Neil deGrasse Tyson wins Censor of the Year award

Science
by Ryan McKinnon
Posted 2/12/15, 05:24 pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of television’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, won the Discovery Institute’s Censor of the Year award today. The honor “recognizes achievement in thwarting an open and informed discussion of science.”

Tyson’s show, which updated Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, was nominated for 12 Emmys and featured an introduction by President Barack Obama. It frequently pitted faith against science and implied that skepticism regarding modern science is the domain of fools, or worse. Discovery said Tyson’s dismissal of any alternative viewpoint, and his willingness to bend the truth, earned him the COTY.

For example, in episode five Tyson offered the Chinese philosopher Mozi as an example of a thinker oppressed by religion. According to Tyson, Mozi wrote Against Faith and religious leaders persecuted his followers. The title of the work, though, was Against Fate. Mozi rejected fatalism, and the persecution was for political, not religious, reasons.

Tyson normally smiles when he asserts humans are merely matter. The Discovery Institute’s David Klinghoffer said Tyson stood out among other potential award recipients for being “charming” and “avuncular,” and is effective “because he is so likable.” That likability is evidenced by frequent appearances on The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane executive-produced Cosmos, raising the series’ credibility with a young male audience. In a 2006 address to Harvard’s graduating class, MacFarlane told students to “Stay away from the church,” describing the Bible as a book “written by people who thought the sun was magic.”

Klinghoffer predicts Cosmos will soon become a staple in science classrooms.

Ryan McKinnon

Ryan is a graduate of WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course.

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