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Episode 489: Nerdist Podcast
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast: Neil deGrasse Tyson Returns Again

It’s a three peat with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson! They start off their conversation about how the universe works, then talk about science of bottomless pits, the importance of asking questions, and the new Cosmos!

Watch Cosmos this Sunday March 9th on Fox and Monday March 10th on NatGeo!

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  1. J.A. Harpp says:

    this article really exaggerates NDT’s comments…He doesn’t say that all philosophers are wrong, he just makes the point that a self-deemed intelligent race shouldn’t waste too much time thinking about why a chair is a chair, when it is ourselves who categorized it as a chair.  Bruce Lee said: “Don’t think…feel…it is like a finger pointing a way to the moon, don’t concntrade on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

  2. Dan says:

    This episode is a bigger load of shit than anything I’ve ever seen on Fox news. If any of these people had actually studied philosophy at a decent school, they wouldn’t be so terribly ignorant about the relationship between philosophy and science. As it stands, though, you have a bunch of Phil 101 rejects desperately trying to fellate a pop scientist. The results are pure comedy. Have any of these morons even heard of Bertrand Russell?

  3. Kevin says:

    The discussion about philosophy is incredibly short-sighted and disappointing discussed by people who don’t even understand the basics of it.

    • Roger says:

      No, philosophy is a poor substitute for math, and math alone without experiments is just monkey brains making noise.  The universe does not care about monkey brains making noise.  Do you care about the universe or only the monkey noises in your brain?

  4. GodsOfRuin says:

    Tyson is so smug and illogical. This is really difficult to listen to.

  5. MCP says:

    One question I might have for Tyson relates to his ethical views – for example, about the moral acceptability of certain forms of scientific experimentation on living beings.  I’m guessing that (a) he would consider this a legitimate, important question, and (b) that he would acknowledge that the methods of empirical science aren’t well suited to answering this question.  If in fact he accepts (a) and (b), and agrees that philosophy is the proper discipline to handle normative questions like this, then we have an argument for the relevance of philosophy that he might accept.  The bottom line is that philosophy isn’t exhausted by theoretical inquiries into the meanings of terms (much less by caricatures of the questions philosophy asks).  In general I found Tyson’s understanding of philosophy lacking and his judgments uncharitable.

    I prefer to view philosophy and science as comrades in arms.  Empirical science tackles objects of inquiry that are well suited to its methods.  Yet there is also a wide variety of important questions about the nature of the world and how we ought to live within it that scientific methodology doesn’t seem well able to handle, usually owing to the abstractness of the objects of inquiry (e.g. metaphysics, pure logic, etc.), or the fact that the objects of inquiry are normative or ethical in nature. 

    Ideally, philosophy and science should be seen as in the same basic business (gaining insight via reason), but differentiated by their methods and objects of inquiry. 

  6. Joe, I agree that Leibniz is undervalued out there. I’ll try to mention him more often.

    Thanks, Martin Rebensteiger, for that note on the questioned authenticity of that Assyrian Tablet Quote. I’ll investigate further.

    And to Charles – what is not conveyed in this interview (my bad to omit it) is that my critique applies solely to those trained in Philosophy from the 20th century onward – the era of Modern Physics: Quantum & Relativity. By my read of history, the formidable brain power of Philosophers (people with PhDs from departments of Philosophy) has made vanishingly little contribution to the advance of the physical sciences in this era. And any any important advances that one might claim to be philosophical in nature were made my physicists.

    Thanks, in any case, for all your interest.
    NDTyson, New York City

    • NdGT, What do you make of 20th century mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s contributions to post-quantum, post-relativity scientific cosmology? 

    • Josh Simon says:

      You are still one of my heroes, I am just shocked to hear you advise people to avoid philosophy. Our ability to advance modernly in science is due to a sound philosophical foundation. The scientific method was developed and refined by philosophers. The null hypothesis is a ’20th century and onward’ philosophical concept that has helped us be even more pragmatic with the empirical evidence science finds. The very basis of philosophy is understanding how to think critically. Without that science could find the pieces of the puzzle, but would only be guessing if they were assembling them correctly.

  7. Charles says:

    He is a very gifted scientist, but in all honesty, he’s getting a little too big for his britches. If it weren’t for philosophy, modern science could have never evolved. Frankly, scientists should stick to science, philosophers to philosophy and so forth. This man is not an expert in all fields.

  8. You should listen to the podcast that was referenced. Tyson wasn’t saying all philosophy was bad or a waste of time, but just certain stupid philosophical questions that don’t go anywhere. He was be very pragmatic.

  9. Paulo Ugolini says:

    I would like to know the name of the philosophy professor who asked Niel DeGrasse Tyson “what is the sound of one hand clapping”, or “what’s the meaning of meaning”. That’s not what academic practice of philosophy is. In fact, that question is a paradox of zen budhism and is not part of philosophy, particularly not part of philosophy of science. I call bullshit on that. I don’t believe that teach that crap in Harvard. He’s making that up.

    As a professor that is often responsible for the introduction of philosophy to undergraduate students, this makes me VERY concerned. I know my students – many of them pursuing engineering and technology degrees – are not necessarily interested in philosophy, and I also know many of them are going to be achievers in life anyway, like Tyson himself. But what makes somebody have such a distorted view of what philosophy means, to the point of rejecting the relevance of its very existence?

    Tyson is an influential person. He should feel responsible for not making broad and uninformed affirmations like that. As the kind of person that in public conversation tends to take the position of pointing righteously to other people’s errors – making comments like “the beauty of science is that it is true, doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not” – and condemning them for not having correct understanding of his field of study, he should shut his mouth about things he doesn’t understand.

  10. D.A. Howard says:

    Whaaat?! Science is based on Philosophy! Asking too many questions messes you up? Huh? So Scientific investigation is dangerous? Neil, you lost all Scientific respect from me. Afte twelve years of University education (in Science, Social Science and Philosophy), I can say your comments are full of manure.

  11. Josh says:

    Don’t ask questions. Got it. Thanks, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ll throw philosophy out the window. Fantastic!

  12. butbutts says:

    everyone not NDT: shut up and let NDT talk!

  13. Martin Rebensteiger says:

    Love the interview. Neil also used that Assyrian tablet quote in Space Chronicles, his collection of essays and columns on space travel. The only problem is that the quote is most likely an early 20th century newspaper fabrication. Too bad, really. I used to love that quote.

  14. Adam Sak says:

    Brilliant podcast i want Dr. Tyson on Nerdist more. All it needs is Chris and Neil and it will be an extraordinary podcast.

    This was the first i heard of Ham on Nye, hilarious. Also the porn stash definitely entertaining.

  15. Jennifer Grala says:

    LOVE this guy! I could listen to him all day. Science Nerds Rock!

  16. Deegan says:

    I think that with science you can appreciate how beautiful the world is from your perspective. Whereas with religion, at least with what I believe, you will be able to view not only the world but the universe as well and have much more time to try and experiment with theories that you learned or posit while you were confined to your earthly body.

  17. Joe says:

    Co-inventor of the calculus with Leibniz. The units and descriptions of Newton’s “fluxtions” are generally not used. Leibniz rules, but was ruined by Newton. Not sure why I am posting this but Leibniz does not get enough credit.