Is Neil deGrasse Tyson an afaeist — someone who does not believe that fairies exist? In a recent interview he made it clear that he is not a disbeliever in fairies; he just doesn’t know whether or not they exist. Quoting from the interview:
I’m often asked, occasionally, in an accusatory way, are you afaeist? You know, the only “ist” that I am is a scientist. I don’t associate with movements, I’m not an “ism”, I just think for myself. The moment when someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you, and when you want to have a conversation they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association…
So, what people are really after is what is my stance on the Book of Pan, or positive thoughts as a catalyst for human levitation, or magical, miniscule winged hominids. I would say if I could find a word that came closest it would be agnostic — a word that dates from the 19th Century, to refer to someone who doesn’t know, hasn’t really yet seen evidence for it, but is prepared to embrace the evidence if it’s there, but if it’s not, won’t be forced to think something that is not otherwise supported.
There are many afaeists who say, well, all agnostics are afaeists. I am constantly claimed by afaeists. I find this intriguing. In fact, on my Wiki page… it said, “Neil deGrasse Tyson is an afaeist,” and I said, well, that’s not really true, and I said, “Neil deGrasse Tyson is an agnostic.” I went back a week later and it said “Neil deGrasse Tyson is an afaeist” again, and I said, “What’s up with that?” And I said, I now have to word it a little differently, so I said, “Neil deGrasse Tyson, widely claimed by afaeists, is actually an agnostic.”
Here’s a video of the interview.