Neil deGrasse Tyson- Debunks Creation (Intelligent Design)May 02, 2023
nice I flew in from New York City this morning so it's dinner time so I'm ready you have dinner for me here thank you first for this invitation to come present and I am familiar with many of your names and faces and even close. friends with some of you what i wanted to do was bring to the table some topics that i haven't seen commonly discussed that i think should be front and center for the next few days sadly i missed Professor Weinberg's talk because I try to get her I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning in New York City to get here and the best I could do was halfway missed her talk completely but I got halfway sorry okay , but I learned from insiders that in fact we have a significant overlap in our discussion of Islam from a thousand years ago, so forgive me if I repeat something that you may have already heard, but I was going to bring it up anyway because there is a context, there is a larger context that I want to share with you and I was told that I have full control here.
Let's see if this works. Oh case, you're wondering. That is the Eagle Nebula. One of the few photos you will see. Hubble telescope, this is a one-meter telescope at the Kipp Peak Observatory in Arizona and the shape of the eagle is not perceptible, it's almost barely perceptible in this frame because the eagle is about two to three times bigger than this and the head of the eagle would be up here so up here and the wings to the left and to the right perhaps the most famous Hubble image is a close up of this area here which has been variously called the pillars of
creationGod. fingers and all kinds of other religious references people feel that way when they look at pictures of the cosmos of course I was always curious that in the same universe there are things like the belly of a tarantula and when you zoom in no one thinks about the religious. thoughts when they make those observations when it's part of the same universe, but I'll come back to that in a few moments, so here what I want to do is highlight a few issues and these are issues that came together for an essay that I wrote that appeared in the journal Natural History the darwin edition was the opening of our now traveling darwin exhibit is no longer in the museum but the darwin edition brought together stories articles about the relevance of evolution not only as an important concept in biology but is an important concept in all of science and I thought long and hard about how I could contribute to this because I don't know enough biology to be meaningful on that subject and then I realized that there are elements of fact the clever
designmovement that clearly there are a lot of teeth that limbs , the people who attend this workshop, have put on that topic and I'm wondering if I have something to contribute to that and I realized that I did so I want to fill a niche that I think is left unfilled so let's To continue, let me start with the Ptolemy arm first.
I don't know if we know that he really looked like that, but Tommy, you know he was one of the greatest scientists of all time and the most influential scientist and his most important work is of course Almagest, which in Arabic means the greatest. and in it he encodes the healing geocentric universe and this earth-centered universe prevailed for centuries until Copernicus and Galileo turned it around, but what I want to draw your attention to is the notes he wrote in the margin of the manuscript of his work, let me remind you back then you looked up at the night sky and the planets moved against the background stars they wandered because that's what the word in greek means is wanderer and there were seven of these objects including the sun and the moon and just they were moving going left and then slowing and stopping and then backing up and then back up again and this was cut out this is a complete mystery mystery and of course the heavens were not earth so the fact that that you didn't really understand what was going on there was fine and to be expected because that was the work of the gods and us. mortal here on earth with you you can't understand it don't lose sleep over the fact that maybe you never will now Ptolemy had the best explanation anyone had come up with with epicycles and the like, but nevertheless this is the light of this is the limit between what is known and what is unknown about how the machinery of the universe works and he writes these words that, for me, are one of the most beautiful and poetic references to the state of knowledge ever written.
