Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Enlightened religious people…don’t try to use the Bible as a textbook”

The astrophysicist spoke on "Cosmos," quantum physics and the trouble with using scripture as a scientific source

Topics: Neil degrasse Tyson, Creationism, cosmos, Evolution,

Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Enlightened religious people...don't try to use the Bible as a textbook"This photo released by Fox shows Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who hosts the television show, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," premiering Sunday, March 9, 2014, 9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT on Fox and simultaneously across multiple U.S. Fox networks. The series will explore how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time. (AP Photo/Fox, Patrick Eccelsine) (Credit: AP)

Neil deGrasse Tyson had some straightforward words about using the Bible as a scientific source. Specifically in terms of the Earth being created before the sun, as in Genesis, Tyson said, “None of that is consistent with any scientifically derived information about the world.” He continued, “So enlightened religious people know this, and don’t try to use the Bible as a textbook, using a Western example.”

Tyson made the comments during an interview this morning on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show.” In a segment called “Ask and Astrophysicist,” the man who rebooted Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” answered questions from Lehrer and New York City residents about everything under (and beyond) the sun.

Intermingled between discussions of “Cosmos,” which premiered last night, and quantum physics, Lehrer asked Tyson about religion versus science:

“So the first episode of “Cosmos” told the story, among other things, of a 16th century Italian monk Giordano Bruno who publicly thought, or said that he thought the universe was infinite. And he was dismissed and eventually excommunicated and killed by the Catholic Church. Did you bring that into the show because you see any scary parallels between science and religion today?”

Tyson responded with an initial guffaw, and responded that two others wrote the show. But on the subject of Giordano Bruno, Tyson said, “His god, as he conceived it, was bigger than the god expressed literally in scripture or as interpreted by the cardinals of the [Catholic] Church of the day.”

“The issue there is not religion versus non-religion, or religion versus science,” Tyson said. “The issue is ideas that are different versus dogma.” (All categories of dogma from religious to political.)

Lehrer then wondered if ideas and dogma are compatible today. Neil deGrasse Tyson said that around one-third of “Western/American scientists claim that there is a god to whom they pray” and they’re “fully functioning” scientists. Tyson points out that the problem is using your scripture as a scientific source. As the astrophysicist put it:



“There is no example of someone reading their scripture and saying, ‘I have a prediction about the world that no one knows yet, because this gave me insight. Let’s go test that prediction,’ and have the prediction be correct.”

He also stated that there is an issue of teaching scripture-based science in schools and said there’s no history of scientists or “even atheists” harping on Sunday schools to have them teach scientific views. The entire interview is worth listening to especially if you, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, believe that “everyone should have their mind blown once a day.”

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...