Science & Tech, Business

Our Systems of Belief

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Lesson time 13:37 min

Every personal system of belief contains identifiable biases that impact the ability to think scientifically. Neil talks about two of these biases and how inner beliefs can have a significant societal and scientific impact.

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Topics include: Political Truths


- So we talked about cognitive bias. There are other biases you can have, but we wouldn't necessarily call them cognitive bias, because they're not a product of some weakness in the wiring of the human brain. They come about from some other influence that takes place-- cultural, political, religious influence. Everybody has bias. Some people have more bias than others. But if, after all these experiments have been conducted, there's convergence in a result, then you have successfully winnowed out the influence of bias on that scientific research. No one was without bias. Just be ready to get your stuff checked, and be ready to just abandon your cherished thoughts and ideas in the face of conflicting evidence. [MUSIC PLAYING] So let me start out with something I'm just calling a personal truth. So a personal truth is something that you hold to be true no matter what anyone else thinks of it. And almost all religious tenets would come under that category. Is Jesus your savior? Is Muhammad the last prophet on earth, and you are certain of that? Do your ancestors keep watch on you and look after you? These are tenets that exist in different religions that are deeply and strongly held by the faithful among those religions. Personal truths. In a free country, especially one where religious freedoms are protected, go right ahead. Have whatever personal truth you want. Of course, providing it doesn't constrain or remove the freedoms of others. That's why we're calling it a personal truth. OK, if you have a strong personal truth, and that personal truth overlaps something that can be tested scientifically, then you have to just be aware that you can end up confronting information that is objectively true-- that is, true regardless of who looks at it-- and it could conflict with your personal truth. And it can manifest, once again, by thinking you're special, but not from a, I'm a special human, but, I'm part of a group that is special. My religion is more special than your religion. My country is more special than your country. My way of thinking is more special than your way of thinking. It actually distorts your ability to interpret reality because you have an unjustified level of confidence in a particular world view you have adopted. What I mean by unjustified is you participate in this mindset because it makes you feel good about yourself and this group that you're a part of. And in order to feel good, in almost all cases, it involves denigrating other groups. Nazi Germany-- that was a personal truth. Personal truth is Nazi Germans are superior in every way to everyone else in the world. This is a personal truth that they-- and they believed it down to their bones and acted on the world based on that belief system. So what they all have in common is that they derive from belief systems, whether or not their belief system has a religious foundation or otherwise. The good thing about science is that it's true whether...

About the Instructor

With a hit talk show and bestselling books, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most popular figures in modern science. Now the influential astrophysicist teaches you how his mind works and how he connects with audiences. Learn to think like a skeptic, open your own mind through scientific literacy, distill data, and navigate bias to discover objective truths—and deliver your ideas in ways that engage, excite, and inspire.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches you how to find objective truths and shares his tools for communicating what you discover.

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