The presentations of the Beyond Belief 2006 conference recently held in San Diego are available at http://beyondbelief2006.org/Watch. Here is an excerpt from Session 2, which begins with a presentation from Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium. At the conclusion of his talk (beginning at the 40:47 mark in the clip) is the following exchange:
Tyson: I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t. That’s really what we’ve got to address here. Otherwise the public is secondary to this. [Moderator then turns to the panel for responses.]
Larry Krauss: It’s hard to know how to respond to Neil, ever. But the question you asked about “Why 15%” disturbs me a little bit because of this other presumption that scientists are somehow not people and that they don’t have the same delusions — I mean, how many of them are pedophiles in the National Academy of Sciences? How many of them are Republicans? [laughter] And so, it would be amazing, of course, if it were zero. That would be the news story. But the point is I don’t think you’d expect them in general to view their religion as a bulwark against science or to view the need to fly into buildings or whatever. So the delusions or predilections are important to recognize, that scientists are people and are as full of delusions about every aspect of their life as everyone else. We all make up inventions so that we can rationalize our existence and why we are who we are.
Tyson: But Lawrence, if you can’t convert our colleagues, why do you have any hope that you’re going to convert the public?
Krauss: I don’t think we have to convert those people. They’re fine. That’s the point. They’re doing science. I don’t understand why you need to do that.
It’s rare for Larry Krauss to come across as the voice of reason in these debates. But that’s only because Tyson is by comparison so scary. Not only does Tyson want to “convert” his fellow scientists to atheism but he won’t be content with anything less than 100% conversion. I seem to recall past leaders who demanded that 100% of their subjects conform to the religion of the land on pain of death. Is this any different? But of course it is: that was religion, this is science!
Question: You think there might be some self-selection going on at the National Academy of Sciences?