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Subject: Cosmos rss

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Shawn Fox
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I'm surprised that someone else hasn't started a thread about the new Cosmos TV show hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. The first two episodes are available online, I don't know if they plan to do the same with the rest.

http://www.fox.com/watch/183733315515

Anyway, I was at SXSW last week and got to see the first episode followed by a live Q&A with Tyson afterwards. It seems like there is already quite an uproar among certain segments of the Conservative crowd. The first episode focused on the size and age of the universe, starting with Sol and slowly zooming out to show how tiny our portion of the universe is.

It then compared the entire life of the universe to a one year calendar. Placing the big bang on January 1, the birth of Sol on August 31, the first life on earth at September 21, first land animals on December 17, the first flower on December 28, the birth of humanity at 11pm on December 31, and all of recorded history within the last 14 seconds of December 31.

I thought those two parts were great examples of both how small we are and how recently we have arrived compared to the size/age of the Universe. Nothing really scientifically controversial here, but I'm sure some people will have a problem with it.

The more 'controversial' part is that the show specially brought up the frequent attempts by religion to repress inconvenient scientific ideas. I'm not convinced that such direct attacks belong in a show like Cosmos, but certainly it is factual historical information and I think it is a good thing that it has been put in a place where more people can be exposed to it. Might help some to see the light in regards to the current religious resistance to scientific evidence relating to genetics, evolution, and the effects of humanity on our environment.
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I've really been looking forward to seeing this. Probably will wait for the DVD.
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I like it. The only downside I found like the OP touched on is the villianization of Religion on science. Which it is true, that is what happened, but do they need to portray them in as cartoonish evil villains?

Ignorance does not equal evil. To portray as such is to propagandize the whole message.
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MWChapel wrote:
Ignorance does not equal evil.


But willful ignorance might.
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My girls were horrified that Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for, as my one daughter put it, "thinking outside the box." I thought one of my daughters was going to cry (she tends to be very emotional when it comes to movies, books, etc...) I think it is an important story to tell, although they did go a bit over the top with the cartoon villain portrayal.

Overall, I enjoyed the show and look forward to more.
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MWChapel wrote:
I like it. The only downside I found like the OP touched on is the villianization of Religion on science. Which it is true, that is what happened, but do they need to portray them in as cartoonish evil villains?

Ignorance does not equal evil. To portray as such is to propagandize the whole message.


My general opinion is that the more someone is exposed to how science actually works the more they will begin to question everything. It is very hard for religion to survive in the mind of someone who is continually seeking knowledge. The problem with portraying religious leaders as villains is that it will cause some religious families to not allow their children to view the show. Far better to leave religion out of it so that the show would be able to reach a wider audience.

One thing that was quite interesting is that the show ended up on Fox. It just offers further proof that Fox doesn't believe in anything except making money. Hating Fox Broadcasting because of Fox News is kind of silly, it is just a corporation like any other that has found a way to make money by exploiting people's biases. It is just how the free market works... it isn't about producing "good" things or "bad" things, in the end is is only about making money.
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Drew1365 wrote:
sfox wrote:
The more 'controversial' part is that the show specially brought up the frequent attempts by religion to repress inconvenient scientific ideas. I'm not convinced that such direct attacks belong in a show like Cosmos, but certainly it is factual historical information and I think it is a good thing that it has been put in a place where more people can be exposed to it. Might help some to see the light in regards to the current religious resistance to scientific evidence relating to genetics, evolution, and the effects of humanity on our environment.


It actually wasn't factual historical information.


Even if it isn't true, it is still factual that religion has often stood in the way of scientific progress. That said, religion has also helped scientific progress in many cases as well, both by providing a more stable environment as well as providing leisure time to the priesthood which on occasion some of them used to advance science.

I personally am not a hater of religion, I just think it is a childish fantasy. Nothing more than an adult version of santa clause or the tooth fairy. If I'm trying to convince someone to change their mind on something I know the right approach is not to attack their beliefs directly as it tends to just cause people to not listen. Clearly on RSP we very rarely change anyone's mind so I have no issue with making my actual beliefs very clear here, but as I already said I don't think it has a place in a TV show designed to educate those who most need it.

