Womanhood is a culture held together through our physical pain
March 13, 2016 12:32 AM   Subscribe

After Neil deGrasse Tyson made a tweet claiming that any species with painful sex would have gone extinct, other scientists chimed in with examples of animals with particularly torturous sex. Most poignant, though, was this response by Abby Norman about dyspareunia, a medical condition involving painful vaginal penetration, as well as the pressures on women to satisfy their male partner over their own needs and health. (Warning: Abby Norman's piece has some possibly-graphic medical photography.)
posted by divabat (135 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite


 
I had interpreted his Tweet as a homophobic remark. He had just earlier tweeted this:

If you have a gene for celibacy, you didn’t inherit it.
5:39 PM - 12 Mar 2016


So the combination seemed to be nobody evolves to have non-reproductive, painful sex and it looked like an ignorant reference to men having anal sex to me. But then, I've seen nothing from this dude before to ever suggest to me he has those attitudes so I just walked away scratching my head on these.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:12 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.
4:49 PM - 12 Mar 2016

I, what??? Has Neil's twitter been hacked?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:17 AM on March 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


No, Neil is very, very bad at social media, and quite frankly has been saying increasingly stupid shit lately. As if he's about 6 months away from turning into Richard Dawkins.
posted by Jimbob at 1:22 AM on March 13, 2016 [78 favorites]


I, what??? Has Neil's twitter been hacked?

He's likely referring to the Chicago protest violence that the news (BBC et al) is saying caused Trump to call off his rally: "Trump calls off Chicago rally following violent clashes".
posted by polymodus at 1:23 AM on March 13, 2016


I had interpreted his Tweet as a homophobic remark.

Meh. To me it reads very clearly as over simplified science-booster chatter about evolutionary biology and genetics, with a soupcon of sex-positive yadda yadda.

The left will eat itself.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:26 AM on March 13, 2016 [32 favorites]


I've been mad at NDT for years for seeing movies at exclusive premieres long before I can, then spoiling the hell out of them in his urge to correct their science.

His poor command of nuance and linguistics falls way, way behind that as far as my irritation factor goes.
posted by taterpie at 1:39 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Do scientists have the same predisposition to Coot Disease as Sci-Fi authors or something?
posted by Scattercat at 1:52 AM on March 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


So the combination seemed to be nobody evolves to have non-reproductive, painful sex and it looked like an ignorant reference to men having anal sex to me. But then, I've seen nothing from this dude before to ever suggest to me he has those attitudes so I just walked away scratching my head on these.

I don't think that's what he meant. Ain't much of a biologist though, is he?
posted by atoxyl at 1:58 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean it reads as a dumb joke to me, unless there's more missing context? But taken seriously as a scientific claim it's obviously and embarrassingly incorrect.
posted by atoxyl at 3:00 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have no idea what Neil is on about. Twitter isn't his best medium, that's for sure.

I have dyspareunia and vaginismus. I don't know if it's always possible to discern the physical from the psychological with this condition, but in my case it's likely secondary to sexual abuse. I've only ever had a few partners and none of them were bothered by it, as far as I know; what is more difficult is knowing how bad it's going to be on a particular day and if I still feel like trying. Sex in general is enjoyable but any penetration has to be very limited and careful and with someone I trust completely. I don't know what I'd do if I had a partner who thought PIV was the only sex that mattered; probably break up, I guess. But fortunately I'm married to someone compassionate and open-minded.

On the subject of vaginismus: pelvic exams are painful and after going to one insensitive doctor (similar to Abby Norman's), I've been reluctant to repeat the experience. When I got my period at 12, I tried to use tampons but it was excruciating and I couldn't do it; over the course of several months when I was a teenager, I kept trying to use them and failed, eventually giving up entirely. I just use pads.

Personally I am okay with my situation but every person and every case is different. I guess I'm writing this because I've never talked to anyone about it apart from my partner and my doctor, and people should know they're not alone.
posted by fair isle sock at 3:06 AM on March 13, 2016 [93 favorites]


One of the things that never ceases to amaze is how so often people with a deep understanding in a certain subject, and who go out of their way to correct others who get it wrong in their area of expertise, seem to have no understanding that they engage in the same kind of wrongth in other fields of knowledge.
posted by Kattullus at 3:30 AM on March 13, 2016 [87 favorites]


The whole Tyson thing strikes me as more evidence that tweets people shouldn't have sent outnumber positive tweets by a factor of about 10:1. More on topic, if painful sex would have led to extinction, why not painful birth?
posted by TedW at 3:31 AM on March 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


Painful sex would lead to would-be mothers not having sex, if you oversimplify.

In the case of painful birth, the pregnant mother is going to give birth, painful or no, so if it's painful or not doesn't really matter from an ev-psych/genetics perspective. Setting aside humans who've figured out sex leads to possibly painful birth and aren't going to do that (again).
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:02 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Good grief. NDT should stick to astronomy & physics, because he apparently knows zilch about biology.
posted by easily confused at 4:07 AM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ummm, for the majority of human history wasn't the level of pain caused to women considered irrelevant?

Nice opportunity for NDT to learn something about himself here.
I doubt he'll take it.
posted by fullerine at 4:12 AM on March 13, 2016 [29 favorites]


Painful sex would lead to would-be mothers not having sex, if you oversimplify.

And if they had a choice.
(And i'm not just talking about people-rape, but all the stuff I "know" about cats and ducks.)

Nice opportunity for NDT to learn something about himself here.

The backlash begins.
posted by Mezentian at 4:45 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


huge mistake of deGrasse Tyson to treat twitter as his private chat channel where he can shoot the shit
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:58 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


here's where I get to talk about my favorite thing in life: bedbug sex! Gather 'round, dears.

you see, when a male bedbug really likes a female bedbug he takes whatever bedbugs have for penises and just--jams it anywhere into the female bedbug body. if the female bedbug doesn't die from infection from the penetration, then she gives birth to a lot of little bed bugs, it's magical.

sometimes bedbug colonies in labs go extinct because the female bedbugs have been fucked to death.

