Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains His Christmas Tweets, After Being Accused, Absurdly, of Anti-Christian Sentiment
Christmas may have come and gone, filling up the last of this year's binge-eating quota and marking the beginning of many trips to Macy's to return all the hideous sweaters you somehow received this year, but for one scientist, some controversial tweets on his part have set in motion one of what I'd like to consider the season's funniest misunderstandings surrounding the holiday. Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained his Christmas Tweets in a Facebook post, after a particular one about the occasion garnered over 75,000 re-tweets on the social media site.
ICYMI, here's what happened. Tyson, being the man of science that he is, jumped (gleefully, I assume) at the opportunity to inform his fellow proponents of science the historically-accurate birthday of another person other than baby Jesus — Isaac Newton, the father of gravity, and, I highly suspect, the only figure whose association with the infamous apple Tyson thinks should be taken seriously.
His Christmas Day tweet wishing Newton a happy birthday has, at the time of this writing, over 75,000 retweets — that's about 18,000 tweets in a span of four days. The cosmologist and host of the educational TV show, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," then followed up with a tweet in which he called Christmas a "shopping holiday," in a nod to the gross commercialization of the celebration.
While many people seemed to have enjoyed the slivers of information from his Christmas Day tweets, they infuriated Christmas-believers, many of whom accused him of stoking anti-Christian sentiment. His tweet even prompted a response from Rep. Steve Smith of Georgia, which really made me wonder how it came to be that he had the time to embroil himself in this.
Tyson, in response to the anti-Christian accusations, then tweeted his vision of a utopia in which people reacted less asininely to things that offended their stubborn sensibilities.
On Friday evening, the astrophysicist took to his Facebook page to address what he said was his most re-tweeted Tweet:
Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday. Christmas day in England - 1642. And perhaps even fewer people know that before he turned 30, Newton had discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravitation, and invented integral and differential calculus. All of which served as the mechanistic foundation for the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that would forever transform the world.
My sense in this case is that the high rate of re-tweeting, is not to share my enthusiasm of this fact, but is driven by accusations that the tweet is somehow anti-Christian. If a person actually wanted to express anti-Christian sentiment, my guess is that alerting people of Isaac Newton's birthday would appear nowhere on the list.
And on Saturday morning, he posted again on Facebook a list of all the times he tweeted about religion or atheism, tacking on, at the end of the post, a selfie with a massive rabbit.
The whole incident screams ludicrous, especially considering he felt he had to explain himself for something he clearly did not set out to do. But Tyson seems like a good-natured person, and if I know him — and I feel like I really do, you know, considering all the Cosmos episodes I've watched — he definitely had a good chuckle or two out of it.