Neil deGrasse Tyson Lecture, Beyond Belief 2006

Neil degrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson Holds A Unique View Concerning Intelligent Design Theory

The Lecture

The full lecture can be viewed here. In the middle of the lecture, Tyson provides an historical sketch of how Intelligent Design has been contemplated classically by some of the greatest scientists and brilliant minds who ever lived en route to making his point that ID is an argument from incredulity. I agree with Tyson that we should not allow our religious beliefs to be a science stopper, relying upon a “god of the gaps” paradigm. Fortunately, ID Theory proposes affirmative hypotheses that are not based upon an argument of incredulity.

What is perhaps most relevant and applicable to ID Theory here from this lecture is that Tyson states that even though he personally sees ID Theory as an argument from ignorance logic fallacy, he expresses his utmost opinion that this should not bar such education from the classrooms. Tyson explains that this is not only how classic science developed, how classic scientists contemplated, but it is still how people process information today. In this regard, although Tyson made very comical light humor out of ID Theory toward the end of the video, he actually supports its instruction in today’s classroom. That was his underlying point of the lecture.

Many of the notes that Tyson used for his Beyond Belief lecture are available for review an article Tyson wrote here,

0:05        Opens lecture showing the Eagle nebula.

1:51         Mentions Intelligent Design

2:14         C. Ptolemy – A.D. 150.

4:00        Proceeds to quote Ptolemy.

Ptolemy: “I know that I am mortal by nature and ephemeral. But when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch the earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus myself and drink my fill of ambrosia.”

4:44         Tyson admits Ptolemy invoked ID.

5:05         Basing his case on Ptolemy, Tyson states,

                 “The greatest minds that preceded us have invoked ID.”

5:30         Galileo – 1615

                     Letter to Christina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Quotes Galileo a couple times, including this: “The Bible tells you how to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go.”

6:25         Tyson: “He (Galileo) was a religious man.”

6:40        Sir Isaac Newton – 1687

6:45         Tyson declares:

        Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived.

7:00          Tyson announces:

Newton was “unimpeachingly brilliant.”

               F = ma; Law of gravity

9:25         Tyson reads lengthy quote from Newton, which is this:

“The six primary planets are revolved about the sun in circles concentric with the sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts, and almost in the same plane. Ten moons are revolved about the earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, in circles concentric with them, with the same direction of motion, and nearly in the planes of the orbits of those planets; but it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions, since the comets range over all parts of the heavens in very eccentric orbits; for by that kind of motion they pass easily through the orbs of the planets, and with great rapidity; and in their aphelions, where they move the slowest, and are detained the longest, they recede to the greatest distances from each other, and hence suffer the least disturbance from their mutual attractions. This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other, he hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another.”

Source: A reference to this quote is here: Scholium at the end of Sir Isaac Newton’s MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY; Translated by Andrew Motte, Revised by Florian Cajore; Published in GREAT BOOKS OF THE WESTERN WORLD #34; Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in chief, William Benton, Chicago, 1952:273-74.

10:00          Tyson then states,

“This is Sir Isaac Newton invoking Intelligent Design.”

10:06         Tyson goes on,

“And, I want to put on the table the fact that you have school systems wanting to put Intelligent Design into the classroom, but you also have the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth doing the same thing.  And, so it’s a deeper challenge than simply educating the public.”

12:20         Tyson refers to a Nature article.

Tyson describes the article as stating 85% of the members of the National Academy reject the belief that there is a personal God.  Tyson then reverses it backwards to make a point that this means fifteen percent of the National Academy, that he claims is “our nation’s most brilliant minds accept” the belief there is a personal God.

Tyson’s claim that many of the best and brightest scientists continue to believe in God starts with the same surveys that atheists often cite that show that the vast majority of top scientists do not believe in or doubt the existence of God. A survey that shows that 93 percent of the nation’s top scientists are atheist or agnostic also shows that 7 percent are theists. (Note: Tyson asserted that 15% were theists, but this is not the number reported in the polls.)

13:30         Christiaan Huygens – 1696

15:10         Tyson admits:

Biology was not well understood by these classic scientists then, and biology is still not understood well today.

15:17         Tyson quotes Huygens,

“I suppose no body will deny but that there’s somewhat more of Contrivance, somewhat more of Miracle in the production and growth of Plants and Animals than in lifeless heaps of inanimate Bodies. . . . For the finger of God, and the Wisdom of Divine Providence, is in them much more clearly manifested than in the other.”

19:55           Tyson states:

“Science is a philosophy of discovery while Intelligent Design is a philosophy of ignorance.“

20:07         Tyson then states in regarding Intelligent Design,

“But, I’m not going to say, ‘Don’t teach this,’ because 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 is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understand.  And, it happens to the greatest of the minds as it happens to everyone else, if not most other people in the public.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson


This leaves two unresolved issues that remain from Tyson’s lecture:

1. Bad Design.

2. Tyson’s claim that Intelligent Design is an argument from ignorance.  He stated, “Science is a philosophy of discovery while Intelligent Design is a philosophy of ignorance.”  But, is ID Theory an argument of incredulity?  ID Theory makes its own affirmative hypotheses, such as Complex Specified Information (CSI) and Irreducible ComplexityAnd, ID Theory does have research to back up the theory.

But, what about the contention that ID Theory is an argument of incredulity.  Actually, this is nothing other than a logic fallacy.  ID is not a “god of the gaps” argument, but is an affirmative proposition.  The logic fallacy that Tyson is speaking of is an evidence of absence dilemma. This is a logic fallacy because it is beyond anyone’s imagination that there could be a solution to the riddle.  This is what Tyson refers to throughout his presentation.  But, ID is not about evidence of absence.  Stephen Meyer explains this very well in this video, where it is a very reasonable inference to suggest that information has an intelligent source.  This video was produced about a year after Tyson delivered his message.

Aside | This entry was posted in AND SOCIOLOGICAL ISSUES, IDEOLOGICAL, RELIGIOUS. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Neil deGrasse Tyson Lecture, Beyond Belief 2006

  1. Pingback: SCIENTISTS WHO EMBRACE ID THEORY | dennisdjones

  2. D Kantz says:

    Per the ID intro: “Tyson … expresses his utmost opinion that this should not bar such education from the classrooms.” Ummmm … that’s a deliberate misrepresentation of Tyson’s extremely clear advocacy that ID should be barred from science classrooms but not other academic areas:
    “To deny or erase the rich, colorful history of scientists and other thinkers who have invoked divinity in their work would be intellectually dishonest. Surely there’s an appropriate place for intelligent design to live in the academic landscape. How about the history of religion? How about philosophy or psychology? The one place it doesn’t belong is the science classroom.”

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