Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientism
This is a very clear discussion of how Scientism can distort the entire philosophical discussion around ethics, morality, and religion. Even if the individual who is touting it is being sincere. I highly recommend reading it over.
One thought on “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientism”
I have to admit that I sometimes wince at the catchphrases people latch onto. There are a lot of memes floating around that I wish would just die. This “it’s true whether you believe it or not” thing is one of them. “It works whether or not you believe in it” or “truth has nothing to do with your beliefs” would have made more sense in my opinion. “Science is true” really doesn’t make any sense at all. I suspect he was trying to paraphrase a quip attributed to Bohr relating to a horseshoe nailed over a door in his house. He was alleged to have said, “No, I’m not superstitious but they tell me it works whether you believe in it or not.”
I think this Raw Story article gives the full context: http://tinyurl.com/mrn2gw8
It also shows that the meme actually misquotes Tyson slightly. He didn’t say, “The good thing about science is that its true whether or not you believe in it.” He said, “That’s the good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.” I think that conveys a slightly different meaning or, at least, it can be interpreted differently: The “it” in “it’s true” refers to a particular “scientific truth”, the “it” in “it works” refers to science.
I don’t think he’s saying that science has all the answers or that science is never wrong. The gist of the conversation is that we don’t have to consider ALL opposing viewpoints. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider ANY opposing viewpoints, only the ones that are supported by evidence or logical reasoning.
Am I extrapolating more than is in the conversation? I might be. I’m interpreting his words based on the entire conversation as well as many other interviews, presentations and writings Tyson has done. He probably could have said it more clearly but it was The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, not a lecture at a AAAS convention. Briggs’ article comes across (to me) as an unfair ad hominem.
I’m reminded of a different not-so-funny meme about relationships: “If something I said could be interpreted in a good way or a bad way why do you always assume I meant it in the bad way?”