Is Not Knowing Something A Sign of Weakness? Creationists Think So
LOS ANGELES - Jan 13: Neil deGrasse Tyson at the FOX TCA Winter 2014 Party at The Langham Huntington Hotel onJanuary 13, 2014 in Pasadena, CA
Photo Credit: Helga Esteb
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Those who reject science frown upon intellectual honesty. Not knowing how something works or happened is seen as a weakness. This week on Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson said the word “somehow” when describing how the origins of life began, saying, “Somehow, carbon-rich molecules began using energy to make copies of themselves.”
Creationists think they “got him!” Tyson, like all other scientists, is not sure exactly how life originated on earth. This is intellectually honest, since a great mystery is still being worked out. Many great hypotheses exist, some of which Tyson went into detail about, but how can not knowing something be a weakness? Surely all of us don’t know a great deal of things; are we all intellectually challenged?
The real answer is no, the real knowledge is accepting that there are things you don’t know. If you claim to have all the answers, as creationists love to do, you are being dishonest. There is no wisdom in pretending to know things you do not know.
One hypothesis Tyson spent a great deal of time on is called panspermia. Again, this is nothing but a hypothesis with an okay amount of evidence being collected and studied. The Mars Rover is one major example of our study of the origins of life.
Of course, the anti-science fellows over at the Discovery Institute take issue:
“After some passing references to Earth-based models of the origin of life (which of course omit any mention of intelligent design as a possibility), Tyson devotes two lengthy segments of the episode to panspermia -- the idea that life arrived on Earth from space -- and the existence of alien life.”
However this is not what Tyson said, nor suggested. He briefly brushed over the idea that life could have originated on a planet like Mars and been carried to earth during a massive impact in the distant past, but he didn’t stay here long and moved onto a more plausible explanation. Of course, creationists stopped listening here.
Tyson seems to come back to saying life originated on earth and then gives a great explanation for it surviving so many extinction-causing impacts on earth, explaining that life could have been shot into space on rocks. We have evidence to suggest microbial life can do a very fine job of surviving such a journey, and eventually these rocks can find themselves impacting with earth again, bringing life back to the planet.
Here is a key part creationists missed: Tyson never once made the claim these are scientific facts, just that they are reasonable explanations. The Discovery Institute took immediate issue with Tyson never suggesting life was intelligently created on earth, but why would he? What scientific basis does that fall under? They find it a stretch that life can originate on its own, yet they can concede that some invisible being can just randomly create life.
Every single suggestion Tyson put forward in this episode has some reasonable amount of scientific data behind it to make it worth mentioning. The scientific evidence that a god created anything, or even exists, is zero.
While panspermia is not the be-all-end-all of scientific explanations for the origins of life, Tyson is proposing that viewers open up their imaginations to all the possibilities of nature. If every event after the origin of life has a natural explanation, it is more than reasonable and logical to assume that events before do as well.
The folks at the Discovery Institute also took strong issue with Tyson's view on the economy and the industrialized world's impact on the climate: