Cosmos: A Personal Voyage first aired on PBS in 1980. The thirteen part series inspired a generation of children and reeducated the public about science, as well as the universe and our place in it. The host, Carl Sagan, became the American face of popular science and remains one of the most beloved and recognizable scientists of our time.
Seventeen years after his death, the world is being treated to a sequel. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a redevelopment of the original series. Many of the same subjects are discussed with updated information and modern graphics.
The thirteen episode series premiered on Fox in mid-March and has been largely praised by critics and viewers alike. There is one group that is making its displeasure heard however - creationists.
Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis posted a critique of the first episode in which he states that, "The big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned. " This is especially entertaining since scientists recently announced astounding evidence for the Big Bang. Ham is right of course, we don't know all the details of the universe's birth. Thankfully, when science doesn't know it says 'let's find out' rather than 'gawddidit'. Keep your God of the Gaps, Ken. We'll keep closing them.
The first episode only mentioned natural selection one time, but perhaps that was once too much for some Oklahomans.
The station said it was an error and perhaps it was, I've seen such things happen before. But, oh the timing. If someone was attempting to to censor the show, they couldn't help but fail when the second episode aired.
The backlash to the second broadcast was immediate. David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute (known for its "Intelligent Design" stance) said Tyson "[extrapolated] shamelessly, promiscuously from artificial selection to minor stuff like the color of a polar bear's fur to the development of the human eye."
Creationists have tried to divide evolution into two categories: micro and macro. They argue that dogs coming from wolves is obvious, but that things like the human eye are too perfect to have come from random selection. There is no such divide in evolution. The only difference between big changes and small ones is time. A fact that Cosmos illustrated beautifully, much to the chagrin of creationists everywhere.
“When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson
Danny Falkner, also of Answers in Genesis, went on a radio show where he discussed the lack of the creationist viewpoint on Cosmos: “I was struck in the first episode where he talked about science and how, you know, all ideas are discussed, you know, everything is up for discussion – it’s all on the table – and I thought to myself, ‘No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion, it would seem.’”
You're right, Mr. Falker. "Special creation" is not on the table. Why? It isn't good science. It isn't science at all. Bending evidence (and the lack of evidence) to match a predetermined worldview is definitively not a part of the scientific method. We ask to get explanations, not non-answers.
The host of the show lamented herself: "Boy, but when you have so many scientists who simply do not accept Darwinian evolution, it seems to me that that might be something to throw in there, you know, the old, ‘some scientists say this, others disagree and think this,’ but that’s not even allowed."
Sorry, no. Not at all. No.
99.9% of scientists agree that evolution by natural selection (a.k.a. Darwinian evolution) is correct, even though up to 5% of scientists consider themselves creationists. Furthermore, the scientific community at large thinks that "Intelligent Design" (a.k.a. creationism) is pseudoscience.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has gone out of his way to say that he is not an atheist. It seems he is following in the footsteps on Carl Sagan, choosing to define atheism as "someone who is certain that God does not exist."
That, of course, is not how most atheists define themselves. We characterize ourselves by a lack of belief, ones that see no evidence for any deity. Show us some and we'll change our minds.
Interestingly, that appears to be the way Sagan would have described himself and I think Tyson would agree. Honestly, I think their aim is to take god out of the equation in hopes that science will not be shut out by the public in the name of faith. I can understand and respect this desire and I think it works in many cases, though it doesn't seem to persuade creationists. And that says an awful lot, don't you think?
Cosmos is on Fox for the next ten weeks. Every Sunday at 9/8c. Tune in to learn or simply to revel in wonder. It will surely join the original as a beloved and hailed accomplishment of society.
“Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of kids. They outnumber kids. They vote. They wield resources. That's why my public focus is primarily adults.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson
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