AWOL on “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”


Well, I feel I am somehow doing a disservice and failing at my “job” by not writing much about the new series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson. I love science, and I love writing about it (hence the Works of His Hands articles for the Tomorrow’s World magazine–the newest of which I am currently late in delivering!) and its place and impact in our culture and our faith. Viewing the original Cosmos with Carl Sagan was a watershed experience in my own life as a child. Though it shows its age, the original Cosmos book, a companion to the original series, is still one of the most treasured books in my personal library. I eat this stuff up. The new show is currently a hot topic, and I like it when we have comments and writings on our websites about current, hot topics.

And yet about this whole Cosmos reboot I’ve just been sort of… I don’t know… meh.

Actually, I think that sums it up pretty well: meh.

It isn’t the stink that some Creationists are apparently trying to raise (see the Puffington Host article here — and, as always, caveat navita stans). It isn’t that it will almost surely be presented with an virtually aggressively atheistic, irrational, religion-hating point of view. I’ve come to expect that from some science works and have learned to pick around the garbage for the good stuff.

And, fleshing out that last point, it isn’t that I would be disappointed by Neil deGrasse Tyson expressing extreme ignorance about matters related to God and religious belief. Again, I’ve come to expect that and have become somewhat callused to it. Tyson is clearly an intelligent guy. A worthy successor to the Church of Naturalism’s “Saint Sagan”? He is called that by some, though I’m not sure I would give him that. (Maybe the new series would convince me otherwise.) Still, a very educated guy and, apparently, recognized as a popularizer of science for the masses. But, when it comes to matters related to God, faith, and how it relates to science? He’s an uneducated moron. (And I mean that in the most respectful way possible. I’m an uneducated moron on a number of things. If you’ve read this blog for long, you probably already know that.) He gives criticisms that most philosophers and believing scientists can refute in their sleep. But it sounds good to those of the Church of Naturalism: it plays to the crowd, and, like too many on both sides of issues like this, perhaps that’s all that really matters to him. He can point to the amazing things we see in the discoveries of science, but when it comes to comprehending the implications and interpretations beyond the equations — concerning meaning, philosophy, intent, purpose, and value — he isn’t even mature enough to enter the playground, let alone play in the sandbox.

And it isn’t that I would be shocked to find that the new Cosmos is, in many ways, a chance to selectively choose elements of human history and — whether told straight or perverted here and there with misleading twists — turn them into a winding tale supporting Naturalism as the One True Faith™. Carl Sagan was a master of this in the original Cosmos, and his tales could be woven together into a veritable new book of Acts for the Naturalism Bible. I would expect no less from a Cosmos produced by a new generation in which the attitudes have gotten nastier and the minds of many secularists all the more closed and bitter. I expect the religious sentiment of our greatest scientists to be treated ultimately as hinderances to the true faith of Naturalism instead of any sort of force for good, just as Sagan implied about Johannes Kepler and many atheists imply today (or outrightly state) about Isaac Newton and others. The tapestry woven will undoubtedly be crafted to serve the faith, and tales that disagree will not be welcome or even permitted — banned with the sort of passion and zeal for censorship that such individuals condemn when they believe they perceive such sentiment in religious works but apparently embrace when it serves their own interests.

All of this should be expected seeing that the series is being produced by Seth MacFarlane (as I thought during his Oscars stint: the perfectly reflective representative our culture deserves), who has declared that there is no political motive behind the show (all while explicitly blaming one political party for the country’s scientific ignorance, by the way) and who has praised what the show ostensibly represents: what Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow & one of the people behind the original Cosmos) has indicated should be a proper marriage of wonder and skepticism. And given the show’s backers, one would be deluded to expect that the romanticized “skepticism” on display will be anything but a narrow, favored “skepticism” wedded to an ironic and complete lack of skepticism as needed to maintain a fundamentally unsupported ideology.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in an image from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on FOX (who owns this image). Can't deny it: The images look fantastic.
Neil deGrasse Tyson in an image from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on FOX (who owns this image). Can’t deny it: The images look fantastic.

