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The New Cosmos

The New Cosmos

Last night, the Fox conglomerate of networks aired a revamping of Cosmos—a science special that first aired in the 1970s hosted by Carl Sagan.

This time around, it is hosted by the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a popular reoccurring scientific fixture on late night comedy shows, as well as a renowned science educator in his own right.


The Wire examines how the rebooted Cosmos deals with science and faith, in a much more polarized atmosphere than existed in the 1970s. Two staff writers discuss how Tyson and the writers of the new Cosmos special aim to win a more resistant audience over to science this time around:

I expected some subtlety in the program’s attempt to bring a religious audience around to Tyson’s point of view (namely, evolution,) but there was no ambiguity about the fact that Tyson wants its viewers to see the scientifically oppressed as akin to the religiously martyred. The story of Giordano Bruno is used to illustrate this parallel — he’s a monk who saw a scientifically accurate “vision” of the cosmos, a revelation that he held dear despite persecution and, ultimately, execution. Bruno was a martyr, Tyson tells us, as he walks us through the (beautifully animated) stages of his oppressed life.

Read the whole article here.

The Catholic League, as should probably be expected, was not on board. They take issue with the negative depiction of the Spanish Inquision, among many other things.

Did you watch the first installment last night? What did you think?

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tobias haller

Is there an echo in here...

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tobias haller

I found the first episode chaotic and misdirected, with too many different sub-segments in no apparent logical order. That is the least of its problems.

The over-long section on Bruno was deeply flawed for several reasons, most importantly in that it did not present a case for the conflict between the scientific method -- which Tyson laid out briefly at one point: observation, experiment, testing, rejection of disproved hypotheses -- and religious dogma.

And this is so simply because -- as Tyson also briefly and somewhat off-handedly acknowledged -- Bruno was not a scientist. He came to his views about the universe from philosophical reflection (on Lucretius) and an ecstatic vision. The fact that he got a couple of details sort of correct on this basis is of no more import to the history of science than that Hinduism, for example, has had a better sense of the age of the cosmos than the Judeo-Christian tradition does.

Moreover, Bruno was not persecuted primarily on account of his cosmology, but on account of his peculiar doctrinal positions on almost every article of the Creed -- denial of the Incarnation, somewhat reflected in the cartoon by his repulsed turning from the cross at his execution, an accurate detail based on eye-witness evidence -- and his reliance on private revelation.

So Bruno is as much a dogmatic religious ideologue as those who persecuted him. This was not about the scientific method running into conflict with a dogmatic religious institution, and why Bruno was chosen -- rather than the real scientists who ran into conflict not only with the church but other scientists (who can also be very dogmatic) escapes me -- unless it was just meant as a cheap and dramatic shot against "religion." In which case, it missed, since Bruno was as religious as the church.

Oh, and by the way, he was a friar (Dominican) and not a monk.

I'll return to see the second episode, but I hope it is better than the first, on all counts. Focus, people, focus!

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tobias haller

I found the first episode chaotic and misdirected, with too many different sub-segments in no apparent logical order. That is the least of its problems.

The over-long section on Bruno was deeply flawed for several reasons, most importantly in that it did not present a case for the conflict between the scientific method -- which Tyson laid out briefly at one point: observation, experiment, testing, rejection of disproved hypotheses -- and religious dogma.

And this is so simply because -- as Tyson also briefly and somewhat off-handedly acknowledged -- Bruno was not a scientist. He came to his views about the universe from philosophical reflection (on Lucretius) and an ecstatic vision. The fact that he got a couple of details sort of correct on this basis is of no more import to the history of science than that Hinduism, for example, has had a better sense of the age of the cosmos than the Judeo-Christian tradition does.

Moreover, Bruno was not persecuted primarily on account of his cosmology, but on account of his peculiar doctrinal positions on almost every article of the Creed -- denial of the Incarnation, somewhat reflected in the cartoon by his repulsed turning from the cross at his execution, an accurate detail based on eye-witness evidence -- and his reliance on private revelation.

So Bruno is as much a dogmatic religious ideologue as those who persecuted him. This was not about the scientific method running into conflict with a dogmatic religious institution, and why Bruno was chosen -- rather than the real scientists who ran into conflict not only with the church but other scientists (who can also be very dogmatic) escapes me -- unless it was just meant as a cheap and dramatic shot against "religion." In which case, it missed, since Bruno was as religious as the church.

Oh, and by the way, he was a friar (Dominican) and not a monk.

I'll return to see the second episode, but I hope it is better than the first, on all counts. Focus, people, focus!

Like (0)
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tobias haller

I found the first episode chaotic and misdirected, with too many different sub-segments in no apparent logical order. That is the least of its problems.

The over-long section on Bruno was deeply flawed for several reasons, most importantly in that it did not present a case for the conflict between the scientific method -- which Tyson laid out briefly at one point: observation, experiment, testing, rejection of disproved hypotheses -- and religious dogma.

And this is so simply because -- as Tyson also briefly and somewhat off-handedly acknowledged -- Bruno was not a scientist. He came to his views about the universe from philosophical reflection (on Lucretius) and an ecstatic vision. The fact that he got a couple of details sort of correct on this basis is of no more import to the history of science than that Hinduism, for example, has had a better sense of the age of the cosmos than the Judeo-Christian tradition does.

Moreover, Bruno was not persecuted primarily on account of his cosmology, but on account of his peculiar doctrinal positions on almost every article of the Creed -- denial of the Incarnation, somewhat reflected in the cartoon by his repulsed turning from the cross at his execution, an accurate detail based on eye-witness evidence -- and his reliance on private revelation.

So Bruno is as much a dogmatic religious ideologue as those who persecuted him. This was not about the scientific method running into conflict with a dogmatic religious institution, and why Bruno was chosen -- rather than the real scientists who ran into conflict not only with the church but other scientists (who can also be very dogmatic) escapes me -- unless it was just meant as a cheap and dramatic shot against "religion." In which case, it missed, since Bruno was as religious as the church.

Oh, and by the way, he was a friar (Dominican) and not a monk.

I'll return to see the second episode, but I hope it is better than the first, on all counts. Focus, people, focus!

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