Further to Did Tyson’s Cosmos series send the religious right ’off the deep end’?”, over at Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin responds to the Cosmos remake’s claim, channelling Sagan in the original Cosmos, that there is no reason to believe that humans’ position is unique.
One is tempted to reply, “Yeah, you’re right. The space aliens landed last month, didn’t they?”
Luskin offers a more thoughtful approach:
To appreciate how Sagan’s viewpoint has hindered scientific discovery, consider what Sagan wrote in the book, Cosmos, published a few years after the original 1980 Cosmos series aired. Here’s how he articulated the Copernican Principle:
We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy which is a member of a sparse cluster of galaxies, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine, 1985), 159)
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Our Milky Way galaxy is flat and disk-shaped with spiral arms. At its center is a giant black hole that rips apart any star system that gets too close. The area around the galactic core is densely packed with stars and filled with intense radiation that would destroy Earth’s atmosphere and any life. The center of the galaxy is clearly not a desirable location.
On the other hand, a position too far from the center would also be inhospitable to life because the outskirts of the galaxy lack sufficient heavy elements necessary for complex life. The optimal location for life within our galaxy is a narrow band in the middle that escapes the large zones of deadly radiation at the core, yet contains the necessary elements. This region, called the galactic habitable zone, is precisely where our solar system resides.
The very concept of the galactic habitable zone was developed in part by Guillermo Gonzalez. It supports his reasoned conviction that the cosmos was designed, and that Earth occupies a privileged position within it. That’s good science.
It was also why Iowa State University would not give him tenure, despite his record for discovering exoplanets.
In the current time of decline, “science” is “what supports secularist/progressive causes.” It’s facts-optional. As with a propaganda pamphlet, the facts useful to the cause are assembled, and the others discarded. Eventually, it will be dangerous to research or even know them.
Look, it’s nothing unusual; most times have been like that. They weren’t noted for new fundamental science discoveries. But lots of people had jobs for decades in the science of that time. And little incentive to break their own rice bowls.
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