You are welcome!
posted by angrycat at 5:20 AM on March 13, 2016 [115 favorites]


This dude is the worst for various reasons and I'll just say I'm surprised he doesn't have a lawyer telling him to knock it off with the weird inappropriate sex talk on Twitter.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Has he retracted the statement yet? Or admitted he spoke from ignorance? Or, you know, done any of the things an ideal scientist would do in this situation? Because that kind of matters when you're a [cough] public intellectual.
posted by mediareport at 5:56 AM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


No particular dog in this fight, but I'm not sure anyone has actually got any meaningful data on whether bedbugs feel pain. Ducks and cats, different story, obviously.
posted by cromagnon at 5:56 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


cromagnon, your ignoble prize awaits! (If you complete the research).
posted by Mezentian at 6:04 AM on March 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


On the other hand, science twitter is coming through with #BiologistSpaceFacts, and some of them are pretty funny.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:07 AM on March 13, 2016 [58 favorites]


Has he retracted the statement yet? Or admitted he spoke from ignorance? Or, you know, done any of the things an ideal scientist would do in this situation? Because that kind of matters when you're a [cough] public intellectual.


He linked to several people pointing out his mistake, yes. He also followed it up with the crack about a "gene for celibacy," prefaced by "I think I’ll try out one more on the biologists..." which was presumably intended to be self-deprecating. (But note that this doesn't hold up either unless you stipulate that you're talking about a Mendelian dominant allele.)
posted by atoxyl at 6:11 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


huge mistake of deGrasse Tyson to treat twitter as his private chat channel where he can shoot the shit

Right?! When will old people get off our la--oooh a tweet!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


What surprises me most is how popular NDT continues to be? I'm all for his ra-ra-ra go science cheerleader attitude, but there are plenty of other scientists, cosmologists, etc. that I'd rather listen or read about with superior insight and knowledge about their fields. Someone who supposedly champions knowledge and education, yet dismisses the entire field of philosophy.
He proudly proclaims his irritation with "asking deep questions" that lead to a "pointless delay in your progress" in tackling "this whole big world of unknowns out there." When a scientist encounters someone inclined to think philosophically, his response should be to say, "I'm moving on, I'm leaving you behind, and you can't even cross the street because you're distracted by deep questions you've asked of yourself. I don't have time for that." "I don't have time for that."
Stuff like this only further solidifies my less than ideal opinion of him.
posted by Fizz at 6:13 AM on March 13, 2016 [25 favorites]


The "you didn't inherit a celibacy gene" tweet seemed like a shot at gay or asexual people, but maybe he's just firing off random thoughts and I'm reading into it.

The drumpf tweet was also weird and hard to parse, but it would make sense that it was in response to the Chicago thing I guess... Otherwise it's nonsense.
posted by bracems at 6:14 AM on March 13, 2016


Considering how many cultures have treated and still do treat women as possessions with little to no say in whether they have sex or not across thousands of years of what recorded history we have. Sexual abuse of children, rape, forced marriage--- so much painful sex has been heaped on so many humans across our history with so little concern for their screams.

I'm also confused about what is going on here, and I'll hope he rethinks this comment.
posted by xarnop at 6:19 AM on March 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


The "you didn't inherit a celibacy gene" tweet seemed like a shot at gay or asexual people, but maybe he's just firing off random thoughts and I'm reading into it.

Not consistent with his previous comments on sexuality at all so I doubt it. Maybe a shot at the concept of a "gay gene" (not, in that case, a good argument though).
posted by atoxyl at 6:21 AM on March 13, 2016


As I just got finished writing in a related context, when pleasure and pain are in opposition (that is they are counseling opposite courses of action) pleasure tends to be the stronger feeling which we will pursue despite the threat of pain.

Unlike the kind of systems NDT studies, humans are trying to optimize more than one parameter at a time. It makes us do things that seem complicated and contradictory.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:48 AM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


> "No it's more like a dude with a history of being inappropriate around female colleagues."

Yes. This.
posted by kyrademon at 6:51 AM on March 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I suspect the "you didn't inherit a celibacy gene" is meant to be a paradox joke in that a "celibacy gene" can't be passed on to offspring because celibate people don't produce offspring onto whom they can pass the gene.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:54 AM on March 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I want to live (Or die? I mean, would that be a deadlier universe that the one we got? I think it might be.) in the biologistspacefacts universe, though.
posted by Ashenmote at 6:59 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


What's this about NDT's inappropriate conduct? Googling doesn't get me anything.
posted by divabat at 7:07 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


engineers' disease is a tragic affliction and ndt has one of the most advanced cases i've ever seen
posted by entropicamericana at 7:10 AM on March 13, 2016 [48 favorites]


On a day when the NY Times is highlighting an article about ISIS's use of birth control to facilitate sexual slavery, his comments strike me as particularly tone deaf. There is a certain kind of smart and accomplished guy who takes that as a license to spout off on any and all subjects. It's at best boring, and at worst offensive, with a slippery slope downhill from boring to offensive.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on March 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


whhhhhhhy do popular scientists try to talk about sexuality in tweet form? didn't he see how badly this went for dawkins (or maybe he wants his own rabid racist/sexist fan base)? i guess we can be glad that he didn't go on some weird child-love tangent like dawkins does...

also - i have had it up to here with people not understanding that protest is a form of free speech. people going to a rally and people protesting a rally are exercising the same right to freely assemble. to top it off, it was trump, not the protesters or those who came to the rally or the cops, who decided to not hold the event. if anyone kept supporters from seeing trump speak, it was trump himself.
posted by nadawi at 7:33 AM on March 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


Uh oh. Scientists getting real strong science opinions outside of their field is one of the red flags for fringe whackery.
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Scientists getting real strong science opinions outside of their field is one of the red flags for fringe whackery.

It might be fringe whackery, but I also think that much of it has to do with the ego that comes with having a platform to speak from that is as large as twitter. When you have millions of followers who retweet and fav and like every word or image that you share, it must be a kind of rush, to have that much influence on culture and society. I'm not saying it excuses this behaviour but it certainly makes it more understandable. That kind of power (and it is a type of power and agency) would impact most any person given the same opportunity.
posted by Fizz at 7:42 AM on March 13, 2016


I suspect the "you didn't inherit a celibacy gene" is meant to be a paradox joke in that a "celibacy gene" can't be passed on to offspring because celibate people don't produce offspring onto whom they can pass the gene.

Except it can because there's such a thing as a recessive gene. That's a basic concept of genetics.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 7:45 AM on March 13, 2016 [27 favorites]


Certainly the instantaneous feedback of Twitter seems to be very bad for Dawkins and NDG, and I suspect even negative feedback has some weird reinforcing effect as they start believing they are martyrs for honey or whatever, but to an extent it's exposing what's already there as well.
posted by Artw at 7:46 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


"you didn't inherit a celibacy gene"
Humans are social animals, and many social animals have a large fraction of celibate members. Ants and bees are obvious examples, but even herd animals commonly have parallel "bachelor" herds associated with them.
posted by 445supermag at 8:01 AM on March 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


"On the other hand, science twitter is coming through with #BiologistSpaceFacts, and some of them are pretty funny."

