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DeGrasse Tyson offends some with Isaac Newton Christmas Day tweet

The astrophysicist reminds that Christmas Day commemorated the birth of a child who would change the world: Isaac Newton. Not everyone is impressed.

Those of a Christian persuasion were not impressed by Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Newtonian tweet. SXSW/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

While you were cheerily celebrating Christmas Day, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was inserting a little scientific stuffing into your turkey of tradition.

The astrophysicist and "Cosmos" presenter chose Christmas Day to offer this tweet: "On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642."

This, stunningly, became his most retweeted effort of all time. At the time of writing, it's enjoyed more than 73,000 retweets and has been favorited more than 72,000 times.

However, he didn't stop there. He followed up with a tweeted suggestion that Christmas was not merely humbug, but bunkum. Take this, believers: "Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA)."

Reactions to Tyson's Newton tweet varied from insistence that Newton was actually born on January 4 to invective featuring words like "moron" to information such as the facts that God created science and that Hitler was an atheist.

It seems that Tyson himself was slightly taken aback -- or at least acted as if he was. He turned to a longer form of social media -- Facebook -- to express his own reaction to the reactions.

He began:

Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday. Christmas day in England - 1642. And perhaps even fewer people know that before he turned 30, Newton had discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravitation, and invented integral and differential calculus. All of which served as the mechanistic foundation for the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that would forever transform the world.

Tyson denied, though, being anti-Christian. He said: "If a person actually wanted to express anti-Christian sentiment, my guess is that alerting people of Isaac Newton's birthday would appear nowhere on the list."

Oh, but surely he knew that the Newton tweet would tweak. He insisted, however, that he was merely trying to shed light. Indeed, he referred to another tweet of the day after Christmas: "Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them."

This Facebook post didn't appease too many. As Michael Corey Daconta responded: "At a minimum, tweeting his disdain for Christmas on Christmas day, while many people are trying to enjoy a happy, joyous holiday -- is in poor taste. Believe what you want but when your arrogance extends to ruining other's [sic] holidays, you have become an arrogant fool."

We're all fools, though, aren't we? We claim such vast knowledge of all things, then we atrophy and die. How many people on their death beds actually feel they're no wiser than when they were at the height of their mental powers?

It may well be that Newton paved the way for us to have iPads and God paved the way for us to have hope. Equally, it could be that God paved the way for us to have iPads and Newton paved the way for us to have hope.

The lovely thing about the human condition is the very conditionality of it all.