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Kromm

Religion and Cosmos

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Obviously this series takes on a lot, and says a lot of things, that people of certain religious beliefs aren't happy with.  So here's a place to discuss that.  Hopefully in a controlled manner, even if I think inherently people are going to be fairly opinionated.

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Obviously this series takes on a lot, and says a lot of things, that people of certain religious beliefs aren't happy with.  So here's a place to discuss that.  Hopefully in a controlled manner, even if I think inherently people are going to be fairly opinionated.

If I disagree with you, will Conan smite me? Or are you some other Kromm? ;)

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If I disagree with you, will Conan smite me? Or are you some other Kromm? ;)

Since I'm confused by the reference, maybe I am.  Or possibly its based on something I've said in the past I've simply forgotten about.

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Since I'm confused by the reference, maybe I am.  Or possibly its based on something I've said in the past I've simply forgotten about.

Kromm, which may actually spelled Crom now that I think about it, is the god Conan the Barbarian worshiped. He probably would not approve of Cosmos.

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This is an interesting topic - and if I offend anyone with my posts here, please believe it's not at all my intention! Maybe it's because I had a science-heavy upbringing in the 'People's Gaypublic of Drugafornia' (thank you Jack Donaghy), but I don't actually know anyone who believes in creationism. I was pretty shocked to hear that it's maybe more common than I had imagined?

I do my utmost to live and let live, and I generally don't have a problem with other people's beliefs - unless they're trying to convert me. And as long as their beliefs don't actively harm others (see: people who deny someone health care because god is supposed to heal them, people who spread hate, people who kill in the name of their beliefs). But it is baffling to me when someone is confronted with overwhelming scientific evidence and chooses to believe otherwise because of 'faith'. I don't think belief in science is completely incompatible with religion. But what do I know... I belong to the widespread religion of 'Raised Catholic'.

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I'm glad there's a separate thread for focusing more on religion as it appears (or maybe doesn't) in "Cosmos". But I wish it hadn't been called ".... vs.Cosmos"   Because I don't think that's where they're going with this. I don't think Cosmos is an attack on religion (specifically, on Christianity). 

If it is, at times, pointing out the incompatibility of scientific discoveries, principles, theories with some Christian beliefs, I think (1) It's been pretty mild in doing it and (2) to me, it's been pretty much "Here are some differences; you decide".  Excuse the phrase, but imo "Cosmos" is not "preachy".  The topics seem chosen for reasons other than debunking Christianity, although I'm sure getting people to question their beliefs--whether religion, or that we actually see a horizon--in the context of what they understand about science, is one of the purposes..

And re "Religion" itself, I'm no expert, but I think there are various "religions" that wouldn't have any problem being reconciled with everything that has been said on this show--and with all the concepts/knowledge we have about science. I think it is intended to get viewers thinking and questioning more. I like the humbling part of it, where you realize that some scientist observed the same thing you have but s/he actually got some scientific principle from what he observed. The whole methodology of scientific discovery is so different from religious discovery (thinking of the "big names" in religions), but I do wish he'd do even more with the scientific method.

Edited by Padma
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Padma, the intent wasn't to predicate discussion over Cosmos attacking religion, but instead to have a place to talk about the various points they bring up which Creationists and others have routinely attacked (and tried to get out of schools) for decades. 

I'd have simply called it "Cosmos vs. Creationism" or maybe even more properly "Creationism vs. Cosmos", or perhaps "Darwinism vs. Creationism as seen on Cosmos", but that would have limited the scope if there were indeed other positions from other religions to be discussed, as well as potentially cutting out discussion of things other than Darwin (the age of the Universe thing, for example).  So I generalized with the phrase "religion" instead.

Maybe... "Cosmos and Religion" as a title?  I'll see if I'm allowed to change it.


EDIT - Nope.  Looks like I'm past the window to do so.  If you feel strongly about the inappropriateness of the title though, feel free to ask David, who runs this place, if he can change it.  I'm totally fine with it from my end.

Edited by Kromm

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There are people who don't buy into evolution for reasons other than religion, the religious aspect is just more in the forefront because of high profile cases of creationists demanding, and in some cases succeeding, in having creationism taught as "science" in public schools. The recent shift of the republican party towards evangelical versions of Christianity has also put it in the news.