Some of those are pretty funny, but I'd prefer something that is more pointed, that demonstrates the Dunning-Kruger effect when speaking outside one's area of expertise. Something that a biologist who's learned a little bit about astrophysics would think was true. Like, say, something that wrongly conflates the observable universe with the entire universe (such as when failing to account for inflation). Or asserting that no astrophysical structures could be observed to be (apparently) moving faster than the speed of light (such as with superluminal motion or with distant galaxies and failing to account for expansion). These are things where fundamentally important ideas are wrongly universalized or misapplied in ways that demonstrate a lack of deeper education/knowledge.

This sort of thing is especially common in the case of evolution, however. I've been trying to figure out why this is the case as I've been writing and revising my comment, and I have some ideas, but I'd be curious to know what other people think.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:03 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not talking about shit you don't know about doesn't seem that hard. I mean, I can't claim to be immune to hypocrisy in this regard, but I only have like 200 followers on Twitter.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:07 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Disclaimer: I love love love NdGT. He's a real favourite of mine.

That said, some of these recent tweets have been... odd. Given tweets like his Christmas Day troll doing a switcheroo of Christ for Newton, I think he knows what he's doing when it comes to Twitter. But I really don't know what to make of these latest few. I can't even parse the Trump one.

Suspending judgement. He's long ago earned a pass in my book. I'll wait and see, because something just ain't right here.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:17 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Militant atheism is probably worse than engineers disease for making people think they are experts in everything.
posted by Artw at 8:31 AM on March 13, 2016 [27 favorites]


Neil,

I am surprised to be saying this to you of all people, Science doesn't work the way you seem to think it does.

Celibacy exists.

Painful sex exists.

The scientist observes facts, and then develops explanations by testing theories. Science doesn't change the observations to fit the scientist's preconceptions. Hint, the real answer is often more complex (and interesting) than anyone imagined.

And yes, straight forward Mendelian inheritance is one important concept in biology. But google "epigenetics" and you quickly get a sense of the possibilities.

Science is looking for a new spokeperson. That Mr. Nye sure looks sharp in a bowtie.

Slarty
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


He isn't an evolutionary biologist; this is one of the massive problems with the meme for "human beings evolved to" explanations I keep running into in books by everyone from neurologists to economists. Evolution is not purposeful or moral, and does not inevitably result in more efficient organisms, it just means some genes survive while others don't.
posted by Peach at 8:53 AM on March 13, 2016 [29 favorites]


NDT seems to be a bit of an anachronism from the era when scientists just didn't have their own platforms for public discourse. Now you can often see the science from the groups that produce it.

Explaining science is still a need, but longer forms than twitter are much better at it.
posted by underflow at 8:55 AM on March 13, 2016


Linus Pauling managed to have an undue influence re Vitamin C long before Twitter.
posted by Peach at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Recessive genes are still subject to selective pressure, just not as strongly as dominant genes, so a celibacy gene would still tend to be selected against unless it provided survival benefits (to the individual or group) that outweighed its negative effects on individual reproduction. But there are many wrinkles to this problem. Genes often do not have a single clearly-defined function, and they don't exist in isolation. The effect of one gene can counteract, amplify, or otherwise alter the effect of another gene. Many genes aren't expressed constitutively; their rate of expression changes in response to environmental signals (including signals produced by other genes). Celibacy is an aspect of phenotype, and the connection between genotype and phenotype is often very, very complicated. It's a messy, chaotic symphony, not the precision dance of assembly line machinery. In conclusion, genetics is a land of contrasts.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


From the Abby Norman piece: Even childbirth, which I have not experienced, is seen as a pain totem; women are judged for not enduring it, for accepting some kind of relieving medical intervention.

I have a number of female friends who are in long-term partnerships and ready for the 'let's have a kid!' part of their life to begin. I was one of the first in this group to have a baby, so I have been asked a lot about my 'birth plan' or labor experience. I was surprised by how many of my friends were surprised by my statement that my plan was to get an epidural as quickly as allowed by my circumstances. Like, I was supposed to be all regretful, 'Oh, we wanted to go natural, but it was just too intense for me!' I do not apologize for avoiding pain.

'Didn't you want the full experience of childbirth?'
No? Cuz it seems like it sucks. I also didn't want the full experience of getting my teeth drilled, even though I'm sure that's how it felt for my ancestors, who were so strong and probably lived through it, how natural.

'Were you concerned that it might affect your bond with your baby?'
No, I was actually more concerned that being in horrible pain would affect that bond, because I don't like things that cause me pain. Also, no one assumes her dad will fail to bond with her because he wasn't repeatedly kicked in the dick while I was in labor, but I guess for women pain=love?

Anyway, back to Dr. Tyson: other mammals give birth less painfully and fatally than humans, a quirk of our evolving a bipedal gait and big-ass brains. Women have been well aware of the pain of childbirth, and that pain was not sufficient to extirpate the species. Also, over the course of human existence, what immense proportion of women have died as a result of pregnancy and childbirth? If our species didn't go extinct because of huge numbers of women LITERALLY DYING, painful intercourse seems even less likely to lead to extinction.

And even that's leaving aside the too-frequent lack of female choice to engage in procreative intercourse and the too-frequent willingness of men to disregard female pain during intercourse, which are also completely relevant to his dumb-ass argument that makes no sense.
posted by palindromic at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2016 [118 favorites]


And of course all of this verges on evopsych, which is basically mansplaining as scientific field.
posted by Artw at 9:31 AM on March 13, 2016 [73 favorites]


Also, no one assumes her dad will fail to bond with her because he wasn't repeatedly kicked in the dick while I was in labor, but I guess for women pain=love?

This won't fit on a bumper-sticker, but I kind of wish it did. Because I just snort-laughed my coffee.
posted by Fizz at 9:37 AM on March 13, 2016 [25 favorites]


I had the same reaction to "evopsych, which is basically mansplaining as scientific field." Lovely. If I read one more darn book that insists about talking about "in hunter-gatherer societies, men did blah while women did blah," as if that were a Thing That Existed, I am going to -- I was going to say spit, but I will just do what I always do, which is swear out loud, draw a frowny face in the margin, and keep reading.

