Neil deGrasse Tyson: Very Probably Wrong?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is, according to Wikipedia, “an American astrophysicist and science communicator. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and a Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.”

Mr. Tyson has been a frequent commentator on intelligent design vs evolution, as well as stellar formation, cosmology, galactic astronomy. He has on numerous occasions appeared on BBC News, the Colbert Report, and the Daily Show.

In one of his brief recorded presentations (I’m assuming this is an excerpt from a larger talk), available on YouTube, he speaks on the subject: Intelligent Design is Stupid.

A lot of what he says is amusing and thought-provoking. But it’s not all cogent.

Probably the most ridiculous of Mr. Tyler’s assertions here – and one that he says is his favorite – is that you “eat, breathe, eat (sic) and drink through the same hole in your body, guaranteeing that some percentage of us will choke to death every year. Imagine if you had a separate hole for breathing and eating… and talking? That would be just really cool, right? You could just drink, breathe and just talk, and you would never choke!”

It’s hard to fathom that Mr. Tyler doesn’t see – or at least doesn’t acknowledge – that if it’s evolution that has seen fit to have us physiologically configured in this way, a necessary corollary to his argument is that evolution too is stupid. If, as he argues, the outcome itself illustrates the stupidity of the “forces” that brought it about, then it’s simply not logical to include only one potential set of forces and to exclude others.

Sadly, what Mr. Tyler really seems to be saying is that he is a very intelligent man; humans aren’t designed the way he would have designed them; therefore we were not designed by an intelligent power or being.

I hate seeing a worthy cause argued badly. I’m not going to sit here and argue that we were created by intelligent design, even though I am as much a “religious” thinker as I am a “scientific” one. But if someone is going to make an argument and attempt to make it a convincing one, it ought not to violate the basic rules of logic.

When otherwise perhaps brilliant scientists such as Mr. Tyler, or Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking are asked questions having to do with God or the possibility of a higher power, it seems to me that they might want to admit a priori their lack of credentials to address the subject in an expert way, and could only possibly offer an opinion.

In the wise words of Sir Arthur C. Clarke:

When a distinguished but elderly statesman states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.


One thought on “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Very Probably Wrong?

  1. I found the perfect corroboration from Mr. E. F. Schumacher, in “A Guide for the Perplexed.” In the foreword, titled “On Philosophical Maps,” he quotes the psychiatrist of (as he says) “unshakeable sanity,” Viktor E. Frankl, in the following statement, which you really should read a couple of times and let it sink in.

    “The present danger does not really lie in the loss of universality on the part of the scientist, but rather in his pretense and claim of totality… What we have to deplore therefore is not so much the fact that scientists are specializing, but rather the fact that specialists are generalizing.”

    Mr. Schumacher goes on to contextualize this statement as follows:

    “After many centuries of theological imperialism, we have now had three centuries of an ever more aggressive ‘scientific imperialism,’ and the result is a degree of bewilderment and disorientation, particularly among the young, which can at any moment lead to the collapse of our civilization.”

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