Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 - and was attacked by conservative Christians.
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS on television in 2014 was Cosmos: A Space Odyssey. This 13 part documentary series was astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's brilliant reworking and reimagining of Carl Sagan's landmark documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, first broadcast in 1980.
Tyson sparked something of a Twitter storm when he tweeted on Xmas Day:
On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642
The tweet went viral. Not surprisingly Christians of a conservative and less tolerant persuasion attacked Tyson for being '"disrespectful to those observing Christmas on Dec. 25," and even for being "anti-Christian".
Tyson probably inflamed his conservative critics even more when he also tweeted:
Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).
Tyson responded to his critics on his Facebook page:
"Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday. Christmas day in England – 1642. And perhaps even fewer people know that before he turned 30, Newton had discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravitation, and invented integral and differential calculus.”
He went on to say:
"My sense in this case is that the high rate of re-tweeting, is not to share my enthusiasm of this fact, but is driven by accusations that the tweet is somehow anti-Christian. If a person actually wanted to express anti-Christian sentiment, my guess is that alerting people of Isaac Newton's birthday would appear nowhere on the list."
What Tyson's critics no doubt don't know is that the astrophysicist thinks that people should sit down and read The Bible because it helps "“to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”
Tyson was responding to a question from a Reddit.com user who, in 2011,asked him; "“Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”
The other books that Tyson recommended were:
1.The System of the World by Isaac Newton – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”
2. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”
3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift -“to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”
4. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”
5. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith – “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”
6. The Art of War by Sun Tsu – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”
7. The Prince by Machiavelli – “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”
Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”