Culture At Large

Jon Stewart, Skeptic of Science's Cosmic Ontology

Nathan Bierma

I'm not ashamed to say that two of my favorite social critics are Marilynne Robinson and Jon Stewart, though it's hard to imagine two people who could be more different, and it's hard to take both equally seriously (for good reason). But when they met on Stewart's show (to plug Robinson's excellent new book Absence of Mind), the cordial exchange revealed not only how underrated Stewart is as an interviewer, but also how insightful he can be about bigger issues. Take his comment on the seemingly unscientific "beliefs" or "truth claims" made by scientists in explaining the universe, which he gave in an paraphrased dialogue between scientists and the public. I was nodding my head in agreement with Stewart, and so was Robinson.

STEWART (at 2:52 in the above clip): I've always been fascinated that the more you delve into science, the more it appears to rely on faith.

You know, when they start to speak about the universe, they say,

'Well, actually most of the universe is anti-matter.'

'Oh really? Where's that?'

'Well, you can't see it.'

'Well where is it?'

'It's there.'

'Well can you measure it?'

'We're working on it.'

And it's a very similar argument to someone who would say,

'Well, God created everything.'

'Well where is he?'

'He's there.'

And I'm always struck by the similarity of the arguments at their core.

ROBINSON: I think you're absolutely right.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science