Neil deGrasse Tyson and America’s nerd problem
‘My great fear,” Neil deGrasse Tyson told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in early June, “is that we’ve in fact been visited by intelligent aliens but they chose not to make contact, on the conclusion that there’s no sign of intelligent life on Earth.” In response to this rather standard little saw, Hayes laughed as if he had been trying marijuana for the first time.
All told, one suspects that Tyson was not including either himself or a fellow traveler such as Hayes as inhabitants of Earth but was instead referring to everybody who is not in their coterie. That, alas, is his way. An astrophysicist and evangelist for science, Tyson currently plays three roles in our society: He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; the presenter of the hip new show Cosmos; and, most important of all, perhaps, the fetish and totem of the extraordinarily puffed-up “nerd” culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States.