As for Tyson, if we're talking about public personality astronomers who say sensible things in public, my money would be on Derrick Pitts.
posted by Peach at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


" If I read one more darn book that insists about talking about "in hunter-gatherer societies, men did blah while women did blah," "

"In hunter-gatherer societies, women propagated the species while men sought ways to justify the tribe's calorie expenditure on men whose participation in the tribe's genetic survival was unnecessary after a brief period of intercourse." (How's that?)

In fact I think we can follow this theory down to creating wholly imaginary, but entirely evo-psych rational, societies of female cannibals who recycle their consorts into calories for the tribe after they successfully contribute to its genetic diversity.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2016 [62 favorites]


sometimes bedbug colonies in labs go extinct because the female bedbugs have been fucked to death.

You are welcome!


Th . . . Thank you. You have truly enriched my life. I can't wait until my husband gets home, because I may now have the most mind-bogglingly weird/gross fact in our constant game of bizarro one-upmanship!


More on point, vaginismus is no joke, and its effects last long after the symptoms have been cured. I had it when I was younger: never could use tampons, extremely painful sex, pelvic exams that left me feeling like I had been violated. I treated it with therapy and now I have no problems, but it's not a coincidence that few of my favorite things to do in bed involve penetration. It kinda makes me squirm to read NdGT's tweet in this light - if a species that experienced painful sex would have gone extinct, and humans are definitely not extinct, does he mean that humans do not experience painful sex? That sounds . . . a lot like what my OB-GYNs told me for years. Not cool.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Militant atheism is probably worse than engineers disease for making people think they are experts in everything.

This is just pure caricature ad-hom. What 'militant' (!?) atheists have in common is a non belief in a deity (and sometimes a corollary belief that religious superstition is generally deleterious for human flourishing), that's it. Your comment is just lazy generalising.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 10:20 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, no one assumes her dad will fail to bond with her because he wasn't repeatedly kicked in the dick while I was in labor, but I guess for women pain=love?

This won't fit on a bumper-sticker, but I kind of wish it did. Because I just snort-laughed my coffee.


I just spit apple chunks all over my screen. Well stated.
posted by dudemanlives at 10:21 AM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The misogyny of the last 2000 years in Eurasia tell us very little about the sexual practices of the other 188,000 years of homo sapien history. I think his claim that evolution gave us (most of us, in well-functioning pairings) pleasurable sex is hardly disproven by the oppression of women in (relatively) recent history.
posted by mikewebkist at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nor is it proven.
posted by Peach at 10:45 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is just pure caricature ad-hom. What 'militant' (!?) atheists have in common is a non belief in a deity (and sometimes a corollary belief that religious superstition is generally deleterious for human flourishing), that's it. Your comment is just lazy generalising.

It's not, really. There is a large and popular strain of atheism, personified by Dawkins and his ilk and their supporters, that aims to rid the world of religion. Call it "militant atheism" or "New Atheism," or "evangelical atheism" (my personal favorite), whatever. But it exists and is pretty popular, and it has a particularly nasty streak of bigotry in it. Sometimes (actually, a lot of times) it takes the form of misogyny, other times racism, and many other times Islamophobia. They all share a virulent hatred identical to the religious types that they claim to oppose.

Your average atheist who's opposed to bigotry but not religion or non-bigoted religious followers already has a tough job just getting representation on society, and it's these Dawkins types that are setting the rest of us back in our efforts.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:17 AM on March 13, 2016 [42 favorites]


This is just pure caricature ad-hom.

Sure, apart from the bit where it happens consistently. And don't run to normal non-nutso atheists for cover.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


[The atheism derail is getting pretty far off-topic. Rein it in, plz?]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:34 AM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why does a medical condition have anything to do with his claim - regarding species, not individuals.

Like, evolution doesn't select for fatal childhood diseases either, but they still exist.

Does the internet outrage machine not understand science?
posted by iamck at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2016


"you didn't inherit a celibacy gene"
...unless you were born because your mother was raped... which is tragically common in human society. (Is there a 'rapist gene'?)

And why does everybody keep harping on "gay anal sex" when one of my favorite sex statistics is that surveys show more than twice as many 'heterosexual' men perform anal sex with women than there are homosexual men (and not all of them perform anal sex)?

Still, my respect for NdGT has shrunken the more I learn how much his 'main man', Isaac Newton, was a total asshole.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:12 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This kinda sucks, 'cause I was sort of a NGT fan before he, like, started talking so much. I mean, it's like that time the one guy from the football team got so drunk he shit himself. Sure, he may make MVP later on, but all you every really remember is him shitting himself.
posted by Mooski at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does the internet outrage machine not understand science?

Oh, stop it. NDT is the one on the side of science ignorance, here, with his misunderstandings about genetics and evolution. There's no need to get all Officially Contrarian about the Internet Outrage Machine that needn't be taken seriously because you know how those people are about pretending to be offended and piling on.

The individual medical condition stuff is relevant because it isn't individual—that the culture minimizes women's experiences of painful sex. And that prominent voices telling biotruth tales that further minimize that experience are no help at all.
posted by traveler_ at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


If he was claiming that any species that had fatal childhood diseases would go extinct, he would also be wrong, and it would also be a pretty silly argument for him to put forth.
posted by palindromic at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Like, evolution doesn't select for fatal childhood diseases either, but they still exist.

Right! And they are INHERITED, frequently. Like, if the man had said "If you have a gene that will kill you before you have a chance to reproduce, you didn't inherit it" he would be provably wrong, because Tay-Sachs and Spinal Muscular Atrophy are real things that exist. And yet that statement is semantically equivalent to "If you have a gene for celibacy, you didn't inherit it."
posted by KathrynT at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


Well I think there a couple things going on in his statement.

He's likely using "gene" as a scientist would, not the popular sense of the term. Ants do not have a "gene" for "celibacy". There's no modern scientific paper where that is an appropriate model. Ants, bees, etc. can be asexual, but that's regulated by the queen's hormones and so is not through hereditary processes.

If ant asexuality (not talking about celibacy) were to arise through hereditary processes, then you would expect to have random worker ants that were sexual with nonzero probability.

So whatever Tyson is saying, the immediately obvious counterpoints may not exactly apply.
posted by polymodus at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2016


He's likely using "gene" as a scientist would, not the popular sense of the term.

