The new Cosmos reboot is generating some waves for sure. Creationists have a beef with the exclusion (even derision) of the God concept while teachers are excited to have interesting science content for their classes. Now, climate change deniers might get a little broiled over the latest episode to air.
Chris Mooney describes the episode’s take on climate vs weather. It’s a good one. He also reminds us that global warming was an extremely important subject to Carl Sagan, the original creator of Cosmos. It’s not hard to feel he would be very happy with this.
[H]ost Neil deGrasse Tyson uses the analogy of walking a dog on the beach to helpfully explain the difference between climate and weather (pay attention, Donald Trump) and to outline why, no matter how cold you were in January, that’s no argument against global warming.
We’ve seen the rest of the episode already, and won’t spill the beans. But suffice it to say that it contains some powerful refutations of a number of other global warming denier talking points, as well as some ingenious sequences that explain the planetary-scale significance of climate change. It also contains some in situ reporting on the impacts of climate change, straight from the imperiled Arctic.
Here is the clip.
Several outlets have been covering the Cosmos series. I found a very interesting take on it in Catholic Online where the writer asks: Is it okay for Catholics to watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey?.
His answer is yes, with qualifications.
The show, with its eye-popping visuals and quality narration is a guilty pleasure for the faithful, and it happens to be incredibly educational. Tyson does an excellent job explaining complex scientific processes in language that the ordinary viewer can understand. He is opening the realm of science to a new generation of people, just as Carl Sagan did in the 80s.
Yet, how can Christians view a program that intentionally slights their faith?[…]
The makers of the new “Cosmos” series may have a secular agenda that leaves little room for God. However, we can still use the show to learn valid scientific truths. We simply need to be careful and reminded that the views presented in the program are limited by our current understanding of physics and are based on a short-sighted view of creation.
The author has some typically dogmatic comments such as proclaiming the show has a short-sighted view of creation and that science can’t answer all questions. He notes the Vatican has their own science council. I have no idea if that makes a difference in the big picture but it suggests that the Catholic view is to try to live side-by-side with science, using it to their needs when convenient. But not when it isn’t.
Salon and AlterNet (that ends up on Salon.com) have been posting about the series and how it is scaring the bejesus out of Creationists (like Ken Ham) and Intelligent Design proponents by doing away with any need for “god” as part of the explanation. This SHOULD be no surprise as the “insert god here” ploy has been needed less and less as humans learn about the universe. With Cosmos this is freely available and done VERY well.
The fundamental religious may fear that the secular universe ideas will appear in the classrooms and expose a new generation of young people not just to science (which some think is OK) but totally secular science, which they don’t care for. Their concern reveals an unstable misunderstanding of science as a process to gain knowledge.
Dan Arel writes about Intelligent design and conspiracy blogger David Klinghoffer’s view:
To those like Klinghoffer, [Cosmos in schools] is scary news: the last thing he or any of his colleagues wants are students excited about actual science. They want students excited about their dumbed-down, edited version of science, where instead of science textbooks saying “Biology” on the outside they say “Holy Bible.”
A totally secular view of the universe eliminates an agent. The religious really feel uncomfortable with that. Science-minded folks, not so much. It’s amazing not threatening.
Sean McElwee in Salon notes that the success and inability to ignore Cosmos and Dr. Tyson’s elegant delivery shows how hypocritical the religious conservatives are and why they are experiencing so much “agita” over it.
The odd conflict of science and religion has come to define modern religious fundamentalism. While most religious people happily accept scientific theories about gravity, claims about the age of Earth are subject to a strange scrutiny by those who believe that the literary creation narratives in the Bible describe actual events.
In other words, the laying out the elegance of the scientific explanation of the universe shows the problem Young Earth Creationists are having trying to make a place in their world view for science but, at the same time, denying it. This was evident in the muddled, nonsensical, convoluted views of Ken Ham during the Ham on Nye debate. This method fails. You either accept the Enlightenment and the perspective that came with it or you just go back to the dark ages. Trying to pick and choose is going to drive you looney.
I’m really curious what impact Cosmos will make in the long-term. Will it be remembered, remain in the mainstream? Will it open doors for more and better science programming? Does it push the anti-science and religious views out of the limelight? Does what the ranters say really matter? Are people (not just the spokespeople) really all that upset about the exclusion of God in the program? Lots of questions that need time to play out.