Neil deGrasse Tyson on UFOs and Argument from Ignorance

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Again, I don’t like to put a bunch of videos on my blog, but my last Neil deGrasse Tyson ( @neiltyson ) video got a lot of interest, so I thought I’d go ahead and post another. Besides, it’s Saturday. What else have you got to do?

On a panel back in September 2009, Neil deGrasse Tyson got the inevitable question: “Do you believe in UFOs and extraterrestrial visitors?” His response is, as you’d expect, awesome. The video’s about 10 minutes long, but stay with it. He gets on a roll talking about some really important issues like the argument from ignorance, the (poor) reliability of eyewitness testimony, and stealing ashtrays off spaceships:

My favorite thing about Neil deGrasse Tyson is how he gets all worked up and ends up with great sound bytes anyway. Here are some of my favorites from the video:

  • Audience: Do you believe in UFOs and extraterrestrial visitors?
    Neil deGrasse Tyson: I’m not authorized to answer that question.
  • …Somebody sees lights flashing in the sky. They’ve never seen it before, they don’t understand what it is. They say: “A UFO!” (The “U” stands for “Unidentified.”) So they say: “I don’t know what it is. It must be aliens visiting from another planet!” Well, if you don’t know what it is, that’s where your conversation should stop! You don’t then say it must be anything!
  • Whole articles about scientists begin “Scientists have to go back to the drawing board.” …No, we’re always at the drawing board! If you’re not making discoveries, you’re something else!
  • The lowest form of evidence that exists in this world is eyewitness testimony. Which is scary, because it’s the highest form of evidence in a court of law!
  • We’ve all bought and enjoyed books called “Optical Illusions,” right? Well, we all love optical illusions, but that’s not what they should call the book. They should call it “Brain Failures,” because that’s what it is!