I know that I am mortal by nature. and ephemeral, but when I follow the movements of the celestial bodies at will, I know that I can touch the earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and have my fill of ambrosia. of religious feeling at the limits of your knowledge and this is a trend that will continue for thousands of years to follow this at least 2000 years to follow this and you don't have and this whole notion of
intelligentdesign this this this quote that I just read it's from Ptolemy invoking intelligent design, no he's not trying to bring it into the classroom, he doesn't know, there is the politics of intelligent design in modern times, but I think it's been swept under the rug What we have to deal with as a community of people who are sort of truth seekers is the fact that some of the greatest minds that have come before us have done this, okay, that's Ptolemy, can we go on, who? else we have an interesting case of Galileo Galileo? he was kind of an exception to this we all know he was a deeply religious man a lot of the trouble he got into was because he was a bit nasty ok he could have been nice to the pope and he didn't and why course, me paraphrasing I mean I'm dumb that's the Reader's Digest version of what happened during that period but let me share with you a few lines that he wrote to Christina who is the Grand Duchess of Tuscany some of these quotes you've heard before, but I think it is worth taking them seriously the Bible tells you how to go to heaven and not how the heavens go that is one of the famous quotes attributed to Galileo another is I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who gave us endowed with senses, reason and intellect, he intended us to give up its use, so I see him as one of the first to say, okay, if religion has a purpose, if it has a purpose, it must not be safe that it will serve as a science textbook ok so he was the first to suggest this division so as not to get rid of religion of course as i said he was a religious guy himself but it gets interesting when we get philosophical interesting when we this gentleman I can back up here Sir Isaac Newton I don't know what you know about Isaac Newton, but everything I've read about him tells me that there is no greater genius to have walked the surface of this earth.
I don't know if you've ever felt that way about someone. I didn't feel that for anyone. Just by reading what this man wrote, it's fine, line by line by line. This guy was connected to the machinery of the universe. I think there he is impeccably brilliant impeccably brilliant and let me read again what we heard from Mike Shermer earlier in Isaac Newton's writings by the way in his Principia here is page one page zero of Principia in which he would like to discover the laws of movement F is equal to MA he discovers the laws of gravity you know that everything is there and he did all this before he was 26 years old and in this when he talks about movement there is no reference to God when he talks about his bodily force that deduced this universal law of gravitation there is no mention of God, he's just nowhere there because he understood it, he was on top of it, he was there even though the understanding of the motions of the planets before he came was given to God because no one understood it well, no one cared well. enough to really believe that they had complete predictive drive in the way that the universal law of gravitation supplied and then what you have is Isaac Newton ditching the reference to God until he realizes that if all you do is calculating the two body problem here you have like the moon and the earth yes he has that calculated now you have the sun and the earth you have that but wait a minute now the earth and the moon revolve around the sun and sometimes we are close to Mars and some not when it gets close to Mars there is a pull that is stronger there than anywhere else in the orbit and then it comes here and then Jupiter pulls and all these many tugs and then you have to do this to the body problem to the Earth, the moon, the earth and Sun Earth Moon and Mars Earth Moon Mars and Jupiter and it quickly becomes a complex problem and you realize that, in fact, applying this kind of simple approach to calculate the stability of the solar system , he discovers that he cannot stabilize the solar system.
Don't explain how we've stayed like this for as long as it possibly took since the beginning of the universe and then what do you say? It is at its limits. It is at its limits. So you read forbid God is nowhere until you get it. to General Sholem and then he says the six primary planets back then there were six planets ok now there are eight in case you weren't aware even if you thought there were nine now eight the six primary planets revolve around the Sun in circles concentric with the Sun and with motions directed towards the same parts and almost in the same plane now you have the whole picture and you are trying to explain that but you can't just do two body calculations certainly not without a computer without a new type of mathematics, he says, but it must not be conceived, but must it not be conceived, that the mere mechanical cause that could give rise to so many regular motions, this most beautiful system of the Sun, the planets, and the comets, could only proceed from the advice and control of an intelligent and powerful being this is Isaac Newton invoking intelligent design at the fringes of his knowledge and I want to bring to the table the fact that there are school systems that want to bring intelligent design into the classroom but also have the brightest people ever once walked this earth doing the same thing and the prophets, so it's a deeper challenge than just educating the public, it's deeper than, as you know, from the books written by our fellow scientists who do that, they take these these these deeply resonant and charitable positions towards their religious beliefs maybe the real question here let me back up for a moment you know we've all seen the data 40 percent there are 90 percent either the West or the American public believes in a personal God who answers their sentences and then he asks what is the average of that percentage of scientists over the disciplines, it's around 40% and then he says what about the elite scientists members of the National Academy of Sciences, an article on that data recently in nature, said 85% of the National Academy rejected a personal god and then they compared it to 90 percent of the public you know that's not the story there they missed the story the story what that article should have said is how come this number is not zero that's the story okay so my steam colleague here cross-eyed professor krauss professor krauss here he says all we have to do is make a scientifically literate audience when you do it how can they do better than the scientists themselves in their percentages of who is religious and who is not? a bit unrealistic I think so there's something else going on that no one seems to be talking about as you get more scientific yes religiousness goes down but it has asymptotes asymptotes not at zero it has in terms from some other level, so they should be the subject of everyone's investigation, not the public, I'll tell you it's not 85 percent rejection, it's the 15 percent of the brightest minds the nation has he accepts it and that's something we can't just sweep under the rug, otherwise we're being disingenuous with our efforts here and I'll be gone.
