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Neil Tyson’s Final Words On His Quote Fabrications: “My bad”

Still from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s testimony entitled “Past, Present, and Future of NASA” at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing (Wednesday, March 7, 2012, “Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program”). All documents and video from the hearing are in the public domain. More information at neil4

Neil Tyson’s second attempt at a fake apology for fabricating quotes is as bad as his first one.

After publishing an embarrassing non-apology on Facebook last week for repeated quote fabrications, planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Facebook again earlier this week to revise and extend his remarks. His full post can be found here.

As can be said of his public talks, much of his Facebook note is comprised of unnecessary self-flattery (there’s a paragraph on his wardrobe, for example). However, he did set aside some space to talk about his repeated fabrication of a George W. Bush quote that was never uttered. Here’s that section, which is worth reading in full:

A Case Study: Quoting George W. Bush

I think my favorite part of this whole fake apology is the title, “A Case Study: Quoting George W. Bush,” which is itself a case study in self-delusion. This was not a case study in quoting George W. Bush. At best, it was a case study in misquoting George W. Bush. At worst, it was a case study in what happens when you fabricate quotes in order to slander public figures. After all the sturm und drang, Tyson still doesn’t seem to grasp the main issue here: this wasn’t a misquote. It was a fabrication that deliberately created the exact opposite impression of how reality actually transpired. It was the sort of thing a dishonest politician does, not the sort of behavior you’d expect from a scientist who’s allegedly devoted to studying reality.

Then there’s Tyson’s characterization of how he came to learn about George W. Bush’s speech following the crash of the space shuttle Columbia. In Tyson’s mind, “others” had uncovered the quote. Never mind that I extensively quoted and discussed that very passage from Bush’s real speech in the very first article about Tyson’s fabrication of the Bush quote. Never mind that I specifically noted that quote and the speech in which it was found to his publicist. Tyson, though, cannot bring himself to admit that little fact, because it would do far too much damage to his ego.

Tyson butchered the quote — Bush simply never said what Tyson said he said. Tyson butchered the timing of the quote — it happened in 2003, not in the week after 9/11. Tyson butchered the reason for the quote — not 9/11, but the Columbia tragedy. Tyson butchered the implication — Bush never tried to divide people based on religion. Tyson even fabricated Bush’s inflection when he uttered the fake quote. In short, literally every possible thing that one could’ve gotten wrong about Bush’s Columbia quote, Tyson managed to get wrong.

How does Tyson characterize those differences? “But I was wrong about when he said it.” Riiiight. That was your only error. If that weren’t enough, he then publicly congratulates himself for remembering the details of what actually happened: “I’m surprised I remembered any details from either of them.”

Dude. You didn’t remember any of the details. That’s kind of why you’re in this mess.

And then, because a Neil Tyson story always starts with a moral and then works backwards to find “facts” that fit (nothing is more sciencey than fitting facts to a hypothesis, rather than vice versa, even if you have to pretend facts into existence), he ends with this:

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.

Translation: facts be damned, I’m sticking with my point, even if my point is so dumb and juvenile that it can be swept away with a single question: “Did you ever stop to consider that maybe God has different names for things than what people on earth choose to call them?” Or if you wanted another question: “Did you ever stop to think that maybe the God who created humanity and all its different languages might speak more than just Hebrew?” Or, if you really wanted to stump him with some Bible trivia that lays bare the utter ignorance of his coup de grace: “Are you even slightly aware that Genesis 11 and Acts 2 kind of show that language is not exactly a barrier for the triune God who spoke the universe into existence?”

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now, Tyson may think the Bible is stupid (the Bush quote affair has already demonstrated that highly attested history isn’t exactly his strong point), but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing internally inconsistent with God knowing the names of stars and people on earth giving names to stars.

I still find it shocking the lengths to which Tyson went — up to and including repeated and obvious fabrications about the president of the United States — to make such a pathetically bad point. His story is the Rube Goldberg machine of stupid stories: completely pointless, and hopelessly fragile. You’d think somebody intent on pointing out a massive internal contradiction would, oh, I don’t know, spend some time researching whether there was actually an internal contradiction. But then again, you’d probably think that somebody would make sure a quote actually existed before repeating it as gospel.

Great debaters attack their opponents’ strongest points and systematically dismantle them. Poor debaters nibble at the edges of their opponents’ weakest points and hope that nobody will notice the sturdy foundation beneath the weathered facade. Lazy propagandists don’t even bother with research or argument and instead go straight to just makin’ stuff up. And then there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, who felt compelled to fabricate evidence in service of a point so pedestrian that it can be easily swatted away with the type of knowledge that’s imparted to children during an hour of Sunday School or an elementary lesson on logic.

To sum up: Tyson fabricated a quote from a newspaper headline and to this day has offered zero evidence that this headline exists, other than his memory (you’ll just have to take it on faith). Tyson fabricated a quote from a member of Congress and to this day has offered zero evidence that this quote has been uttered, other than his own insistence that it was privately said in his presence (you’ll need to take that one on faith, too). Nor has Tyson offered any evidence whatsoever to independently corroborate his jury duty story, which, to my knowledge, has at least four different versions (you’ll need to take Tyson’s story about that on faith, too).

Finally, we have a quote that Tyson fabricated about President George W. Bush that Tyson then deliberately used to cast the president in the worst possible light, all so he could get an attaboy ego boost from the know-nothing seal clappers who paid $70 each to be in his audience. And what does he say after weeks of obfuscation and nonsense justification for blatant fabrication in service of an ideological agenda?

“My bad.”

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