DeGrasse Tyson tries his hand at theology (again)

December 29, 2015

degrasse_tyson

A friend linked to this video on Facebook. Here’s what I wrote in the comments section. Thoughts? I could have written much more, but I thought this was a good start. What would you add or subtract from this response? 

A couple of thoughts. First, who cares what Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks about God? He knows as much about theology as I know about astrophysics. He ought to know enough about science, however, to say that the question is beyond the scope of science—by definition. It’s metaphysical, and science is strictly limited to the physical.

On the question of benevolence, however, does he really think there are no signs of it in our world? The very fact that he’s here enjoying life ought to count in favor of benevolence. Or even that we have this wonderfully life-sustaining world, which works out quite well for most people most of the time. And often, when it doesn’t, it’s not because the universe lacks “benevolence.” It’s because human being are foolish.

This is all an interpretation, of course, but the “problem of good” seems like a bigger problem for an atheist than the “problem of evil” is for a believer.

Moreover, even using the word “benevolence” implies that there is such thing as “good” (bene- at the root). Where does the judgment “good” come from? After all, even natural disasters that don’t work out well for human beings often work out quite well for non-humans and the rest of the planet: a forest fire that destroys lives and property will also replenish the ecosystem of a forest; a tsunami that wipes out thousands of humans will be wonderful for marine life. Who’s to say that’s not “good”? (I’m not saying it is good, but from a strictly “scientific” point of view, why should deGrasse Tyson think otherwise?)

Even more importantly, neither deGrasse Tyson nor myself is in a position to say that our world could be better than it is, at least from a strictly physical point of view. The exact same physical forces that produce a sunny and mild spring day also produce (occasionally) tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Maybe it’s not possible to have one without the other. Who knows?

Besides, if the universe were any “better” (from deGrasse Tyson’s point of view), he likely wouldn’t exist. And neither would I. All of us are where we are because we got the universe that we got.

Who am I to complain about that? 😉

Not that you asked for any of this when you posted this! Sorry!

One Response to “DeGrasse Tyson tries his hand at theology (again)”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    I agree with what you say, but have a comment. I don’t think we need to so easily distinguish between “science” and “theology.” “For the invisible things of God are seen from what is created.” “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Etc. A truly rigorous scientific analysis shows that there must be a “creator” behind what we see. So to say that science proves there is no God is simply false coming out the gate, as a matter of science, not just theology or philosophy.


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