… when physicist Chad Orzel is saying stuff like this at ScienceBlogs:
Back in 1980, Sagan had to devote a lot of time to airy speculation about distant stars and planets and hypothetical scenarios about the origin of the universe, because there was a ton of stuff we didn’t know. In the intervening three decades, we’ve amassed a truly astonishing amount of information on these topics, from robot probes of our own solar system, from redshift and transit detections of extrasolar planets, from measurements of the cosmic microwave background by COBE and WMAP and others, from Hubble images and new ground-based telescope technologies, and just thirty years of doing what we were already doing.
And the thing that bugs me is that I don’t feel like the show is doing that justice. 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. There’s so much that they haven’t talked about yet that’s based on good, solid evidence, but we’re getting soaring vagueness. And it’s becoming clear that we’re just not going to get a good discussion of a lot of these things– there are only two episodes left, and the end-of-show teaser makes it sound like the next one is going to be largely devoted to climate change– a topic that has already gotten a significant chunk of airtime in at least three previous episodes– which doesn’t leave a lot of room for dark energy. More.
Casey Luskin at Evolution News & Views offers
This past Sunday night’s episode pushed a naturalistic origin of life and the Copernican principle (the idea that Earth is insignificant in the cosmic scheme) — which is perhaps to be expected. But the episode got surprisingly ideological as well, promoting panspermia, the Gaia hypothesis, and a propagandistic, Star Trek-like picture of the future. According to Cosmos, this last can only be achieved if we embrace an alarmist environmental vision. Our host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, compares skeptics of the current “consensus” on climate change to Nazis.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos’ originator, focused more successfully on his main message: Cosmology in the service of atheist materialism. The Tyson team would have been wise to take a leaf from the old pro’s book because ratings for their remake have disappointed.
Hank Campbell probably sums up the underlying issue best:
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.
As I noted in response, now that Campbell mentions it, who was supposed to really care so much about Bruno and his ravings (some of which got him executed, though we actually don’t know which)? Would we really expect this type of material on a series called Cosmos? And in Episode One too, just when people were deciding whether to make time for the rest of the series?
Put simply, de Grasse Tyson’s team decided that what the world needs to hear right now is their own scattered reflections about, well, all kinds of stuff they care about.
Earth to deGrasse Tyson: Talk radio was invented for that, not big bucks broadcast.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology) for a brief summary of why this had to happen.
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– O’Leary for News