Over at Twitter, a controversy was recently stirred concerning Christmas day, when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets generated a sort-of “war on Christmas” backlash.
On Christmas morning, Neil sent out four tweets related to the holiday. The tweets made reference to, respectively, many people in the world not celebrating Christmas, Isaac Newton’s birth, the Pagan origins of modern Christmas celebrations, and the physics of Rudolph’s nose.
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas tweets:In no time at all, Tyson’s rhetorical pokes had been retweeted thousands of times, bringing a sharp backlash. Tyson was accused of trying to spoil the holiday, attacking Christianity, and lying to become famous. He was told he was going to Hell, and called names. The several tweets include:
“Only a small & uncharitable man would take time on Xmas morning 2 take shots but Merry Christmas to you anyway Neil.”
“This is disrespectful to Christians. Jesus created the science you cherish so much. Everyone finds God eventually, you will too.”
“Looking fwd to witty jabs during the spiritual days of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. Or is it reserved for the easiest target?”
Ben Jacobs wrote at The Daily Beast: “The result is likely to further spark conservative anger at Tyson, who has long been reviled by some on the right for what is perceived as a know-it-all attitude towards organized religion. Ironically, this was an attitude not shared by Isaac Newton who devoted much of his later life to theology and trying to interpret biblical prophesies.
On Friday night, when the astrophysicist returned to the internet to respond to the angry and offended responses, he wasn’t offering any apologies. Instead, he stood by his statements, calling them objective truths, and ruminating about a world in which people choose to be enlightened, rather than offended.
It didn’t put an end to the vitriol toward the Cosmos star. If anything, the negative comments intensified.
Neil was called a ‘coward’ and ‘bully,’ told he should pick on religions besides Christianity, and told that he’s clearly not objective, or he’d accept the evidence of near-death experiences. There were numerous references to the changes in science as we gain new information, and what may have been a veiled accusation that Neil is a cult leader.
It’s not too likely that Tyson will back down in the face of this backlash, though, given that he didn’t reconsider or offer apologies or explanations to the first round of vitriol.