The religion based arguments generally center around factions who believe the Bible is the literal word of God and thus insist evolution can't be right because it doesn't jive with the biblical account. Religious factions that view scripture as more of set of guidelines and interpret them in non-literal fashion are generally more open to the co-existence of faith and science.

Many people who don't believe in evolution, whether religious or not, don't have a very good understanding of what it actually is. These are the people who say things like, "I ain't descended from no monkey," or "it's just a theory."

For this group, I think the show presenting a basic explanation of how the scientific method works, what a theory actually is and doing stuff like that segment on how our eyes developed could be really useful, if they are open to it.

Edited by Joystickenvy
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There are people who don't buy into evolution for reasons other than religion,

I don't believe I've ever seen a single real, sustained 20th or 21st century argument that didn't ultimately come back to religion.  In the 19th century, perhaps.  

I guess you're saying, with the "I ain't no monkey" thing that people aren't claiming it's linked to the bible, but in those cases nobody offers any alternative suggestion at ALL.  There's no debate aspect to it then... just rote denial (at least the creationists offer an IDEA, even if its a ludicrous one ultimately based on "because someone said so" and disregarding actual rules of logic or evidence).

I guess there might be a third tiny strain of people who attribute what's on the globe to alien intervention or something.  But that's in a way just another version of creationism.  Just changing the claim about "who did it".

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I can change it to Cosmos and Religion if you all want. Just reply and let me know.

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I don't believe I've ever seen a single real, sustained 20th or 21st century argument that didn't ultimately come back to religion.  In the 19th century, perhaps.  

I guess you're saying, with the "I ain't no monkey" thing that people aren't claiming it's linked to the bible, but in those cases nobody offers any alternative suggestion at ALL.  There's no debate aspect to it then... just rote denial (at least the creationists offer an IDEA, even if its a ludicrous one ultimately based on "because someone said so" and disregarding actual rules of logic or evidence).

I guess there might be a third tiny strain of people who attribute what's on the globe to alien intervention or something.  But that's in a way just another version of creationism.  Just changing the claim about "who did it".

I wouldn't say I know of any organized anti-evolution movements that aren't religion based, but I know plenty of people, mostly with limited educational background, who think evolution just sounds silly and therefore the church's explanation is equally viable. Usually their explanation for their belief is that, "no one really knows how we got here."

They don't understand how science works and view the claims of science as opinions, no more valid than their own. And yes, I've heard the "maybe aliens put us here" idea from this group.

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EDIT - Nope.  Looks like I'm past the window to do so.  If you feel strongly about the inappropriateness of the title though, feel free to ask David, who runs this place, if he can change it.  I'm totally fine with it from my end.

 

Hi, Oh, thanks for being so nice about it. It's your thread and whatever you decide (change or keep) I definitely don't think it's inappropriate, but I just wanted to point out (fwiw) that it might be feeding into the idea that Cosmos is against religion. Whether you agree or feel like changing it..I defer to the "creator" of the thread! 

I like the idea that there may be relevant points of discussion about how these ideas not only reflect on Creationism and Christianity but also other kinds of religious beliefs. And, of course, atheism, agnosticism, etc.  I wonder if Tyson will be quoting Einstein's "God wouldn't play dice with the universe" which I've never been sure what he meant, esp. as I thought he was agnostic.

I know there's been so much criticism from Creationists etc toward the presentation of religion in this show and that surprises me (or makes me feel extremely out of touch) because I get the feeling he and AD are trying to find positive examples of religious people who have also been scientists/scientific-minded.

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As I said, I'm fine with the change.  I have no special attachment to the current title.

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I wonder if Tyson will be quoting Einstein's "God wouldn't play dice with the universe" which I've never been sure what he meant, esp. as I thought he was agnostic.

 

Einstein was referring to quantum mechanics.  Under Newtonian mechanics (the 3 Laws of motion et al) and even under the Special Theory of Relativity, all actions and states are known and predictable.  If I throw a ball with x force in y direction, I can plot the course of the ball, even if I through it from one train to another, both moving near the speed of light.

