Tag Archive: Neil deGrasse Tyson

15 Astounding Predictions for 2016 by Atheist Bruce Gerencser

end of the world

This is the time of year when Evangelical soothsayers, psychics, and Nate Silver (ESPN 538) make predictions for the coming year.  I thought, in keeping with the spirit of the New Year, that I, the atheist version of Carnac the Magnificent, would make a few predictions of my own. Here’s my 15 Astounding Predictions for 2016.

  1. Richard Dawkins will say something stupid.
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson will say something brilliant.
  3. The Pope will not get laid.
  4. Evangelicals will continue to say the rapture is nigh.
  5. At least three Evangelical preachers will be arrested and charged with molesting children and 25 others will be accused of sexual misconduct.
  6. Evangelicals will continue to say atheists hate God and secretly want to have wanton, immoral sex.
  7. Franklin Graham will be exposed as a cross dressing transvestite.
  8. Evangelical Calvinists will continue to say their critics don’t understand Calvinism.
  9. Bart Ehrman will write another book. It will be titled Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented their Stories of the Savior. I predict it will be released on March 1, 2016
  10. Donald Trump will say bat-shit crazy stuff and his followers will love it.
  11. Evangelicals will continue to think that Christianity is under attack and that secularists are trying to make Christianity illegal.
  12. Tea Party Republicans will continue to think that the lame stream media controls America and that Muslim socialist Barack Hussein Obama is coming to take their guns.
  13. The day after Thanksgiving, Fox News will say that there is a War on Christmas.
  14. One Million Moms will continue to be outraged over nudity, cursing, and gay kissing on TV. This year they will find their lost remote and learn that if they push the channel button it changes the channel.
  15. Democrats will win the presidency, a sure sign that the Antichrist is preparing to usher in the new world order.

Why I Have a Man Crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson

neil-degrasse-tyson-scientifically-literate

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is my favorite scientist. He’s an affable man with a unique ability to communicate complex science in a way that the non-science trained person (me) can understand what he is talking about. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of COSMOS, especially the part where deGrasse Tyson uses the calendar year to explain the history of the universe. I thought, what a wonderful, easy way to explain the history of the universe.

In March 2014, Neil deGrasse Tyson (NDT) sat down for an interview with Bill Moyers (BM), another man I greatly admire.  The interview is quite long. The complete interview transcript can be found on Alternet. What piqued my interest is what deGrasse Tyson said about science, myth, and religious faith:

BM: So when a child sings, or used to sing, I don’t think they do anymore, “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are,” it’s not twinkling. Something powerful, dramatic, and dynamic is happening to it. Right?

NDT: Well, yes, and we call that twinkling. So yeah, there’s starlight coming billions of, or millions of light years, well it depends on if it’s a galaxy, well, hundreds of thousands of light years across space, and it’s a perfect point of light as it hits our atmosphere, turbulence in the atmosphere jiggled the image, and it renders the star twinkling.

And by the way, planets are brighter than stars typically, like Jupiter and Venus. Venus has been in the evening skies lately. And if you go, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are,” and you, I want, you want to wish upon the star, most people are wishing on planets. That’s why their wishes don’t come true. Because the planets are the first stars to come out at night.

BM: Don’t you sometimes feel sad about breaking all these myths apart?

NDT: No, no, because I think it’s, some myths are, deserve to be broken apart. The, out of respect for the human intellect. That, no, when you’re writhing on the ground and froth is coming out of your mouth, you’re having an epileptic seizure. You have not been invaded by the devil. We got this one figured out, okay? I mean, discovery moves on. So, I don’t mind the power of myth and magic. But take it to the next frontier and apply it there. Don’t apply it in places where we’ve long passed what we already know is going on.

BM: Do you give people who make this case, that that was the beginning and that there had to be something that provoked the beginning, do you give them an A at least for trying to reconcile faith and reason?

NDT: I don’t think they’re reconcilable.

BM: What do you mean?

NDT: Well, so let me say that differently. All efforts that have been invested by brilliant people of the past have failed at that exercise. They just fail. And so I don’t, the track record is so poor that going forward, I have essentially zero confidence, near zero confidence, that there will be fruitful things to emerge from the effort to reconcile them. So, for example, if you knew nothing about science, and you read, say, the Bible, the Old Testament, which in Genesis, is an account of nature, that’s what that is, and I said to you, give me your description of the natural world based only on this, you would say the world was created in six days, and that stars are just little points of light much lesser than the sun. And that in fact, they can fall out of the sky, right, because that’s what happens during the Revelation.