It's a smart-arse tweet for a popular audience, made by a non-biologist. The chance that he's actually advancing some complex point that people are just failing to understand is pretty (vanishingly) thin. Not to mention the fact that it would make no sense in the context of his Twitter presence.
posted by howfar at 12:53 PM on March 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


quick, somebody coin a clever phrase for flip, self-righteous lefty with no rigorous analytical training. ya' know, the reciprocal of 'engineer's disease.'
posted by j_curiouser at 1:08 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read the celibacy tweet as a joke. A very dumb joke saying basically celibacy couldn't possibly be genetic because celibate people wouldn't have children. If you're celibate you're not passing on any genes because you're not having any sex. Maybe I am completely wrong but it just came across to me as socially awkward. That's pretty much what he does on twitter from what I've seen. He makes nerdy jokes.
posted by M Edward at 1:10 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


No, I think most people are on board with interpreting the celibacy tweet as an attempt at a nerdy joke. The problem is it's not at all nerdy; the biology is all wrong and it comes from the popular understanding of how genetics works, not the science understanding. That in and of itself is a problem (i.e. there's almost never "a gene for X" where X is being gay, or intelligence, or nurturing behavior, or (yes) celibacy) but it's more of a problem when you're Neil deGrasse Tyson, Public Intellectual and Science Explainer.
posted by traveler_ at 1:14 PM on March 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


One of the things that never ceases to amaze is how so often people with a deep understanding in a certain subject, and who go out of their way to correct others who get it wrong in their area of expertise, seem to have no understanding that they engage in the same kind of wrongth in other fields of knowledge.

But see, other people need correcting because they're generally ignorant and stupid, not because I've had greater opportunity to get educated in a particular subject.
posted by straight at 1:39 PM on March 13, 2016


Why does a medical condition have anything to do with his claim - regarding species, not individuals.

I think Ms. Norman was mostly taking the opportunity to raise awareness but she does provide a counterargument - women are pressured to have sex and reproduce even if it's painful.

I think it's likely that NdT was thinking about it from a male-centric perspective but then that's sort of her point. (I also think it was more meant as a dumb joke than a considered scientific assertion but it's so off-base that for someone in his position it's pretty embarrassing.)
posted by atoxyl at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think Ms. Norman was mostly taking the opportunity to raise awareness but she does provide a counterargument - women are pressured to have sex and reproduce even if it's painful.


Which isn't necessarily evolved behavior but you know, humans, we're complicated. There are other animals for which it does more or less seem to be.
posted by atoxyl at 1:46 PM on March 13, 2016


"Evolved" versus "not evolved behavior" is a really bad way of putting it but you know what I mean. We're not bedbugs, but bedbugs are.
posted by atoxyl at 1:50 PM on March 13, 2016


I think it's likely that NdT was thinking about it from a male-centric perspective

Or that he was coming from a sex-positive perspective, but who knows. I guess that's the problem with the extrapolating from 140 characters. Lots of assumption.
posted by iamck at 3:24 PM on March 13, 2016


Right! And they are INHERITED, frequently. Like, if the man had said "If you have a gene that will kill you before you have a chance to reproduce, you didn't inherit it" he would be provably wrong, because Tay-Sachs and Spinal Muscular Atrophy are real things that exist

Wrong! They are NOT genes that are selected for - why is this confusing?
posted by iamck at 3:27 PM on March 13, 2016


Evolution has no goals or end-states, and many kinds of things that are clearly genetic in character also were not selected for in any meaningful way, and many unpleasant things are the side-effects of things that had a strong contribution to fitness.

The "celibacy gene" comment if meant seriously is just inexplicable, given the large number of species where the competitive plan for the community involves many of its members being non-reproductive (from drone bees to beta males and/or females among primates).
posted by MattD at 3:33 PM on March 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


The chance that he's actually advancing some complex point that people are just failing to understand is pretty (vanishingly) thin. Not to mention the fact that it would make no sense in the context of his Twitter presence.

Or, he's just being himself. A scientist thinking like a scientist, in public. Public doesn't receive his utterance well, which is valid too! Does the public have the same cognitive habits as a scientist? No. But he's not pretentiously "advancing a complex point"; he already said that this comment was "for the biologists". Obviously, this meaning as a physicist speaking to biologists. Basic reading comprehension.

Also, you don't get to decide the terms of what a "Twitter presence" should be. To speak of "sense", that's the context.
posted by polymodus at 3:39 PM on March 13, 2016


I think a good way to see this is that, yes it's a nerd joke, but it isn't a nerdy joke a female bodied person would make, and it's certainly not a biologically sound joke either. I know he has issues with sociology and philosophy, but also has that well-instead-of-trench (very deep in one place, rather than medium deep extending outward) type of knowledge I see happen in certain disciplines.
posted by zinful at 3:44 PM on March 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


Hell, not even "certain disciplines", but above a certain educational level maybe. I stopped at my master's partially to avoid hyper specialization.
posted by zinful at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2016


Basic reading comprehension.

What are you talking about? You're asking me to believe that the tweet meant something (although you can't say what) entirely different to what it means at face value, and are using, as justification for that, some weird notion of "Scientist" as exalted intellectual role. The "try one more out on the biologists" tweet is a reference to all the biologists who had already laid into him for talking nonsense about species with painful sex.

This is not someone making sage points to "other scientists", with the public failing to keep up, no matter how much you desperately want it to be. This is someone making some nerdy wisecracks that aren't very biologically literate, and are pretty crass and unpleasant at the same time. That's all these is to see here. I'm sorry.
posted by howfar at 3:54 PM on March 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Or that he was coming from a sex-positive perspective, but who knows. "

I don't understand how this could be interpreted as sex-positive? Being sex-positive doesn't, as far as I know, mean thinking that sex is always a good thing in all circumstances for all people. Erasing the experiences of the millions of women who do experience sex as painful seems to be the opposite of sex-positive to me.
posted by armadillo1224 at 3:57 PM on March 13, 2016 [22 favorites]


In response to a comment using Tay-Sachs as an example:

"Wrong! They are NOT genes that are selected for - why is this confusing?"

I love it when this sort of thing happens -- you know, to the sort of person who asks supercillious rhetorical questions like "does the internet outrage machine not understand science?" and "why is this confusing?"
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:02 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is not someone making sage points to "other scientists", with the public failing to keep up, no matter how much you desperately want it to be.

Not to mention that, as noted in the FPP, it's not just the apparently ignorant, irrational masses who are not "receiv[ing] his utterance well": other scientists , including biologists, are calling NDT out on these tweets for the same reasons.

If NDT is just a "scientist thinking like a scientist, in public", why aren't these other scientists picking up on his complex scientist-only nuance? If the "comment was 'for the biologists'", why aren't they getting it? Are they not Real Scientists, because clearly Real Scientists would understand the complex, technical science point NDT is making?

