The question of “Does God exist” is one that has gripped humankind for centuries. Thousands of academics and philosophers have made it their life’s work to study and contemplate this question, coming up with arguments for and against the existence of an almighty creator.
However many theories are put out there, no one answer has ever come out as the universally-correct one, but the debate continues nonetheless. On either side are passionate supporters that attempt to convince one another of the flaws in their arguments. This can sometimes fall into a case of science vs. religion, but that’s a simplification that doesn’t bear much fruit.
If we want to see the opinion of a scientist of the modern era, who do we turn to? As one of the most distinguished members of the scientific community, and a beloved icon of contemporary pop culture, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the man for the job.
The Astrophysicist is a popular proponent of rationality, and as likely to criticise cuts to scientific agencies as he is to point out the shoddy science of blockbuster movies. But it was on Chelsea, a Netflix talk show presented by comedian Chelsea Handler, that he was asked the big question: “As a scientist, do you believe in God?”
First of all, the scientist skirts around the question, explaining that his thoughts do not represent those of the entire scientific community:
“In the West, two-thirds of scientists pray to a personal God on the expectation that they will intervene in their day’s affairs. But I can tell you this – productive scientists do not bring their bible, their scripture, their holy books, into the lab, because they do not mix there. So they draw a line in the sand, and they do one in one place, and they worship on the weekend, their Saturday, their Sunday, whatever your religious tradition. So, to ask whether they can co-exist, the answer is yes, it is empirically yes”
At this point Handler interrupts to ask again, “Do you believe in God?”, to which DeGrasse gives the most eloquent answer. He doesn’t force his view or ridicule the opinions of others, but simply states his worldview and whether a higher being has any place in it.
“Every description of God that I’ve heard holds God to be all-powerful and all-good, and then I look around and I see a tsunami that killed a quarter million people in Indonesia, an earthquake that killed a quarter million people in Haiti, and I see earthquakes and tornadoes and disease, childhood leukaemia. I see all of this and I say ‘I do not see evidence of both of those being true simultaneously. If there is a God, the God is either not all-powerful or not all-good. He can’t be both.”
Tyson continues, explaining that other people’s beliefs do not offend him, as long as they do not use those beliefs to tell others what to do. “To be faith-driven is one thing,” he explains, “but to be faith-driven and try to create legislation on that that affects other people who do not share your faith, that’s the beginnings of a theocracy.”
“We have evidence of what that is,” he argues, “and our founding fathers specifically founded this country to prevent that from happening”. Tyson’s point is clear – let others do what they wish, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect others. He doesn’t believe in God, but he makes it clear that it is his choice.
If you’re looking for an opinion from a scientist on the other side of the argument, why not check out the renowned scientist that claims he has evidence that the universe was created by God.