Lawrence Krauss | Secular Day at the Capital 2016

Lawrence Krauss speaks at the Secular Day at the Capital in Phoenix, AZ., hosted by the Secular Coalition For Arizona about the importance of defending secular values in our governments.

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You may not know, but, we actually imposed on Dr. Krauss during our meeting here today at the end of a commute, I'm not sure where he was coming from, but he had been on a plane.

We dispatched an escort to bring him here to make sure he didn't wonder off like an electron, that I mentioned earlier, and he has graciously consented to address the group once again to talk about a topic a little broader than then this Darwin Day declaration, since he is a man who was involved in many things, so I will give him the podium and he told me he would speak on thingsthat are pertinent to our group. So please join me in welcoming Dr. Krauss. (Applause)



Thank you. Yeah, I was very impressed with the motorcade and the sirens. You shouldn't have.

I was asked and happily I was able to fly in. I got in at noon, so I was able to be here with you all today. Which is rare because usually I am somewhere else.

It's an important day.

It's kind of a shame that we need a secular lobby day. I mean, why wouldyou need that?

Because the business of government is secular. I mean, it shouldn't be an issue.

In fact, that is part of the reason for the separation of church and state. All of the issues of the government deals with have nothing, and I repeat nothing, to do with faith.

I was just writing a piece, which may or may not appear somewhere in the next week. Because a Pew poll that just appeared; they do these polls periodically, but it reasserted something that has been true for awhile. 

A Pew poll over the United States , that showed that among all the attributes that people would view towards a politician or an election, atheism was the most negative. More than an inexperience. Well, we can see that. Republican primaries. More than financial impropriety. More than infidelity.

And, what surprised me in the currently climate even more than being a Muslim. Which is interesting. I suppose that's a good thing; that we are below that.

That's sad. But to me, what makes it most sad, is the fact that if atheism is such an anathema, to the public, then it allows politicians to hide behind faith. I think the two go together.

Instead of addressing the real issues that really matter to the public and to the governance of society, and to make the world a better place, the real, real world issues, they can cloak themselves behind faith and avoid those issues because they know that for many voters that is a prime issue.

So I think, it's a long haul, but in order to try and make government more secular, and in order to try and get candidates to focus on issues that matter, I think it's intricacy important at the same time to be able to come out and get atheism for example,  is just the right to questioning. And the right to question doesn't make you a bad person. 

In fact, you know, I have been thinking a lot about Thomas Paine lately, for a variety of reasons which I can't tell you right now, but I will at some point.

Here is a quote I just found when I landed today from Thomas Paine:

"It is error only and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the Earth for honest men to live in. And to argue with person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead."  

And you know what that’s like. All of you. Not the latter, but the former. What matters is not faith, but, in a state like this, schools. Quality of education, energy policies, sustainability, water, women's rights, those are the issues that really matter. 

We have to focus on those and we have to forever point out that those issues to understand that require open questioning inquiry and nothing should be immune from inquiring. Nothing should be sacred.

Everything should be open to inquiring, as I know what you heard me say before if politics, if sex, if everything else is open to ridicule, then so should religion. 

And inquiry generates policies that are reasonable. Because policies are divorced from empirical evidence and reasoning are not. 

I was just introduced to the Senate, andI was looking down at a Senator who happens to think that the Earth is 6000 years old.

The earth isn't. It's billions of years old. Whether you like it or not. Whether you believe it or not, it is. And that's important because when she first said this and many have you seen the YouTube of her saying it, she was talking about storing radioactive materials and pointed out the earth was 6000 years old, so we had to really had to be able to store them for a long time. Well, you have to realize that 6000 years is just a drop in the cosmic bucket.

Inquiry leads you to realize that climate change is real. It's not a model. It's not an ideology. It's a fact. We have to address that fact with serious policies. We in Arizona in particular have to address issues like water. Water will become, there will be water wars and in fact my institute at ASU; The Origins Project will be running a meeting about water next year, where we will have a number of interesting people including, I believe, the Governor of California, as well as a bunch of scientists. 

Because water wars will take place in the southwest if not around the the rest of the world. Water. Because of climate change.

Inquiry will lead you to realize that a zygote, and an embryo, are not human beings. They are groups of cells with the potential to become human beings. They don't therefore have the rights and human beings. Whatever you believe.

If you've ever, as I have had the fortune of lecturing in medical schools and seeing in vitro fertilization process,there is no moment of conception. And groups of cells are just that.

They cannot compete with the rights of women who want to govern their lives by what makes them healthy, and leads to the welfare of their families and people around the them.

Inquiry leads you to realize that being gay is not immoral. It's not unnatural. As I said recently on an Australian television program to a devout member of their legislature, it turns out that if you look at most mammalian species, about 10% engage in what you would call homosexual sex, and in fact sheep, have long-term homosexual relationships. They are not immoral, sheep. Or moral for that matter.

When it comes to making legislation, what would serve to make this country great, is the quality of the intellects and creativity and culture that we support. And that we nurture.

And it's those things that I have tried, in the time I have been in Arizona, to convince the Legislature, are important.

One of the reasons I created the Origins Project at Arizona State University and one of the things I’m very proud of what we have three thousand people attend events regularly on science, which is unique in the country, if not the world, is first of all people are people crave information. But the university can be a source of cultural enrichment that universities are great for the environment. 

They bring in companies and corporations because people, when they’re deciding whether to move to Arizona, don't decide whether they are going move to Arizona because it's a state based on faith but there's a state with opportunities and resources and education and culture that can help them and their children thrive. And all those things are secular.

Why then, support things like science?  Let me just conclude by saying quote.

I have just written down because I did write a piece that I think will come out in the New York Times on Thursday.

But it's one of my favorite quotes that comes from Robert Wilson, who was the head of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, .which was the largest accelerator in the world, before the large Hadron collider. We would have had the largest one here, except our congress decided didn't need it. It cost six billion dollars at the time, which we decided the United States we couldn't afford.  Which was like one week's air conditioning in Iraq during the war.

But even then, there were problems trying to build devices to look at fundamental aspects of the nature of matter and the nature of our origins. He testified before Congress and he was asked whether that machine with aid in the defense of the nation.

And what he said was, "No, but it will help keep the nation worth defending."

That's what you're all here for today, and I am too. The need to base public policy on reason and evidence is what makes this nation worth defending, and all of us have to fight to ensure that keeps going. Thank you very much.



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