You know, one of the signs that the second coming, is that the stars will fall out of the sky and land on Earth. To even write that means you don’t know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the wrong answer.

So what happened was, when science discovers things, and you want to stay religious, or you want to continue to believe that the Bible is unerring, what you would do is you would say, “Well, let me go back to the Bible and reinterpret it.” Then you’d say things like, “Oh, well they didn’t really mean that literally. They meant that figuratively.”

So, this whole sort of reinterpretation of the, how figurative the poetic passages of the Bible are came after science showed that this is not how things unfolded. And so the educated religious people are perfectly fine with that. It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literally, literal truth of God, that and want to see the Bible as a science textbook, who are knocking on the science doors of the schools, trying to put that content in the science room. Enlightened religious people are not behaving that way. So saying that science is cool, we’re good with that, and use the Bible for, to get your spiritual enlightenment and your emotional fulfillment.

BM: I have known serious religious people, not fundamentalists, who were scared when Carl Sagan opened his series with the words—Carl Sagan, from “Cosmos”: The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. I mean, that scared them, because they interpret that to mean, then if this is it, there’s nothing else. No God and no life after.

NDT: For religious people, many people say, “Well, God is within you,” or God, the, there are ways that people have shaped this, rather than, God is an old, grey-bearded man in the clouds. So if God is within you, what, I’m sure Carl would say, in you in your mind. In your mind, and we can measure the neurosynaptic firings when you have a religious experience.

We can tell you where that’s happening, when it’s happening, what you’re feeling like at the time. So your mind of course is still within the cosmos.

BM: But do you have any sympathy for people who seem to feel, only feel safe in the vastness of the universe you describe in your show if they can infer a personal God who makes it more hospitable to them, cares for them?

NDT: In this, what we tell ourselves is a free country, which means you should have freedom of thought, I don’t care what you think. I just don’t. Go think whatever you want. Go ahead. Think that there’s one God, two Gods, ten Gods, or no Gods. That is what it means to live in a free country. The problem arises is if you have a religious philosophy that is not based on objective realities that you then want to put in a science classroom. Then I’m going to stand there and say, “No, I’m not going to allow you in the science classroom.” I’m not telling you what to think, I’m just telling you in the science class, “You’re not doing science. This is not science. Keep it out.” That’s where I, that’s when I stand up. Otherwise, go ahead. I’m not telling you how to think.

BM: I think you must realize that some people are going to go to your show at the planetarium and they’re going to say, “Ah-hah! Those scientists have discovered God. Because God,” dark matter, “is what holds this universe together.”

NDT: So is that a question?

BM: It’s a statement. You know, you know they’re going to say that—

NDT: So the history of discovery, particularly cosmic discovery, but discovery in general, scientific discovery, is one where at any given moment, there’s a frontier. And there tends to be an urge for people, especially religious people, to assert that across that boundary, into the unknown lies the handiwork of God. This shows up a lot. Newton even said it. He had his laws of gravity and motion and he was explaining the moon and the planets, he was there. He doesn’t mention God for any of that. And then he gets to the limits of what his equations can calculate. So, I don’t, can’t quite figure this out. Maybe God steps in and makes it right every now and then. That’s where he invoked God.

And Ptolemy, he bet on the wrong horse, but he was a brilliant guy. He formulated the geocentric universe, with Earth in the middle. This is where we got epicycles and all this machinations of the heavens. But it was still a mystery to him. He looked up and uttered the following words, “when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies,” these are the planets going through retrograde and back, the mysteries of the Earth, “when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.”

What he did was invoke, he didn’t invoke Zeus to account for the rock that he’s standing on or the air he’s breathing. It was this point of mystery. And in gets invoked God. This, over time, has been described by philosophers as the God of the gaps. If that’s how you, if that’s where you’re going to put your God in this world, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance.

If that’s how you’re going to invoke God. If God is the mystery of the universe, these mysteries, we’re tackling these mysteries one by one. If you’re going to stay religious at the end of the conversation, God has to mean more to you than just where science has yet to tread. So to the person who says, “Maybe dark matter is God,” if the only reason why you’re saying it is because it’s a mystery, then get ready to have that undone.

You’re the man, Neil!

Is the Church of Scientology a Religion?

tom cruise church of scientology

Tom Cruise, speaking at the opening of a Scientology church in Madrid.

