October 8, 2013 by kittynh
Sometimes skeptics and scientists embrace the title “curmudgeon” too tightly.
The new movie “Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is out and it is number one at the box office! I predicted much like anything subjected to gravity it would crash and burn quickly. Why? As a skeptic I see a world populated with people that don’t seem to care about science and critical thinking. I often have to take to the internet to find someone to share my less credulous views.
In a world of “Honey Boo Boo”, “Long Island Medium” and the ever increasing number of shows starring Kardashians, the fact that many of these same people will pay good money to go see a movie about space is a cause of joy., People are choosing to see space over watching a bunch of plumbers look for ghosts. This is a cause for celebration.
Instead what do skeptics do? Nit pick endlessly. It’s fine, it’s our nature. Last night I am watching the national news when Brian Williams the anchor starts to read tweets by Dr.Tyson. It sounds like Dr.Tyson hates the movie, or at least he is being that old curmudgeon. Brain Williams looks at the camera and give a little smirk and says something like “maybe he should just realize it’s just a movie!” I was left with a feeling, science and scientists don’t care that the public is enjoying this movie about space. Stay away from our science unless you can get it right.
We should be throwing parties that the “common man” we complain about so much is going to see a movie about space. Space is one of the best gateway drugs for science funding. Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, our fear of the Soviet Union getting ahead of us in the space race meant a major revamping in our science and math curriculum. Space toys and movies and even TV show abounded. Even watching “My Favorite Martian” (our family favorite) made travel to Mars and space something we were interested in. Mistakes should be pointed out, but why not also step back a moment and celebrate a victory?
People like space. People that aren’t skeptics or Atheists or even all that smart.
Why aren’t we throwing a party that there is indeed hope for reaching these people?
This has happened before. When the creator of the “Big Bang Theory”, Bill Prady, came to TAM 7, the annual skeptic conference put on by the JREF, during the question and answer session he was slammed with complaints. Now, skeptics love complaining. We love debate and accuracy. Still, here was a show about smart skeptical people, that was a hit on TV, and very few were “this is a victory for us”. There was serious anger about the fact that Bill suggested perhaps Leonard should have just accepted Penny believed in some “woo” things rather than break up with her. That agreeing to disagree is better than being lonely. The audience, or some, reacted with great anger. This despite the fact many skeptics are happily married to people that are not Atheists or even read their horoscopes everyday. This zero tolerance policy we have for TV and movies rarely extends into our real life.
Let’s throw a part of skeptic happiness for “Gravity”! Let’s nit pick among ourselves, while being amazed that the common man has the good sense to go out and pay money to see the world as skeptics see it, full of wonder and enough magic without needing to believe in “woo” to make it more exciting. Our universe is not boring, the movie “Gravity” proves that. If it leads to more taxpayer dollars for NASA, that’s an extra bonus.
Nit pick, but also go “Can you believe this movie is number one? Maybe people are smarter than I thought they were?”
- Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Gravity Is Scientifically Inaccurate (gawker.com)
- Film: Great Job, Internet!: Neil deGrasse Tyson has some scientific bones to pick with Gravity (avclub.com)
- Neil deGrasse Tyson Picks Holes in Gravity (newser.com)