Perhaps the world isn't neatly divided into Scientists Who Get It and the Masses Who Don't. Perhaps NDT just posted some ignorant tweets on topics he doesn't fully understand.

Basic reading comprehension, indeed.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


To be clear about my previous comment: HEXA and heterozygous advantage.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:10 PM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wrong! They are NOT genes that are selected for - why is this confusing?

Whether or not they are "selected for" does not change the fact that they persist in the population, and that one can, indeed, inherit a gene that prevents one from reproducing.
posted by KathrynT at 4:16 PM on March 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


if you're a man explaining how women are just not understanding that another man is being sex positive, please instead choose to not. the history of men using that phrase to cover up their harassment and assault of women has too long of a history to be dropped in a neutral fashion, especially when the topic is men's tendencies to not acknowledge that women historically have a different relationship to sex than men do.
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on March 13, 2016 [42 favorites]


What are you talking about? You're asking me to believe that the tweet meant something (although you can't say what) entirely different to what it means at face value, and are using, as justification for that, some weird notion of "Scientist" as exalted intellectual role. The "try one more out on the biologists" tweet is a reference to all the biologists who had already laid into him for talking nonsense about species with painful sex.

This is not someone making sage points to "other scientists", with the public failing to keep up, no matter how much you desperately want it to be. This is someone making some nerdy wisecracks that aren't very biologically literate, and are pretty crass and unpleasant at the same time. That's all these is to see here. I'm sorry.

I think the key is to find the commonality to his two statements.

He talked about celibacy, because it's one negative case of the concept of sex being rewarding (i.e., rewarding as proxied by a dichotomy of pain vs. pleasure). His two comments go hand-in-hand, whether or not he's even conscious of this. (That's his scientist brain working, for better or worse. I don't think it's an exalted mode or status.)

Biologists should respond by talking about evolution in relation to sex drive. Or in relation to the asexual reproduction of primitive organisms.

Being gay myself, the obvious parallel is, "If a gay gene existed, I didn't inherit it."

I think the simplest response is to start by saying statements like these are superficially true, but vacuous, because they use the right terms but wrong concepts. So the more important issue is how should biology best explain high-level behaviors and interactions without being reductive, while remaining consistent with the genetic existentialism required of evolutionary theory. As of yet, nobody has the answer to that.
posted by polymodus at 4:44 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I hope Tyson actually sees and reads Abby Norman's piece. He'd really benefit from it.
posted by homunculus at 4:46 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "try one more out on the biologists" tweet is a reference to all the biologists who had already laid into him for talking nonsense about species with painful sex.

Yeah, this. Reading comprehension, as they say.

I initially thought that going after him for being insensitive to people for whom sex is painful was a bit of a stretch - he was talking about species, not individuals - but I definitely think that if he had been a woman/considered it from a woman's perspective it would have been way more obvious why he was wrong.

A scientist thinking like a scientist, in public

"Thinking like a scientist" generally involves some degree of humility about what you don't know - I mean if you asked NdT that 10 to 1 he would agree. I am all but certain he was just bullshitting and making a middle-aged-dude sex joke. Have you read his twitter?
posted by atoxyl at 5:53 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bad History on NDT.
posted by drezdn at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of things could probably see significant improvement if we hard-coded "Listen to Women" into the Scientific Method.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 6:46 PM on March 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am having a really difficult time understanding the animus toward Neil deGrasse Tyson. No, he's not a biologist, or a sexuality expert, or particularly enlightened about the female experience, but he's friendly and chill enough? And yes, I disagree with him about the silly anti-Trump thing, but there are just... so many actual people who are actively abusive on Twitter, that I can't really get mad at a smiley scientist making dopey jokes.

I understand that people were hating on him for "ruining" movies too, which, I just... he's just being silly! How is this a thing? The world has gone mad.

I'm pretty sure about 99% of scientists and artists are not going to be anodyne enough to appeal to every person on Twitter. This whole thing of "I find your personality mildly offputting, get out of here" is starting to get to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:22 PM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Erasing the experiences of the millions of women who do experience sex as painful seems to be the opposite of sex-positive to me.

It would be terrible if he was saying this, but I don't think he is.
posted by iamck at 7:33 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can't really get mad at a smiley scientist making dopey jokes.

I can. Because he IS a scientist, and he has a zillion followers, and that gives him more responsibility to not use his platform say incorrect, wrongheaded things.

I don't follow assholes on Twitter. I do follow scientists and folks who have stuff of interest to say, and it bums me out to see someone like NDT produce a fart in the elevator like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:10 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


"If I read one more darn book that insists about talking about "in hunter-gatherer societies, men did blah while women did blah,"

"In hunter-gatherer societies, men hunted like this..."
posted by krinklyfig at 8:12 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't really get mad at a smiley scientist making dopey jokes.

I can. Because he IS a scientist, and he has a zillion followers, and that gives him more responsibility to not use his platform say incorrect, wrongheaded things.
Scientists aren't popes, and shouldn't try to be. NdGT is wrong here, and a ton of people are calling him out. That's a healthy scientific process. It is unfortunate that he hasn't acknowledged his error and thanked the many people who have corrected him. But at leas he isn't calling for a jihad against them.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2016


Scientists aren't popes, and shouldn't try to be.

Way to crush the dreams of Catholic scientists everywhere.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:16 PM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ima let you keep taking NDT to the woodshed, but that #BiologistSpaceFacts hashtag is the funniest thing I've seen all day.
You can tell how old Saturn is by cutting it open and counting its rings. #BiologistSpaceFacts

Millions of years ago, a powerful dinosaur impact wiped out the asteroids. #BiologistSpaceFacts

Cosmic rays diverged from Manta rays about six million light years ago #BiologistSpaceFacts

Pluto is a planet. #BiologistSpaceFacts
posted by straight at 9:27 PM on March 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


Some of those tweets read like a Doctor Who serial.

Some neat fantasy story ideas with some potential in them, too...
posted by aroweofshale at 10:08 PM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know what's happened to Tyson, if anything, and I don't care to theorize, but I've found it increasingly hard to stomach his smug condescension over the past couple of years.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:13 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


He started believing in his own hype, unfortunately. Engineer's disease + Twitter follower egomania = 🚀
posted by aydeejones at 10:20 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Way to crush the dreams of Catholic scientists everywhere.
well, except for that one guy.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:21 PM on March 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


...by which I mean they'd be interesting ideas to explore for a fantasy story.

