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Jerry Coyne vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson

It takes all kinds

I love a good mash-up! When two or more of your favorite things collide, there is amazing potential for awesome. In this case, two of my favorite scientists/science advocates mildly butt heads on the topic of science and religion.

Jerry Coyne (who is famously outspoken about the relationship of science and religion) recently published a few articles on his blog that contrast two videos of Neil deGrasse Tyson (who rarely addresses the subject of faith) discussing science and faith.

One video is from a 2006 Beyond Belief conference, the other published last year on Big Think. In the former, Tyson is much harsher on religion as he is addressing an audience of skeptics with a talk based on a piece he wrote in 2005 entitled, The Perimeter of Ignorance.

I recommend reading Coyne’s pieces in order. The first is entitled Neil deGrasse Tyson goes all militant. The second is Neil deGrasse Tyson: Take 2.

Coyne criticizes Tyson for getting soft over the years. He cites some clear ambiguities and makes his usual brilliant case in a gentlemanly manner he usually reserves for respected scientists.

Then the pièce de résistance: Tyson responds with an eloquent point by point breakdown of his perspective.

I love these men. They are both dearly important to science. Each has a vastly different approach to science advocacy, and each is just as necessary as the other.