Neil deGrasse Tyson: Point Counterpoint

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By Ariel Leal and Jesse Saunders

An excerpt from our issue Nonsense Goes To Space!

Neil Degrasse Tyson: Hero? Villain? …Thespian? With nipples like yams and a voice like the marshmallows one spreads atop, we just don’t know what to expect. The man is a saint no doubt, with thousands upon hundreds of contributions to things such as SCIENCE, math, and late night television—but math is hard and space is scary. So is he our friend or a threat to humanity itself?… Read two conflicting opinions below to find out.

Point

Life before the first encounter is a surreal dream, one that I can hardly remember in the midst of the never-ending Hell that is my current existence. I just want to sleep without having the definitions of consciousness and dreams violently shouted into my ears endlessly. I’ve taken shelter in this sensory deprivation tank because he always followed. He’d scream at me from all angles, all dimensions. I must have been eighteen when the first encounter took place. I was trying to get my Pringle wet in my father’s Honda Civic; it was going to be the single greatest moment of all my years in high school. I made sure to stock the car with several different kinds of air fresheners. Despite the smells being a whirlwind of artificial scents, Wendy just chuckled and called it all a “cute effort.” I left the key in so I could play some Bachman-Turner Overdrive to get the mood going as I drove to the cliff just a couple of minutes away from my house. The scene was beautiful, with the setting sun splashing warm colors over the valleys that that we sat overlooking. The thought of it all had me nervous, giving me goosebumps, and when we parked, I could do little more than stare at the slowly dripping condensation from Wendy’s water bottle in the cup holder. Everything I did, I did out of nervousness, telling myself that when the drop of water hit the bottom, I would make my move. I did. We started to kiss. Her plump lips pressed against mine, and after a few minutes, I pushed my hand into the tight pocket of my Levi’s. My fingers managed to take hold of the single condom caught in the web of tangled headphones. I struggled to tear the plastic open; my hands were sweaty, as was the condom. Wendy giggled again and opened the plastic for me. At that precise moment, Neil deGrasse Tyson punched his way out of the trunk of my car. My girlfriend screeched as he yelled, “You’re doing this because you’re both compelled, as animals, to procreate. There is no magic!”

I haven’t had sex ever since. So yes, I’m still a virgin. At forty-three years old he reminded me that I have “failed my duty as a living organism” and “successfully put an end to millions of years of procreative success,” but that’s another story out of hundreds of thousands. I tried to eat icecream after that initial incident, having dropped crying Wendy off at her house. She insisted that she needed some time alone. On the way to the ice-cream shop, the radio just kept blasting more and more maddening facts narrated by the creature himself, Mr. Tyson.

“Hey kids, don’t forget, you were born into existence from an eternal abyss of nothingness and you will die returning to that very same oblivion! Santa isn’t real!”

I drove up to the little kiosk down the road from my school just to get a little sweetness in my day. How I longed for the texture of my tongue dragging across the rugged terrain of sprinkles embedded into soft-serve. I guessed sprinkles were nutritionally worthless, though. None of this was healthy for me, to be honest. Was I just eating to alleviate stress? Did you know that carbohydrates are directly linked to increases in serotonin production? N-Neil taught me that..

As soon as I attempted to place my order, I found that he was the ice-cream man. “Ice-cream, or any food, or anything for that matter, is only a series of atoms intertwined in complex webs, just like you. There are no souls.” I could go into detail about these events endlessly, my mother’s funeral, my father’s suicide, the birth of my nephew- right…the birth of my nephew was supposed to be a symbol of hope for a better future. Unfortunately, baby blue tones seemed more stale than they ever have before. Color didn’t mean much to me anymore. Did you know that the color blue is associated with low anxiety levels and a sense of calm?

BAM! He was there, just like he always was. “Fun fact! Mothers are essentially forced to love their children. Oxytocin, the chemical responsible for love, is produced in high quantities after the birth of a child. You didn’t think love was actually real, did you?”

Relaxation didn’t exist for me, anymore, for every time I turned on the television the new Cosmos would start playing. I was forced to watch his affably charming face mock me from afar. He spoke of wonders, of why the universe was amazing and beautiful, but in doing so, the magic was removed from literally everything. Nothing held mystery. Nothing was intriguing. Life slowly lost meaning, at least, until I met her; Sharon, that beautiful woman. She gave my life meaning, but I was foolish to believe that this phenomenon wasn’t fleeting. At our wedding, happiness was within my grasp, until the priest asked everyone to speak now, or forever hold their peace; peace that I would only ever obtain in death. Death means nothing to me anymore but I digress. The white dress she sported seemed bland, considering that it was only the result of an inability to absorb any specific color. I put these thoughts aside though. I tried doing so for her. But of course that…daemon stood proudly and said, “Love is only a series of chemicals! Monogamy is little more than a social construct perpetuated by organized religion, which also has little to no value whatsoever!” The priest killed himself and I broke down and began to cry, each tear being a salty reminder that my emotions were little more than chemicals. Sharon left with my high school bully, Chad, because of course his name is Chad. My life is a cartoon, I think, now reminiscing in the everlasting hellscape that is my existence. I now pray that Neil won’t scare the piss out of me by jumping out of my asshole and reminding me what life is or isn’t or even why cartoons are unimpressive. I don’t care what the other guy has to say; Neil deGrasse Tyson has robbed me of my ability to live a life I’m not even sure ever existed. I can only attempt to block these memories and thoughts out in this lonely metal tank. Speaking of metal, did you know that mercury is the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature? At that moment, I heard the door slam open.

