In an address to Facebook that now has more than 16 million views, Neil DeGrasse Tyson shared "what may be the most important words" he has ever spoken. Tyson, of course, is no stranger to his words going viral because of their elegance — so his statement that this new message is the "most important" he's ever communicated carries significant weight.
The Ivy League astrophysicist has been a huge proponent for the public embrace of science, and his most recent video is a reminder of the power science has. Tyson, who is active on social media in promoting critical thought, speaks about the both intersection of policy, politics and science — and the division that seems present of late.
"Science is a fundamental part of the country that we are," Tyson says. "But in this, the 21st century, when it comes time to make decisions about science, it seems that people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not."
Tyson's fears about the current state of science denialism stem both from the dangers our planet faces — like climate change — and the fact that so many people seem willing to ignore the facts that have been presented, evaluated, and confirmed by respected experts.
"We have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it, and rising to power," Tyson said. "That is a recipe for the dismantling of our informed democracy... that's not the country I remember growing up in."
Despite that, though, he has a powerfully optimistic and positive outlook on the role that science (and scientists!) can and will play going forward. Science, he even suggests, is what drives us forward.
"When you have an established, scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe it," he says, visibly impassioned. "And the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us."
He finishes the piece with a call to action that underscores the purpose of all those beakers and chem labs and long nights spent hunched over equations: "Recognize what science is and allow it to be what it can and should be in the service of civilization."