Preaching to the choir as Faux News does accomplishes nothing other than to further divide us and I am concerned that the approach taken by the first episode of Cosmos leads down that same road.
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Drew1365 wrote:
sfox wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
sfox wrote:
The more 'controversial' part is that the show specially brought up the frequent attempts by religion to repress inconvenient scientific ideas. I'm not convinced that such direct attacks belong in a show like Cosmos, but certainly it is factual historical information and I think it is a good thing that it has been put in a place where more people can be exposed to it. Might help some to see the light in regards to the current religious resistance to scientific evidence relating to genetics, evolution, and the effects of humanity on our environment.


It actually wasn't factual historical information.


Even if it isn't true, it is still factual that religion has often stood in the way of scientific progress.


What you're saying is that it's okay to lie if you're doing it to spread a message against religion?

No, it's not okay to lie. Why should I believe that Cosmos gets science right when they fail to get history right? They are obviously propagandizing -- distorting history to push a particular view. At that point, it would be foolish to trust anything else these writers say.

When someone is clearly distorting facts, it's time to "question everything" as you yourself say above.

Quote:
I personally am not a hater of religion, I just think it is a childish fantasy. Nothing more than an adult version of santa clause or the tooth fairy.


Quote:
If I'm trying to convince someone to change their mind on something I know the right approach is not to attack their beliefs directly as it tends to just cause people to not listen.


The two statements above cannot be reconciled. You can't call someone's religion a "childish fantasy" and then claim that you don't attack their beliefs.




Agreed. Just like you can't call someone's sexuality an abomination and then claim that your not attacking them.
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Drew1365 wrote:
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Why are we replaying the Bruno story in a documentary about space?

What is the purpose? What is the result?

Is it to show how science and religion came into conflict? The Galileo case would be a better example for that, but people already know that one and Galileo didn’t have the benefit of a cinematic death that makes his opponents looks like mindless savages.


Is this one of those strange rhetorical questions someone asks, then answers perfectly adequately, demonstrating that there's actually a perfectly reasonable answer?

That early astronomers in Europe faced some challenges seems like an important part of the story which helps make the advance of science seem more heroic. Haven't you written about the chilling effect on free expression of targeting speech for review of tax-exempt status? That applies not only to other Tea Party groups, but anyone who departs from Obama's socialist liberal security-state fascism, doesn't it? The same principle is at work here--chilling effects are not narrowly targeted, and it takes courage to state your beliefs when the fear caused by them is well-founded.
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To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, so I hope this series doesn't turn them off to it.


sfox wrote:
My general opinion is that the more someone is exposed to how science actually works the more they will begin to question everything. It is very hard for religion to survive in the mind of someone who is continually seeking knowledge.

Not for me as a Mormon. I love science (although I don't take it as the last word on anything).


"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection."
- Joseph Smith, first Mormon prophet


"Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the worlds work, and the power to appreciate life."
- Brigham Young


"Thy mind, O Man [and we may add O Woman as well], if thou wilt lead a soul 
unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the 
lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal 
expanse."
- Brigham Young


Mormons are urged to learn about the secular as well as the spiritual. Both kinds of knowledge help us to know how to work through our individual challenges in a balanced approach.

We come to earth according to God's plan, so that we can learn and experience all the wonderful and challenging things the world has to teach us, and we have to be good students to make the most of our time here.

Secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge can complement each other. Because God created the earth and the things that inhabit it, studying geology, physics and biology teaches us more about the greatness of our Creator. Authors and poets can write with heavenly inspiration, so reading their work can give us insight into the nature of our souls and what it means to be human. Sometimes listening to a piece of music can help us feel God's love.

Both secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge benefit from dialogue. Both require observation, work, and practice. So although we sometimes think of secular and spiritual as opposites or even as contradictory, a true knowledge of God and the world He created shows us that understanding one helps to understand the other.


http://www.mormon.org/values/learning

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Shawn Fox
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Drew1365 wrote:

Quote:
I personally am not a hater of religion, I just think it is a childish fantasy. Nothing more than an adult version of santa clause or the tooth fairy.


