Television legend joins ASU theoretical astrophysicist Krauss for frank talk about religion, science, sex and politics
A theoretical physicist and a television host sit down and talk about sex, religion, news, science, Pope Francis, Donald Trump, and Ike’s post-presidential golf game.
Rather than a bar joke, that was Tuesday night’s result of the latest in Arizona State University’s Origins Project dialogues, a series of freewheeling conversations between theoretical astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss and a variety of thinkers on humankind’s fundamental questions, and sometimes just funny stories.
Television legend and Emmy Award winner Hugh Downs joined KraussKrauss is also Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, which is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences., director of the Origins Project, for “An Origins Project Dialogue, Seventy Years of Life on TV: Politics, Religion, Sex and Science” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Downs turned 95 on Feb. 14. “My higher education has never ended,” he said. “It’s gone from one thing to another.” In addition to being one of the most familiar figures in the history of television, Downs has written a cello concerto, earned his private pilot’s license and written a paper on astrophysics.
His career began by accident. During the Depression, Downs’ father told him he had to get a job. As he walked past the local radio station, he decided to go in and see if they had any openings. The station manager told him he’d give him a tryout on the spot. After Downs read an ad for a paint store, the manager told him, “That was really bad, but great oaks from little acorns grow.”
“Tonight we’re going to talk about all the things you can’t talk about on TV,” Krauss said.
“When they tell me they talk to God, I think they’re making a prayer,” Downs said. “When they tell me God talks to them, I go on full alert.”
Krauss reminded Downs of a quote Downs once said about going to church every Sunday: “The stories are so silly they have to go to church every Sunday so eventually they’ll believe them.”
“We ought to have quantum physics classes every Sunday, so maybe that’ll sink in,” Krauss said.
Downs said he would like to interview Pope Francis. “He has the courage of an elephant,” Downs said.
Downs talked about interviewing Dwight D. Eisenhower after his presidency. What was the biggest difference? “A lot more people beat me at golf now,” Eisenhower said.
“You have an historical perspective about the way elections are done,” Krauss said.
Downs referred to the broad field of Republican candidates in the current race. “You worry that someone out of that lineup might end up running the country who isn’t qualified,” he said.
Downs described a lunch meeting he had with Donald Trump once. Trump wanted the air rights over the midtown Manhattan church where Downs was a vestryman.