BOB vs. Niel Degrasse Tysonon February 23, 2016 at 11:04 am
I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial subjects here at this blog and today’s no exception. For those who haven’t been paying attention there’s been a raging debate on the forefront of modern science. On one side you’ve got BOB, rapper and amateur astronomer, who has been claiming the world is flat in a series of tweets and raps. On the other side, you’ve got humanity. It’s hard to believe that anyone in this day and age could believe that the earth is flat. Is BOB doing this for attention (or trolling as the kids these days like to say)? After hours of exhaustive research, I’ve concluded that nope, BOB is in fact the real deal.
The slam dunk evidence he presents is a picture he took from high atop a mountain. “The cities in the background are approx. 16miles apart…” he tweeted, “Where is the curve ?” This was followed by his adoring fans retweeting and encouraging him to keep spreading the truth and not believe NASA’s lies. As a response Niel Degrasse Tyson, recorded a rebuttal rap with his nephew. I was rooting for Niel Degrass Tyson. But sadly, the rap isn’t very good. I’ve layed down a rap track or two myself in my youth and I gotta say that in terms of everything from production to the singing to the lyrics themselves, BOB’s rap is superior in almost every regard. Luckily, scientific consensus isn’t generally decided by rap battle.
I think most people reading about this on their facebook thought it was a funny story. But to me, I came away a little more sympathetic to BOB. He happens to be wrong, in my opinion, but he seems like a genuinely curious dude, not content to just sit around and read facts about the world from his armchair. On the contrary, BOB seems willing to go out into the world to climb the highest mountain or take pictures from airplane windows, looking for evidence to overturn the status quo theory. In other words science. Again, he happens to be wrong, but I don’t think it’s ignorant to ask questions about why people on the equator don’t just fly off when the earth spins. I’d call it a good question. By contrast, Niel Degrasse Tyson in his rap never mentions anything about time zones, constellations, or how crow’s nests and lighthouses work. Instead he called BOB “mentally enslaved” and then dropped a $600 mic on the floor.
It drives me up the frickin’ wall when people use science as a cudgel to shame other people. Science should be about the process of people actively seeking to learn about the world that we live in rather than a collection of truths. I hate to say it but when it comes to one of the more divisive political issues of our day, teaching evolution in the schools, half the people on my “side” don’t even understand the theory themselves. It’s really a lot weirder than you think it is, peoples, but I guess folks are happy to just slap a picture of Darwin on their bumper and call it a day. I had a creationist friend once who said that Darwin was actually a known philanderer. To which my liberal friend rebutted that those were lies created by a right wing conspiracy determined to smear Darwin’s good name. To me, the correct rebuttal is, “So what!?” He could have strangled a million kittens with his bare hands for all I care. That has no bearing on anything!!! I don’t believe in evolution because Darwin said it to be so like he’s some prophet walking down off a mountain top. The theory of evolution makes me proud to be a human. And unlike something difficult like the theory of gravity for example (how many of us can derive Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from Newton’s laws of motion) the theory of evolution is easy enough for any 9th grader to understand fully in its entirety. Not a simplified version of it with analogies but the actual thing in its whole. The idea of someone living their life from birth to death and never having been introduced to this idea is such a bummer, it makes me want to pick up my mic again and return to the stage. If evolution is taught properly, I think every kid should have that moment where they think, “But what about eyeballs!!??” (or blood clotting or sonar, etc. etc.) When I hear someone intelligent like John McWhorter saying that the existence of skunks disproves evolution, my first instinct isn’t to shun him and any website he’s ever appeared on, but to figure out some way to get in a room with him for 10 minutes to make sure he knows what the theory of evolution is actually saying.
But I digress. Getting back to the flat earth rap battle, I guess I expected more from our nation’s foremost science communicator. Science isn’t just a bunch of facts that you can hold over someone’s head like some annoying Lord of the Rings fan. It’s a process, a way of posing questions about the world in an answerable way. Relatedly, can someone get BOB to draw a map of what he thinks the world looks like?
Update: Although not covered in his rap, Niel Degrasse Tyson actually did mention southern constellations in a tweet to BOB.