It’s time to review the latest episode of Cosmos, called “The Electric Boy”. It was all about electricity and the life of Michael Faraday who contributed quite a lot to the field in the 19th century. There isn’t much to discuss there, really, but that won’t stop me, as usual.
The reaction to this episode was predictable even though there was slightly less drama than in some previous stories. Still, people were moved. One radio station ran a lighthearted show asking people what would make them cry and one dude called them up and said that he cried watching this episode. DJs didn’t know what to say, it seemed like a nerdy joke to them – first time they heard someone cry about science, but this dude was dead serious and he is not alone, there ARE people who cry watching Cosmos, it’s just so masterfully put together.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – they propagate science by appealing to people’s emotions. It’s not fair, it’s exactly what most religions do, too, but they get a flak for it and in some cases people even call for deprogrammers. This is the reality of the modern world – power lies not in truth or in facts or science or logic – it lies in the ability to brainwash as many people as possible by any means necessary.
That’s what lies at the heart of democracy, too. In olden times claims to power were proven by lineage, wealth, personal strength, the size of one’s army or amount of one’s slaves. These days you prove your worth by brainwashing people to vote for you. Same principle, different valuables to trade.
Powerful people who understand this know how to win elections and they succeed while people without power who buy into the idea of democracy find themselves frustrated again and again because it doesn’t deliver them what they expected – they do not become empowered by voting. Democracy wasn’t meant for them, it’s just the latest tool used by their rulers. Not even the latest because ruling classes moved onto milking lobbyists.
Back to Cosmos, however.
It does affect people and some even call it a “spiritual experience”, though spirituality itself is furthest from their minds when they think about it. They see this show as proof of scientific method, rationality and logic, not some spiritual awakening. The show is anti-religious, specifically targeting creationism, even though the presenter himself, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is, reportedly, an agnostic. Producers behind it have publicly declared Young Earth Creationism as their target.
Some people keep posting articles how each and every episode leaves creationists fuming. Reactions in religious circles are predictably hostile, of course, but often they are not without merit.
Take this episode, for example.
Michael Faraday was a devout Christian and NDGT said so right in the beginning but his religiosity was then implicitly dismissed as having nothing to do with science. Isaak Newton got mentioned again but not the fact that majority of his work was not on gravity and Newton’s laws but on interpreting the Bible. This part of history of science is always photoshopped out.
Episode after episode NDGT mentions scientist after scientist and lists their contributions, but only those that are advantageous to his agenda. Astronomer William Herschel from a few episode back was firmly against evolution, for example, he called natural selection “the law of higgledy piggledy”. Maxwell mentioned in this episode was not a big fan of evolution either, though his opposition to it is distorted by the creationists, afaik.
There’s one crucial quote from one of his books where he rejects evolution but this quote is taken out of context and relates not to evolution of life but to evolution of molecules. Still, Maxwell was Christian, too, and his faith had absolutely no problems with his science. It’s a false dichotomy propagated by modern scientists and you can see this on this show, too.
Michael Faraday’s case is a perfect example – his “discovery” that electricity, magnetism, and light are interconnected forces wasn’t simply a product of lab experiments but was based on his underlying belief that all forces in the universe come from the same Creator and so must be interconnected.
NDGT himself said in this episode “Faraday believed in the unity of nature” but what he didn’t say that this belief was based on the Bible. So, once again, no credit is given to religion but all goes to science.
Actually, the way NDGT tells the story, a lot of science is based on coincidences and underhanded tactics. Faraday, for example, got the attention of his mentor Humphry Davy not by displaying his scientific skills but by presenting his notes as a binded book (he worked for a printer at the time). Had he not pay special attention to presentation God knows what course science could have taken instead.
So much for ideas speaking for themselves. Like democracy, it’s what they tell the common folk while in real world access and presentation give one a giant leg up against competition.
Later in the show Faraday proved that electromagnetic field influences the light, too, by passing the light through a German glass brick that he got as a sample when Davy banished him to the glass factory. Faraday was becoming too famous which made his mentor, Davy, uncomfortable so he send Faraday out of sight to work on an unrelated subject – glass. Years later this one piece of glass made history. Faraday tried all kinds of substances to see if magnetism affects light but nothing worked, only this one imported glass brick, which coincidentally undergone a special treatment that greatly increased its capacity for polarization. They tried to reproduce a similar glass in England but failed so this brick was really unique. What a lucky coincidence indeed!
NDGT demonstrated in the show what would happen to the world if Faraday didn’t make his discoveries, and it all rests on two cases of luck – clever idea to bind notes into a book and a special piece of glass that Faraday wasn’t even supposed to find if it wasn’t for Davy’s clearly “unscientific” behavior.
As for this episodes blunders – there weren’t any big ones. It was a bit misleading of NDGT to show electromagnetic and gravitational fields as if they are connected. So far we don’t have even a good theory how it could be so. Well, we do – they are all Kṛṣṇa’s energies, I mean science doesn’t.
Another case of possible misunderstanding is NDGT’s example of birds using Earth’s magnetic field to navigate their migration routes. He didn’t say that we don’t know how this sense works but he implied that we do. There are several theories about it, none are conclusive, the exact mechanism is still unknown. What’s more – there are other animals who can sense magnetic field, too, and they all use different ways to do it, which means evolution’s workload has increased again.
Finally, I’ve said a lot about the power of this show – CGI, music, narrative – it all comes together nicely, and NDGT cements it all with his presence. It’s hard to feel negative about him even for us. Personally, I see a man who is totally fascinated by Lord’s creation and I appreciate it very much, I don’t see him as an enemy.
This doesn’t mean that he can’t be made fun of, as you can see in this slow motion video:
I don’t think this effect would work on everybody, NDGT is a perfect subject here.
And here is another example of people taking the show not too seriously: