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Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s Actually The Focus

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"Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s Actually The Focus"

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson

CREDIT: Frank Micelotta/Invision for FOX/AP Images

Danny Faulkner, a “scientist” working for the same group that runs Kentucky’s creation museum was complaining last week that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey doesn’t address creationism.

From Mashable:

Faulkner claimed the 13-episode series has a distinct “evolutionary bias,” and agreed with Mefferd’s concern that Cosmos doesn’t even present creationism as an alternative theory.

“That was struck in the first episode where [Tyson] talked about science — how everything’s up for discussion, it’s all on the table — and I thought to myself, ‘No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion’,” he said.

This seems to be the prevailing sense on the other side as well. Over at iO9, Jason Shankel writes “Rather than hand the microphone over to the usual crowd of mountebanks and charlatans and give them some freebie air time to sell their defective product, Tyson dedicates this episode to the telling of a single story in the history of science that provides the strongest counter-argument to creationism or any other mystical explanations for reality.”

Actually, Tyson is deliberately and straightforwardly giving a whole lot of time to creationism. Why did we have to sit through the history of the eyeball? Creationists love to argue that the complexity of the eyeball disproves evolution. Note how he talked specifically about how the eyeball isn’t actually this perfect mechanism, but something that works well enough for what we need it for, but not as well as it does in fish — the whole idea that the eyeball is a perfect, too-complex thing is a creationist argument.

Another example: Why did Tyson spend so much time explaining the similarities and differences in how polar bears have evolved through natural selection vs. how dogs have changed in the time we’ve been breeding them for certain traits? Because creationists acknowledge that changes within species happen. They just like to pretend like one kind of organism couldn’t really have brought forth another kind of organism.

Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules. (Every episode we’ve seen so far has contrasted the Church’s approach to these issues with science’s approach. I’ve read some complaints that Cosmos is too much in love with that old story where everything happens in Europe until white people arrive in the Americas and then some stuff gets to happen here too. But I think that complaint also misunderstands that the history of Christianity as its taught to American Christians is, by and large, that story — everything happens in Europe until some stuff starts to happen here). Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.

I mean, people, he literally said “This is the greatest story ever told” — about science! You think Tyson doesn’t know that’s practically American Christianity’s slogan? I don’t know what more he could do to make it clear that he’s directly critiquing creationism. Is he supposed to come out and say, “Excuse me, Danny Faulkner, I’m talking to you.”?

If the ways he’s critiquing creationism weren’t so interesting, his focus on just going through their arguments, dismantling them one after the other, would be tedious. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is an incredibly thorough discussion of creationism. Creationists are getting the discussion they claim to wish to be having.

What creationists are upset about is that it’s not a discussion that bothers to treat their ideas like they have any scientific merit. After all, any good scientific question should eventually lead to an answer that generates more questions. Creationism short-circuits that process, instead arguing that there’s an end to questions — that, eventually, you can drill down enough to get to God — God did it or God willed it to be. No more questions needed.

That just can’t be a valid scientific approach. And, so far, week after week, that’s been the subtext to Cosmos.

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