Neil deGrasse Tyson on politicians giving scientific advice and his show, 'Cosmos'

The astrophysicist discusses the Department of Defense forming a task force for UFOs and how he remains optimistic about the Earth in his new show, "Cosmos: Possible World."
8:33 | 09/21/20

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Transcript for Neil deGrasse Tyson on politicians giving scientific advice and his show, 'Cosmos'
I'm standing on the southern tip of Africa, and imagining what it was like some time in the last hundreds of thousands of years. Back then, Africa was home to all the world's ho Mo sapiens. All 10,000 of them. If you were an extra terrestrial on a mission, you might have thought we were an endangered species. Someday soon, there will be 10 billion of us. What happened? How did we become this species that we are today? Well, that was pop culture icon and astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson in his emmy-winning series "cosmos:possible worlds, helping to make sense of the universe and our place in it," and now he's here to answer the most burning questions, existential questions that we may have. Please welcome my friend Neil Degrasse Tyson. What's up? In the house. Thank you. In the house. Great background. The background follows me wherever I go. It's just the universe. Listen. Last week scientists somehow discovered the gas -- what is it? Phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus which is a potential sign of life on the planet. Now why is this a big deal? Can people go to Venus now that we've suffered 115-degree weather in California? Should just California people go to Venus or who should be going? Is this the new frontier? That's my question. Yeah. Venus is 900 degrees fahrenheit on its surface, so it is inhospitable to life, but if you ascend the air pressures drop, and the temperatures become more balmy, more temperate, and there's a goldilocks zone in the atmosphere where it can sustain molecules similar to here on Earth. So they found phosphine, and we don't know any other way that could occur other than the activities of life. So who ordered that? Where did that come from? The more we find how diverse life can thrive in, and before we figure that, we need the 72-degree pond to evolve life. Life could be everywhere if it's in our backyard. Right. Wow. Meghan? Mr. Degrasse Tyson, this is very exciting. Earlier the year, the Pentagon declassified video of several unidentified flying objects, and now the government is forming a task force to investigate any potential threats from these ufos. What is the likelihood these are aliens and not just say a Russian drone? I think that's the tic tac video. Given the defense budget, they ought to spend some amount of money investigating stuff in the sky when we don't know what it is, definitely because it could be a threat from any possible source. So is it intelligent aliens visiting from outer space who are observing us or is it a glitch in the -- in the data-taking device or is it some other adversary's craft? Yes, if I had to pick, I'm thinking maybe it's an adversary's craft or a glitch rather than intelligent aliens coming to visit from outer space because, do you realize we now upload 6 billion videos -- high resolution video and images every day into the internet? And the people all over the world, we are in more places than the military is, and it seems to me if we have been visited, we have really sharp images of aliens walking off the craft coming towards you wanting to shake your hand, but we don't, and I'm waiting for that to be compelling evidence, but between now and then, go ahead, you know, carry a net with you or something so that you can capture these guys if they are aliens and bring them into town hall. Then we've got evidence that we can trust rather than fuzzy monochromatic video. Okay. So Neil, as someone who has the utmost respect for science, being a scientist yourself, does it worry you when trump repeatedly denies the existence of the climate crisis? He says, I don't think science knows. That's when he said the other day, and remember. Also, what would your exact and immediate reaction be the day he told us to inject ourselves with bleach, that that might really work against the coronavirus? I try to think more wholistically about these things. So for example, I think the day's over where we get any kind of scientific advice from politicians, all right? There was a day when politicians were the only entities that had platform, and then all the information would feed to them and they would share with us what we should do next. Giving greater meaning to the word leader. Today, no. I'm not going to get science advice from any elected official. I'm not. We have scientists who have platforms, medical professionals who get on social media. Yes, that is where I get this from. But his denial of the climate crisis is very dangerous, don't Okay. So my second point here is when you have leaders in denial of science, all that says is that the people that elected him are in denial of science and I'm an educator. So I don't focus on leaders. I turn the other way and I say, who -- who also thinks this? They are my target. They are my objective to educate, to of them understand what science is, how and why it works and how ignoring it can pose an existential threat to us all. So yeah. It's problematic, but it's, like, same stuff, different day. I'm thinking, let me go back to who the voters are and say, I don't care who you vote for, but be scientifically literate about it because otherwise you're not becoming the shepherds of civilization that we need to be if we're going to survive ourselves going into the future. Right. Well, Neil, despite rampant science denial and all the negativity in the country right now, your show "Cosmos" is somehow still filled with hope for our future on this planet. How do you remain optimistic in times like these? Yeah. That's a a very important it's so often when you hear scientists speak there's talk of doom, the asteroid, the viruses, the fires, and what "Cosmos" tries to do is instead of saying, we're all going to die. We're all going to die. No. It says, here are the problems. By the way, similar problems we've confronted in the past and here's the mistakes we made. Here are the successful things we did. There's a lot of storytelling in the past to bring it to the present to equip us with the wisdom to handle the problems we currently confront, and one of the DNA strands if you allow me to borrow the term, one of the DNA strands, in 2014 and this one, there are threads of hope in each one. You come away saying, it's bad, but I can make it better and I know how because I'm going to harness the awesome powers of science and technology to accomplish this. I want to ask you something really quick, Neil. Some of your fans are suggesting you as a potential replacement for Alex trebek which I think would be a really great idea. Would you be game for that? No pun intended. Game for it? Nobody doesn't -- people who love knowledge, we all love "Jeopardy!" I've even been in some of the daily double clues. So I feel in the show, and I think I would be really good at that. It's just not my goal this lifetime, okay? If I can clone myself, definitely line me up, but as an astrophysi, no. Find somebody else. Not me. No. I would come and get you because you have -- we need to you do everything you're doing with "Cosmos." Come to the house. You can play "Jeopardy!" Listen. His show makes its network premiere tomorrow night. Check your local listings.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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