Cosmology Intelligent Design

Did Tyson’s Cosmos series send the religious right “off the deep end”?

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At Alternet, secularist Dan Arel informs us of

13 ways Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” sent the religious right off the deep end

Didn’t hear the splash, but did hear that many viewers were disappointed at how much of the series turned out not to be about the cosmos, as known today. Some of it sounded like predictable, air-time-wasting secularist causes.

Physicist Chad Orzel writes at ScienceBlogs,

Too many topics are covered at about the same level of depth as back in 1980, just with spiffier graphics. And while that approach didn’t leave too much of a gap back in the day, today there’s a vast range of stuff they haven’t even touched on– there hasn’t been more than a passing mention of dark matter, and I don’t recall anything at all about dark energy.

So, I find the choice to prioritize wildly speculative but vaguely inspirational material like panspermia and the whole “future cosmic calendar” stuff kind of disappointing.

Lots of people probably did.

Arel, after reminding readers of Tyson’s account of a meeting with Sagan that inspired him, turns to the decision to spend time on Bruno.

However, this got the least amount of attention from the naysayers, as Tyson mentions Giordano Bruno, a Catholic who dared to challenge the church’s geocentric theory of the cosmos and proposed that the earth actually revolved around the sun. Bruno was jailed, charged with heresy and eventually burned at the stake. While no Christian apologists tried to condemn the church for such a killing, instead they tried to make the killing not about science and simply about speaking out against the church.

Quite simply, that is not an argument anyone tries to “make.” It is a fact. Bruno was no Galileo; he contributed nothing to science. He was simply one of the millions who perished in the 16th/17th century wars of religion.* And far from the most innocent of complicity in his own fate.

His attraction, apart from the glamour of martyrdom, seems to be his speculations about a multiverse. Most probably do not realize how much of his thought involved the traditions of magic, not science. (Note: For a sense of the attraction atheists have felt for him, see an old poem, “For the Feast of Giordano Bruno.”

Arel again:

In his final push, Tyson took down religion in a way very few can: “One of things I love about science; we don’t have to pretend we have all the answers.” Dark energy, he goes on to explain, is “merely a code word for our ignorance.” He assures the viewers, “It’s okay not to have all the answers.”

Of course, this again set off the Discovery Institute, which touts ignorance as a weakness and pretends to know everything they cannot know, yet has the audacity to attack science and Tyson for making claims that are scientifically sound. David Klinghoffer, writing for Discovery Institute’s dubiously named website, Evolution News, writes that Darwinists despise free thinkers, a downright silly claim, but Klinghoffer insists that because scientists believe natural selection is the answer, they are not playing by their own rules.

One needs to read some of this stuff twice to take it in. The thing about Darwin’s followers or, say, the climate change advocates (whose views, oddly, are explored in the series), is that they do claim to have the answers. Not “all the answers,” but then no one does. But they are sure they have enough answers to accuse their critics of dishonest denial. Which pretty much tells you how likely they would be to ever question their own premises or interpretations of the evidence.

Arel concludes,

The series will be watched in classrooms around the world — much to the chagrin of science-denying Evangelicals

And much to the chagrin of people who miss the days when science was about, for example, physics and astronomy. It is too bad if students are taught as “science,” theories like panspermia or the multiverse instead.

Evangelicals will surely not be the only ones affected. NASA’s southbound budget points the way, one fears. Make science about this kind of thing instead of about moon landings, and don’t be at all surprised if the public asks, “is NASA worth funding at all? Couldn’t that money be better spent working on the economy, homelessness, or the housing market?”

Unfortunately, the Cosmos remake is not a good argument against that view. NASA? We might as well just stay home and speculate.

It will be one of history’s many ironies if atheists and secularists contribute to disenchantment with and disinterest in science, given how much they profess to love, understand, and depend on it. C’est la vie.

*A little background on the context of Bruno’s burning at the stake in 1600: The seventeenth century was no stranger to religious wars (and neither had the sixteenth been). Here’s just one example of the kind of thing that happened: In 1649, Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan general, had the king, Charles I, beheaded. He formed a republic of a sort, the Commonwealth or “rule of saints.” Then Cromwell turned his attentions to Catholic Ireland:

“The Physician-General of the Army of Cromwell, Dr. William Petty, estimated that about 504,000 of the Irish perished and were wasted by sword, plague, famine, hardship and banishment between 23rd October 1641 and the same day in 1652. Put another way, the population of Ireland in 1641 was 1,448,000 and by 1652, 616,000 perished of which 504,000 were natives and 112,000 colonists and 40,000 soldiers left Ireland to join armies on the continent.