With quantum mechanics, things aren't so tidy.  A radioactive molecule could be active or decayed at the same time.  You can know where a subatomic particle is, or where it's going, but not both at the same time.  Light is both a wave AND a particle.  And that's just skimming the surface.  

What Einstein was saying is that quantum mechanics made the universe random, and that really bothered him.  Hence "God does not play dice" means "My universe is not random".

He later came around to support quantum mechanics (being a scientist means accepting things you don't necessarily like, if they fit the facts).

Kind of off-topic a bit, perhaps.

==============================================================

With regard to the subject, I like the way he referred to scientific "theory", but I kind of wished he'd hit it a bit harder.  This is one of the key things that Creationists just don't get (or want to get):  when Anya says "I have a theory -- it might be bunnies", she's just guessing.  A scientific theory is not a guess -- that would be a hypothesis.  A scientific theory is almost as much of a fact as one can get (Laws are higher up the hierarchy, but even those are not immutable -- Newton's Laws of motion do not apply at the subatomic level, for instance).  No one has seen an electron, much less a graviton, but we accept their existence because they fit all know facts.  Same with evolution.

Also, evolution is not the same as Darwinism.  Darwin came up with the concepts, but much of the mechanics of evolution has evolved since.  When Creationists debate using Darwin, they are being disingenuous.

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I'm probably in the minority with this, but what's bugging me about this iteration of "Cosmos" is all the subtle propaganda against religion, or at least against organized religion that supposedly squelches free inquiry and engages in legalism and mind control, etc.  OK, I get it, some religions have done this in the past and even today, but why do we have to be hit over the head with it in every single episode?  I'm beginning to think that their aim here is to make kids think all organized religion does that, but science does not.  There has not been much positive in this about organized religion save for focusing on religious people who weren't afraid to question their particular organized religions in the name of science.  The subtle message here is to rebel against religion and embrace science, like they're pitting the two against each other.  They're not making enough of a distinction between religions that do and don't encourage a person to think for themselves.  I feel like the attitude is that only science can free us from religious mind control and that only organized religion can be guilty of that.  Like what is the implication here, that being a scientist makes one above being human and having opinions while religion does not?  I am getting that impression from the way this is being framed in just about every episode so far.  I personally find that attitude arrogant as well as untrue.  In my experience scientists can be just as biased, legalistic and "fundamentalist" about science as any organized religion can be about its doctrines and beliefs.  Plus, my particular organized religion does not in my opinion engage in the offenses they keep presenting, but even so I still feel somewhat offended by the general attitude toward religion as put forth in this show.

Edited by Intuition

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I'm probably in the minority with this, but what's bugging me about this iteration of "Cosmos" is all the subtle propaganda against religion, or at least against organized religion that supposedly squelches free inquiry and engages in legalism and mind control, etc.  OK, I get it, some religions have done this in the past and even today, but why do we have to be hit over the head with it in every single episode?  I'm beginning to think that their aim here is to make kids think all organized religion does that, but science does not.  There has not been much positive in this about organized religion save for focusing on religious people who weren't afraid to question their particular organized religions in the name of science.  I am beginning to think that the subtle message here is to rebel against religion and embrace science, like they're pitting the two against each other.  I feel like the attitude is that only science can free us from religious oppression and that only organized religion can be guilty of the abuses listed above.  Like what is the implication here, that being a scientist makes one above being human and having opinions while religion does not?  I am getting that impression from the way this is being framed in just about every episode so far.  I personally find that attitude arrogant as well as untrue.  In my experience scientists can be just as biased, legalistic and "fundamentalist" about science as any organized religion can be about its doctrines and beliefs.  Plus, my particular organized religion does not in my opinion engage in the offenses they keep presenting, but even so I still feel somewhat offended by the general attitude toward religion as put forth in this show.

I agree that the show brings up religion a lot, but there's a pretty good rationale for it.  The story of science is intimately entwined with the story of religion, because advancements in science have routinely been opposed by organized religion (mainly the Catholic Church).  If you are putting together a show that discusses Science from a historical perspective, you kind of HAVE to talk about religious opposition to it. 

I'm behind on my episode viewing admittedly.  If there are topics where not only discussing the scientific theories but also the history can be totally done without any reference to religion, and yet the show has tucked religion into it, then by all means.  That would be a bit much.  I guess I'll see when I catch up more on my viewing.