And, finally, it isn’t that I don’t expect the new Cosmos to be anything less than impressive in its explanations, wondrous in its graphics and special effects, and moving and grand in its portrayal of our remarkable universe. Though I find its thumbnail of choice to look a little gross (a human eye surrounded by a reddish nebula that, to me, seems weird and fleshy due to the presence of the eye in the center), I expect that the series will seek to outdo its predecessor in every way, taking advantage of the remarkable abilities we now have to produce CGI images of startling realism and impact. The original Cosmos was a groundbreaker in this area, and if the new one is to stand out, it will have to compete with the seemingly thousands of digital images and video clips that are standard fare now on television programs featured by the Science Channel, the Discovery Channel, etc. The graphics and images seen on a regular basis by the very audience that will be the new Cosmos‘ bread and butter already surpass much of what was seen in the original Cosmos by several orders of magnitude (though, not in the original show’s imaginatively creativity and subtlety, at times). To be a worthy successor, the creators of Cosmos will need to step things up, and I expect them to do so. I am normally a complete sucker for such stuff. And, I admit, the images I have seen (bloody eye mentioned above, excepted) — such as the one of Tyson standing before a window (or whatever) gazing upon a star, perhaps the sun, at an uncomfortably close distance — look fantastic. I expect the best of such things from the series.

So, why am I non-plussed? Why am I so meh?

I don’t know. Meh.

Let me know what you think. Have you seen any episodes so far? What do you think? How does it compare to the original with Carl Sagan? How is Tyson doing? Why do you think I am so meh? Is my mehness justified? I do plan on seeing the series eventually. From what you’ve seen so far, what do you think I should expect?

Positive or negative, your comments below are welcome.

9 thoughts on “AWOL on “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

  1. Steven

    I saw the first 5 minutes of the most recent episode of “Cosmos” and I had to turn the channel in disgust. With all due respect to Mr. deGrasse Tyson, it is clear to me that he is using this series to inculcate viewers with his atheistic beliefs. It is a textbook example of what Mr. Meredith calls “Satan’s Broadcasting System” (or “SBS” for short).

    I am a HUGE fan of astronomy, but am not a fan of shows like this that are so obviously blatant in their agenda. In my opinion, the best series (by far) on astronomy is simply called “The Universe” on the History Channel. I have the first 6 seasons on DVD. Yes, this series also makes evolutionary assumptions, but at least it is “not in your face” and minimal in nature. The graphics are spectacular and the topics are provocative and interesting.

    It is too bad that a Christian/Creationist astronomy show wasn’t on television because I would be the first to tune in. Sadly, we are left with shows like “Cosmos” which I will never watch again.

  2. I don’t have a TV but if your description is even half-accurate I wouldn’t say meh, I’d say yuck. But then, that’s what I always feel when logical systems thinking is perverted as you describe – by anyone. I’m better served emotionally and spiritually by staying away from such deviousness. “Sagan the Pagan” (what a Jewish publication once called him, I’m told) was bad enough. An even more outlandish skepticism I need like a hole in the head. I get all the wonder I need from the sources I follow: people who stick to science and not try to prove Einstein right (most scientists are poor philosophers).

  3. Steve

    Same as your first commentator. Just a container to push an agenda. (And watched a nature ‘documentary’, the other day. Beautiful footage. But discovered that it was just another hit piece by The People With The Crazy Eyes).

  4. I haven’t watched the show at all yet, and probably won’t.
    I have read several articles about the show written by those who like to complain that the “creationist” crowd is belly-aching again.

    What is interesting to me, as I’ve mentioned before, is that one of the actual proofs for the Bible being true, and the Author of the Bible being real, is the atheist himself, or herself.