Oliver Cromwell left Ireland on May 26, 1650. Only nine months in Ireland , Cromwell gave birth to death, exile, persecution, indentured slavery, and a form of 17th century ethnic cleansing. His name is forever associated by the Irish people with fevered anti-Catholicism and a burning hatred for the Irish people. Cromwell’s Settlement plan for Ireland can be fairly judged as being even more harmful to Ireland than his blood letting in 1649.”

By 1660, the British public had had enough of all the saintliness, under which they chafed. They restored the monarchy under Charles II, the beheaded king’s son.

And remember, this was England, the mother of Parliaments! Bruno may have been an unusual man for his period, but his fate was not. – O’Leary for News

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

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21 Replies to “Did Tyson’s Cosmos series send the religious right “off the deep end”?

  1. 1
    OldArmy94 says:

    The arrogant scientist may not have all the answers, but he sure does make it known that he is convinced that all truth is within his purview, and his alone. Scientism is blind to the fact that its entire structure rests upon a philosophical foundation.

  2. 2
    Bateman says:

    I am a theist. I am a consevative evangelical Christian (take that label how you will). I love science.

    I love and respect science so much that it’s painful to see claims “of and by science” that are so unfounded. It’s been my experience that many of the loudest, and controversial, issues in science (and even some of those that arn’t in the spotlight, at least in my fields) are filled with those unwilling to say that they do not know.

    Those deluded about what they know do the most damage to the practice of science than anyone, in my opinion. “Science deniers” are not even in the game to affect the body of knowledge anyway.

  3. 3
    snelldl says:

    Bateman@2.

    Amen.

  4. 4
    ringo says:

    Well said!

  5. 5
    Barb says:

    From the OP:

    “One of things I love about science; we don’t have to pretend we have all the answers.”

    No, but you do have to silence the dissenters when they question the answers you do have. And in academia, it’s publish or perish, which is why we see a lot of retractions after papers are published. They might not have all the answers, but that doesn’t stop them [scientists] from claiming that they do.

    Dark energy, he goes on to explain, is “merely a code word for our ignorance.”

    Why not just come out and state “We don’t understand this concept fully, but we’re working on it”?

    He assures the viewers, “It’s okay not to have all the answers.”

    And if you don’t have all the answers, you don’t get to tell everyone else that science is the only begetter of truth and knowledge. When you have all the answers, you can do that.

  6. 6
    humbled says:

    I agree with Barb. These arrogant elitist imbeciles tell us there is no place left in the universe for God to hide. Meanwhile, in terms of scientific advancement and discoveries, we’re not even out of nappies yet. Almost every so called scientific fact my parents were taught at school has been disproven or quietly benched. I wonder how much of todays so called scientific “facts” are side lined when I’m old and grey? Hopefully Darwinism is dead and buried by then and science can get back on track.

  7. 7
    Moose Dr says:

    Tyson: “One of things I love about science; we don’t have to pretend we have all the answers.” Dark energy, he goes on to explain, is “merely a code word for our ignorance.” He assures the viewers, “It’s okay not to have all the answers.”

    Tyson may see science as, well, humble. I see physics as reasonably humble, but not biology. I remember discussing this very topic with a Ph. D. physicist a few years back. He seemed to believe that physicists thought they had it in the bag too — prior to Einstein. Humility was dragged upon them, while they kicked and screamed.

    Evolutionary biologists are the most “we know” bunch of bozos I have ever dialogued with. Abiogenesis? Well, yes, we don’t have that in the bag yet, but it’s just a small problem. Really? And by the way, it isn’t our problem, its outside the purview of “evolution proper.” Beyond that, deep time and “our view is so much deeper than simple Darwinism” answers everything. If evolutionary biologists could only see that their simple view of biology is like a child’s view of how a car works.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    13 ways Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” sent the religious right off the deep end

    It certainly sent me off the deep end, and I did not even watch it!

  9. 9
    jw777 says:

    I have never been able to follow this line of logic.

    If we accept the materialist reductionist premise, then all beliefs, ideas or thoughts (including any given religion) are just neural action potentials, exchanges of cations and more basically the determined paths of certain subatomic particles.

    How then can you say that “my science” is better than “your religion”? That’s like saying that Mr. Pibb is a more accurate representation of carbon escape during fizzing than Dr. Pepper. Well, what if Dr. Pepper gets shaken up more first? It just fizzes more. Does that make it a “better” representation of carbon escape? No. Just more.

