Neil deGrasse Tyson PhD invoked the fact he had a PhD and Tchiya Amet El Maat did not have a PhD to imply that he is necessarily more credible than her. Furthermore, he used her beliefs against her. His explanation was pure argumentum ad verecundiam, appeal to authority a logical fallacy and that it protected him for so long is part of this story. A conclusion reached from a flawed premise, that he is an authoritative scientist and therefore he must be correct, is itself flawed. He is not the only one scientist, or nonscientist, who makes that mistake. In the words of Richard Feynman a scientist is just as dumb as the next guy when working outside his/her field.
My own writings here at Science 2.0 and a few other bloggers who picked up on it merely raised awareness that the rape accusation was. At the time I thought that race was a big factor now I know that it was only a large part of the issue. Consider how over the last two years we have collectively thrown around the term "science denier" like a hand grenade. Even I have done it. The fact that Neil Tyson is a scientist, a PhD astrophysicist, may have played a role in why Tchiya Amet was disbelieved. The education level of the accuser and accused should not matter. For those who it does matter to, Tchiya Amet has a BS in physics. Ask yourself if you could pass undergraduate quantum mechanics.
It could be argued that Tyson’s stories were meant to be, in scientific terms, “alternate theories that also fit the data”. His theories would merit further experiments to see which of the alternatives is true. Science may work that way, but the justice system does not. Justice works by evidence of what has occurred.
The cases against Neil Tyson are individually strong and supported with evidence. Only evidence can outweigh evidence. Theory cannot disprove data.
Each Case Against Tyson Has Independent Evidence.
In this case each victim has some form of documentation and even photographic evidence for some aspect of their interaction(s) with Neil deGrasse Tyson. In this case each victim has an independently veracious and credible case such that even if no one else accused Tyson they should have had an investigation of their complaint. In a fair world as soon as Tchiya Amet tweeted out her blog post someone would have done a full examination of this matter. She has photographs of him from a time when taking a photograph was a far rarer event than it is now. She isn’t the only one.
In each and every, single, individual, case the allegation has the backing of photographic evidence of their interaction(s). This is not just his word vs hers this is her evidence vs his word, her evidence vs his word, and her evidence vs his word.
Unless he has some exculpatory evidence that shows the interactions were either consensual or that they simply never occurred Tyson might be held liable in a court of law.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, some of it, it was so. He confirmed he knew the women and was in some form of interaction with them.
Each woman disputes his version of events. Ms Amet pointedly denies that Tyson and she “dated”. They were friends the way people in the same relatively small area of study in graduate school tend to be. She denies they ever had consensual sex.
Looking Forward What Can We Do?
What small part I played in this story is basically over now that the wheels are in motion. Investigations will occur, and we will all have to live with the consequences of those. Looking beyond these instances, the question for us all now is what can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?
IF you are a man (or woman) don’t rape people. Simple.
Rape by involuntary intoxication and even coercion know no gender barrier. All that is required is power even if that power is just from being sober while the other person is drunk. Brute muscular force is not the only kind of power that matters for rape.
Never ever get touchy feely with subordinates or people who work for you or people you have any form of power over without having their express, witnessed, freely given permission. Don’t talk about feelings be a cold professional robot to them. Wives and husbands and family and close friends are for feelings. Fans, coworkers, colleagues, students, etc. all need their space.
NEVER be alone with a subordinate of any kind EVER. Ashley Watson’s story sounds like something Max Bialystok would’ve done. Tyson acted that way in 2018! Even if nothing at all happened. If all he’d done is toss her some crackers, Cheese Wiz and Champale … the fact she was alone with the boss would look suspect. Anyone with the power to decide if you keep your job is the boss no matter what the title may be. This is also known as the Mike Pence strategy. Some regard it as sexist. Don’t be alone with someone of your own gender or sex either. Sexual harassment can be same sex and same gender too.
Document everything somehow. If you interact with someone document that. Keep a diary, a journal, send them an email or text about the meeting you just had. Semi jokingly maybe it isn’t such a dumb idea to hold onto your calendars. Wheter you are a member of a group that is prone to be a victim or a group that is prone to being accused that is sound advice. Documentations can be evidence.
Good Further Reading
The three best stories I have seen written about this whole mess are, David G McAfee “Two More Women Accuse Neil deGrasse Tyson of Sexual Misconduct”, Anna North “The sexual misconduct allegations against Neil deGrasse Tyson, explained” and Azeen Ghorayshi “Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson's First Accuser. Now There Are Three More.”
These all happen to be three stories that mention my writings on this. While not being mentioned did smart a little since reporters do like to be cited for their work, even if it is small. The fact that others choose to replace citation with speculation on the motivation of the above reporters means I must insist on being cited.
David G McAffee has been called horrible things for writing
about this, for the work he did to bring this to light. Patheos is not hostile
to faith and spirituality or the lack there of. That does not mean their reported
is motivated by religious anti-science animus. (See the Young Turks,
They did eventually
correct themselves). So rather than making up some tin foil hat conspiracy
that this is all made to take down Neil Tyson please just cite a simple chain
2010 Tchiya Amet confronted Tyson, 2014-2016 Tchiya Amet blogged and Tweeted, 2016 Hontas Farmer blogged, 2017-2018 David G McAfee and Azeen Ghorayshi reported, then the world FINALLY listened. No conspiracies needed.
That may not be as spicy as saying it is all politics but it is simply true