I know I'm standing between you and lunch here, so let me try to go fast if you don't think so. I mean, I think Newton is one of the brightest. the brightest to ever walk the earth and i'm not the only one who feels this is a statue in trinity church cambridge and he's through the open door there so you walk up to the statue he's without his curls here i was deeply annoyed by that i thought he was really fashionable with his long hair but apparently it was probably just a wig at all times you look at the base of the statue vaguely translated from the gender of everyone who has ever been human not there is greater intellect than this man so i am not alone in this sentiment and this man wrote those words but let's move on because there is more to talk about here we would like to stop at Newton let's go to Christian Huygens ok brilliant brilliant scientist.
I am a great Dutch scientist in chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and he died the year this work was published, one of my worksscience writing favorites and it's cosmos eros, which is an exploration into the existence of life on the known planets using the available knowledge of the day, so for example, did you know that late Huygens was the first to identify Saturn's ring like a ring yes i got that right carolyn it's like that oh no i thought he was the first to figure that would be a ring then the plugins would be the first to notice it ok we have madame saturn here in the room in case you don't I know, okay, my colleague Carolyn Porco, who we'll hear from later.
I just got told, but anyway, Huygens' brilliant companion and one of the probes on the Cassini spacecraft was named Huygens, a European probe that descended to the surface of Titan, so he's an important figure in history. of science, then, what does he say in his writings? Look at the year 1696. Gravity was well known. The laws of motion were well known. Newton was quite influential long before the change. of the century there and so when he talks about the orbits of the planets it is done he talks about the moons of Jupiter Dunn talks about the new rings rings around sad fact everything is fine but when he talks about biology and life something that is not well understood then or today , boom, there go his references to God, but the references obtained are not found anywhere else in those writings, nowhere else does he say, I suppose no one would deny it, but that there is something more artifice, something more miraculous in the production and growth of plants and animals than in the non-living. heaps of inanimate bodies to the finger of God and the wisdom of divine providence manifests itself in them much more clearly than in the others he doesn't say that about the orbits we're done with the orbits as Mike Shermer had pointed out we're done, it's on a place where no one really knows they have the answer so it invokes this is smart design once again pure flat simple so you know this story i gotta tell it because it's great ok so Laplace PhD I'm In addition, at the end of the 18th century, he wrote a five-volume tome on celestial mechanics.
A brilliant work. Is there. expression with the hammer of calculus is fine, it brings all the weaponry of mathematics to influence the laws of physics that were established by Isaac Newton Isaac Newton only touched them, they were not fully developed and in this work he shows that he developed something more than it had been seeping into the mathematical community, but he developed and arguably even perfects a branch of mathematics that we would call perturbation theory where instead of pulling your hair out, you say how do you calculate this couple of forces and this couple and this pair and all the equations go to hell in perturbation theory, allows you to systematically and reliably calculate the effect of a small jerk in the presence of a series of small jerks in the presence of singular large jerks and is more or less what's happening. in most of the solar system and when you do that and you do it correctly you can show that despite the chaos effects that other time scales related to them have, you can show that the solar system was in fact stable more beyond the predictions of Isaac Newton, for what he realizes this he does not invoke God because he realized it and in a story that may be apocryphal but I see more in favor than against this is this time of course coincides with the era of Napoleon Napoleon being French and Laplace being France does not need translation Napoleon if you visit his library they are not just some kind of world history books and battles they are engineering books they are physics books this man wanted to know where his cannonballs would land , he was much more than some kind of lucky general. he was in the physics, engineering, and material science of warfare, so he immediately called up Laplace's five-volume production, read it cover to cover, called Laplace up, and said, sir, I have the exact quote here, wait, Napoleon asked.
