is actually true when we know what is true? I don’t know what country that is,” he said. “But what I do know is that it’s the beginning of an end of an informed democracy when that happens.”
Scientists often have a flair for the drama of impending doom, but these words genuinely strike loudly right now. How many of our friends’ political discussions lately just seem like two siblings fighting over who’s to blame for a party that left the house trashed? That’s definitely not an informed democracy making any sort of progress, is it? Meanwhile, the objective fact is that something must be done about the mess.
So, take note, people of the electorate! Neil deGrasse Tyson is here to guide you.
He wouldn’t be our president, but he’s already giving us what we need to hear to make our own changes.
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