Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Equal airtime?

The title screen for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil
deGrasse Tyson.  Image source.
On March 9, 2014, a new television show premiered on Fox after much anticipation by the public.  Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by current science superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson, is a reboot of Carl Sagan's show, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which aired in 1980.  The show explores the vastness and intricacies of the universe from beginning to end—all from a naturalistic viewpoint, of course.

Over the last few days, creationists have been accused of attacking the new series and demanding equal airtime for their viewpoint.  I was surprised by this, as nobody should expect this new television series to openly teach creationist ideas.  The claims appear to originate from the website Right Wing Watch, which points to a radio interview by Janet Mefferd with Dr. Danny Faulkner, an astronomer associated with Answers in Genesis.  In the interview, Mefferd asked Dr. Faulkner if creationists appeared on the show.  Faulkner replied in the negative, saying, "creationists aren't even on the radar screen for them; they wouldn't even consider us plausible at all."  He later criticized deGrasse Tyson for claiming that all ideas are up for discussion and on the table in science, noting that creationism apparently is not.  Here, Dr. Faulkner was referring to general scientific discussion, but the media appears to have misconstrued his statements as a demand for equal representation on Cosmos.  The story was passed from source to source, and like a game of telephone, the facts were far overblown, and now many people are under the impression that the whole community of creationists is angry at deGrasse Tyson and the producers of Cosmos for not extensively representing the creationist viewpoint.  Of course, that is not the case at all.

Granted, many creationists have criticized the show, but not because it does not provide airtime for creationism.  Rather, they point out that no distinction is made between naturalistic assumptions and scientifically-proven facts.  For example, the first episode opens with Sagan's claim that "the cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."  His intention may have been to provide a simple definition, but he was actually making an extremely significant philosophical statement.  By presuming that the natural universe is all that exists, any potential supernatural input is immediately rejected, firmly establishing a naturalistic/materialistic framework for any further study.  Many people argue that such a presumption is necessary, as science cannot test supernatural ideas.  However, that only reveals the limits of science, not of reality itself.  Unfortunately, "science" is becoming synonymous with "nature" and "reality," particularly with younger generations, and Cosmos seems to only reinforce that equivocation.

I cannot comment on the show itself much, as I have not yet seen it for myself.  Nevertheless, it does seem to be encouraging animosity toward creationists, as evidenced by the latest myth that has propagated through the various Internet media.  No creationists are demanding airtime on Cosmos, but the lie is passed on anyways because that is what the public has come to expect of creationists due to the various inaccurate portrayals of the creationist community by their critics.  I encourage any such critics to engage creationists in civilized discussion before dismissing them as ignorant lunatics.

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