Wow. I didn’t expect a true apology from Tyson, as it is now clear to me that the man is a bullshitter. However, when the man said he needed to find the right place and time for his “apology,” for some reason, I did not expect that to mean he was trying to come up with a way to apologize in the least noticeable way possible. I overestimated his integrity.
Well, that’s what he did. Tyson first obscures the “apology” in a Facebook posting by giving it the title, “Partial Anatomy of My Public Talks.” Yes, that is the title. He talks about his “objectives” and then talks about his wardrobe. Yes, the man describes his wardrobe:
I own a half-dozen cosmically themed vests and another 100+ cosmically themed ties. Among them, I’m more likely to be seen in only two of the vests and about adozen of the ties, they being my favorites. In large theater performance venues, I often remove my shoes. I can move more nimbly on the stage, but I also do so as a matter of silent respect for the countless performers — singers, dancers, musicians – who have previously sanctified the stage with their artistic talents.
Then, he talks about the mechanics of his talk and tries to come up with excuse for not being able to back up the claims in his talks:
I do not speak from notes. So, depending on the time of day, the recent news cycle of current events, and the leanings, humor, and enthusiasm of the audience, I will be creating what I say on the spot. The scaffold is there. The words I use to clad it are unique to the moment. So when I get calls from hosts who ask, “Please send the talk in advance.” My reply is, “My talk is the talk. It does not exist before I give it.”
Then comes the “apology”
A Case Study: Quoting George W. Bush
For a talk I give on the rise and fall of science in human cultural history I occasionally paraphrase President George W. Bush from one of his speeches, remarking that our God is the God who named the stars, and immediately noting that 2/3 of all star-names in the night sky are Arabic. I use this fact to pivot from the present-day, back to a millennium ago, during the Golden Age of Islam, in which major advances in math, science, engineering, medicine, and navigation were achieved. The Bush reference is not written on my PowerPoint slides, which I keep sparse, but I remembered it from a speech he gave after September 11, 2001. And I presented it that way, as Bush’s attempt to distinguish “we” from ‘they.” When eager scrutinizers looked for the quote they could not find it, and promptly accused me of fabricating a Presidential sentence. Lawyers are good at this. They find something that you get wrong, and use it to cast doubt on everything else you say. Blogosphere headlines followed, with accusations of me being a compulsive liar and a fabricator.
What followed fascinated me greatly. As others had uncovered, the President indeed utter the following sentences:
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.
But I was wrong about when he said it. It appears in his speech after the Columbia Shuttle disaster, eighteen months after September 11th 2001. My bad. And I here publicly apologize to the President for casting his quote in the context of contrasting religions rather than as a poetic reference to the lost souls of Columbia. I have no excuse for this, other than both events– so close to one another — upset me greatly. In retrospect, I’m surprised I remembered any details from either of them.
Of course, very little changes in that particular talk. I will still mention Islamic Extremists flying planes into buildings in the 21st century. I will still contrast it with the Golden Age of Islam a millennium earlier. And I will still mention the President’s quote. But instead, I will be the one contrasting what actually happened in the world with what the Bible says: The Arabs named the stars, not Yahweh.
Wow. Just…..wow. What do you think? I gotta comment on that when I get a little more time.
Tyson ends by telling us he would rather be eating waffles or drinking milkshakes than giving his talks, but his mighty sense of social responsibility makes him choose the talks over waffles.
Like I said….the man is a bullshitter.