I have rather expansive tastes in the media I consume, so my Google Reader includes many science and skeptic blogs, a few newspapers, a dozen webcomics, some music blogs, and some random fluff like Gawker, a site that sometimes keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on pop culture and sometimes baffles me with idiotic coverage of people like Julia Allison (if you don’t know who she is, count yourself lucky that you don’t read Gawker). Today I read this entry reporting a mob at Barnes & Noble to see Neil Degrasse Tyson, news that comes as absolutely no surprise to me or probably to most of you reading this. The writer, though, seems shocked that someone he’s never heard of could attract so many people. WTF?
I’m often reminded that I always live in delightfully liberal bubbles like Boston, where pretty much everyone agrees that same-sex marriage should be a given, women should have access to birth control, and creationism is a fairy tale. This time it’s a reminder that I also live in a rational bubble, where an amazing, intelligent astrophysicist following in the footsteps of Carl Sagan is far more important and more interesting than a social-climbing fameball with nothing to say at all. The entire week I was in London was a total dream, spending 100% of my time with fascinating people who were smart and funny and curious about the world, eager to learn more and to teach more. I came home to do Skeptics in the Pub last night, full of even more awesome critical thinkers.
I’m always interested to see whether or not that rational bubble is growing. I mean, it’s gotta be a good sign when Tyson rocks a book store so hard that even Gawker stops fawning over celebutards for a moment. It gives me hope that we’re gaining some momentum, showing people that science is important.
Here’s my favorite comment from the Gawker thread, posted by user “ian spiegelman”:
Um… A person who actually knows something real about something that can be tested and that challenges the imagination? A person writing about actual, provable ideas that don’t involve the “Here’s what I don’t get” philosophy of every non-fiction book out there right now? Gosh, why would anyone choose him over the mighty “I Hate You” works of Jim Norton and Ann Coulter? And the four dozen “Barack is Messiah” books from the other side?
Because people are rightly sick of that shit. You can debate the universe and physics, but you have to be a thousand times smarter than most of the humans who are allowed to publish books. Science can provide a true “spin-free zone.” Even if the author is spinning one way or another, it’s still within the heady world of physics, a world with no room for Jim Norton to tell you why he thinks so-and-so “stinks” or for Denis Leary to tell you why good ol’ Irish Boston logic will save America, or for Coulter to vomit all over your face with things only members of The Brand really even pretend to believe.
Science books, even bad ones, lets us escape America, a place where any high school drop-out blue collar idiot can come along with “I have street smarts” and sell a satchel of shit to a lot of stupid, hopeless people.
Am I a snob? God yeah I am! Scientific non-fiction is the only shot we have against semi-tarded “working class” millionaires who are poisoning every single conversation in America. It’s the one thing that they can’t counter, because they’re too fucking stupid. And ideas of how we got here and how we might evolve is more interesting to ANYONE than yet another hack going off about “America is getting sissified.”
I’d rather a thousand science books a year come out than to see one more of these “I’m a just a blue collar guy but I know what’s up” books come out. They are a fucking cancer.
The writer who says he’s just blue collar and doesn’t know much but he knows *this much* is a wicked little coward who should be ridiculed until he needs a hospital.
PS: A few random things happening back inside our rational bubble. First, you can listen to me interview Tim Minchin on the Little Atoms radio show via this handy mp3, or via Feedburner or on iTunes! Second, my dear friend Brian Dunning informs me that he’s throwing a big to-do for his 150th episode of the Skeptoid podcast! Those of you in Cali should attend and heckle him live, which is even more fun than yelling at your iPod. Info is here.