Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of National Geographic and Fox’s new show Cosmos, said Sunday that he thinks the media needs to stop providing false balance in stories on scientific subjects like climate change.
Host of CNN’s Reliable Sources Brian Stelter asked Tyson whether he thought the media had a responsibility portray science correctly, particularly when discussing climate change.
“The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson said. “The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.”
Stelter showed a clip of President Obama’s climate speech last year, in which he decried climate deniers by saying the country didn’t have time for a “meeting of the flat Earth society.” Tyson said the president’s reference was a good example of how the idea of “balance” in scientific stories doesn’t make sense.
“In the clip you showed of the president — you don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say ‘now let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” he said. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”
Tyson has spoken before about the need for the public to accept scientific facts rather than the talking points of politicians. In 2011, he said people who deny climate change exists need “to be mature enough to recognize something can be true even if you don’t like the consequences of it. That’s what it means to be a mature adult.” And this February, Tyson said on CNN that he hopes America doesn’t wait until climate change has drastically changed the Earth’s landscape to realize that our policies haven’t done enough to prepare us.
“When politicians start analyzing the science, I don’t know what to say at that point,” Tyson said. “Are we going to wait until the coastlines get redrawn as the glaciers melt off of Antarctica and Greenland?”
Tyson also said he hopes Cosmos, which premiered March 9, can help Americans learn how to decipher scientific facts from political spin and that it can help Americans become better stewards of the Earth.
“The goal is to convey why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet,” he said. “It involves presenting science in ways that connect to you, so Cosmos can influence you not only intellectually but emotionally, with a celebration of wonder and awe.”