Monday, June 07, 2010

Removing the God factor: Morgan Freeman discusses 'creation' on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I thought it was odd when Discovery Communications gave a certain former Governor known for her love of hunting wolves from helicopters a show on Alaska and its wildlife. But now Discovery's Science Channel is premiering a show this week called “Through the Wormhole,” hosted by Morgan Freeman.

How could I possibly have any problem with Morgan Freeman? Well, as an actor I think he's incredible, but judging from the interview he gave on the Daily Show last week, I think Morgan Freeman may have never emerged from thinking he was God.

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Throughout the interview, Freeman frequently invokes what he calls the "God factor." The argument goes like this: if science doesn't understand something, then it must be the work of God. The argument is as old as society itself and (unfortunately) it's still very much alive in America today. Many people use such arguments to challenge evolution, attempt to debunk climate change and place the age of the earth at 5,000 years.


Who cares what Freeman says off the show? Well, when Through the Wormhole premiers on Wednesday night its first episode will take on creation by invoking some mathematical underpinnings of physics to look for evidence of God.

As a religious person I recoil at these types of arguments, science and religion are not in competition. Every time science makes a discovery it isn't chalking one up for atheism because one more thing is now explained, like God's existence must be confined to the bizarre or supernatural.

Stewart: Do scientists now feel like they know what happened and where we came from?

Freeman: There are scientists that feel like they have a very clear sense where we came from, and then there are other scientists that feel like those other scientists that feel they have a very clear sense where we came from have no idea what they are talking about. Because we don’t have a very clear sense where we came from. There are a lot of different scientists with different ideas, different thought patterns and different takes on the evidence we have.

S: They talk about how there's five times the amount of dark matter and dark energy in the universe than there is regular matter and energy, but what the hell does that mean?

F: Exactly.

S: And they say it's holding us together but what is it?

F: How? Right. Yeah, these are the questions that I like to ask also.

S: Well, What do they tell you?

F: This is where we get into the God part of it. You know, whatever scientists don’t know becomes a God factor.

S: And they will even say that?

F: Yeah, we get to a point when we say 'well we don’t know how that happens'.

S: And they say well maybe it's...

F: ...The God Factor…Yeah.

S: So after all these years and the incredibly sophisticated tools that we use to scour the skies, they just come back to basically, 'I think the sun God did it'?

F: Basically.

Now, people are entitled to their views and their misconceptions by the first amendment. However, Discovery Communications has an obligation to portray science accurately as a major player in the science media.

What makes it worse is that the topics Freeman claims scientists don't understand and attribute to the God factor, are more like things that Freeman just doesn’t seem to get. Mainly, dark matter and dark energy. Which is strange because in one of the show excerpts posted to Through the Wormhole's website, there's a very good explanation for what we think dark matter is, why it's so hard to detect and how scientists are attempting to find it anyways (maybe he should watch his show).

So, perhaps Freeman isn't exactly Alan Alda and is really little more than a deep and distinctive famous voice, I'm still reluctant about Wednesday's show if it's looking to science for the existence of God. An outlet billing itself as a science channel should be cautious about making scientific theories dependent on God. Even the Catholic Church would agree.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Flash,
    I personally wasn't bothered by it too much. It just showed ignorance on his part. It does paint a not so great picture of scientists in a number of ways, but he is the voice talent and shouldn't be held to the same standard.

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  2. I saw the episode too and it really bothered me that Morgan Freeman would portray that as a common scientific practice. It really flies in the face of science to just write off everything you don't understand by implying that God did it.

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  3. I agree that as voice talent, you can't expect him to have an advanced knowledge of the topic. However, if he is doing the work because he believes in it, then I feel like he should at least respect the topic enough to not misrepresent the spirit of science by saying scientists make presuppositions about unknowns and declare them to be divine in nature.

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  4. I would concur that as voice talent, he shouldn't be held to as strong a standard as others. However, I'm seriously doubting that he ever asked a cosmologist about dark matter and was told that only the hand of God could explain it. It's a misrepresentation of science when an 'I don't know' would have worked fine.

    Also, because he is the executive producer too, I'm concerned the show will take an equally unscientific approach to their topics.

