Neil deGrasse Tyson is speaking out after a tweet he posted in response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Tex. and Dayton, Ohio sparked outrage with its suggestion that those mourning were letting their “emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.” To support his argument, the astrophysicist compared the death toll from last weekend’s shootings to those caused by the flu, suicide, car accidents and the like. (Though Tyson said a total of 34 deaths had occurred over 48 hours, the death tolls from El Paso and Dayton amounted to 29 people at the time of his tweet, though El Paso police have just confirmed two more deaths there, bringing the current total to 31 lives lost in the two shootings.)
In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings.
On average, across any 48hrs, we also lose…
500 to Medical errors 300 to the Flu 250 to Suicide 200 to Car Accidents 40 to Homicide via Handgun
Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.
Though he has yet to delete the tweet — which one critic blasted as “tone-deaf and cold” — Tyson did issue an apology on Facebook, insisting that his message was intended to “help shape conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die.” After being accused of insensitivity in the wake of a national tragedy, he acknowledged that his data was “unhelpful.”
“Yesterday, a tweet I posted in reaction to the horrific mass shootings in America over the previous 48 hours, killing 34 people, spawned mixed and highly critical responses,” he wrote.
Neil deGrasse Tyson through the years
Neil deGrasse Tyson through the years
Neil deGrasse Tyson (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - MAY 8: Neil deGrasse Tyson attends TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People 2007 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 8, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by PATRICK MCMULLAN/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson poses for a portrait at The Rose Center for Earth and Space Hayden Planetarium on February 28, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Myrna Suarez/Getty Images)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: Host Neil deGrasse Tyson travels to the Earth of the Carboniferous in the 'The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth' episode airing Sunday, May 4, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Monday, May 5, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Nat Geo. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a few remarks at a Celebration Of Carl Sagan at The Library of Congress on November 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 13: Neil DeGrasse Tyson (L) and executive producer Seth MacFarlane speak during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: More than three decades after Carl Sagan's groundbreaking and iconic series, 'Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,' it's time once again to set sail for the stars. Host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson sets off on the Ship of the Imagination to discover Earth's Cosmic Address and its coordinates in space and time in the 'Standing Up in the Milky Way' Series Premiere episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY airing Sunday, March 9, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: Host Neil deGrasse Tyson travels to northern Italy to learn how Albert Einstein developed his famous theories of relativity in the 'A Sky Full of Ghosts' episode of airing Sunday, March 30, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Monday, March 31, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Nat Geo. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 08: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks onstage at the Neil DeGrasse Tyson Keynote during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 8, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Earl Mcgehee/Getty Images for SXSW)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: Neil deGrasse Tyson in the the 'A Sky Full of Ghosts' episode of COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY airing Sunday, March 30, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Monday, March 31, 2014 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on Nat Geo. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 0015 -- Pictured: (l-r) Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth Reiss as Pluto during an interview with host Seth Meyers on March 14, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: Host Neil deGrasse Tyson explores the ideas of death and immortality in the cosmos in the all-new 'The Immortals' episode airing Sunday, May 18, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Monday, May 19, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Nat Geo. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: Host Neil deGrasse Tyson in the 'Unafraid of The Dark' Season Finale episode airing Sunday, June 8, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and Monday, June 9, 2014 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Nat Geo. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan attend the Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey: 'Unafraid Of The Dark' Final Episode Screening at The Paley Center for Media on June 4, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jenny Anderson/WireImage)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07: Neil deGrasse Tyson, author, astrophysicist, lecturer and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, speaks onstage during the National Geographic Channel Special Programming Announcement at the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on January 7, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31: Astrophysicist and host of 'COSMOS', Neil deGrasse Tyson poses with award during The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31: (L-R): Ann Druyan, Peabody Award Recipient, and Neil deGrasse Tyson speak onstage at The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson speaks during the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
Richard Branson, chairman and founder of Virgin Group Ltd., right, speaks as Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, listens during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. The annual CGI meetings bring together heads of state, leading CEOs, philanthropists, and members of the media to facilitate discussion and forward-thinking initiatives that challenge the way we impact the future. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 03: Neil deGrasse Tyson visits 'Sway in the Morning' with Sway Calloway on Eminem's Shade 45 at SiriusXM Studios on February 3, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Neil deGrasse Tyson visits at SiriusXM Studio on April 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson attend the 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards Day 2 at the Microsoft Theater on September 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Neil deGrasse Tyson visits at SiriusXM Studio on September 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and educator Bill Nye attend the screening of 'The Space Between Us' hosted by STX Entertainment with The Cinema Society at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema on January 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 13: Event honoree Neil deGrasse Tyson attends the 2019 Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall St. on May 13, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
Neil DeGrasse Tyson Apologizes for Mass Shooting Tweet: ‘I Got This One Wrong’
ARCHIVO- En esta fotografía del 13 de mayo de 2019 Neil Degrasse Tyson en la 23a entrega anual de los Premios Webby en Cipriani Wall Street en Nueva York. Neil deGrasse Tyson aprendió tras un tuit que decir la verdad no siempre es lo que más ayuda. El astrofísico y autor se disculpó el lunes 5 de agosto de 2019 por un tuit del domingo en el que señaló que más gente muere en Estados Unidos de maneras que llaman menos la atención que los tiroteos masivos en un mismo periodo de dos días. (Foto Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, archivo)
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“If you missed it, I offered a short list of largely preventable causes of death, along with their average 2-day death toll in the United States. They significantly exceeded the death toll from the two days of mass shootings, including the number of people (40) who on average die from handgun homicides every two days.
“I then noted that we tend to react emotionally to spectacular incidences of death, with the implication that more common causes of death trigger milder responses within us.
“My intent was to offer objectively true information that might help shape conversations and reactions to preventable ways we die. Where I miscalculated was that I genuinely believed the tweet would be helpful to anyone trying to save lives in America. What I learned from the range of reactions is that for many people, some information — my tweet in particular — can be true but unhelpful, especially at a time when many people are either still in shock, or trying to heal — or both.
“So if you are one of those people, I apologize for not knowing in advance what effect my tweet could have on you. I am therefore thankful for the candor and depth of critical reactions shared in my Twitter feed,” he concluded. “As an educator, I personally value knowing with precision and accuracy what reaction anything that I say (or write) will instill in my audience, and I got this one wrong.”
While some accepted his apology — “don't ever apologize for being the smartest person in the room,” one fan responded — many found it insufficient.
“I’m sorry for the way you responded my tone deaf and insulting comments.”
I hope you know that your constantly trying to show everyone how smart and cool you are only shows how much you're insecure about yourself. Especially when you see a loss of human lives and your first thought is "this is a great chance to point out my knowledge of statistics".
"So if you are one of those people, I apologize for not knowing in advance what effect my Tweet could have on you." LOL, my favorite type of apology. Im sorry you felt offended but not that I did what offended you. Nice Neil.