A Scientific Need for Philosophy

Dissecting Neil deGrasse Tyson’s self-defeating power play tweet.

Let’s pause and consider Dr. Tyson’s statement.

I have heard atheists explain that they don’t believe, they know. Belief, they claim, is not based on evidence but knowledge is. That statement in itself is loaded with difficulties but let’s let it slide for the moment. Does Dr. Tyson have a “belief system” and is it grounded in “objective reality”? If it is, is it still a belief system? Isn’t it knowledge?

Since this tweet appears to be Dr. Tyson’s opinion, it is subjective and no longer objective. Therefore, Dr. Tyson should not be making this decision for other people.

Does Dr. Tyson believe his statement to be true? What portions of “objective reality” lead Dr. Tyson to this conclusion? There are countless examples of people making sound decisions for others whose belief systems are based on things Tyson would, no doubt, claim are not founded in objective reality. Christian or Muslim or Buddhist doctors successfully make decisions for others on a regular basis, for example. Did these get included in the “objective reality” that lead Dr. Tyson to his conclusion? I rather doubt it.

If we accept Dr. Tyson’s statement as true, that means that only those who have a belief system founded in objective reality can make decisions that affect others. Parents whose belief systems don’t meet Tyson’s criteria would be excluded from making decisions for their children; others would have to do it for them. The same goes for care givers of elderly parents or the mentally ill.

In the end, this statement is nothing more than a bald-faced power play. While organized religion is often presented as the boogieman who wants to control how you think, this form of scientism actually has that goal in mind. Were Dr. Tyson and others like him really in favor of free thought, this notion would never have occurred to him. Don’t be mislead, scientists are human too and subject to the same foibles as others, hubris and desire for power included.

What troubles me is not so much that Tyson said it, it is that at the time of my writing, 20k+ people agreed with him.

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