It is nearly impossible to imagine that FOX News and Cosmos appear on the same network. It is difficult to believe that they are even on the same planet, but often ignorance and intelligence team up to become strange bedfellows.
I watched the first installment of Cosmos: A Space Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and I must say I was impressed. Tyson is a noted astrophysicist and the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York.
“Cosmos,” is a resurrection of the late Carl Sagan's show of the same name and it is just as interesting now as it was then. A notable moment in the show came when professor Tyson recalls the time when he met Carl Sagan who took time out of his schedule and provided a personal tour of the Cornell campus when Tyson was about to enter college.
Delivered in accessible English, the first show dealt with the beginning of the universe and how it came to be, which ordinarily find expression in terms only scientists could hope to understand. Tyson handles the narrative with ease and expert knowledge. It is an excellent source for a truly reasonable explanation of how the universe came to be and how our planet was formed.
A visually stunning and dazzling tour of the universe, the show is filled with fantastic graphics and simulations. From the moment the show begins to its end, the quality and relationship of the visual effects to the topics discussed are excellent. Perhaps, one of the best graphic visual comes in the explanation of the “Big Bang” theory.
However, the show is much more than stunning graphics and visuals. It is chock full of real information concerning the earth origins, the size of the universe and the infinite number of stars, planets and galaxies beyond the view of even the most sophisticated technology developed by humans.
Another high point comes when Tyson explains the importance of imagination in the scientific process. In the explanation, the necessity of testing ideas and discarding those that do not work provides a clear view of the beginnings of the scientific process. Just as important, building on those theories that pass muster is just as important. In addition, Tyson stressed the necessity to question everything. Finally, and most importantly, go where the evidence leads.
Interestingly, after the show aired complaints from the Religious Right started to surface. The complaints were predictable, especially for those religionists believing God created the world and their surety that the earth is only 6,000 years old. During the show, Professor Tyson mentioned scientific findings that places the age of the universe at 13.4 billion years old. However, even evangelical and controversial preacher Pat Robertson thinks young earth theories are a joke.
“Let’s face it, there was a bishop [Ussher] who added up the dates listed in Genesis and he came up with the world had been around for 6,000 years,” Robertson said. “There ain’t no way that’s possible. To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible.”
Also, Far Right religious critics registered their displeasure with the show's reflections on Copernicus and Giordano Bruno. Bruno, a philosopher, mathematician and astrologer, believed in the heliocentric model, which posited that the earth and planets all revolved around the sun. Although rarely mentioned in today’s discussions of the theories because of his support for the heliocentric view, Bruno was pronounced a heretic and burned at the stake.
Aside from the typical moaning and groaning from the Religious Right, the show received good reviews. However, the people who need to watch will not as nearly a quarter of US citizens believe in the geocentric theory that the sun and all the planets revolve around the earth.
I highly recommend the show for all age groups, although it may be too much for the very young. Despite the Inquisitional nature of the Religious Right, the show is excellent. It probably disappoints some religionists that burning at the stake is no longer allowed because if it were, Mr. Tyson would be in trouble.
Enjoy the show and leave your mind open.
Historical Note: Although Copernicus is generally credited with developing the heliocentric theory, a check of his work shows that he borrowed from another scholar known as Aristarchus of Samos who developed a form of the heliocentric model as early as 200 B.C. Copernicus never released his findings until it was published after his death his book, “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies.” In addition, in the 11th century, Muslim scholars also built on the work of Aristarchus.