Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cosmos 2: Why even talk about Bruno?

When was the last time you watched a movie sequel that was as good as the original?  Some are fantastic, such as the Dark Knight, the Empire Strikes Back, and Terminator 2, but others are simply horrendous and don't even make it to the big screen.  Fact is, sequels are almost never as good as the original.  I have a sense that the reboot of Cosmos (or "Cosmos 2") might be one of those that fall horribly short.

The original Cosmos was a hit, and has been said (here) to have "kicked off a decade-long 'popular science boom.'"  But when Fox's Cosmos 2, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, premiered last week, viewers were not treated to exciting scientific breakthroughs, nor even a solid view on how scientific investigation has impacted our society and world.  Instead, as many have noted, we were fed propaganda about how religion has stifled scientific progress, furthering the myth of the conflict between science and faith.

The biggest complaint?  That the first episode focused so much of its time on an overblown and inaccurate story of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1600.  If you want a more accurate picture, you can Google Giordano Bruno and you'll get 100s of hits describing what was wrong with the episode.  That's right: for once maybe you can trust the internet.

And you know it's bad when the National Center for Science Education (an organization that has not always supported evangelical Christianity) laments how Cosmos 2 has distorted the facts of history (see posts here and here).  Another blogger poses the question, "Why would a science program devote 25 percent of its first episode to the persecution of someone who was not a scientist, was not accepted by scientists, and published no science, but was instead a martyr for magic?"

It kind of makes me wonder: what were they thinking?  It could not have been a mistake, as it is apparently quite difficult to separate his views about essential Christian doctrines from his execution for heresy.  How could they have made such an obvious historical error?  And why even talk about this fellow when his story that is largely irrelevant to what is claimed to be the point of the program: to promote the wonders and beauty of scientific discovery in our universe?

However, to be fair, there were some redeeming qualities to the first episode of Cosmos 2.  In the first few minutes, Tyson says, "Test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything."  Wise words from a man so dedicated to driving a wedge between science, reason, and faith.  It kind of makes me think of quotes by two other men of history whom I highly respect:
  • "Test everything.  Hold fast what is good (I Thess 5:21)."  
  • "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1)."