I don't know about Tyson; he seemed pretty cool back when Pluto stopped being a planet. Watched the new Cosmos, didn't make it past the first few episodes, don't know why. Can't quite articulate what about them bothered me.

Or I was just really distracted when I watched them. I wonder if I should rectify that.

I often think that 140 characters isn't enough to make a point and that a character limit of 350 would be better but you can't really read 350 characters at a glance. Not that that would have benefited this situation much.
posted by aroweofshale at 10:22 PM on March 13, 2016


It would be terrible if he was saying this, but I don't think he is.

Why don't you think he is?
posted by harriet vane at 2:00 AM on March 14, 2016


We're so lucky to have highly-qualified science popularizers like Bill Snyd and Neil'n d'Grass.
posted by Twang at 2:12 AM on March 14, 2016


No matter how many times you correct the Internet, it always manages to get wrong again. Sometimes I just want it to stay correct! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for... for ten minutes!
posted by Segundus at 2:54 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


The left will eat itself.

Is that a quantitative conclusion, or . . .
posted by listen, lady at 3:47 AM on March 14, 2016


Here's NDT riffing on consciousness like a stoned freshman late night in a college dorm.
posted by parki at 4:08 AM on March 14, 2016


sometimes bedbug colonies in labs go extinct because the female bedbugs have been fucked to death.

You are welcome!

Th . . . Thank you. You have truly enriched my life. I can't wait until my husband gets home, because I may now have the most mind-bogglingly weird/gross fact in our constant game of bizarro one-upmanship!


Update: Mr. Freedom already knew this factoid. Boooooooooooo.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:56 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


As a female biologist (no longer practicing) ...

If a colleague I trusted had said something like that, I'd probably have thought it was fine. In part because I would also trust that they know all the genetic/evolutionary nuances involved in such a statement. But it's ONLY fine in that extremely narrow context. Twitter is not that context. (Not that I think Twitter is a good way to deliver science, excepting hyperlinks to full articles.)

So I'm going to come down on the side of "ugh, for a guy whose entire job is science PR, that was horrible." Someone get him a media/PR consultant/handler ...
posted by aperturescientist at 9:03 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


stoneandstar: "I am having a really difficult time understanding the animus toward Neil deGrasse Tyson"

You know how they say to never meet your heros? People have been "meeting" their hero.
posted by Mitheral at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am having a really difficult time understanding the animus toward Neil deGrasse Tyson.

He's not funny, but he thinks he's funny, and keeps throwing his doorstop bon mots at everyone. That's basically my problem with him. I'm sure he's a nice guy and I've heard interviews with him where he's not trying to be funny that are thoughtful and humanistic, but man, he should really stop trying out his open mic material on Twitter.
posted by Automocar at 11:56 AM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


i was honestly in favor of a lot of his dad jokes, but for me he crosses a line when he makes sex jokes, especially considering the ongoing conversation about the treatment of women in stem. if nothing else, it's just so tone deaf.
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]



i was honestly in favor of a lot of his dad jokes, but for me he crosses a line when he makes sex jokes, especially considering the ongoing conversation about the treatment of women in stem. if nothing else, it's just so tone deaf.


A couple of people in this thread (at least one of whom is in the right line of work to have heard some things if I'm not mistaken) seem to be suggest he's known to behave inappropriately in person as well. This is not something I have any information about but I've made a note of it...
posted by atoxyl at 6:53 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, people have been obliquely referring to his bad behaviour in my Twitter circles as well. The folks with the oblique references are in a position to know. I'm not, though I have met the man in a social situation in the past.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:52 PM on March 14, 2016


oh yeah, i was in no way going to the mat for him - i was saying what my impression of him was based on his twitter jokes alone and why i liked some of the dad jokes previously but very much hated these.
posted by nadawi at 6:25 AM on March 15, 2016


Sam Kriss at Idiot Joy Showland: "Neil deGrasse Tyson: Pedantry in Space"
Something terrible happened to you in outer space. All you can remember are the last few moments, the sun fading to a speck as you and your crew broke free from the solar system, the ship’s systems suddenly shutting down, the panic and blackness inside, shouting and sobbing, outside the phosphorescent fringes of the wormhole as it opened up in front of you – and then you woke up, sweat-slick in your own bed at sunrise, with the birds singing outside, in another universe. You are trapped in the world of the popular TV astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and you know this, because here the sunrise isn’t a sunrise at all. In fact, the earth is a sphere orbiting the sun, so the sun does not in any sense actually ‘rise’ – it’s just that you happen to be positioned right on the moving line, known as the ‘terminator’, that separates the illuminated portion of the planet from its dark side. And the birds singing aren’t really singing – actually, they’re just emitting a series of tones without any of the tonal qualities that distinguish singing from other vocal emissions. And the bed isn’t yours, because scientists have never been able to find any way of isolating ‘ownership’ in the physical composition of any object. You jump out of bed and start banging frantically at the walls. Is there no way out? Where are your crew? You rush to the window, and almost collapse in horror. It’s all there, spread out in front of you, exactly like home: everything is exactly the same, but in this sick parody of a universe it’s all been twisted into something hollow, meaningless, and mercilessly dull.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:34 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


From Facebook:

"Dear Facebook Universe,

"On March 12, 2016 I posted a tweet that made reference to Donald Trump. I’ve come to learn that my intended meaning was not accurately received by many, possibly most, people who read it. I think hard about word usage before I post any tweet, so when grammar or punctuation errors slip by that confuse the meaning of my intended message, my only reaction is embarrassment, forcing me to resort to Facebook Notes to confess, clarify, and correct.

"The tweet was this:
People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.

"But should have been this:
People who are anti-Trump are actually anti Trump-supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.
In spite of that barely-perceptible hyphen-shift, if you are still confused, then it’s just a badly worded tweet.

"My simple point is that if Donald Trump were not a front-runner then his views would be more than footnotes in a day’s news cycle, and nobody would be investing so much ink (electrons) and air (cable) time debating his views -- the international press and the British Parliament included. So the real issue for those who are anti-Trump is the strong support he has garnered from fellow citizens - fellow voters. Beyond being “Pro” your favorite candidate, if you are also anti-Trump, then in practical terms you are against the decision exercised by citizens of a free democracy to vote for this particular candidate of their choice.

"In the end, for me, it’s all about education -- not so much what you know, but how you think about and see the world.

