Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Neil Degrasse Tyson: "There Are No Mysteries"

I came across this video of Neil Degrasee Tyson maybe a month ago. It struck a bit of a chord with me. He carries a bit of an air of: "Don't waste your time purposing foolish notions upon me, lest you would like me to afford you the time I would a fool."

My interpretation shouldn't be taken so absolutely, in a way that makes him sound less considerate than he actually is. A review of material from across the web shows he clearly has an interest in educating the world about what he knows and of ways in which people can think about, address, and engage the world. The point is, without forcing it, he provides little to no leeway for nonsense. The very way he carries himself suggests that silly notions require education, clarification, or correction. Otherwise, they ought to be ignored.

It's the kind of attitude I can learn a little bit from. I feel, too often, that I give the benefit of the doubt, or am prone to keeping enough of a straight face to look like I am possibly buying what is being sold to me.

Yesterday, I was at the bookstore sitting next to a woman. We struck up a general conversation in which I, as usual, probably shared a bit too much of myself without really giving much substantial. She gave a brief, interesting enough analysis of what she thought of me. Then the conversation hit a few strange patches and odd assumptions, after which she ventured into what I can only call conspiracy theory.

Some of the things she was saying couldn't even quite qualify as being questionable. Others, I knew from study and experience, simply were not true. Still, I sat and listened, sometimes fully and sometimes halfway. But I paid enough attention to decipher. In the back of my mind, all I heard was Tyson's quote from the video:

"There are no mysteries."

He was not saying there are no unsolved problems or that mankind knows all there is to know about everything in this world and universe. He was saying that there is always a reason (or reasons) behind the why the way the world works as it does, in whatever respect you are discussing, whether you know it or not, and that having and accumulating knowledge, pre-confirmed or found on one's own, allows for proper deduction. He was saying that being educated about what you might generally refer to as "world mechanics" (not his quote), or what he might call scientific literacy, allows you to parse potential truth from folly by way of little more than a passive ear or glance.

The woman, claiming herself a small businesswoman and speaking to things an education bares, fed me lots of folly. She flattered me. Then she cloaked the sure, transparent, or semi-understood in fog. All her words never actually spoke or gave transparency to the way things worked. I reasoned most of her words away without trying. I wondered what she was trying so hard to sell me.

When we parted, she cited a website address that she promised would answer things. I never bothered.

Suffering fools, or educated foolery, need neither be an option or a battle. In the likes of Mr. Tyson,  they ought to know better, at a glance, from a mile away. It's clearly a skill worth learning.

There are no mysteries.

There are things people don't know or understand, or both. And there are things people are not willing to say, reveal, or address, in part or in whole.