Figuratively the Humanities

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has once again irked humanities scholars. In 2014, he had declared philosophy a “useless” enterprise (a stance his colleague Bill Nye once held and has since revised). This time Tyson drew backlash for what he didn’t say.

The public intellectual tweeted about the lack of educational enterprises helping students discern the construction of “facts” and “data” in an age of “fake news.” Tyson has long been an advocate of meta-cognitive pedagogy. But the tweet’s concise pronouncement suggested that no one is doing that work. Continue reading “Figuratively the Humanities”

Illusions, Magic, and the Perception of Reality

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Why do we see this image of the Penrose Stairs as being impossible? Optical illusions, such as this one, and magic tricks function because of at least two structures, perhaps we should call them limitations, related to our perception of reality, namely bodily structures (our sensory system) and conceptual structures )the frameworks around which we organize those perceptions). Considering these limitations becomes important not only for our perception of illusions but also for the work of observation and description that informs much scholarship and public discourse.

These reflections came out of watching David Blaine perform his ice pick trick in a conversation with Neil DeGrasse Tyson with Pharrell Williams and Scott Vener in their OtherTone Studio. Continue reading “Illusions, Magic, and the Perception of Reality”

Green Means Go?

Picture 2Debates over religion and science have long bothered me and the problems could not be any better illustrated than this recent Tweet. Continue reading “Green Means Go?”

“I Am Neil deGrasse Tyson. Call Me That”

Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_-_September_2010_at_Howard_UniversityWhen discussions of identification and labels note the complexity of labels and complicate the “strong cultural associations” that such labels often convey, I feel like cheering. So I was excited when my brother sent me a link to a nuanced NPR blogpost, “What if Atheists Were Defined by Their Actions?” by Tania Lombrozo. A professor of psychology, Lombrozo writes about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s rejection of the label atheist because he does not conform to the image and actions that people, including atheists and theists, associate with that label. Tyson discussed his views in an interview for the Rationally Speaking podcast. At 5:27, for example, Tyson succinctly highlights the problem of cultural associations, asserting, “Labels are intellectually lazy ways of presuming that you know more about someone that you have actually learned.” Continue reading ““I Am Neil deGrasse Tyson. Call Me That””