Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization

Neil deGrasse Tyson | 2022
Posted in: Epistemology Political Philosophy
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Tyson is well known as an ambassador of astrophysics, and here he uses the “overview effect” of viewing Earth from space as a theme for identifying common ground among all humans. The book celebrates the scientific process, but recognizes that our diverse personal perspectives, belief systems, insights, and possible blind spots are all part of our humanity, and therefore by definition, part of our scientific process. The first few chapters emphasize the overview effect by considering how we define philosophical notions like truth and beauty and how those definitions have informed how we have built and then evolved larger and more complex tribal societies. The next several chapters apply the overview effect to shift the perspective from tribal to global in considering several discrete topics and how they have also evolved over time: gender and identity, race and color, law and order. Tyson’s writing style is conversational and weaves science, history, and personal anecdotes (both his own and those of others) into compelling narrative, often infused with humor with a recurring theme being how a future civilization might perceive our current behaviors.