I shouldn’t enjoy it as much as I do, but when a highly respected scientist like Neil deGrasse Tyson takes even a very nuanced swipe at creationism, I beam. This is science, baby, front and center. Beautifully, lovingly, convincingly presented.
Not so much during the first episode, but in the second episode of “Cosmos” last weekend, I thought often of how creationists must be squirming at some of the comments. As they should. And if they want to confront Tyson about it, if they want to challenge him, well, I’m ready to buy tickets.
You see, I happened across a story today entitled “Creationists Demand Airtime On ‘Cosmos’ For The Sake Of Balance.” They can demand all they want. This is a science show, not a religious treatise. They don’t get and have no right to demand “balance” in a science show if that balance means including creationism. If they want balance, they are free to produce their own religious program and talk about creationism all they want.
A few minutes later I came across a story about an Oklahoma TV station that “accidentally” ran a station promo over the only 15 seconds in the first “Cosmos” episode that briefly referred to evolution. The remark viewers didn’t hear was:
Three and a half million years ago our ancestors, yours and mine, left these traces. We stood up, and parted ways from them. Once we stood on two feet, our eyes were no longer fixated on the ground. Now we were free to look up, and wonder.
If that upset them, they may not have tuned in for the second episode, which wasn’t nearly as circumspect. Statements I particularly enjoyed:
… This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adherent to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours. …
… To make this journey, we’ll need imagination, but imagination alone is not enough, because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine. …
… Some claim that evolution is just a theory, as if it were merely an opinion. The theory of evolution — like the theory of gravity — is a scientific fact. Evolution really happened. Accepting our kinship with all life on Earth is not only solid science. In my view, it’s also a soaring spiritual experience. …
… Artificial selection turned the wolf into the shepherd, and the wild grasses into wheat and corn. In fact, almost every plant and animal that we eat today was bred from a wild, less edible ancestor. If artificial selection can work such profound changes in only ten or fifteen thousand years, what can natural selection do operating over billions of years? The answer is all the beauty and diversity of life. …
And my personal favorite:
… Nobody knows how life got started. Most of the evidence from that time was destroyed by impact and erosion. Science works on the frontier of knowledge and ignorance. We’re not afraid to admit what we don’t know. There’s no shame in that. The only shame is to pretend that we have all the answers. Maybe someone watching this, will be the first to solve the mystery of how life on Earth began.
Science. It’s what is taught in science classes (hence the name). Creationism, aka intelligent design, is not science. It’s religion. It belongs in church, not in our public schools. And definitely not in our science classes.
As Tyson once told Stephen Colbert, science is true “whether or not you believe in it.”
… unlike religion, which you believe in whether or not it’s true.