Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Neil DeGrass Tyson @ BYU - are you religious?

One of the things that I love about Neil DeGrass Tyson is that he is one cool cat when it comes to helping people accept controversial science. Instead of taking a more aggressive approach to the question of science versus religion (like Christopher Hitchens), he actually manages to help people understand and accept things like evolution and the Big Bang without alienating them from the start.

Here is a great example of his style from when he spoke at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. For a little background, BYU is a religious university for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). The Mormons are part of the group in America that believes in a sola scriptora view of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and a few other sacred texts that they have (at least on a leadership level -- some of the members are more liberal). This means that the leaders of the church routinely speak of things like Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, etc. like they're actual events in history, not metaphors. Normally, this would raise the ire of most scientists, mainly because the fact that such events did not occur in the Earth's history is provable scientifically, at least up to the point where eveything starts becoming a miracle where the laws of nature have been suspended (think Santa Clause).

Despite this, Dr. Tyson still has enough class to answer the inquisitive young girl in this clip gently when she asks him if he's religious. The answer is no, but he tells her that in a nice way.

I am sure he's one cool cat in real life.

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