Is the Church of Scientology a religion? No, the Evangelical indignantly says. They are a cult. Do you know what they believe, Bruce? Why they believe:

75 million years ago there was an intergalactic ruler called Xenu (Zee – Noo) who had a population problem that made China look pathetic. To get round this little hiccup, Xenu enlisted the help of evil psychiatrists to drug a whole shit ton of aliens, freeze them in ice, and then load them onto space planes that looked suspiciously like a common airliner of the 1950’s – the DC-8 Comet (only painted all shiny like and with space rockets)

The aliens got shipped to earth, where they were dropped in and around volcanoes (just stick with it, it gets better), at which point Xenu detonated a crap load of nukes just in case the volcanoes didnt finish the job.

The alien souls, or “Thetans” (Fay-Tans) soon started drifting upwards, but the wise and mighty Xenu had forseen this, and cunningly built electric fences. Cos y’know, electric fences are good at catching souls?

The Thetans were then brainwashed for a considerable period of time before being set loose, where they roamed about all confused and dazed. Eventually they latched on to early mankind, and are now the source of all our confusion.

Surely, even you,Bruce, can see that Scientology is a whacked out, crazy false religion. Not really. Is the central tenets of Scientology any different from the core beliefs of Christianity? The only difference between the two is that one has been around 60+ years and the other has been around 2,000 years.

In a recent The Daily Beast interview, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had this to say about Scientology and religion in general:

I’m curious what your take on Scientology is, because the intergalactic story of Xenu does encroach on your territory a bit.

So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy? Let’s realize this: What matters is not who says who’s crazy, what matters is we live in a free country. You can believe whatever you want, otherwise it’s not a free country—it’s something else. If we start controlling what people think and why they think it, we have case studies where that became the norm. I don’t care what the tenets are of Scientology. They don’t distract me. I don’t judge them, and I don’t criticize them.

Now, where the rubber hits the road is, since we are a free country where belief systems are constitutionally protected—provided they don’t infringe on the rights of others—then how do you have governance over “all” when you have belief systems for the “some”? It seems to me that the way you govern people is you base governance on things that are objectively true; that are true regardless of your belief system, or no matter what the tenets are of your holy documents. And then they should base it on objective truths that apply to everyone. So the issue comes about not that there are religious people in the world that have one view over another, it’s if you have one view or another based on faith and you want to legislate that in a way that affects everyone. That’s no longer a free democracy. That’s a country where the few who have a belief system that’s not based in objective reality want to control the behavior of everyone else.

The documentary essentially argues that Scientology shouldn’t be granted tax-exempt status as a religion.

But why aren’t they a religion? What is it that makes them a religion and others are religions? If you attend a Seder, there’s an empty chair sitting right there and the door is unlocked because Elijah might walk in. OK. These are educated people who do this. Now, some will say it’s ritual, some will say it could literally happen. But religions, if you analyze them, who is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t? It looks like the older those thoughts have been around, the likelier it is to be declared a religion. If you’ve been around 1,000 years you’re a religion, and if you’ve been around 100 years, you’re a cult. That’s how people want to divide the kingdom. Religions have edited themselves over the years to fit the times, so I’m not going to sit here and say Scientology is an illegitimate religion and other religions are legitimate religions. They’re all based on belief systems. Look at Mormonism! There are ideas that are as space-exotic within Mormonism as there are within Scientology, and it’s more accepted because it’s a little older than Scientology is, so are we just more accepting of something that’s older?

The line I’m drawing is that there are religions and belief systems, and objective truths. And if we’re going to govern a country, we need to base that governance on objective truths—not your personal belief system.

Tyson sums up my view quite well. Each to their own, but keep it to yourself and keep your damn hands off the government.

Ken Ham Needs to Buy a Dictionary

dictionary

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, is ever on the watch tower looking for a conspiracy he can gin up to rouse the faithful. According to Ham’s recent blog post, public school students are being taught to worship the sun. Here’s what he said:

Imagine if public school students in their science classes were encouraged to worship the sun. And yet this is happening! But how do they get away with it? Well, they just call worshipping the sun “science,” and then claim they can teach this “science” in the public schools!

You see, the following statement is allowed to be made (and is being made in a number of instances) to public school science students:

Our ancestors worshipped the sun. They were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children. The silicon in the rocks, the oxygen in the air, the carbon in our DNA, the iron in our skyscrapers, the silver in our jewelry—were all made in stars, billions of years ago. Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are stardust.1

This statement was made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the new Cosmos series. Evolutionists are encouraging teachers to use this series in public school classrooms.

Evidently, Ham doesn’t know what the word revere means:

revere

While the word worship can be thought of as reverence, it is almost always used in a religious sense. Neil deGrasse Tyson is NOT using the word revere in a religious sense. Of course, Ham denies this because he believes atheism, humanism, and secularism is a religion.