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.
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.