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Is Neil deGrasse Tyson an Atheist?

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In the attached video you can watch a Q&A with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The Q is:

“you have great reverence and awe for the universe. I’m wondering if you believe in God or a higher power of some form.”

His A is:

“I’ve spoken with people who have had deep religious experiences and they use, there’s a certain vocabulary that they draw from; they talk about majesty and being humbled and being awed. And I look at the universe and I’m using all their same vocabulary. And I feel sort of energized and lifted. I wonder if it’s stimulating the same part of the brain…

Every account of a higher power that I’ve seen described, of all religions okay, that I have seen, include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that higher power. Now when I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.

So, personally I, I, it’s hard for me to make that connection. That being said there’s about 40% of American scientist, pray to a personal God. So, empirically, to be a scientist is not the same thing as to be an Atheist…

Now, depending on which scientific discipline you ask that percent will be different, but it averages to 40. In the general American public, the number is up around 90, so there is a difference…but those scientists, to make it clear, who are productive as scientists are not getting their science out of the Bible.

What Galileo noted 400 years ago, he was the first to, really, make this observation of things, he said, after careful study of the Bible and after careful study of the universe, he concluded the Bible tells you how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

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For those interested, see "Galileo - A Story of a Hero of Science" and while you are at it, "The Copernican Myths".

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In our recent article, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” fact or fiction?, we noted that Tyson has stated (stated during the Atheist Beyond Belief Conference, San Diego in November of 2006 AD, session two):

“I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t. That’s really what we’ve got to address here. Otherwise, the public is secondary to this...if you can’t convert our colleagues, why do you have any hope that you’re going to convert the public?”

This is why he was referred to as an Atheist missionary; 85% is not enough, he wants to convert even more. Now, he is right in that Atheism has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with science. But as for Atheism and science, in the article PZ Myers Said That Scientific Thinking Has a Corrosive Influence on Religious Belief, we noted an interview of Atheist missionary and adherent of the positive affirmation of God’s non-existence sect of Atheism, Professor PZ Myers with DJ Grothe:

DJ: "What's most important to you: advancing atheism or advancing the public understanding of science - or are they kind of one in the same for you?"

PZ: "They are inseparable."

DJ: "You've suggested quite a few times that the more you know about science the more likely it is that you are gonna end up an atheist."

PZ: "Yes, that's, that's what we know from the statistics of people going into science. That science has a great corrosive influence on religious belief. It isn't always going to destroy religious beliefs, of course. There's, there's a number of fairly prominent scientists who are religious. But in general, most people, when they get training in the scientific method and start applying it in the lab and start applying it in their real life experiences, find themselves questioning religion a lot more."

DJ: "Yeah, Jonathan Miller had that study out a few years ago, you know, countries in Europe, people score higher in science literacy therefore, they were more accepting of, of evolution, more naturalistic. But, the University of Buffalo recently had a study, oh I think just in the last year, that suggested that it was a chicken and egg sort of thing. That people who were already kind of skeptical and secular ended up choosing to go into the sciences rather than the other way around."

PZ: "Yes I, I can see it working both ways. That's not earth shaking news either, I don't think. If you're into religion you are going to be steered away, by your own interests, from science. So there's, there is a self-selection going on. But still, you know, we, we want more scientists right? We want more people thinking critically and skeptically about the world around them, it's something that we want to encourage lots more people [sic]."

Note that Neil deGrasse Tyson anthropomorphizes the universe. As far as we know, the universe does not “want” anything as that would denote that the universe is a conscious, sentient being.

According to a general Atheist view; it is the universe which gave us life and sustains us. It is the uncaused first cause, it is eternal or came from eternal uncaused matter and its laws are omnipresent and omnipotent. No one caused nothing (or, an eternal something) to explode for no reason and made everything without meaning.

Note also that, ironically, Atheists, generally, complain that it is God who seeks to kill us (without providing an ethical premise upon which to condemn killing...actually, murder).

That “those scientists, to make it clear, who are productive as scientists are not getting their science out of the Bible” is a gross generalization. Firstly, some are getting it from the Bible such as Russell Humphreys, recipient of the following honors and awards:

Sandia National Laboratories Award for Excellence 1995.

Sandia National Laboratories Award for Excellence "in developing and executing new and innovative light ion target theory," 1990.

U.S. Patent No. 4,808,368 (Feb 28, 1989) "High voltage supply for neutron tubes in well-logging applications."

Sandia National Laboratories Exceptional Contribution Award, for Rimfire laser-triggered gas-insulated switch, 1988.

Industrial Research Magazine IR-100 award to PBFA-II project, 1986.

Industrial Research Magazine IR-100 award for lightning waveform recorder (to D. R. Humphreys and two others), 1978.

U.S. Patent No. 4,054,835 (Oct. 18, 1977) "Rapid-response electric field sensor."

Winner, Eighteenth Annual Westinghouse National Science Talent Search (1959).

The point is that the very science to which Tyson is referring is, itself, premised upon the Bible and its fields and methods where formulated, largely, by Bible believers.

Moreover, Neil deGrasse Tyson implied that while he employs the terminology of majesty, humility, awe, being energized and lifted at/by the universe, he cannot be said to worship the universe because he fears it. Well, the Bible is replete with references to the essential need for fear of YHVH in His worshippers.

Consider this, when I was in martial arts I feared my instructor. He once threw a kick at my crotch and went on to do something else. I felt nothing because he did not kick my crotch but just threw a kick at it. Yet, when I looked down; his dusty footprint was right there, dead center of my pants. Thus, I feared him but I was not scared of him and it seems that a lot of people confuse and thus correlate fear and being scared.

Thus, Tyson can worship that which he fears. In fact, he gives us a great example of Neo-Pagan Atheism which, as is noted in the Bible’s Romans chapter one:

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things…25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen…

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient…”

Lastly, for the sake of clarity; note that the Buddhist mystic Atheist, Sam Harris, does not like the terms Buddhist, mystic or Atheist and yet, he is a Buddhist mystic Atheist. Likewise, Neil deGrasse Tyson has elucidated that he avoids the label "atheist" because it causes people to make all sorts of unflattering (and often untrue) assumptions (Neil deGrasse Tyson on Why He Doesn’t Call Himself an Atheist, Rationally Speaking, March 10, 2014 AD).

Not liking the word, term, label “Atheist” is not the same as not being one.

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For more info on Neo-Pagan Atheism see:

Atheism Spirituality

Dan Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is a religious cult which contains many relevant links at the end of it.

For more general info, see:

Science

Intelligent Design

Cosmology

Evolution

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