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I saw this on The Jimmy Dore Show:

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Norm Macdonald had a philosophical exchange on Twitter. Tyson basically said that the universe is indifferent to your pain, which is a pretty common sentiment among atheistic scientists and philosophers. But Macdonald, who is a pretty witty comedian, accused Tyson of a logical flaw. He said that since we are all part of the universe, we too would have to be indifferent to people's pain. I suppose the logical flaw Macdonald identified is the fallacy of composition. Essentially, Tyson is saying that since some things in the universe are indifferent, that means the whole universe is indifferent--which doesn't make sense. If Macdonald's reasoning is sound, we Objectivists might want to revisit our view of the benevolent universe premise.

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The "benevolent universe" does not mean that the universe feels kindly to man or that it is out to help him achieve his goals. No, the universe is neutral; it simply is; it is indifferent to you.

Is that also fallacious?

Edited by MisterSwig

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6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Is that also fallacious?

No, and neither is what Tyson said, despite Macdonald and Dore. Macdonald's counter-argument  commits the fallacy of composition as much as he alleges Tyson does. Tyson could have been more precise, but I believe he meant that the part of the universe which is not us is indifferent.  So interpreted, what Tyson said concurs with the second sentence of what Ayn Rand said.

Edited by merjet

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4 hours ago, merjet said:

Macdonald's counter-argument  commits the fallacy of composition as much as he alleges Tyson does.

How so?

4 hours ago, merjet said:

Tyson could have been more precise, but I believe he meant that the part of the universe which is not us is indifferent.

This would still be literally incorrect, as our pets, and other animals in general, often express regard for us, when they develop positive or negative feelings in relation to humans. You would have to exclude such animals as well from your definition of universe, in which case you're not offering much of an insight, and you're equivocating on the meaning of your concept.

4 hours ago, merjet said:

So interpreted, what Tyson said concurs with the second sentence of what Ayn Rand said.

To be clear, that quote is from Peikoff's lecture series in 1976. In OPAR (1991) he took that section from his old lectures and revised it. Notably, he removed "the universe is neutral" and "it is indifferent to you"; and he added "the universe has no desires," and it is "auspicious to human life."

From OPAR (p. 342):

Quote

"Benevolence" in this context is not a synonym for kindness; it does not mean that the universe cares about man or wishes to help him. The universe has no desires; it simply is. Man must care about and adapt to it, not the other way around. If he does adapt to it, however, then the universe is "benevolent" in another sense: "auspicious to human life."

Unfortunately, the Lexicon was published before OPAR, so it contains only the old formulation.

Edited by MisterSwig

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To begin, the logical form of the Fallacy of Composition is:

     Premise 1: A is part of B

     Premise 2: A has property X

     Conclusion: Therefore, B has property X.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

How so?

What sort of fallacy Macdonald makes is arguable, since Tyson does not say what he meant by "universe" and Macdonald doesn't explicitly say 'The universe cares'. On the other hand, Dore saying "We are the universe" is an instance of the fallacy of composition.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

This would still be literally incorrect, as our pets, and other animals in general, often express regard for us, when they develop positive or negative feelings in relation to humans. You would have to exclude such animals as well from your definition of universe, in which case you're not offering much of an insight, and you're equivocating on the meaning of your concept.

The issue is not my concept universe, but Tyson's (or Macdonald's or Dore's). I interpreted him charitably. He is an astrophysicist, so when he said "universe" I assume he meant galaxies, stars, planets, etc., but not humans (nor pets).

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Seems pretty clear that NDT was talking about the universe as if it was a sentient being (as a theist might), and then saying it doesn't care. The analysis of the guy in the video you linked is exactly how I imagine someone stoned would try to analyze the universe. "Why does the universe happen? To know itself, mannnnnnnn."

It's totally weird to me why Norm Macdonald would respond to that, let alone read NDT's feed.

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My Spidey sense started acting up, so I did some digging on Tyson. First, he's definitely the sort of spineless agnostic that rubs me the wrong way. Judge for yourself.

Also, I discovered that his tweet sounds like a quote from the movie Man of Tai Chi: "The universe is blind to our pain and deaf to our sorrows. All things have their way." Compare that to his tweet:

824243635_Screenshot_20190606-0001572.thumb.png.1f03e9bc0b28d51b009832b005999c2c.png

I believe in coincidence, but it seems like he just butchered and repackaged that movie quote as his own.

Screenshot_20190606-000226~2.png

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11 hours ago, merjet said:

The issue is not my concept universe, but Tyson's (or Macdonald's or Dore's). I interpreted him charitably. He is an astrophysicist, so when he said "universe" I assume he meant galaxies, stars, planets, etc., but not humans (nor pets).

 Tyson did capitalize "Universe." Not sure what to make of that. But I'm beginning to doubt this was his genuine, firsthand idea anyway.

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's totally weird to me why Norm Macdonald would respond to that, let alone read NDT's feed.

