Neil deGrasse Tyson on Science and Faith
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".
Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017).
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.
The astrophysicist debunks the notion that scientists cannot be believers
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.
- At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
- See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
- There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.
For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.
A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."
Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.
Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.
As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.
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