But how? I’m not supposed to be able to hear anything in here…

Heavy footsteps thudded towards me until his devastatingly strong fists punched against the tank, weakening what I hoped would serve as a metal coffin. His virtually robotic fingers pried the doors to the tank open. He squeezed inside with me and pulled me against him, placing his head on my right shoulder, his merciless lips next to my ear. I felt his warm breath on my skin as he spoke.

“Free will is an illusion, you know. Evidence supports the fact that we make decisions before the brain is even conscious of them. You are not your own person; none of us are.”

How was he doing this? Every tidbit of physics and chemistry that I was forced to remember couldn’t save me. None of it made sense. He didn’t fit the physical world that he spared no time explaining! How was he doing this?!

He tightened his grip with each factoid launched out of his mouth into the frail targets that were once my healthy ears. I cry more and more with his seemingly endless explanations. This is my reality. I just want to sleep

Counterpoint

The sun never stopped shining when I was young. Quiet, glowing, light filled up every corner of my world. I was a star among the many, simple, plebeians filling the school halls. At just eight years of age, I was ready to take on anything in this world. My clay volcano was ready to destroy my weakminded classmates with one push of a button. Until He came...Neil. All it took was one look at his potato battery and my entire life was seemingly over. Beyond beating me in every class, he destroyed my family’s quaint French villa with his pet black hole named Bill Nye, and didn’t even have the kind courtesy to torture me to my face. The mark he’s left on the scientific community is one of a villain, a rogue with no care for his common scientists. His chocolate dipped low-cal voice sends its listeners gliding through space and away from their dreadful, feeling-ridden lives for hours at a time. But apparently returning my phone calls was too much of challenge for the so-called Brilliant Man. BAH! I’m calling him what he’s truly always been: a carob-throated hack, through and through. While real investigators of science and fact, spend their time destroying hope and convincing the public that the fast and inevitable heat death of the universe is coming extremely soon -- when in fact we have yet to reach a confirmed date on that --Tyson has made a career out of “informing the public,” and “Sending learning and love to a child you know.” You think science was made to create a community of knowledge? Do you all actually think that it was meant to better humankind? Tyson is and has always been a figure of disgrace, a man who has the time to play games with children and speak about the future of the Sun’s desires, but he couldn’t even come to my birthday party. Weird, huh? Every test we ever took... every time I applied for a position, only to be laughed at as he sauntered through the door in nice shoes and pants...It became too much. The kids might be obsessed with him, but I have seen through him. I have seen through every inch of him. For years, I spent every moment of every day desperately trying to fix his mistakes, to fix our society, to maybe speak to him for a few minutes and see if he remembered me from that time we got partnered together in lab. But I was hopeless. Whether it was his casual suit or his dark, steamy, lying eyes, I was sick at the thought of him, and more sick at the thought of being away from him. Don’t you all understand yet? His mind might be great -- it is great -- but he was always wasting himself by trying to rationalize who and what he really is to the dregs of society. He could have and should have been spending it on better people -- people who are interesting and love science and understand math at an above average level. Tyson isn’t of your world, you lazy degenerates. You don’t deserve him, his wealth of knowledge is but a penny in the beggar’s cup that is your brains. NeildeGrasse was always meant for a different world, don’t you see that? He was meant for the world of science, always destined to be consumed by the vastness of his own mind... and so he was. Neil deGrasse Titan, the man who made learning good for idiots and bad for smart people, perished at the hands of the one thing he truly loved. Indeed, he was killed by science. “How so?” you may be asking. “What could have disassembled the fine man we knew only as Neil Tyson deGrasse Junior High. Simple, dear plebeian masses: when the element formerly known as hydrargyrum (mercury) touches a prosperous fuse—a car bomb. I put a bomb in his car.

Conclusions

Interesting, two completely different opinions. Yes. Two totally different sentiments expressed. Two—did you guys even talk to each other before sending these pieces in? Who was responsible for assigning each of you your positions? It wasn’t me. I’ll tell you that much. It wasn’t—who even wrote the intro I—you know what? I wash my hands of this. It’s late. Two opinions on NDT, BFD.