Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the 8 Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

How to “glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

In December of 2011, Neil deGrasse Tysonchampion of science, celebrator of the cosmic perspective, master of the soundbite — participated in Reddit’sAsk Me Anything series of public questions and answers. One reader posed the following question: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” Adding to history’s notable reading lists — including those by Leo Tolstoy, Alan Turing, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Stewart Brand, and Carl Sagan — Tyson offers the following eight essentials, each followed by a short, and sometimes wry, statement about “how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world”:

  1. The Bible (public library; free ebook), to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself
  2. The System of the World (public library; free ebook) by Isaac Newton, to learn that the universe is a knowable place
  3. On the Origin of Species (public library; free ebook) by Charles Darwin, to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth
  4. Gulliver’s Travels (public library; free ebook) by Jonathan Swift, to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos
  5. The Age of Reason (public library; free ebook) by Thomas Paine, to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world
  6. The Wealth of Nations (public library; free ebook) by Adam Smith, to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself
  7. The Art of War (public library; free ebook) by Sun Tzu, to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art
  8. The Prince (public library; free ebook) 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 adds:

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.

(What has driven it, evidently, is also the systematic exclusion of the female perspective. The prototypical “intelligent person” would be remiss not to also read, at the very least, Margaret Fuller’s foundational text Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which is even available as a free ebook, and Betty Friedan’sThe Feminine Mystique. But, of course, the question of diversity is an infinite one and any list is bound to be pathologically unrepresentative of all of humanity — a challenge I’ve addressed elsewhere — so Tyson’s selections remain indispensable despite their chromosomal lopsidedness. My hope, meanwhile, is that we’ll begin to see more such reading lists by prominent female scientists, philosophers, artists, or writers of the past and present; to my knowledge, none have been made public as of yet — except perhaps Susan Sontag’s diary, which is essentially a lifelong reading list.)

Complement with Nabokov on the six short stories every writer should read, then revisit Tyson on genius and the most humbling fact about the universe.

Original Source – Brain Pickings (Maria Popova)
Maria Popova


Neil deGrasse Tyson on “What is the meaning of life?”

During a Q&A session on Neil deGrasse Tyson‘s show at the Wilbur Theatre (January 15, 2015), a 6-year-old – and three quarters – boy asked him about the meaning of life.

The answer he gave was simple enough for a child to understand, but so impressive that even left the adults there amazed and without words, see for yourself.

Namasté Neil deGrasse Tyson 🙂
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” Carl Sagan

Stay curious and best regards,
Pedro Calado

Neil deGrasse Tyson Tells GMO Critics to “Chill Out”

Neil deGrasse Tyson – scientist, astrophysicist, author, science communicator and host of the television series “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey” (2014) – known for defending climate science and the science of evolution, in a video recently posted on YouTube takes a strong stand on another hot-button scientific topic: Genetically modified foods and organisms.

Neil deGrasse Tyson answers a question posed in French about “des plantes transgenetiques” — responding with one of his characteristic, slowly-building rants.

Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food,” asserts Tyson. “There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows…You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

In fairness, critics of GM foods make a variety of arguments that go beyond the simple question of whether the foods we eat were modified prior to the onset of modern biotechnology. They also draw a distinction between modifying plants and animals through traditional breeding and genetic modification that requires the use of biotechnology, and involves techniques such as inserting genes from different species. – Chris Mooney

Original Source