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  5. The “God-did-it” factor of the Abrahamic faiths is understandably annoying to you physicists. But why is there such a huge prejudice against considering that the Sun and other stars might be energetic life forms, rather than dumb balls of plasma?

    Answer: because of a church taboo established many centuries ago - not because of solar science, which increasingly would appear to support such an idea. Is there a bigger picture being conmpletely missed by science? Could stellar consciousness resolve the confusion over the nature of dark matter and dark energy? Though I wrote a book on the subject, I’d much rather see physics investigating it with an open mind.

    Gregory Sams, author of Sun of gOd.

    As Carl Sagan wrote, in Cosmos:
    "Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary, even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars?"

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  6. Yeah, well you wrote a book, so you must be right.

    The sun and stars are not conscious living beings, that is a ridiculous proposition and it is even more ridiculous to assume that science is heading towards support of such an idea.

    And stop it with that open-mind nonsense. After a long time of non-religious asking the religious to be open-minded, they flip it around on us like we are closed minded because we don't accept every single ridiculous hypothesis, even ones based on zero evidence.

    I don't believe that a sandwich my mom made me can detect dark matter, or that my bedsheets are the singularity of a black hole - should I be labeled closed minded? Even if there is a BOOK about it!?

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  7. Whoa Anonymous! I can see that idea did not agree with you but surely there’s no need to bring your mom’s sandwiches into the picture!

    Is the idea of solar consciousness any more ridiculous than the assumption that consciousness is exclusive to us or something kind of like us? And I meant that science supported the idea of the Sun as a life form, not that any scientists did so yet.

    Consider that our Sun has seven distinct layers to it, some rotating at different speeds; a little understood coronal energy field that is thought to control or manage sunspots, flares, filaments and CME’s; a magnetic bubble, the heliosphere, that encompasses the entire solar system, shielding it from cosmic rays and interacting with the magnetic fields of the planets.

    Perhaps you can see why this highly energetic phenomenon might be viewed as another receptacle of consciousness rather than be considered an accidental result of Newtonian physics and clouds of cosmic dust. Such a view was integral to every culture on the planet, and its academics, until Biblical thinking took control.

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  8. Different Anonymous here.

    Whoa Gregory Sams! I can see that idea about sandwiches did not agree with you, but perhaps you should consider it more seriously?

    Consider that the sandwiches that guy's mom makes have seven distinct layers to them (bread, tomato, lettuce, turkey, bacon, cheese, and bread), some with different levels of crunchiness and moistness! A little understood balance of salt and pepper is thought to control the balance of tastes, and suppress the bitterness in the vegetables. Some even speculate there may be mustard involved.

    Perhaps if you were to taste this sandwich, you can see why this highly savory phenomena might be viewed as another receptacle of consciousness (how could a non-conscious item be so very very delicious?) rather than be considered an accidental result of kitchen activity.

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  9. Different Anonymous said:
    "Consider that the sandwiches that guy's mom makes have seven distinct layers to them."

    Surely you aren't suggesting some God character who put the Sun together like mom makes sandwiches! I am certainly not.

    Consciousness is the least understood aspect of our own existence yet you seem to know enough about it to be sure nothing else has it.

    Where do you fit the magnetic portal connecting earth to Sun in your thick sandwich, I wonder?
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30oct_ftes/

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  10. I'd love to see the interview, but why can't we watch it from abroad, only form the US?

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  11. Sorry, Editorial Cartoons, I think that's a question for Comedy Central. We have no control over it.

    -Buzz

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  12. And I'm still sitting here saying "Holy shit they got Gregory Sams to comment on their post they must feel really proud".

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  13. "Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts" - Richard Feynman

    Anything else is blind FAITH and not science.

    Few hundred years ago, Morgan Freeman and Jon Stewart would believe that the Earth is flat and rests on 3 giant turtles.

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  14. The universe and all that is in it exists quite simply by a negative and positive reaction,without the 2 formi nothing could exist.It would have been possible that gases remain the culprit here and as they exploded they multiplied ad multiplied.The Sun is the real clue to this as it is a reactor ad replenishes all it uses.

    It has to be remembered the word God and all it implies was given to a Super Power a being so powerful it will never be understood in its entirety.We only have to look at the protective lifebelt around Earth to establish that factor.Lets keep it simply then we may just get some answers

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