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I think the show has emphasized that in order for science to work, one must be willing and able to question authority in general, not just religious authority.

Yes, the series has pointed out instances where organized religion has attempted to squash contradictory thinking, but it has also pointed out the same in government authorities and pointed out that scientists were encouraged to question the work of other scholars as well.

In modern times, though religion and government still present obstacles, I imagine the use of science in for profit enterprise would also be a potential obstacle.

Edited by Joystickenvy

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I'm behind on my episode viewing admittedly.  If there are topics where not only discussing the scientific theories but also the history can be totally done without any reference to religion, and yet the show has tucked religion into it, then by all means.  That would be a bit much.  I guess I'll see when I catch up more on my viewing.

It's not the bringing up of it, it's how I think they take a sledgehammer in every episode and make all sorts of what I see as implications about religion in general as opposed to scientists in general.  It's the ideology I see them as pushing.  They could tell the story without pushing that ideology.  OK, make your point once, but the next time, just tell the story without the ideology.  I find it's hard to come away with any balanced perspective on religion from this show.  It seems to want to promote that it is nothing but the enemy of all that free thinking, fair, egalitarian, forward thinking people, whether scientists or not, should hold dear.  Then again, I am firmly convinced that this is an either "you see it or you don't" kind of thing.   The religious people I know generally see it, the non-religious don't have a clue what we're on about.  That's OK, YMMV, I have no need to argue about it. 

Then again, if I were to make a series about the history of religious faith,  and I kept slamming the point home in every episode about how in the modern era materialistic scientists and philosophers all but abandoned any belief in the spiritual and reduced every ideal concept like goodness, love, justice and freedom to nothing but subjective human fantasies, which they claim are not verifiable therefore not valid like scientific concepts, and whose materialistic philosophy of science reduces all that is good, noble and moral to all but nonexistent in favor of atoms and the void, thus devaluing all that is ethical and moral, and if I encouraged people to think freely so as not to allow their minds to be influenced by reductionist materialist thinking, I think a few scientists and perhaps a good chunk of the modern intellectual public would get their panties in a wad over it.  Meanwhile it may be just as valid to have to talk about materialist scientific philosophy with regard to the issue of religion in the modern day, just perhaps without the slanted ideological sledgehammer in every episode.  Note that I only bring this up by way of analogy to what I see as being done in this show from an opposite angle lest anyone think this is what I would actually do!

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Then again, if I were to make a series about the history of religious faith,  and I kept slamming the point home in every episode about how in the modern era materialistic scientists and philosophers all but abandoned any belief in the spiritual and reduced every ideal concept like goodness, love, justice and freedom to nothing but subjective human fantasies, which they claim are not verifiable therefore not valid like scientific concepts, and whose materialistic philosophy of science reduces all that is good, noble and moral to all but nonexistent in favor of atoms and the void, thus devaluing all that is ethical and moral, and if I encouraged people to think freely so as not to allow their minds to be influenced by reductionist materialist thinking, I think a few scientists and perhaps a good chunk of the modern intellectual public would get their panties in a wad over it.

Haven't you just described basically every religion show on television?

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I definitely don't see the alleged "sledgehammer" or have any idea what ideology it is they are supposedly pushing. Perhaps if you used specific examples and explained how they support your point it would help?

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As many people have noted, I do not think it's part of this show's mission to provide "opposing" views, or even to quell any concerns that people of faith may have with science. In fact, I think the NDT's script has been very fair and even-handed, and far from wild-eyed or radical. It is not the job of science to calm those who may be upset with facts. 

Sorry, I'm usually more diplomatic than this. I must be in a pissy mood.

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The story of science is intimately entwined with the story of religion, because advancements in science have routinely been opposed by organized religion (mainly the Catholic Church).  If you are putting together a show that discusses Science from a historical perspective, you kind of HAVE to talk about religious opposition to it.

 

There is also the Church and state being intertwined for millennia. Who is providing funding to the scientists to do their research? Does this work challenge the existing power structure or revenue funding? If it challenges the Church or State authority or wisdom, of course it must be crushed.