What role did God play in the construction and regulation of the heavens? This is something like that's what Newton would ask. it gets to a point where you start enjoying the majesty of God and then your discovery stops, it just stops, you're no good at pushing that frontier anymore waiting for someone else to come after you who doesn't have God in them. brain and who says it's a great problem i want to solve it they come and solve it but look at the time lag this was a hundred year lag and the mathematics that is in perturbation theory is like crumbs to Newton he could have invented that the guy invented calculus on his own on a practically dare when someone asked him what do you know you know like why planets orbit in ellipses and not some other shape and he couldn't answer he's going home for two months come back coming differential integral calculation because he needed that to answer that court to answer that question and so this is the kind of mind we were dealing with Newton could have gone there but he didn't his religiousness stopped him and so we're left with the understanding of course , that intelligent design, though real in the history of science, though real in the presence of some sort of philosophical drivers, is nonetheless a philosophy of ignorance, and therefore regardless of what our political agenda is , all you have to say is science is a philosophy of discovery intelligent design philosophy of ignorance that's all i don't need to see straight i don't need you to have discovered anything lately if you don't get out of the science room but i'm not going to say no show it because if it's real it happened, so I don't want people to sweep it under the rug because if you do you're neglecting something fundamental that's going on in people's minds when they're confronted with things they don't understand and the biggest thing happens to them. minds like everyone else, if not most people in the audience, so let me just run a few slides here.
I want to draw your attention to something that we all know, we all know intuitively whether or not you have thought about it explicitly, you go around the world and you find moments in places where nations have excelled in one issue or another there is a birth of that period in which they stand out and then there's a peak and sometimes it dips and sometimes they hold and then you can ask the culture of that what was going on in that nation to support those discoveries and then what happened when they were over and I call that guy naming rights if you were there first and you did better than you name things particle physics in this country in the united states it was like going gang bangers after world war ii and in the discovery of atomic elements look at the periodic table it's berkeley in california you know we have half the united states up there at the top heaviest elements of the periodic table i'm there sir that's ok that's not because the world liked california or berkeley it's because the work was done here that's because there was an effort to excel in those stuffs and it shows in other ways which I'll give you briefly you know part of naming rights is that you don't have to name it for example even though we didn't invent the internet we certainly exploited it here in the States United, we did that kind of first and best and so your email address doesn't end in period u.s. everyone else is in the world they have to say which country they come from we don't agree it's so simple but it's the consequence of being there first and doing it better than anyone has ever done before do you know the british postage stamp is the only postage stamp in the world that doesn't identify the country of origin because they invented postage stamps, so why do they have to say what country it is? we're the greeks and the romans and that's the latter this time because they did a really good job of thinking that the whole world of mythology is the heavens really stuck with us so I'm going to make one more important point for not get rich about you here but on september 11, 2001 as we all know this was happening in new york city this is the view from my window i live four blocks from ground zero sorry this is the corner of the building i live in i went out to getting this view, at that time I was judging whether I should go pick up my daughter who was in elementary school two blocks north of the North Tower.
