Did Neil deGrasse Tyson Blow It Big Time?


Jerry Coyne over at Why Evolution is True:

This episode smacks a bit of internet drama, which I try to avoid, but it also bears on scientific discourse, censorship, and civility, and I wanted to say a few words.

According to the “Arts Beat” site of the New York Times, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who organized a prestigious debate on the origins of the universe at The American Museum of Natural History, subsequently withdrew an invitation to one participant: the physicist/philosopher David Albert. Last April I wrote about how Albert had given a pretty negative review to Lawrence Krauss’s new book, A Universe from Nothing: Why there is Something Rather Than Nothing (a book that I wasn’t too keen on, either, but for different reasons). And, sure enough, Albert and others—including Krauss—had been invited to debate the topic of how something comes from nothing at the Museum. Then came the rude gesture:

The annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate is the American Museum of Natural History’s biggest public event, drawing sold-out crowds for an evening billed as bringing together “the finest minds in the world” to debate “pressing questions on the frontiers of scientific discovery.”

But this year’s installment, to be held March 20 under the heading “The Existence of Nothing,” may also be notable for the panelist who disappeared.

Among the speakers will be several leading physicists, including Lawrence M. Krauss, whose book “A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing” became a cause célèbre in the scientific blogosphere last spring after a scathing review in the New York Times Book Review by the philosopher David Z. Albert.

But Mr. Albert will not be onstage, having been abruptly disinvited by the museum several months after he agreed to take part.