    The same nonsense is happening here. Reductionism necessarily undoes itself and any value judgements.

    Sometimes one set of ideas is better. Sometimes another. This does not make the platitudinally imprecise definitions of “science” and “religion” at odds, in conflict, or with any winner and loser. The underlying attempt to show how “science” beat “religion” is itself parochial hogwash.

    However, if we would like to have an adult conversation about how a specific theory (heliocentric) became more popular and useful than another (geocentric), great. There’s no need to stretch guilt by association to score debate points aimed at vilifying a whole group of diverse people, especially when the inverse (the preponderance of theist and Christian founders of modern science) is never considered a valid evidentiary entry.

  10. 10
    willh says:

    jw777 wrote:

    “However, if we would like to have an adult conversation about how a specific theory (heliocentric) became more popular and useful than another (geocentric), great.”

    But geocentricism worked so well. You could even make predictions by it, and more accurate than the new Copernican thing too. Sounds like the validation of another popular idea?

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: The Rainman (Autistic Savant) Twins – Documentary
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64c5WXPTInc

  12. 12
    Robert Byers says:

    There they go again. Even in the finale reviews its still about the modern creationism movement and joiners.
    The show was a attack on ID/YEC and on the public with these beliefs.
    It was not about the Cosmos. Thats been done and is boring.
    Whats interesting is the origin wars.
    This show highlighted the consent of the establishment that it recognozes a threat to old man Darwin and company.
    They also on;y gave one side. Where is the rebuttal?
    It was laughable in any pretension to intellectual investigation and teaching.
    It was cartoonish propaganda.

  13. 13
    Bateman says:

    Mr. Byers, I’m pretty sure a lot of people (not even like-minded) see it as you do.

    Isn’t it telling that they need reviews to tell us what to think about the show?

  14. 14
    Evolve says:

    ///But they are sure they have enough answers to accuse their critics of dishonest denial///

    Which is 100% true. Read the OPs on ID sites like this one or ENV and it is blatantly obvious how ID hides, denies, misrepresents or misinterprets the data to refute evolution.

    /// Which pretty much tells you how likely they would be to ever question their own premises or interpretations of the evidence ///

    This is totally funny!
    Take the latest example of the gravitational waves discovery. The claim was initially celebrated, but then it was immediately refuted by multiple scientists who published papers on the basis of empirical findings. And journals like Nature had no qualms in exposing the disagreement. I have never seen ID reach a consensus through such debate or an ID fellow questioning his peers in this manner. It only happens in real science.

  15. 15
    Jon Garvey says:

    It seems to be self-evidenct that whenever science devalues humanity, humanity will begin to devalue science.

  16. 16
    humbled says:

    “…ID hides, denies, misrepresents or misinterprets the data to refute evolution.”

    ID does not deny evolution, keep up, how many times does this have to be repeated?

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    Evolve claims that

    “it is blatantly obvious how ID hides, denies, misrepresents or misinterprets the data to refute evolution”

    which is, once again, an interesting claim for a Darwinist to make since, despite years of looking for substantiating evidence for Darwinism, there is ZERO empirical evidence that Darwinian processes can produce non-trivial functional information/complexity above that which is already in life. If Evolve disagrees, he is welcome to produce empirical evidence that Darwinian processes can produce a single molecular machine. In four decades of laboratory work, there is not even one example that Darwinists can point to:

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Where’s the substantiating evidence for neo-Darwinism?
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q-PBeQELzT4pkgxB2ZOxGxwv6ynOixfzqzsFlCJ9jrw/edit

    Michael Behe: Intelligent Design – interview on radio program – ‘The Mind Renewed’
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9SmPNQrQHE

    Molecular Machines: – Michael J. Behe
    Excerpt: JME is a journal that was begun specifically to deal with the topic of how evolution occurs on the molecular level. It has high scientific standards, and is edited by prominent figures in the field.,,,
    In the past ten years JME has published 886 papers. Of these, 95 discussed the chemical synthesis of molecules thought to be necessary for the origin of life, 44 proposed mathematical models to improve sequence analysis, 20 concerned the evolutionary implications of current structures, and 719 were analyses of protein or polynucleotide sequences. here were zero papers discussing detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures. This is not a peculiarity of JME. No papers are to be found that discuss detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature, Science, the Journal of Molecular Biology or, to my knowledge, any journal whatsoever.
    http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mm92496.htm