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As many people have noted, I do not think it's part of this show's mission to provide "opposing" views, or even to quell any concerns that people of faith may have with science. In fact, I think the NDT's script has been very fair and even-handed, and far from wild-eyed or radical. It is not the job of science to calm those who may be upset with facts. 

Sorry, I'm usually more diplomatic than this. I must be in a pissy mood.

The problem is that religion likes to set itself up AS an opposing view to science, but doesn't choose to use logic or any kind of evidentiary routine to "prove" their case.  So there's really no way to set up any kind of "fair" debate--because it all comes down to one side providing evidence, and the other side providing unsupported assertions (witness the Bill Nye debate with that creationist dude a few months ago).  

So even if it wanted to, or was obliged to, Cosmos couldn't really provide that opposing view.

Edited by Kromm
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So even if it wanted to, or was obliged to, Cosmos couldn't really provide that opposing view.

Well, I suppose they could keep saying, "And the opposing view is that XYZ happens 'cause God says so."

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And yes, I've heard the "maybe aliens put us here" idea from this group.

To be fair, that's more scientifically plausible than creationism. 

 

 

As many people have noted, I do not think it's part of this show's mission to provide "opposing" views, or even to quell any concerns that people of faith may have with science.

 

Personally, I find the show has a duty to not show so-called opposing views because they are all fringe.  This show is about science; accepted and actively being researched and hypothesized/theorized about science.  One of the biggest problems I have with news coverage of these very topics (evolution, astronomy, climate change, etc.) is somewhere along the way, someone decided that presenting a neutral stroy meant showing all sides of an argument, even when one side of the argument is so fucking ridiculous that, left to their own devices, four year olds think it sounds like gibberish.

I mean if you (figurative you, not anyone specific) want to say a deity created the universe and evolution was (s)he/its tool, then we're cool.  I don't personally believe in your deity(ies) but you're not denying all known empirical evidence for your faith. 

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I mean if you (figurative you, not anyone specific) want to say a deity created the universe and evolution was (s)he/its tool, then we're cool.  I don't personally believe in your deity(ies) but you're not denying all known empirical evidence for your faith.

That's what I always thought growing up. I went to catholic school and we had science class and learned evolution etc. basically from what I could figure they (at least at that specific school, I'm not involved enough to know if this is an isolated incident) were coming from the "Let there be light = The Big Bang" point of view. That the whole 7 day timeline in the bible is an analogy of the eons of time between the Big Bang and people or whatever. At least that's how I was always taught. I have no problem with people believing that version. I get upset when I'm told the earth is only 2,000 years old. That's my line. 

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I don't have an issue with believing that some one or something created the rules that govern the universe, much the way a human programs in the rules that govern the behavior of a computer simulation, however that's just one possibility of many. My personal stance on it is that, "I don't know" and I don't need to invent an explanation to fill in the gaps to feel ok about that, nor will I accept an explanation as true that lacks evidence to support it.

What I have an issue with is people who assert their version of the world is indisputably correct, in spite of hard evidence to the contrary, simply because someone(s) wrote it in a book and claimed it was the word of god.

One of the things that makes science, science is that nothing is indisputable. However, if you want your dispute to be considered scientific.....you have to be able to prove it. This is why questioning authority, whether it is the church, the government or the leading schools of thought of the day is integral to explaining the history of science.

Edited by Joystickenvy
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I am not going to respond to individual comments, but suffice it to say that I accept science in its entirety with absolutely no gaps in the scientific account, AND I believe in God.  And I have several decades of scholarship in this area to know how to achieve that without inconsistency.  And even so, I still think the show is lumping different religions and religious people together without making enough distinction as to whom it is targeting with it's anti-mind control propaganda.  I don't get why the show has to keep driving a point home that has been made over and over about freedom of thought without being very careful  not to insinuate that everyone who follows religion is being brainwashed and mind controlled.  My mainstream Protestant denomination teaches freedom of thought.  Even modern day Roman Catholicism teaches that.  I would think Neil and his producers would know better than to foster an us vs. them mentality between science and scientists in general and religion and religious people in general, but I'm sorry to say that it looks like that to me and several people I know who also accept science but believe in God and are members of modern day mainstream Christian churches, all of whom leave it up to the individual to decide whether they accept science and evolution. 