North is to the right in this image, so I want to get a closer view at a very high zoom. lens to see what while that was going on the plane flew into the South Tower and no one thought of terrorism until the second one got hit the first one was some kind of bad tragedy and these are just three frames from my camcorder this is on T is equal to zero this is a second with a fraction of a second the plane was moving probably 500 miles per hour and just to understand the black building that kind of black monolithic building that is 50 stories tall this is the people from New York City so tall buildings are everywhere and that's just a hotel a 50 story hotel and it's the foreshortening towers because they're the angle that this is shown at I put them up because a few days after this President Bush I don't remember where he said this on the steps of the White House in the Rose Garden or in the Capitol in an attempt to distinguish who were the terrorists who flew these planes into the buildings and into which they crashed in Pennsylvania and in Washington to distinguish us from a he caught vaguely quoting a phrase from the bible saying our God is the God who named the stars now this is before I was in their rolodex that's ok because it might have helped them there the fact it is that of all the stars that have names, two thirds of them have arabic names, so this was not. list just goes on and on and on and on and so where does this come from? as? as? how do you understand us? how does it happen? just catching up here ok it happens because there was a particularly fertile period which Professor Weinberg duly discussed and around that period which is a period of 300 years the intellectual center of the world was Baghdad Baghdad was completely open to all visitors everyone the skeptical Christian Jewish travelers that today we might call atheists, they were all there exchanging ideas, oh, all of them, and it was that period when we had the advances in engineering, biology, medicine, mathematics, our numbers are called what Arabic numerals have. stop and think about that, you know who, like in America, we pause, pause this, why do they call Arabic numerals? it's happening and it's all traceable not to a thousand year long tradition in islam it's traceable to this 300 year period this 300 year period and then they had naming rights the most expensive beautifully carved astrolabes come out of this period there's a huge collection of these in the adler plan in chicago if you ever want to check so nav celestial area all this can be traced back to this period and so something happened and what happened as described above i would save it and me will forgive because by repeating what you might have heard the 12th century kicks in and then you get the influence of this scholar al-ghazali ok and from his work you get the philosophy that mathematics is the work of the devil and nothing good can go out. from that philosophy which combined with another type of codification the philosophical codification of what Islam would be and become the whole intellectual basis of that enterprise collapsed and has not recovered since during that period all these books were translated into Arabic in a scale not seen since then and so why am I going here because I'm trying to explain to you that the fast-forwarding of the dangers here is that they're fast-forwarding to 21st century America and you're asking what influences we're feeling right now because that period that naming period in Islam stopped and never recovered because the way of thinking about the natural world, revelation replaced research, so fast forward to the 21st century and what do you find?
You get stuff like this, okay, this is in America okay, now what I find interesting is the level of passion that it takes to do it. You have to pay for this, okay, and it means a lot of you are mad at the Big Bang, they're mad at the Big Bang. At our museum in New York, the American Museum of Natural History, they come to the Big Bang exhibit, and sometimes I don't feel like having that conversation. and this we have some kind of monkeys holding hands with people in skeleton form and then they never go back to the big back they are gone forever ok as egregious as the big bang is monkeys and people are worse, green is a worse transgression.
On the surface, there's that, but there's also a bit of clever design. Here's one who wants to accept the science, but then it's like what's before the Big Bang that we don't know yet, so God was there, so of course intelligent design. it's basically a God of the gaps, but my favorite way to end this isjust reflect on i want to just do a quick rant about stupid design and this will be quick look at all the things that just want to kill us ok most planets orbits are unstable star formation is completely inefficient in most places in the universe will kill life instantly instantly people who say all the forces of nature are perfect for life excuse me okay look at the volume of the universe where you can't live you will die instantly that's not that's not that's not what i i call the Garden of Eden ok a galaxy orbits that we orbit once every two hundred million years you will surely come close to a supernova that will deplete your ozone layer and kill everyone on the surface who otherwise has no dark skin because your high energy beams will give you skin cancer we are on a collision course with the vanished andromeda galaxy it is this beautiful spiral we have we have and of course we are in a one way expanding universe as we move further from the i forget as the temperature of the universe approaches asymptotically absolutely thats the universe so the earth the volcanoes the tsunami just killed you know i think the numbers are going up 200,000 people tornado flooding this is a sign that there is something benevolent out there and this 90 % should be 99 percent as noted above it's one of all life that has ever lived it's now extinct the inner solar system it's a shooting gallery comets asteroids get down and look how long it took to make that multicellular life not since the beginning of life on earth happened quickly, but not multicellular life, you needed your cyanobacteria to turn on the oxygen for the oxygen budget to work, then you could have sort of rocket fuel for multicellular creatures, but that took half a billion years, that's not an efficient plan for us and in human beings, this is like the most tragic of them.