    “The response I have received from repeating Behe’s claim about the evolutionary literature, which simply brings out the point being made implicitly by many others, such as Chris Dutton and so on, is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am sure, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred.” And he continues, “When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not, in fact, contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter anyone who knows where they exist.”
    David Ray Griffin – retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology

    Calling Nick Matzke’s literature bluff on molecular machines – DonaldM UD blogger – April 2013
    Excerpt: So now, 10 years later in 2006 Matzke and Pallen come along with this review article. The interesting thing about this article is that, despite all the hand waving claims about all these dozens if not hundreds of peer reviewed research studies showing how evolution built a flagellum, Matzke and Pallen didn’t have a single such reference in their bibliography. Nor did they reference any such study in the article. Rather, the article went into great lengths to explain how a researcher might go about conducting a study to show how evolution could have produced the system. Well, if all those articles and studies were already there, why not just point them all out? In shorty, the entire article was a tacit admission that Behe had been right all along.
    Fast forward to now and Andre’s question directed to Matzke. We’re now some 17 years after Behe’s book came out where he made that famous claim. And, no surprise, there still is not a single peer reviewed research study that provides the Darwinian explanation for a bacterial flagellum (or any of the other irreducibly complex biological systems Behe mentioned in the book). We’re almost 7 years after the Matzke & Pallen article. So where are all these research studies? There’s been ample time for someone to do something in this regard.
    Matzke will not answer the question because there is no answer he can give…no peer reviewed research study he can reference, other than the usual literature bluffing he’s done in the past.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-453291

    More Irreducible Complexity Is Found in Flagellar Assembly – September 24, 2013
    Concluding Statement: Eleven years is a lot of time to refute the claims about flagellar assembly made in Unlocking the Mystery of Life, if they were vulnerable to falsification. Instead, higher resolution studies confirm them. Not only that, research into the precision assembly of flagella is provoking more investigation of the assembly of other molecular machines. It’s a measure of the robustness of a scientific theory when increasing data strengthen its tenets over time and motivate further research. Irreducible complexity lives! –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....77051.html

    And whereas Darwinian evolution has ZERO empirical evidence that it can produce even one molecular machine, ID has evidence that Intelligence can accomplish as such:

    (Man-Made) DNA nanorobot – video
    https://vimeo.com/36880067

    Dr. James Tour, who, in my honest opinion, currently builds the most sophisticated man-made molecular machines in the world,,,

    Science & Faith — Dr. James Tour – video (At the two minute mark of the following video, you can see a nano-car that was built by Dr. James Tour’s team)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR4QhNFTtyw

    ,,will buy lunch for anyone who can explain to him exactly how Darwinian evolution works:

    “I build molecules for a living, I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that job is. I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
    James Tour – one of the leading nano-tech engineers in the world – Strobel, Lee (2000), The Case For Faith, p. 111

    Top Ten Most Cited Chemist in the World Knows That Evolution Doesn’t Work – James Tour, Phd. – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB7t2_Ph-ck

    Thus Evolve, if you disagree that unguided Darwinian processes have never been observed producing a single molecular machine, you are very welcome to step up to the plate and prove the claim false!

  18. 18
    ppolish says:

    Evolve, the whole “Gravitation Waves” fiasco was improper Science. Media Buzz Science. Although not as stinky as the Cargo Cult Science practiced by so many in Evo Bio.

    The series Cosmos was a dud for the most part. Nowhere close to the classic of Sagan.

    But the “pale blue dotters” will go apepoo when “The Principle” comes out in September. Great Special Effects I hear.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ata_player

  19. 19
    Robert Byers says:

    bateman
    Yes they themselves might smell the need for spin.
    It was soooo blatant a show with a top three priority of fighting the modern creationist movement and public opinion behind it.
    The cartoon guy, behind the show, said as much before it was on the air.

  20. 20
    Evolve says:

    ///Evolve, the whole “Gravitation Waves” fiasco was improper Science. Media Buzz Science. ///

    Then, so was the ENCODE fiasco which ID fellows celebrated.

    My response was against this line in the OP:

    “Which pretty much tells you how likely they would be to ever question their own premises or interpretations of the evidence.”

    This is totally wrong. Real science is constantly debated and refuted on empirical basis among scientific circles before arriving at a consensus. But this doesn’t hold true not for a pseudoscience like ID. ID fellows never test or refute their own claims.

  21. 21
    Axel says:

    ‘Dark energy, he goes on to explain, is “merely a code word for our ignorance.”’

    I think Tyson means, in the same way that ‘logic’ and ID are code for theism.

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