Cosmos series irritates those who hold anti-science ideas

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.

New Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson Destroys Climate Deniers | Mother Jones.

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 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.

  6 comments for “Cosmos series irritates those who hold anti-science ideas

  1. Erik
    May 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    And those questions may not be answered very quickly. When the original Cosmos series aired in 1980 on PBS, I was a bit young, but I remember being advised not to watch it by my religiously conservative family members and leaders from my church because of perceived “anti-God” content. Sounds like the same tune, eh?


    “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.”

    YAY! “looney” made an appearance! 🙂

  2. DyNama, Ohio
    May 29, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    If someone popularizes bible verses seeming to contradict natural law, that’s when the religious object to science, but if no one makes the connection, they go along. Thus they pick and choose. The Law of Gravity is one of my favorite examples of science that incurs almost no wrath from religion, yet the book tells of violations of that very law, such as Jesus ascending to heaven (because heaven is “beyond the firmament”) without reaching escape velocity (the rest of us need a huge rocket). That violation is one of the supernatural (“super-nature”) claims of this particular religion, but it hasn’t been sufficiently pointed out to make religious people deny gravity!

    Also…”Ham on Nye”. lmao!

  3. Lagaya1
    May 29, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Just wish he hadn’t used that “Butterfly in Bali” reference. It’s silly and old. Someone will miss the point he’s making and hear only that science can’t predict anything because it’s all so random.

  4. May 29, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Max said some weird stuff but I think this quote goes towards answering the article’s last question… “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” -Max Planck

  5. May 29, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    Darwin said; it appears to me that direct arguments against theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds. I hope Cosmos can be part of that process.

  6. Rocky Mac
    May 29, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Divulgation, as this reboot of Cosmos proves, will always ruffle some feathers, but I guess it comes with the territory; I remember that Copernicus delayed the publication of his heliocentric theory due to fear of criticism (or a possible religious backlash), but yet, thanks to some people close to him, his idea got around until he felt confident enough (though with some reservations) to release the full text.

    The main problem is that all too many people confuses the moral counsel of a religion and turn it into an absolute guideline to measure, qualify and encapsulate every single field of human knowledge, instead of challenging the views of their own beliefs to make them stronger, turning a believer into a pious zealot.

    To believe may not be a bad thing per se, and if someone must (due to social context or by own free will), that should not impair the natural course of human curiosity: a good example would be Isaac Newton, mostly known by his works on physics and math, but back in the day he was also a renowned theologian (a believer convinced that the world and all it’s phenomena were the result of a design by an ever present and unfathomable God), delved in alchemy and prophesy quite extensively, rejected the idea of Cartesian Dualism (therefore some of the positivist views that came along with it) and was sure that the world would end as foretold in the Bible, and it all lead to a huge debate with peers and then some (a very rich and insightful one, by the way). It would be easy to dismiss his “belief-infused” works by calling him a devotee pamphleteer (or worst), hide them in a closet and display his scientific canon in a pedestal without asking too many questions about the man, as it has been the case most of the times.

    So zeal is a threat for believers and not believers alike, as skeptics are not supposed to be just a bunch of rude and crude naysayers, to believe should not carry a mandatory close mind, but nowadays to debate knowledge seems to be just about being right and not to learn something new. One could agree or not, like or refute, even consider that there’s an ulterior motive to it, no matter if it comes from deGrasse Tyson, Sagan, Kaku, Nye, Penn & Teller, the Mythbusters or Beakman’s World for that matter, but to shut down any adequately substantiated argument just on the basis of an intolerant view of reality, won’t help anyone if we really want to grow our understanding of the world around us…

    “…Truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are…” Friedrich Nietzsche.

    P.S. Sorry about the rant.

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