StarTalk hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson
Posted: 20 May 2015 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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If you haven’t seen this, the core of each show is a previously recorded interview by Neil DeGrasse Tyson of some person… George Takei, Arriana Huffington, etc.  Then Tyson sits down in front of an audience to talk about that interview with a panel of two—another person, supposedly chosen to provide a contrasting point of view, plus a comedian, presumably to keep things light.  This format causes some problems.  In one episode one of the panelists was anthropologist and sex expert Helen Fisher, and at one point she made the puzzling statement that men were more romantic than women; her research had proven it over and over again.  But she didn’t have the chance to fully explain what she meant before they had breezed on to another part of the interview.

This week the interviewee was Richard Dawkins.  It wasn’t as good as I expected, but I did pick out two interesting points.

1)  Dawkins invites us to imagine an ophthalmologist, otherwise perfectly good at his trade, who nevertheless believes in the “stork theory” of human reproduction.  While he admits that such a viewpoint wouldn’t affect his trade at all, he says that there’s something unsettling about it.  You somehow imagine something dangerous lurking under the surface with someone like that, and so it “shouldn’t be allowed”.  But gosh, doesn’t that strike you as a bit bigoted?  Isn’t that just what Christians say about atheists, that’s there’s something dangerous lurking under the surface that can’t be trusted?  I’m sure that Dawkins didn’t mean it to come out that way, and if it were pointed out to him he would have modified his statement somewhat.

2)  Tyson, speaking to his other panelists now, said that he had felt profound “spiritual” experiences before, for example while on a mountain looking down at the clouds shrouding the earth below, when he felt “at one” with nature… and yet had not felt any need to invoke any supernatural diety.  The panelist was Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and he asked Tyson if he were open to the possibility that the experience was God’s way of opening communication with him.  I have to say that Tyson rather ducked the question.  My own personal feeling, as one of those atheists who doesn’t mind using the word “spiritual” to describe just such experiences, would answer something like… but as far as I’m concerned, the experience is complete in itself.  What reason would I have to I posit something else in order to account for it?  If we find a dollar bill on the sidewalk do we think, “Is this the Great God Mammon trying to communicate with me?”

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Posted: 20 May 2015 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve been listening to StarTalk since it started including some of the episodes where Bill Nye was the guest host. I have to say I am kind of “Eh” about it. While they do discuss some interesting things and I can appreciated some humor thrown in from time to time I think Tyson spends a bit too much time laughing at his own jokes and yucking it up with the comedians he has on the show, but maybe that’s just me. I don’t think he does a good enough job explaining the science or addressing the really important points as you observed on a couple of occasions.

I like the fact that we have science popularizers out there but I am beginning to worry that some of them are more enamored with their own fame than is healthy for the field and may have lost their way.

When you are more concerned with your public image than with the science you are promoting you need to reconsider what you are doing. This is where Dr OZ went wrong in a big way. Tyson hasn’t gone down the road to pseudoscience nonsense but he does seem more interested in comic relief and the applause that it brings than science education at times. He’s also a bit overly dramatic for my taste but I don’t have to live in the public sphere and worry about ratings like he does so I will cut him some slack there.

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Posted: 20 May 2015 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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macgyver - 20 May 2015 07:58 AM

I’ve been listening to StarTalk since it started including some of the episodes where Bill Nye was the guest host. I have to say I am kind of “Eh” about it. While they do discuss some interesting things and I can appreciated some humor thrown in from time to time I think Tyson spends a bit too much time laughing at his own jokes and yucking it up with the comedians he has on the show, but maybe that’s just me. I don’t think he does a good enough job explaining the science or addressing the really important points as you observed on a couple of occasions.

I like the fact that we have science popularizers out there but I am beginning to worry that some of them are more enamored with their own fame than is healthy for the field and may have lost their way.

When you are more concerned with your public image than with the science you are promoting you need to reconsider what you are doing. This is where Dr OZ went wrong in a big way. Tyson hasn’t gone down the road to pseudoscience nonsense but he does seem more interested in comic relief and the applause that it brings than science education at times. He’s also a bit overly dramatic for my taste but I don’t have to live in the public sphere and worry about ratings like he does so I will cut him some slack there.

It seems to me that an oversized ego is necessary to be a good populizer of science, especially on television.  The trick is to put science first, which is where Dr. Oz fails—his ego has ovetaken his intellect. It’s hard to keep a balance in the public eye. Carl Sagan did it, and I think Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are managing to pull it off.

Lois

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[color=red“Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.”
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Posted: 22 May 2015 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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macgyver - 20 May 2015 07:58 AM

I’ve been listening to StarTalk since it started including some of the episodes where Bill Nye was the guest host.

Really?  I was under the impression that it had only been on for just a handful of episodes.  It doesn’t help that it has the worst possible time slot—11 pm Monday nights, then repeats at 3 pm and 7pm Friday afternoons.  What’s frustrating to me is they use the interview to kick start the conversation with the panel, but just when it gets good, they have to dash back to a new topic in the interview, which turns out to be less interesting than the conversation they interrupted.

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Posted: 22 May 2015 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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macgyver - 20 May 2015 07:58 AM

I like the fact that we have science popularizers out there but I am beginning to worry that some of them are more enamored with their own fame than is healthy for the field and may have lost their way.

I was thinking the same thing as I was watching the Richard Dawkins interview.  He’s at his best in his books… when he’s writing he has plenty of time to read it back, or get somebody else to read it back, and catch things that don’t sound quite right, hone the writing, making it readable.  Unfortunately since he’s become famous for being “the world’s most recognizable atheist”, he’s seen more in interviews or tweets.  By the time he notices that he’s said something that doesn’t make sense, it’s all over the internet and people are already blogging about this huge boner that Richard Dawkins pulled.

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Posted: 22 May 2015 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Advocatus - 22 May 2015 07:08 AM
macgyver - 20 May 2015 07:58 AM

I’ve been listening to StarTalk since it started including some of the episodes where Bill Nye was the guest host.

Really?  I was under the impression that it had only been on for just a handful of episodes.  It doesn’t help that it has the worst possible time slot—11 pm Monday nights, then repeats at 3 pm and 7pm Friday afternoons.  What’s frustrating to me is they use the interview to kick start the conversation with the panel, but just when it gets good, they have to dash back to a new topic in the interview, which turns out to be less interesting than the conversation they interrupted.

I dont listen to it live. I have been listening to it as a podcast using the Stitcher app. The first couple of episodes were hosted by Bill Nye

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