i-e113344783b5a2e34c92a2d60fc63ab3-Picture-1-thumb-405x113-62117.png

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has made quite an extraordinary observation about the controversial actor Charlie Sheen – did you know that Mr. Sheen is “is scientifically more literate than most”?


Given that one of my primary goals is to enhance public literacy about science and technology, such a statement – well, bothers me. I’m not sure which to question first – the judgment of Neil DeGrasse Tyson or the “scientific literacy” of a troubled albeit talented comedian/actor. Where does one even begin?

From my colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of “The Science of Kissing”:

A Drug Called “Charlie Sheen”

Everyone seems to be speculating about Charlie Sheen. The media paints things any way they want, and as a blogger, admittedly, with this post I add to the hullabaloo. But I’d like to contribute something to the conversation. I’ve seen Dr. Drew describing Sheen’s unusual behavior as possibly “drug induced,” bipolar, and/or manic. Meanwhile, he has reportedly tested negative for drugs and Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently tweeted: {see above}

Now I don’t know Charlie Sheen and cannot imagine what his lifestyle is really like. The media’s portrayal is assuredly not the full story.

That said, I suspect he may have more dopamine receptors dotting the tips of his nerve cells than the average man. Dopamine is a powerful chemical associated with craving, desire, and stimulation of pleasure-pathway nerves in the brain. As I explain in my book, research suggests that a high number may predispose us to sexual promiscuity or addictive behavior.

Should this be the case, then Sheen would be-as he describes-literally on a drug called “Charlie Sheen.”

Brilliant, Sheril!

For reference, here’s a reasonable definition of scientific literacy:

According to the United States National Center for Education Statistics, “scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity”

The scientifically literate person possesses the capability to:

• understand experiment and reasoning as well as basic scientific facts and their meaning
• ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences
• describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena
• read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions
• identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed
• evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it
• pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately

Comments

  1. #1 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne
    March 4, 2011

    I’m afraid I don’t see the point. Charlie Sheen is a bright, well educated but apparently emotionally troubled (and perhaps mentally ill) man. Are these things mutually exclusive?

    Wasn’t John Nash “more mathematically literate than most”?

  2. #2 JohnV
    March 4, 2011

    I’m slightly troubled by the fact that apparent knowledge of the cosmos (or asking good questions about it) is being used as the measuring stick for scientific literacy.

    That could be sour grapes because while I posses a vast knowledge of microbes and pathogenesis, I don’t know much about “the cosmos”.

  3. #3 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 4, 2011

    I’m more troubled that this is the 2nd time my “science blogs sweepstakes” turns up this blog from a person “dedicated to strengthening public appreciation of the beauty and impact of science in our daily lives”, and it is kvetching about science perception instead of mediating appreciation of beauty. (Last time it was about perceived problems with oil leak science and reporting, IIRC.)

    Oh, “Dean’s corner”!? I guess it never was about nature and experience (of appreciation, say), but about scholastics then. :-(

  4. #4 Herp N. Derpington
    March 4, 2011

    1. Perhaps NdGT misspoke when he chose the words “scientifically literate.” When using a service that limits the number of characters one can use, diction is the first casualty. I interpret his statement as attempting to convey his surprise at someone who is not a scientist by trade having more than a cursory understanding of his field. I don’t know how the conversation actually went, but I would imagine that NdGT felt that Sheen met (at least) these criteria
    >• ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from
    >curiosity about everyday experiences

    >• read with understanding articles about science in the
    >popular press and to engage in social conversation about the
    >validity of the conclusions

    2. Herc hits the nail on the head. Your concern over NdGT’s opinion of Charlie Sheen based on conversations we were not privy to and shaded by the connotations our society associates with drug abuse bothers me.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    March 4, 2011

    I tend to agree with Hercules: These issues may be unconnected. One of the most brilliant scientists I know is debilitated from the drugs he has to take to not be Charlie Sheen more months than not in a given year. He makes Charlie Sheen look like … I dunno … maybe Martin Sheen.

    JohnV: Yeah, sounds like sour grapes! Of course, what do you know about grapes, given that hey are neither tiny (like microbes) nor huge (like the cosmos) … :)

    Or, this whole thing could be a misunderstanding. Perhaps NdGT and CS were talking about cosmos. As in cranberry juice and vodka.

  6. #6 JohnV
    March 4, 2011

    You win this round Laden…

  7. Charlie Sheen’s cheese has finally slipped off his cracker. It is sad because “Two and a half men” was a really funny show. Let’s hope Sheen recovers from whatever his problem is. If you like funny videos, drop by Off Color Fun .

  8. #8 Neil deGrasse Tyson
    March 5, 2011

    Thanks for everyone’s interest in my Charlie Sheen tweet. I am impressed by the level of skepticism regarding my ability to judge whether someone is scientifically literate. To clarify, I measure science literacy not simply by a person’s body of knowledge but **primarily** on how the brain of a person is wired for thought. This reveals itself instantly in conversation, manifested by what questions get asked up front and what follow-up questions get asked based on the newly acquired information. Here are three actual examples:

    1a) Where is Pluto?
    1b) Is Pluto in our galaxy?

    2a) What are the clouds made of in the Hubble photos?
    2b) If they are gas, and if stars are composed of gas, could new stars be made inside of these gas clouds?

    3a) When was the big bang?
    3b) If the universe if 14 billion years old, does that mean that the edge of the universe is 14 billion light years away?

    Questions 1 were asked by a college educated person who I judge to be in need of improved science literacy.

    Questions 2 were asked by a janitor at my Museum who has clearly done some thinking on the subject between broom-sweeps. If you want to read more on this, see: http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/2006/08/01/blue-collar-intellectuals-the-janitor

    Questions 3 were asked by Charlie Sheen. Based on these and our overall conversation, I judge Sheen to be in the 90th percentile of the general population, hence my tweet that Sheen is: “…more scientifically literate than most”

    -NDTyson
    New York City
    On Twitter: @neiltyson

  9. #9 Jeff
    March 5, 2011

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Your perspective is greatly appreciated!

  10. #10 gainmax
    March 6, 2011

    I tend to agree with Hercules: These issues may be unconnected. One of the most brilliant scientists I know is debilitated from the drugs he has to take to not be Charlie Sheen more months than not in a given year. He makes Charlie Sheen look like … I dunno … maybe Martin Sheen.

    JohnV: Yeah, sounds like sour grapes! Of course, what do you know about grapes, given that hey are neither tiny (like microbes) nor huge (like the cosmos) … :)

    Or, this whole thing could be a misunderstanding. Perhaps NdGT and CS were talking about cosmos. As in cranberry juice and vodka

  11. #11 hongzy
    May 24, 2012

    People get attracted with everything that is free. A free e-course will push people to give their email address. Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet a seven-part course every few days will keep their anticipation with your company. The e-course indirectly sells your product too. A free e-book is also an attractive method to exchange the email addresses of people. Make the e-book as relevant and as informative as possible. Just make sure that you have links to make your product/service visible. Free give-away and sign-up bonuses are valuable means to get on the lead. Visitors get freebies and bonuses by just signing up and exchanging their e-mails with you.

Current ye@r *