Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to address controversy surrounding several tweets he published on Christmas Day, which some called anti-Christian and offensive to Muslims and Jews.
"Merry Christmas to all. A pagan holiday (BC) becomes a religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a shopping holiday (USA)," Tyson tweeted. "QUESTION: This year, what do all the world's Muslims and Jews call December 25th? ANSWER: Thursday. Santa knows physics: Of all colors, red light penetrates fog best. That's why Benny the blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig."
The most offensive tweet seen by many paid homage to Isaac Newton, who was also born on Dec. 25.
"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," Tyson tweeted.
Tyson took to Facebook to write about his controversial tweets and why he posted them, as well as criticizing those who called the tweets anti-Christian. He defended his words and noted that the majority of his tweets actually never get re-tweeted but that the Isaac Newton post was the most re-tweeted of all his messages.
"Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th," Tyson wrote on Facebook. "I think fewer people know that Isaac Newton shares the same birthday. My sense in this case is that the high rate of re-tweeting, is not to share my enthusiasm of this fact, but is driven by accusations that the tweet is somehow anti-Christian. 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."
Tyson presented the TV series "Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey" earlier this year and was criticized by creationist groups, such as Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis. Tyson claimed that Ham's views are "crazy to many Christians" and argued that he wanted to show "why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet."
The series won four Emmy Awards but led to a great debate about creationism versus science. Tyson is no stranger to controversy and engaging in debates with Christian leaders. He said that Pat Robertson "illustrates one of the biggest problems we have today in the church … compromising the Word of God with the pagan ideas of fallible men."
Before signing off of his most recent Facebook post, Tyson issued a warning about future messages.
"But most importantly, enjoy a Happy New Year. A few days after, I'll be tweeting about Earth's perihelion. Just a head's up in case people want to avert their eyes over that one," Tyson wrote.