Clearing up Cosmos

A Review of The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos: Fact and Fiction in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Landmark Science Series

CosmosDouglas Ell became an atheist as a youth because of misinformation handed down in the name of science. It took him thirty years “to climb out of the atheist hole.” Sadly, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the 2014 series brought to you by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane, and a host of like-minded celebrity atheists, served up thirteen dazzling episodes containing similar misinformation. The series mixed, quoting Jay W. Richards, “one part illuminating discussion of scientific discoveries, one part fanciful, highly speculative narrative, and one part rigid ideology disguised as the assured results of scientific research.”

If you like science, science done well that is, you’ll find invaluable help making sense out of Cosmos with The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos: Fact and Fiction in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Landmark Science Series, an easily readable volume co-authored by Ell, Richards, David Klinghoffer, and Casey Luskin. The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos sorts out, episode by episode, the legitimate science from the liberal doses of materialist philosophy, revised history, and brazen ideology the makers of the series have carelessly (or intentionally?) stirred into the mix. Here’s a sampling:

Materialist Philosophy. Without acknowledging it, Cosmos presupposes a priori the materialist worldview. This should come no surprise. But the makers deceive themselves if they think they’ve dispensed with the religious. Scientific thought, according to Tyson, is the “light” that has “set us free.” And discovering our “long lost cousins” (organisms with similar DNA sequences) can be a “spiritual experience.”

Science History: With respect to history, there are errors of commission, a deceptive retelling of the Giordano Bruno affair, for example, clearly designed to paint Christianity as a mortal enemy of science. And there are errors of omission, such as the utter desacralization of many revered fathers of science (Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and more) who were men of open Christian piety.

Ideology. In later episodes, Tyson lectures viewers about a dire need to save the planet and casts climate dissenters, who are “in the grip of denial,” as either ignorant or evil – this against a backdrop of cheering Nazis, to round out the propaganda package.

An especially insidious error of omission involves the makers’ failure to even hint that a vigorous debate rages today among scientists. “Cosmos has done a wonderful job of recalling how old mistaken ideas were overturned—ideas about geocentrism, stellar composition, continental drift … and more,” writes Luskin. “However, these are all tales from the annals of scientific history. Cosmos presents current scientific thinking as if it were all correct, with everything figured out. … Tyson never discusses evidence that challenges the prevailing evolutionary view.” This is inexcusable.

Even scientists sympathetic to the makers’ agenda have pointed out serious flaws. “Cosmos is a fantastic artifact of scientific myth making,” wrote science historian Joseph Martin of Michigan State University. Yet, he defends the series including the myth making. Why? Luskin parses Martin’s defense: Because Martin thinks it’s permissible to lie if the lie helps “promote greater public trust in science.” Martin calls this kind of useful lie a “taradiddle.”
Luskin furthermore puts his finger on the million-dollar question the thinking public should be asking: If the science academy is condoning telling us ‘taradiddles’ to curry our trust in science, why should we blindly trust them when they claim that only their “science” can explain the origin of life and the cosmos?

It’s a good question. Indeed. Why?

This article first appeared in Salvo 32, Spring 2015

5 Comments on “Clearing up Cosmos

  1. Terrell, have you discovered Dr. Sara Salviander’s Six Day Science blog? II not, I think you and some of your scientifically-minded Salvo colleagues will find it fascinating.

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  2. Yes, John, the last post I put up was actually just a reblog to her testimony. I have seen a number of people who’ve come to faith on the burden of science. – often outside the church. In a way, that’s really cool. But looked at from another angle, that’s a sad statement about the state of the church today. Thanks for the note.

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  3. Oh, gosh. I forgot I learned about it from you! My bad.

    FWIW, her analysis is really cool to me, because I had a hard time accepting a literal six day creation based on all the scientific evidence that the universe is much (!) older. So now I can say that I believe the Genesis account should be taken literally, yet offer skeptics a way to reconcile that and the ancient age of the Universe and Earth.

    On a different topic, have you considered that we (the Church) are in a pickle over same sex marriage because we have allowed the government to equate what they see as marriage to what we have always known as a covenant between a man and a woman. The only way that has been taken away, is if we continue to allow them to do the defining. And we really don’t have to do that at all. http://is.gd/6Um2MR

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  4. I haven’t thought about it in that specific way, but I would say that we, generally speaking, Christians – the church, have failed our fellow Americans badly. I wish it were not so, and I wish I had not participated in it as I know I have, but that is my conviction.

    I think this is a time for weeping, fasting, and repenting in sackcloth and ashes … or whatever is the 21st century equivalent of sackcloth and ashes. 😥

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    • Yes, weep and fast over our own moral failures, but not over what we have lost, because what we really value has not been lost at all. if we (the Church) insist that there is a difference between legal marriage as defined by the laws of our land, and one that is a covenant before God, we can send a very loud message to the world. By obeying the law of the land in performing legal marriages, but giving the couple the option of a Covenant marriage and asking for no special status under the law for one, we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. I think that would send a pretty powerful message to the unbelieving world.

      Thanks for thinking about it and joining me in prayer for the best ways to respond in the eyes of God.

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