Famous television astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is under fire for a tweet he made about this past weekend’s mass shootings that many are condemning for being insensitive in the wake of these tragedies.
On Aug. 4, he tweeted statistics of other major, preventable causes of death in the U.S., comparing the numbers to the 34 who were murdered in the weekend’s mass shootings.
“Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data,” he said.
In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings.
On average, across any 48hrs, we also lose…
500 to Medical errors
300 to the Flu
250 to Suicide
200 to Car Accidents
40 to Homicide via Handgun
Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 4, 2019
People immediately commented, criticizing deGrasse Tyson for implying the problem of gun violence in the U.S. is not as severe as other causes of death.
Actor Josh Gad retweeted, adding, “I genuinely love you Neil, but I have to ask how someone so smart can say something this dumb,” to which another user commented, “A complete lack of empathy and an enormous ego. Knowing about stars doesn’t make you a decent human.”
A complete lack of empathy and an enormous ego. Knowing about stars doesn’t make you a decent human.
— Scott Keenan (@scottkeenan) August 5, 2019
Other users highlighted the false equivalence between mass shootings — intended to spark terror — and events like car accidents and the flu.
“No one person caused 500 medical errors. No one person caused 200 vehicle deaths,” one user said. “No one person committed 200 suicides. No one person killed 40 people with a handgun. One asshole with a high powered rifle killed 20 people in El Paso. See the f—— difference.”
For me, the spectacle of a once-respected scientist now yields data.
One less person willing to follow you because of your inability to understand the difference between murder, for the sake of inspiring terror, and a car accident.
— Annie Gabston-Howell- (@AnnieGabstonH) August 5, 2019
The following day, deGrasse Tyson posted an apology to his tweet on Facebook, but commenters called it out as being half-baked.
“My intent was to offer objectively true information that might help shape conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die,” he said. “Where I miscalculated was that I genuinely believed the Tweet would be helpful to anyone trying to save lives in America. What I learned from the range of reactions is that for many people, some information –-my Tweet in particular — can be true but unhelpful, especially at a time when many people are either still in shock, or trying to heal – or both.”
DeGrasse Tyson, who is popular for following in astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s footsteps in bringing the universe to a mainstream audience through entertainment, recently returned to television after allegations against him of sexual harassment and assault surfaced.
Last year, four women came forwards with accounts of deGrasse Tyson making unwanted advances toward them. One of the four alleged her raped her in the ’80s. DeGrasse Tyson denied these claims, and both the Fox and National Geographic networks said they launched independent investigations into the claims.
In March, the networks announced deGrasse Tyson would be returning to TV with new episodes of his shows “StarTalk” and “Cosmos.” However, they did not release details about the investigations.