Isaac Asimov talks with Bill Moyers

March 2, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More

This video was created many years ago–based on Moyers’ description of the American space program, it was probably made in the early to mid 1960’s.   I had never before seen any video of Asimov (though I have read some of his writings), and I found this video (part of an episode from “Bill Moyers World”) to be engaging.   The topics: science and education.

I also found what appears to be a full transcript of the interview at Harpers Magazine, which contains some additional information, including this exchange on the power and limits of science:

MOYERS: What’s the real knowledge?

ASIMOV: We can’t be absolutely certain. Science doesn’t purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism, a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. This works not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it. We don’t pretend that we know everything. In fact, it would be terrible to know everything because there’d be nothing left to learn. But you don’t want to be up a blind alley somewhere.

As you might assume, Wikipedia has an informative biography on Asimov.   After viewing this video, I looked it up.  I especially enjoyed his comment on religion:

In his last volume of autobiography, Asimov wrote, “If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.” The same memoir states his belief that Hell is “the drooling dream of a sadist” crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term? Asimov rejected the idea that a human belief or action could merit infinite punishment. If an afterlife of just deserts existed, he claimed, the longest and most severe punishment would be reserved for those who “slandered God by inventing Hell.”

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Category: American Culture, Education, Religion, Science, scientific method, Technology, Videos

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Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Hank says:

    Thank you Erich

    I adore the work of Isaac Asimov (Foundation series is awesome, as is everything he ever wrote about robots, AI and the moral implications that came with them). I think at my most tragic I read a good solid dozen Asimovs in a row! One of my favourites, though, is a compilation of mysteries called "Tales of The Black Widowers" (which I nicked from dad's bookshelf, along with his other Asimovs, when I was 14). I urge any fan of Asimov's scifi to read it as it reveals a dimension to Asimov that many fans may not be aware of.

    I'm looking forward to watching this video when I get home!

  2. H says:

    Asimov is not interested in economics?

    What about psychohistory?

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