Quote:
If I'm trying to convince someone to change their mind on something I know the right approach is not to attack their beliefs directly as it tends to just cause people to not listen.


The two statements above cannot be reconciled. You can't call someone's religion a "childish fantasy" and then claim that you don't attack their beliefs.


Those two statements reconcile perfectly if you include my third statement that you maliciously cut out (or maybe you are just a complete moron, I'm often not sure which).

Drew1365 wrote:

What you're saying is that it's okay to lie if you're doing it to spread a message against religion?

No, it's not okay to lie. Why should I believe that Cosmos gets science right when they fail to get history right? They are obviously propagandizing -- distorting history to push a particular view. At that point, it would be foolish to trust anything else these writers say.


All religion is a lie anyway, but I agree that using a lie to counter a lie isn't the right approach even if it is effective. I assume the producers of the show just didn't fully investigate the story of Bruno, but perhaps they misstated the truth on purpose. Much better to create a show that only talks about scientific fact as I've already said. The only way the religious can debate facts is to state they don't believe in them. In the end that behavior just makes them look like the fools that they are. Bruno's story does a good job of giving an example of that, even if it is a highly distorted version of the truth.
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Drew1365 wrote:
For what it's worth, here's one area where MacFarlane and I are in agreement:

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What do you think needs correcting? How have we gone off track?

You look back at the ‘60s and ‘70s and there was great pride in scientific achievement in this country, particularly in the area of space travel. Our advancements as human beings were important to us and something that we wanted to see continue to evolve. In 1969, we all thought that we would have a permanent manned presence on the moon by the year 2000. And then in 2012 Newt Gingrich suggested we should have a moon base and everyone thought he was crazy. And I was thinking, I’m a liberal Democrat but I’m 100% with this guy. He’s exactly right. They thought this would happen 10 years ago and here he is making this suggestion and suddenly he’s a crackpot. I think that’s one reason to get back on track.

The space program has decayed to a point that is incredibly depressing. We as a species are explorers. Why are we stopping?


I thought Newt's Moonbase idea was awesome.

What scientific purpose does a moon base serve, other than testing our ability to keep humans alive in an hostile/toxic environment, constantly exosed to radiation and lacking air, water and nutrition?

But we can test that premise on Earth and any research conducted on a moon base could also be performed using probes.

A moon base would be very expensive to build and maintain, and at our current state of technology, we are much better served sending probes and robots into space or to other planets/moons in our solar system. There is much more to learn that way.

Dreaming of a moon base in 1969 was a nice motivational fantasy, but dreaming of a moon base in 2012 indicates a lack of knowledge about the current state of scienctific research and technology.
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Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, . . .


Why "more than anyone else"?

Similarly, Shawn referred to the problems of having anti-religion propaganda in a TV show "designed to educate those who most need it."

Who, in your view "most needs it?"

I get the sense from both of you that you think religious people need Cosmos most of all. Why?

You may think that such a statement is self-evident, but it's not.

Quote:
The only way the religious can debate facts is to state they don't believe in them. In the end that behavior just makes them look like the fools that they are.


That is complete nonsense.


I agree, Drew. The notion that somehow religion and science are mutually exclusive or incompatible is laughable. The problem comes about, I believe, because of the simplistic view that many atheists have that all religions are the same, or have the same core beliefs. It's common for atheists to assume, for example, that all Christians believe in the "young Earth creationism", or reject the theory of evolution. In reality, it is only a particular niche of Christianity, primarily some (not all) evangelical Christians, who hold these beliefs, while significant portions of other Christian religions, such as Roman Catholics, do not believe in YEC and do accept evolution.

It would be helpful to the conversation if atheists would stop lumping all religions into a single bucket. It might also help if atheists would recognize that, at best, they can't disprove the existence of a supernatural entity but only state that they can neither prove nor disprove such an entity exists. I think that's why I have more respect for agnostics than atheists - agnostics, to me, are the most intellectually honest people in the debate, because they admit the possibility that there might be something out there that we can't touch or see today, and they simply hold that such things are unknowable, at least based on current human capabilities.

