It had an alarming non-science gaffe – the story of the likely insane philosopher Bruno reconfigured to be…what exactly, no one is sure. 25% of Episode One was devoted to talking about mean old religion in the middle of a narrative about cosmology only to have Neil Tyson then dismiss the entire story as Bruno not being a scientist anyway.
Now that Campbell mentions it, who was supposed to really care at this late date about Bruno’s ravings (some of which got him executed)? That’s awful, to be sure, but lethal 17th century religious politics are not what we usually mean to discuss when we say we are going to talk about “the cosmos.” And that was Episode One too, just when people were deciding whether to block off time for the rest of the series.
Campbell points to another issue: Who do the Cosmos producers think is interested in science anyway?:
At a San Diego Comic Con panel last summer, the folks behind the show wisely did a panel. Movie and television executives know people who have the disposable income to be at comic book conventions are a goldmine for advertisers so ‘nerd cred’ is crucial. Ann Druyan said the pendulum was swinging back to science and they wanted to ‘twerk the Zeitgeist’ and that statement may be part of the issue they are having reaching people; the creators of the show may be living in some other multiverse America where science is not accepted.
Cosmos is basically calling the audience uninformed – except the people watching it. In reality, the audience is far smarter about science than it was in 1980. Adult science literacy has tripled in America since 1988, and that means they don’t respond to postmodernist gibberish about twerking the zeitgeist. Tyson, for his part, laughed that off and said if anything was getting twerked, it should be the zeitgeist – which means if he were not hosting Cosmos, he probably wouldn’t be watching it.
The UD News view: Science is still very well accepted indeed but so much of what Tyson is marketing isn’t science. What made Sagan’s original Cosmos work was that so many people were into the space program then. That’s strictly universe stuff. It’s real in our frame. Our high school science teachers’ science. So we cared.
Tyson, by contrast, is into the multiverse. Okay, so he is cute and smart but the multiverse is science fiction. And even Tyson can’t compete with Star Trek. No wonder his epic finished behind a sci fi drama in ratings. The Cosmos team probably hasn’t absorbed the fact that most of the people actually interested in science are not especially cool and the cool types are not especially interested in science. (Apart from striking poses around fashionable moments in science … )
Recently, we noted that people who do not “believe in” Darwinian evolution (= they are uncool), as promoted on Cosmos, are comparatively well acquainted with the theory (= they are not ignorant of science). Moreover, in other news, people increasingly do “believe in” Darwin but also believe more in ghosts and astrology.
In the end, the supposed natural Cosmos fans are not the vanguard of a scientific revolution; they are the vanguard of believing whatever turns your crank. And faced with a choice between Cosmos and “Star Twerk,” it would be merely unkind to offer odds to Tyson on their choice.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology) for a look at how multiverse claims have replaced space science with science fiction.
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