Vanity thought #959. Cosmos E3

Latest news on Cosmos promise complete and utter destruction of Young Earth Creationism just by discussing existence of stars themselves. YEC is obviously wrong so it’s not a big loss but the argument itself is intriguing. Problem is, I still haven’t watched this latest show, I’ve only got through episode three, and that’s what I will cover today.

Personally, my main problem with episode one was their distortion of historical events surrounding the life and contribution to science of Giordano Bruno. Second episode was about evolution, but the third one is dedicated to historical scientific figures again. I can see their logic here but it’s not the one that would prove superiority of scientific method on the strength of logic and rationality. They take the personal approach instead. If you watch this episode and like the characters you’d support their ideas, too, which are presumably all about triumph of science over religious ignorance.

This surely works, emotional appeal of historical scientists’ personal struggle should never fail on ordinary people but it’s still just a propaganda trick designed to stir people’s intellectual facilities away from analyzing the truth without any prejudice or bias.

Heroes of this episode were Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley of the Halley comet, and Robert Hooke, a leading member of Royal Society [of London for Improving Natural Knowledge]. I don’t really care about their relationships, disputes, struggles, poverty, successes, inventions etc etc. There’s nothing really to dispute in Cosmos’ version of events and it doesn’t really matter, it’s the conclusions that the show promotes from their examples that do not follow.

The narrator, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, made it clear from the start that science is going to defeat religion in explaining how the world works, specifically how comets work, and he made several proclamations to this effect. One of the concluding ones was that with Newton’s discovery of gravity and laws that govern it the universe and the Solar system have stopped being mysterious and did not need God anymore, who he alluded to as a “watchmaker”. This is the impression his narrative of Newton’s achievements was meant to produce, yet the evidence presented does not support it.

Newton was a big theologian and he spent considerable part of his life studying Bible, and contrary to Tyson’s conclusion he never stopped believing in the creator. Even after he figured out the orbits of the comets he still could not accept that they and the rest of the Solar system could have been arranged due to blind fate rather than by God.

When Cosmos’ producers showed Newton working on the Bible they presented it as some kind of aberration, seeking literal meanings from Bible passages and they bundled it with alchemistry, and that certainly helped to dismiss his religiosity and get on with show’s message of science triumph over religion. This is not what happened in real life, however, and Newton’ fascination with religion should not have supported Tyson’s claims but let’s not get facts in a way of a good story.

How ironic it is that the good story promoting logic and rationality deliberately leads people away from applying the same logic and rationality to the story itself.

As far as comets are concerned, it was the same misdirection again. Tyson admitted that Oort’s cloud has never been observed but he still talked about it as a fact, not hypothesis, and animators illustrated what this Oort’s cloud looks like. There might be Oort’s cloud, there might be not, it’s the best explanation for appearance of comets so far but that doesn’t make it into a fact or observable truth. It’s a product of imagination, no more than that, and it just happens to be handy for explaining some of the things, that’s all.

Tyson made a compelling argument against religious explanations of comets’ origin and he showed how different cultures interpreted them differently, meaning it wasn’t God’s revealed knowledge but people’s own imagination.

I don’t know what Vedas say about comets, apparently quite a lot of different things, and not all described comets are bad. Where do they come from? Is there really an Oort Cloud? Can’t say that with available evidence from ṣāstra. One thing is sure – it’s not as simplistic as Tyson made us believe, and he specifically mentioned Hinduism, too, but what is one little lie when he goes for the stars?

Another thing that caught my attention has nothing to do with comets or scientists but with show’s own approach to understanding life. Here’s how it starts, with the image of a baby in a basket staring out in the sky:

    We were born into a mystery, one that has haunted us for at least as long as we’ve been human. We awakened on this tiny world beneath a blanket of stars like an abandoned baby left on a doorstep without a note to explain where we came from, who we are, how our universe came to be, and with no idea how to end our cosmic isolation. We’ve had to figure it all out for ourselves.

First of all, we HAVE been given plenty of notes explaining who, where, and why. He just rejects them. Secondly, he talks about “us” as being distinct from the world, he talks about humans as being fundamentally different from the rest of the matter, rest of the universe. He practically refuses to consider himself as dead matter that moves strictly by the laws of nature. He sees himself as an observer and the world as an object of the observation. He assigns himself free will and capacity to “figure it all out”.

Well, it’s how we all feel about ourselves, nothing unusual about that, but if we take science and materialism at its word we must deny our uniqueness and agree that we are fundamentally no different from rocks and stones as we live by the same laws and move in response to the same forces, there’s nothing special about us.

Actually, true materialism must reject existence of life, or at least treat life as just another state of the same matter, yet it is obvious to everyone, including hard core materialists like the ones who created this show, that we all want to be alive. They, too, want privileges that elevate them over comets they study.

They want their cake and eat it, too. How scientific is that?

And as a final example – they concluded the episode with computer animation of collision of two galaxies, our Milky Way and Andromeda. In the comments on the show lots of people admitted being blown away by the CGI and some even cried. This forms the kind of strong emotional bond that in the future will absolutely deny any logic and reason when presented with evidence to the contrary. These people would do and say anything, however stupid, but they will never betray their allegiance to Science, Tyson and Co.

So these “scientists” are growing an army of brainwashed orks to take on the religions. Kali yuga, what can we say, we just have to try and save those who want to be saved before envy of the Lord over-floods the Earth and drowns everyone.


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