*edit* - spelling!
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, . . .


Why "more than anyone else"?

Similarly, Shawn referred to the problems of having anti-religion propaganda in a TV show "designed to educate those who most need it."

Who, in your view "most needs it?"

I get the sense from both of you that you think religious people need Cosmos most of all. Why?

You may think that such a statement is self-evident, but it's not.

Quote:
The only way the religious can debate facts is to state they don't believe in them. In the end that behavior just makes them look like the fools that they are.


That is complete nonsense.


I agree, Drew. The notion that somehow religion and science are mutually exclusive or incompatible is laughable. The problem comes about, I believe, because of the simplistic view that many atheists have that all religions are the same, or have the same core beliefs. It's common for atheists to assume, for example, that all Christians believe in the "young Earth creationism", or reject the theory of evolution. In reality, it is only a particular niche of Christianity, primarily some (not all) evangelical Christians, who hold these beliefs, while significant portions of other Christian religions, such as Roman Catholics, do not belief in YEC and do accept evolution.

It would be helpful to the conversation if atheists would stop lumping all religions into a single bucket. It might also help if atheists would recognize that, at best, they can't disprove the existence of a supernatural entity but only state that they can neither prove nor disprove such an entity exists. I think that's why I have more respect for agnostics than atheists - agnostics, to me, are the most intellectually honest people in the debate, because they admit the possibility that there might be something out there that we can't touch or see today, and they simply hold that such things are unknowable, at least based on current human capabilities.
It would help if certain kinds of Christia... Ohh I see what you did.
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Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, . . .


Why "more than anyone else"?

Similarly, Shawn referred to the problems of having anti-religion propaganda in a TV show "designed to educate those who most need it."

Who, in your view "most needs it?"

I get the sense from both of you that you think religious people need Cosmos most of all. Why?

You may think that such a statement is self-evident, but it's not.

I believe knowledge is knowledge, whether it comes from science or from religion. Closing one's eyes to science is a recipe for close-mindedness and ignorance of the modern world one lives in. God gave us brains and I think he expects us to use them and become educated.

I guess I'm thinking of the recent Bill Nye/Creationist debate. But perhaps other varieties of religion also suffer from the same weakness.

At the very least, if one is going to say, contrary to all evidence to the senses and hundreds of years of study, that the earth is 6000 years old - you should know about all that contrary evidence before you start making claims of an alternative framework of knowledge ("Creation science" or whatever you want to call it). Otherwise you just sound ridiculous, and make God look ridiculous too, in my opinion.

This series Cosmos is specifically designed for us non-scientists. I hope it reaches everyone, and doesn't turn anyone away due to being insensitive to viewers who are religious.


By the way, 16th century Catholic Inquisition is not the same as all religion. Even Catholics regret what their church did then, from what I've heard.
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Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, . . .


Why "more than anyone else"?

Similarly, Shawn referred to the problems of having anti-religion propaganda in a TV show "designed to educate those who most need it."

Who, in your view "most needs it?"

I get the sense from both of you that you think religious people need Cosmos most of all. Why?

You may think that such a statement is self-evident, but it's not.

Quote:
The only way the religious can debate facts is to state they don't believe in them. In the end that behavior just makes them look like the fools that they are.


That is complete nonsense.

I agree. Most Christian are quite well versed in science and don't hold that as conflictive with their faith.

There's a loud minority of fundamental Christians though, who believe their faith requires them to reject scientific research and/or reality.

That can happen with any ideology however. Under dialectical materialism, for example, Lemaitre's Big Bang theory as well as Mendel's inheritance were rejected on the basis of the two being Christian priests.
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Drew1365 wrote:
tesuji wrote:
To the extent that this new Cosmos feels like an attack on religion to believers, that is unfortunate. They need this show more than anyone else, . . .


Why "more than anyone else"?

Similarly, Shawn referred to the problems of having anti-religion propaganda in a TV show "designed to educate those who most need it."

Who, in your view "most needs it?"

