No one can claim that Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t brilliant, or poetic, or simply just an amazing orator.
Yet, he is asked a lot if he is an atheist, and he constantly compiles a quick word salad to avoid ever answering the question honestly.
His mentor Carl Sagan had the same problem. Sagan, like Tyson, says that atheism is too strong a word. Sagan’s own wrong definition of the term:
“…someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.”
That is not true. Tyson and Sagan both claimed to be agnostic, claiming they haven’t seen the evidence for God but are willing to change their minds. This statement implies, wrongfully, that given the evidence for God, that an atheist would not change their mind. That is simply wrong.
If you say you do not believe in God, you’re an atheist. Like it or not, the word has a dictionary definition that is cut and dry.
Tyson tries to say he doesn’t like to be a part of any group. That’s fine, but you don’t get to pick and choose what words describe your belief system sometimes. You can’t say, for example, “I don’t believe in God, but I am not an atheist,” because by definition, the very statement “I don’t believe in God” makes you an atheist.You can’t murder 10 people in cold blood and then say “I killed those 10 people, but I am not a murderer” simply because you don’t like labels or want to be a part of that group. It’s a statement of fact that you murdered people, and you’re a murderer. Just as if you state clearly that you don’t believe a God exists, regardless of your willingness to be wrong, you’re an atheist.
Yet Tyson constantly sells people short because he tries to avoid labels. He won’t even take political positions as a scientist because he believes politicians should come to him, not him to them. So he refuses to come out openly as a liberal or conservative (and he bashes them both rather equally) but has decided not to use his knowledge and position to do political good.
Just as he sells out atheists by making them sound closed-minded and pretending he isn’t one.
By working so hard to be honest about what he believes, he does intellectual honesty and integrity a great disservice.
You can watch the whole video below: