In the most recent episode of The Thrive Global podcast, Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington sat down with America’s favorite astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson to talk about seeing his first night sky, the role of technology on creativity, and what’s at stake when we’re governed by a “science hostile” administration.
Huffington asked deGrasse Tyson about a tweet he wrote in April expressing his concerns about what a “science hostile government” could do to the nation. And though deGrasse Tyson didn’t name names—he told Huffington he wanted the sentiment to be able to transcend administrations—it’s clear he was addressing our current political leadership and landscape. (Especially given that Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 would cut billions from funding to science, health and public education.)
“Again, it’s a free country, so if you want to be science hostile, go right ahead,” deGrasse Tyson said. “But if you’re science hostile and you rise to power and influence what role science plays in our civilization because you don’t know what science is and how and why it works, that’s simply sowing the seeds of the dismantling of an informed democracy.” deGrasse Tyson continued, saying: “Know that if you’re going to vote for non-support of science and technology you are compromising the future health, wealth and security of this nation. Just do it self-aware of that, then it’s your choice.”
If someone doesn’t understand science, it’s at least partly due to “some failure in the education system,” deGrasse Tyson said. “These are full grown, college educated adults saying these things and thinking these things, so we’ve got to go back and fix it. Otherwise, we’ll just fade.” (One current example: the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t believe in climate change.)
Huffington noted that even if we could fix the education system, it would be a good 30 years before we had a generation of science-supporting leaders. So what can we do right now, Huffington asked?
“If you know what science is and how it works,” deGrasse Tyson said, “maybe you have an obligation or a duty to teach the people who otherwise are speaking in ways that reveal deep ignorance about what it is, and what its role is or should be, in the society going forward.”
Since talking about science to people who don’t care much about it is a bit like talking to a wall, deGrasse Tyson suggests meeting certain people where they’re at by framing science and education as a business investment.
“If the president saw science for its real value and role in ‘making America great again,’ I think he would then think of that support as part of the R+D as the corporation called the USA,” deGrasse Tyson said.
To hear the full conversation, click here.