I get the sense from both of you that you think religious people need Cosmos most of all. Why?

You may think that such a statement is self-evident, but it's not.

Quote:
The only way the religious can debate facts is to state they don't believe in them. In the end that behavior just makes them look like the fools that they are.


That is complete nonsense.


It's not that religious people need science, it's that they (we) need to feel included in the discussion of science rather than feeling like we're on the outside and being "attacked" by it.

The downside of this current alignment is that some religious folks tend to think that any scientific advance can be portrayed as an attack on faith. We're talking space here, but let's look elsewhere. Stem cell research. Where were the lines typically drawn on it, and why? How much of the debate seen in the public forum was because of concerns about the science itself and how much was "Quit using abortion byproducts" or "Quit playing God... that's God's job?" There may have been some of the former, but I saw far more of the latter. And that... that's religion impeding science. It didn't have to go like that, but since the current narrative pits one against the other, that's how it ended up.

So... Cosmos reaching out to those of a religious bent and offering inclusion rather than condemnation could go a long way towards resolving differences and allowing both groups to move forward.
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As a religious person who believes in evolution, it was very disappointing to watch the 2nd episode. Not sure why they can't just have a show about science without going out of their way to take pot shots at religion. Oh, sure, they're trying to be subtle about it, but I bet you a million bucks in their planning meetings the question "what is the anti-religious angle here?" comes up time and time again. The slant was clear.
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Tyson counters that "Giordano Bruno himself was a deeply religious person. In fact, you could argue that he was more religious than the people prosecuting him."

The stance of Cosmos, Tyson emphasizes, is not anti-religion but anti-dogma: "Any time you have a doctrine where that is the truth that you assert, and that what you call the truth is unassailable, you've got doctrine, you've got dogma on your hands. And so Cosmos is…an offering of science, and a reminder that dogma does not advance science; it actually regresses it."
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ejmowrer wrote:
Oh, sure, they're trying to be subtle about it



This is subtle?



They might as well have put Emperor Palpatine in there.

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lfisher wrote:
Tyson counters that "Giordano Bruno himself was a deeply religious person. In fact, you could argue that he was more religious than the people prosecuting him."

The stance of Cosmos, Tyson emphasizes, is not anti-religion but anti-dogma: "Any time you have a doctrine where that is the truth that you assert, and that what you call the truth is unassailable, you've got doctrine, you've got dogma on your hands. And so Cosmos is…an offering of science, and a reminder that dogma does not advance science; it actually regresses it."


Then my opinion of him has just dropped, because the show I watched made no distinction and insulted my intelligence in spite of the fact that I believe in evolution (macro and micro) and an Earth that is millions of years old. Like many supposed "diversity" proponents, it's all well and good until you espouse an opinion that is at odds with their agenda. You can believe any religion you want, as long as you don't believe in God.
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Quote:
This is subtle?


I've only seen the episode on evolution.
 
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lfisher wrote:
The stance of Cosmos, Tyson emphasizes, is not anti-religion but anti-dogma: "Any time you have a doctrine where that is the truth that you assert, and that what you call the truth is unassailable, you've got doctrine, you've got dogma on your hands. And so Cosmos is…an offering of science, and a reminder that dogma does not advance science; it actually regresses it."


I think trying to insert an opinion on "dogma" into the show detracts from the core purpose of the show, and probably shuts off a portion of his audience to the rest of what he has to say.
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Geosphere wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
Ignorance does not equal evil.


But willful ignorance might.


I would be careful to draw the line between ethical qualms and wilful ignorance.
 
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This was my favorite part of Contact.



Because the role of Science isn't to disprove spirituality, it's to further our knowledge of the universe.

I think sometimes Scientists shoot their own foot and wonder why they aren't taken seriously by "everyone", when by everyone, those include the multitude that are spiritual. And of those multitude they also want to learn more about their universe. BUT they don't want science to be used exclusively to disprove the lack of existence of their deity of choice.

Cure cancer, explore space, do what you do best. Let ideals form naturally from observation...don't be preachy, and more will embrace your message.

Work within not only the parameters of experimentation, but also social constraints.
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