Brain Pickings

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Intelligent Design as a Philosophy of Ignorance

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Why even Newton was susceptible to cognitive cop-outs.

Today marks the 54th birthday of the inimitable Neil deGrass Tyson, who blends the “Great Explainer” quality of Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan’s penchant of the poetry of the cosmos with a brand of eloquence all his own. He’s previously made a political case for space exploration, showed us why we’re wired for science, and bantered with Colbert about scientific literacy, education, and the universe. In this short excerpt from a longer lecture, Tyson exposes intelligent design as a kind of dead-end cop-out that even some of history’s greatest intellectuals resorted to when stumped — including Sir Isaac Newton, who invented calculus at the tender age of 25.

Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. It is you get to something you don’t understand, and then you stop. You say, ‘God did it,’ and you no longer progress beyond that point.

Tyson dives deeper into the subject in his excellent 2007 book, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries.

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