Neil deGrasse Tyson on Science and Faith

Astrophysicist and Science Educator

Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.  He is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson".

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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Does religion have an inherent conflict with science?

DeGrasse Tyson:    Most religious people in America, fully embrace science.  So the argument that religion has some issue with science applies to a small fraction of those who declare that they are religious.  They just happen to be a very vocal fraction so you got the impression that there are more of them than there actually is.  It’s actually the minority of religious people who rejects science or feel threatened by it or want to sort of undo or restrict the… where science can go.  The rest, you know, are just fine with science.  And has been that way ever since the beginning.  And by the way, there’s no tradition of scientists knocking down the door, the Sunday school door, telling the preacher what to teach.  There’s no tradition of scientists picketing outside of churches nor should there be some [emergent] tradition of religious fundamentalists trying to change the curriculum in the science classroom.  There’s been a happy coexistence for centuries.  And for that to change now would be unfortunate.  Because I’ve seen this happen in other nations and the other states where the consequences are that you just basically recede back to the cave because that’s where you land when you undermine the scientific and technological innovations that come about when you’re a properly trained scientist or technologist.  Consider also that in America, 40% of American scientists are religious.  So this notion that there’s some… that if you’re a scientist, you’re an atheist or if you’re religious, you’re not a scientist, that’s just empirically false.  It’s an empirically false statement.  And what I mean by religious is that you can pose the question in a way that is unambiguous.  You don’t ask, well, do you go to church every Sunday ‘cause plenty of people go to church, like, just for the pie, you know, or the social scene after the service.  You ask people, do you pray to [a person or] God.  If you say yes to that, you’re religious by, presumably, anybody’s standards of your conduct.  And it’s the yes to that question that applies to 40% of scientists.  So… Well, there’re plenty of atheists who are scientists or not scientists to paint this as some built-in conflict is… There maybe a conflict but many… plenty of people in this country coexist in both worlds.


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