I don't even include here the expression of free will where people want to kill each other. i'm talking about nature killing us without the help of humans aggressor childhood leukemia hemophilia all this all this and we praise the human eye so much but anyone who has seen the full width of the electromagnetic spectrum will recognize how blind we are well and part of that blindness means that we can't see we can't detect magnetic fields ionizing radiation radon we are like sitting ducks for ionizing radiation we have to eat constantly because we are warm blooded crocodiles eating one chicken a month is ok ok so we are always looking for food these gases in the background no you can smell them taste them inhale them you're dead ok so i'm almost done sorry i'm taking your time here so and with birth defects most other weeks it's like abuse and infection and things that human beings have something to see yes we have no idea oops i pressed a button by accident sorry i have no idea i have no idea they are tragic in particular they happen to the family grieved because of that and you just look at the pictures of these aborted stools because fetuses because of the y most of these are stillborn others are born you know they are born with the heart outside the body and so this is all just stupid design and the problem is if you look for what is clever and you can find some things that are really beautiful and really good those it's the guts of intelligence, you know the spherical shoulder socket and many things you could point to, but then you stop looking at all the things that confuse that revelation and if I come across a frozen waterfall and I'm surprised by all its beauty, then I'll tell you I go around the rock and try to find a millipede or some kind of deadly newt. and then putting that in context and realizing that of course the universe is not here for us for any singular purpose, my favorite of all is of course that you breathe, eat and drink through the same hole in your body , which guarantees that a percentage of us will drown. every year, ok, imagine if you had a separate hole for breathing, eating and talking, that would be really cool, who could drink, breathe and talk? and you would never drown ok and it's not a hard request dolphins breathe and eat different holes in their body and that's a mammal so i'm not asking i'm not you know this is like santa claus can bring this one and this one of course my favorite of all what is going on between our legs just like you?
I hear we've heard it if I get an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewer system no engineer would design that at all it's like I'm wrong I could only juxtapose elements so what I want to bring to the table is the fact that that I don't want the religious person in the lab telling me that God is responsible for what they can't find out because look at the arrogance that you're in the lab and you say I don't know how this works and not just that no one alive on earth knows how this works and not just that no one born will know how this works it's a little bold when you think about it and then you leave it and go to the next problem this problem is a cure for alzheimer's or cancer or anything else i don't want them in the science classroom, so the issue is simply about progress and discovery, and in my recent forays into Washington, well, I've been closer to a community of Republicans than I've ever been in my life because I grew up in New York City and in New York City I think that person is a Republican back there, you see no, not that with the one behind that person, yes, that's the Republican, there's another. that's in new york so you grow up this way and i get baptized into a republican administration.
I had two back-to-back appointments in the Bush administration, one in aerospace, getting into the aerospace industry, and one in space exploration, but basically the future of NASA and I figured it out. something that spends so much time in the community of powerful republicans that republicans, above all else, don't want to die poor, so there's a limit to how far this will go and i bet most of the people in this room, even the gathered at this table, they were very worried. the dover trial i was wondering how that would turn out and i looked at him and i said i'm not worried because he's a republican judge and in the end if you put people who aren't making discoveries in the science classroom that's the end of the foundation of his economics future, so I was a little more confident than others because of this sensitivity to the money aspect, but we all know that tomorrow's economies will be based on innovations in science and technology, and of course that cuts it.
Bottom line if we lose our civilization like it did in Islam in 1100 and last thought I'll leave you with worries I worry a lot if you do the math ok yeah just look look at all the Nobel Prize winners even there were some in this room. and ask how many were muslim and it's like one maybe two ok i think the second one was in economics and the one we're referring to was described above co-nobel prize winner with professor weinberg abdul salam and he's not Middle Eastern Muslim it's Pakistani Muslims okay now how many Nobel Prizes are won by Jews it's like a quarter of Nobel Prizes okay a high fraction of the total and then look how many Muslims are there the range is like a billion of Muslims, how many Jews, fifteen million at the most, okay, so you did the ratio of these numbers if Islam hadn't collapsed in its intellectual position in the year 1100 and he just did the ratios that all Nobel Laureates would have today , so the fact that there are not just a few but almost zero is deeply concerning.
I'm concerned about what lost what the brilliant may have expressed and not in that community for the last thousand years, so what I want to bring to the table is why, that's the end of my talk, I mean that I want to put on the table why 85% of the National Academy rejects God I want to know why 15% do not and that is really what we have to address here otherwise the public is secondary thanks for your attention here
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