Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Effects of Religion on Scientific Advancement

NEW YORK - JUNE 10:  Astrophysicist Dr. Neil d...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Niel DeGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist extraordinaire,  gave this talk to the National Academy of Sciences where he discusses the effects of religion on on scientific advancement, with a special emphasis on the ancient Muslim world versus the Muslim world today.

While I do enjoy this video and generally agree with the conclusion that faith stifles scientific inquiry (at least on average), I would criticize Dr. Tyson on a few points. First, the arguments in this video are made in a pretty ad hoc fashion. One data point (the medieval Muslim world) does not make a convincing argument. I would have liked to see Tyson incorporate more of a discussion to seeming counterexamples of this principle, including the protestant reformation in Europe, where a religious revolution was concurrent with a scientific one.

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite PlanetI would have also liked to have seen a better definition of the type of religion and God Tyson was addressing in his arguments. The traditional and easily debunked gods of, says, traditional Christianity or Islam are far different than the New Age spiritualism movements of Deepak Chopra and others, and I think that each would affect science to a greater or lesser degree.

Still, I concede that the talk was good, considering the time constraints probably present for a talk at the prestigious NAS. So, all in all, good job by Dr. Tyson.

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