His comedy style is intellectual and curious in nature. He's probably identified Tyson as a good source for joke material.

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14 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

My Spidey sense started acting up, so I did some digging on Tyson. First, he's definitely the sort of spineless agnostic that rubs me the wrong way. Judge for yourself.

He is basically a huge proponent of scientism. His understanding of how scientific knowledge changes is actually good and sensible I think. The problem is he doesn't see value in philosophy, so he ends up agnostic towards everything except the scientific process. This is also why what he would say might lack philosophical position. I don't think he's trying to claim credit for the idea he mentioned though, it's very common and I've seen it stated many ways.

For what it's worth, I think he's right about the word atheist. You can't really define something in terms of negatives. But he is pretty a-philosophical. It really limits his value as a scientific educator.

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17 hours ago, Eiuol said:

For what it's worth, I think he's right about the word atheist. You can't really define something in terms of negatives. But he is pretty a-philosophical. It really limits his value as a scientific educator.

Tyson has a problem with how some atheists act. He looks at advocates of atheism and doesn't want to be associated with them by using the same word to describe himself. He doesn't want the social baggage attached to the word. But then you realize that he simply isn't an actual atheist, he's an agnostic. So why does he talk smack about atheist groups? He compares their purpose to that of a hypothetical group devoted to non-golfing. Well, if society were irrationally, immorally, and violently obsessed with golf, then maybe non-golfing groups would make sense for people bright enough to reject golf dogma, who want to help fix society as a group. Tyson criticizes atheists because they actually stand for a philosophic position against evil. He dislikes them for their good qualities, not their bad ones.

To your point above, agnostic is also describing a negative position. It refers to the absence of knowledge about God. So it's similar to atheist, which refers to the absence of a belief in God. Of course, a person can't be defined entirely by his lack of knowledge or belief. So an agnostic typically believes that God is possible, while an atheist believes that God is impossible. Now, if either one devoted a substantial portion of his intellectual life to his belief concerning god, then atheist or agnostic would accurately describe an aspect of his life. And it would define him in that context, unless he adopted a more substantial philosophical position.

Tyson just wants to be a scientist, which is fine. But even that label is not immune to social baggage. As the divide between religion and science grows wider, society in general will associate scientists with atheism.

Edited by MisterSwig

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As far as I've seen, most atheists hate on philosophy, and are at best reactionary without standing for anything. The term atheist is pretty empty of meaning. In a comparative discussion, it is useful to point out someone as an atheist, but it is not substantive. Agnostic is a little more substantive, because it is something like an epistemelogical position. These words aren't going to tell anyone anything useful really.

If you really want to get what he's saying, focus on scientism. Science is prioritized, philosophy viewed as subjective opinion. This is another example of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROe28Ma_tYM

So yeah, it's not surprising that science minded people would make bad philosophical arguments (while somehow being completely ignorant of the fact that the positions they hold are philosophical).

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I haven't seen anyone bring up the contrast to religion in this thread. Tyson's comment that the universe doesn't care about you could reasonably be taken as a rejection of religion, which says that the universe does care about you - or, at least, is controlled by a magical omnipotent God that does.

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29 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

As far as I've seen, most atheists hate on philosophy, and are at best reactionary without standing for anything. The term atheist is pretty empty of meaning. In a comparative discussion, it is useful to point out someone as an atheist, but it is not substantive. Agnostic is a little more substantive, because it is something like an epistemelogical position. These words aren't going to tell anyone anything useful really.

If you really want to get what he's saying, focus on scientism. Science is prioritized, philosophy viewed as subjective opinion. This is another example of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROe28Ma_tYM

So yeah, it's not surprising that science minded people would make bad philosophical arguments (while somehow being completely ignorant of the fact that the positions they hold are philosophical).

If we're being precise, scientismists do stand for something: science.

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39 minutes ago, William O said:

I haven't seen anyone bring up the contrast to religion in this thread. Tyson's comment that the universe doesn't care about you could reasonably be taken as a rejection of religion, which says that the universe does care about you - or, at least, is controlled by a magical omnipotent God that does.

It's a little weird. Tyson's anthropomorphizing the universe, which is something certain (primarily Eastern) religions also do. So, either he believes the universe is actually blind and indifferent, or he's employing a metaphor for the universe's nonconscious elements. Given his agnosticism, I suppose an argument could be made for either scenario.

He's famous for saying, "God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance." Yet he believes in the expanding universe, and the possibility of the multiverse. So I suppose it's a question of whether the God-pocket is shrinking faster than it's growing.

He talks about religion in this video starting around the 16:45 mark. The whole interview is actually pretty good.

 

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Agnostic is a little more substantive, because it is something like an epistemelogical position.

I tend to agree with Peikoff's view that an agnostic is "an epistemological destroyer." Tyson's consideration of the arbitrary not only corrupts his position on God, but also his scientific positions on the universe. 

Edited by MisterSwig

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