    In writing about them, I’ve wrote two articles about them giving 150 reasons from the Bible why they do and say what they do and say, and why they cannot do otherwise. At some time I hope to finish the next one or two articles showing the rest of the reasons the Bible gives for their behavior. Knowing these reasons leaves no doubt, one can easily “predict” what an atheist will say and do. In another series I called them “The Bible’s ‘Secret Weapon.'”

    As for “morons” I also wrote an article “Finally, ‘Moron’ Proves Bible True!” It was about Richard Dawkins, and the word “moron” was used according to its NT Greek meaning, i.e. “foolish.”

    So, so far, nothing I have read has surprised me about the new Cosmos and Mr. deGrasse Tyson. It’s already written for me in the Scriptures. Interesting, one of those “reasons” says that “IN them [the atheist, etc.]” is manifested what can be known of the Father. Rom. 1:19. The IN of that verse is “en” in Greek. I notice the ESV translates it “to” them.
    However, means IN not “to.”

    I also like Romans 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became “morons.” Gk. here is “eMORANthesan.”

    Glad you are posting again! Makes for a nice “spark” of life during the week.

  5. Norbert

    When it comes to, “have learned to pick around the garbage for the good stuff”, I have the same approach when listening to the CBC. They have a lot of provocative shows and very interesting people on the important and hot topics of today’s world. Albeit by the sounds of it, compared to Cosmos the CBC is a little more fair minded when it to the idea of whether or not there is a supreme God.

    And I get the sentiment where some times I have to turn it off, when people speak authoritatively as uneducated morons. It’s very similar to what Paul is getting at in 1 Tim 1:7. Because of that some shows have the potential, to use the expression, to get under my skin. However I’m reminded of one thing.

    “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
    It shall not return to Me void,
    But it shall accomplish what I please,
    And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isa 55:11

  6. Good points, Norbert. My kids and I will watch shows like that, enjoying the good stuff and verbally dissecting the “off” statements and bad assumptions. (We do similar things with commercials.) But my tolerance for such things does seem to be diminishing with my age.

  7. Thomas

    Perhaps the “meh” factor has something to do with no longer finding satisfaction in the wonders of the universe being presented as the wonders of a meaningless universe as opposed to a universe that points to an exciting and meaningful future.

    Speaking of the original Cosmos series that was where I was first introduced to the famous Drake Equation. Of course, at about the same time as Cosmos was originally hitting the airwaves British cosmologist Sir Fred Hoyle (and a group of post-grad students) had calculated that the probability of a simple single celled organism arising by chance was one in ten to the power of forty thousand. To help put that in (some sort of) perspective it is estimated that there are only ten to the power of eighty atoms in the known Universe. Yet I have never seen this number plugged into Drake’s equation. It puts the lie to the supposition that there could be other space-faring civilisations out there or that it is hubris to think that we could be the only ones.

    More recently molecular biologist Doug Axe and his colleagues have refined the estimate that chance could produce even the simplest single-celled organism. Their estimate stands at ten raised to the power of 41,000. Plug that into Drake’s Equation and it does not matter what you guesstimate for any of the other factors (within reason). You are not going to get a Universe with life in it. What it says is that we don’t exist by chance. Once you rule out chance the only alternative left is that we exist by design.

  8. Oh, “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet”, Thomas. 🙂 Julian Huxley (in Evolution in Action, 1953, p. 41) actually gave the odds against a horse evolving as 1 followed by 3 million zeros or (10)3,000,000. Even the simplest self-reproducing system we know of, let’s say 1500 bits’ worth, gives odds of (2)1500 or (10)450. Even given some wonderfully extravagant conditions quite beyond the real world, one calculation I have shows that in 30 billion years only (10)107 attempts to create such a system by chance would be possible.

    But watch out! The “out” of evolutionists is that supposedly natural selection, or some other process, involved is non-random. Another “out” is that more than one system of the same size could work. The problem, of course, is proving either. 😀

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