I’m giving more than a few kudos to Neil deGrasse Tyson for a brief essay he wrote for the John Templeton Foundation. He’s expressed in few words something that I would never be able to, at least not so eloquently. Bringing to mind the warmness of Carl Sagan, Tyson really is starting to grow on me; I don’t think there’s anyone else alive today who can talk about issues such as the universe’s lack of a purpose, while still inspiring a sense of awe. He did a similar thing in his latest book Death by Black Hole, where, in one section, he described how the Earth, or at least the human race, will likely be destroyed one day, but infused it with excitement and joy rather than dread. I’m also reminded of this YouTube video, where he addresses Richard Dawkins in a curious tone on an issue that inspires anger in most people:
The context of the essay that began this essay was a question posed by the JTF, where they asked various people in the science fields whether the universe had a purpose. To give you an idea of the organization, they have a page where they simply put the one or two word answer (Tyson’s says “Not sure” — which is not what he’s saying in the essay at all, in my humble opinion).
To give you a better idea of the organization, they have worked on uniting science and religion for quite some time, and have experienced a lot of success, mainly due to whom they fund for science. Hell, if I were offered a large stipend for supporting religious research, I might be tempted to take it, too. From their website:
John Templeton expresses that his Foundation should serve as a philanthropic catalyst for research on concepts and realities such as love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity.
Now, of course, I’m all for all of those things, though they don’t really lend themselves to science. Science can’t tell you whether or not you should forgive someone, nor whether or not you love someone. I seem to recall Dawkins had a major problem with this foundation, which he addressed in The God Delusion, though I may be misremembering (the problem with getting an audiobook rather than the real thing is that it’s much harder to refer back to). Rather than attack them, however, Tyson seems to be playing their little game and, in taking the less popular response provides an extremely eloquent and convincing argument (compare it with a Yale Computer Science Professor’s response, which borders on incoherent and begins with the assumption that if the Earth has a purpose, then the Universe does, too — also, does Jane Goodall understand evolution at all?).
I often find it very difficult to keep my temper when arguing with blatant stupidity (if I get a chance to update in the near future, I have some real gems to share), but I’m finding it more and more necessary. Most people don’t want to listen to opposing views. For those that do, you’ve got to try your hardest to state your position in clear and concise language and, as best as you can, also refrain from getting pissed off.