"For these reasons, I have not made it a past-time to attack or otherwise criticize elected officials. They presumably represent the views of people who voted for them. (Of course,if that’s not the case, one should ask how they got elected in the first place.) Regardless of whether a politician lies or cheats or deceives the electorate, or is under-informed on matters that may influence legislation, my responsibility as an educator, particularly as a science educator, is not to tell people who to vote for, but to empower people how to think about and analyze information that may affect their lives and livelihood. This especially includes knowing what science is, and how and why it works.

"Then I step away, while you formulate your own opinions in our glorious, free, pluralistic society.

"As always, keep looking up.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Washington, DC."

posted by Capt. Renault at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2016


then in practical terms you are against the decision exercised by citizens of a free democracy to vote for this particular candidate of their choice.

that is such bs. it's like when people complain about their free speech being hampered when a comment on a web forum is deleted. i think people should vote for whoever the fuck they want to, and i will support that right with every fiber of my being, but i am also reserving the right to think a lot of voters are yahoos. protesting a political rally isn't opposing a free and open vote, it's an exercise of free speech and a very important part of the whole political process. it's as silly as suggesting that counter-protests of the wbc or kkk are saying the members of those groups don't deserve free speech. it's just silly.
posted by nadawi at 3:28 PM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Surprise, Neil, I'm both anti-Trump and anti Trump-supporters! They're both bad and I oppose them.
posted by straight at 3:28 PM on March 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


NdGT understands politics as well as he understands biology, it seems.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:06 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


that is such bs

I mean maybe I'm misreading that/minimizing the implication of the particular way he phrased it but I'm not sure it implies that's not okay to criticize Trump supporters. More "don't worry about Trump, worry about why so many people support Trump." Which is not exactly wrong but also pretty facile - this

Surprise, Neil, I'm both anti-Trump and anti Trump-supporters! They're both bad and I oppose them.

is the obvious response. And this

Regardless of whether a politician lies or cheats or deceives the electorate, or is under-informed on matters that may influence legislation, my responsibility as an educator, particularly as a science educator, is not to tell people who to vote for, but to empower people how to think about and analyze information that may affect their lives and livelihood.

Makes very little sense at all.
posted by atoxyl at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


"It's not my job to criticize politicians, it's to empower people to make better decisions about who to vote for." YES FOR EXAMPLE YOU COULD POINT OUT WHEN A POLITICIAN IS LYING OR UNDER-INFORMED.
posted by atoxyl at 5:16 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


"...barely-perceptible hyphen-shift..."

That hyphen-shift would have spared me much brain-cramp. I couldn't figure the first one out at all.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:46 PM on March 15, 2016


I don't think that pullquote Rustic Etruscan chose upthread is a great one. In case, like me, you skipped the link originally, here's one that's more to the point (and gets to part of why I find Tyson a bit annoying):
Neil deGrasse Tyson strides onto stage to say that actually the Earth orbits the sun, that actually living beings gain their traits through evolutionary processes, that actually your hand has five fingers, that actually cows go moo, that actually poo comes out your bum – and you are then supposed to think yes, I knew that, and imagine someone else, someone who didn’t know it already, some idiot, and think: I’m better than that person, I’m so much smarter than everyone else.
I think his Trump tweet fits into that context pretty perfectly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kind of like when you read the Weekly World News and laugh at the people who you're imagining are so dumb they believe the stories are true but who are are actually laughing at other people who they imagine are so dumb they believe the stories are true.
posted by straight at 8:41 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Abby Norman's endometriosis story is so damn familiar, I could have written it myself, and so could the other estimated 176 million endometriosis sufferers on the planet. And since sex pain is on topic as a response to this tweet, I wanna call out the great angle of vision provided by Abby Norman, and for divabat's inclusion of it in her post on this subject. It's good pairing to see the human face of this attitude. Here again, a description of pelvic pain is: chicks just be loco/their dumb-brains make all their lady parts get steamed, sometimes it's because we just whine and claim victimhood where none apparently exists, just get over it, or get a sense of humour. And goddammit, can only be taken seriously if we have a sad man with unenclosed-by-vagina penis to report for us.

I had an insurance scrutiny appointment a few years ago, and the random gyn they sent across Australia to interview me, demanded to rummage around in my pelvis after a two hour conversation in which I explained all my medical notes, showed laparoscopic photographs of frozen pelvis etc etc. It was an awful, painful examination during which he said [significant point: whilst his two fingers were inside of me pressing against extremely painful endo sites] 'this must be awful for your husband. How does he cope?'

Farrk this sheeeeet.

Here's a relatively recent controversy on sex pain: Dr Drew on endo:

'These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren’t discernibly pathological. They’re sort of — they’re what we call ‘garbage bag disorders,’ when you can’t think of anything else, you go ‘eh, well it’s that.’ So it then makes me question why is she so somatically preoccupied that she’s visiting doctors all the time with pains and urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she sexually abused growing up?'

The two men on talkback justify their shitty treatment to the caller, and the angry responses of endo sufferers that ensued, by describing and gaslighting the whole re-hash of the original conversation. It's just such a needy exchange to backpedal from intense, dismissive assholery. And 'sorry if I offended anyone' which is just bullshit. Calling upset callers 'twats' and aggressively calling chronic pain sufferers 'endometriosis lady womps' and whiners. You watch this conversation and you get exactly why this is a fucked up discourse about female sexual pain. Two assholes who crap on about how they're just delivering a free show [getting paid themselves] and the host gets to tell callers to 'suck my balls' if they don't like it.

That's what happens over and fucking over with women reporting pelvic pain and dyspareunia. So ha ha, NdGT, lol, your dumb tweet.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:48 PM on March 15, 2016 [11 favorites]




Vote for whoever you want to vote for, of course, but a vote for Trump is a vote for bigotry.

You can say whatever you want to say, but there will be consequences. If you say you support Trump and are going to vote for him, you will be perceived as a racist by many people.

Additionally, I saw NDGT at the University of Washington five or so years ago. It was awesome. Seriously, it was great. His whole point was "scientific progress is slowing down and it's our responsibility to urge politicians and leaders to not let that happen." But it wasn't condescending, or even remotely atheistic-evangelistic.

During the Q&A he addressed questions from a Christian kid who wanted to be a scientist, and was incredibly gracious and kind, pointing out that it's important to have your beliefs but not bend your beliefs to conform to evidence. But that you could be a Christian and a scientist and that was OK.

I haven't tracked him at all since that speech so this is all really shocking, but that sort-of-equivocating for Trump just ... it seems so contradictory.
posted by Tevin at 2:41 PM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


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