I have a friend, a learned scholar, who brought this engaging exchange to my attention posted at The Science Network.
It’s a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson basically saying that religion is what some early scientists turned to when they could not explain the unknown and was used to fuel their creative thought. The talk is lively and fun. Tyson tells us to keep in mind that some of the greatest minds that have preceded us expressed notions of intelligent design when faced with the limits of their knowledge. “Science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. “ He encourages us to acknowledge that people are feeling at the limits of their knowledge when they invoke the notion of intelligent design. He also encourages us to be self-aware of when we are at the limits of our knowledge and not let our belief systems limit our creativity, our search for knowledge. Fun, fun, fun.
Dr. Tyson is joined on the panel by speakers including Michael Shermer, author of “Why People Believe Weird Things.” Michael Shermer takes a social scientist’s point of view, asking the question: what are the different variables that go into a person’s belief system? He states that smart people believe weird things “because they are better at rationalizing beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. Which is to say that most of the beliefs that most of us hold we arrived at because we were raised that way, or we were influenced by peers or mentors.” It’s human nature to want to find reasons to justify what we believe.
Another panalist states that business interests understand that science and innovation is important for the economy but they don’t particularly care if there is a large number of uneducated people. However, from the public policy and government affairs point of view, it is critically important that citizens are educated. In the United States, elected officials are tasked to represent and put into law policies and practices that the voters want. If the people are uneducated on the most basic of human affairs, bad policy and government will result. Business and government need educated people–business may need a few, but good government requires many more.
I started this blog to encourage myself and others to challenge beliefs. First, acknowledging and modifying beliefs in light of new discoveries (“Own It”). Then, acknowledge how the updated beliefs make us feel (“Feel It”), put those new beliefs into daily practice (“Live It”), and then be happy with our lives (“Love It”).
It’s worth the 75 minutes to view the program because it makes you think about religion and beliefs in a different way. For me, this program was a reminder that wisdom (religion, philosophy, psychological) is a means for people to seek a deeper human experience and be encouraged to press forward, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming confusion, doubt, and unknowns. I felt both hopeful that public policy will balance the teaching of science and intelligent design in schools and happy that there is a role for belief in play in people’s creative lives. Watch the program and let me know how it made you think about what you believe, if it made you modify what you believe and how that makes you feel as you deeply connect with people and the world around you.