In my opinion the show has not just been presenting facts, but slanting the facts and putting spin on them the way that political commentators sensationalize the facts of news to the point where the truth is distorted and it's all about pushing one's particular political agenda.   I just think I might have been right in the first place that those who agree with the slant this show is pushing think it's a presentation of facts when I think it's facts plus spin.

I also don't see how this show is encouraging any kind of common ground between science and religion or at least a recognition of how they can peacefully co-exist.  I think that on the contrary the show is only fanning the flames.  The show may not owe it to religion to show a more balanced perspective, but I do think it owes it to the truth.  Modern mainline Christianity has not set itself up in any way shape or form in opposition to science.  Only fundamentalist Christians have. To drive home points about religion and religious people in general without being very careful to make clear that you're not lumping everyone together is not doing either the truth or any kind of peaceful coexistence any justice IMHO.  And rather than repeat myself again and again, this will be all I have to say on this particular subject!

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Intuition, I don't think the show is doing any of the things you say it is, which is why I'm curious what specific examples from the show make you think it is attacking religion in general or lumping all religions together, rather than discussing historical resistance to new scientific discovery, which as I have stated before has included a specific emperor, a government entity wanting to maintain state secrets, a greedy slave owner and a historical account of a specific incident where a scientist was jailed as a heretic.

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My feeling is that this isn't an attack on religion, but it does bring in history (where "beliefs" of various kinds, including religious, have interfered with the progress of scientific understanding. That's not a bias, imo, it's just a fact, and an important one at that).

To me, the thing is that NDT reminds us every week that scientists have to make hypotheses based on observable or deducible facts and then test and examine results and conclusions, being open to "questioning everything". There may be a religion with that same "methodology", but if there is, I'm not aware of it. I think Christians are right to see that a show about the history of scientific discovery and the use of the scientific method doesn't have any place for putting in good words for religious beliefs. Where would they go? How would they fit in in a positive way that sticks to the topic of scientific history and method--and increasing the viewers understanding of the natural world?

I know there are reminders from time to time that science isn't based on faith. And I know that some people think that, where there is conflict, religious beliefs trump scientific understanding and methods.But there's no reason, imo, for a show about science to pander to that and I'm glad they aren't. I actually think they've been pretty generous in reminding us, over and over, how many religious people have been part of the advance of science.

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I actually think they've been pretty generous in reminding us, over and over, how many religious people have been part of the advance of science.

 

I'm particularly fond of the cartoon from the first episode in regards to that; "your god is too small."  Even as a person of no faith in that way whatsoever, I thought it was a beautiful sentiment. 

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I think I get what Intuition is talking about.  I've felt that there's a not so subtle message coming through Cosmos about scientists being open minded, decent, honest people who are not afraid to question authority and think for themselves (and engage in open, unrestricted discussion in cool almost democratic coffee houses no less), while religious people (at least the ones who don't rebel against the dogma of their faiths via science) are closed minded, indoctrinated to believe in things that can't be verified, and forbidden to question authority nor engage in rational discussion.  While this may be true of some people, I think they're painting the idea with a little too broad a brush.  I have known some pretty closed minded scientists whose minds are not open to anything save the physical world, who would deny any validity to entire disciplines such as psychology and philosophy on the grounds of not being scientifically verifiable.  Only far be it from this show to present scientists like this in a less than flattering light.

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While this may be true of some people, I think they're painting the idea with a little too broad a brush.  I have known some pretty closed minded scientists whose minds are not open to anything save the physical world, who would deny any validity to entire disciplines such as psychology and philosophy on the grounds of not being scientifically verifiable.  Only far be it from this show to present scientists like this in a less than flattering light.

Since when isn't psychology scientifically verifiable? It doesn't give absolute results, but trends and tendencies are definitely indicated by scientific experimentation and documentation.

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I've felt that there's a not so subtle message coming through Cosmos about scientists being open minded, decent, honest people who are not afraid to question authority and think for themselves (and engage in open, unrestricted discussion in cool almost democratic coffee houses no less), while religious people (at least the ones who don't rebel against the dogma of their faiths via science) are closed minded, indoctrinated to believe in things that can't be verified, and forbidden to question authority nor engage in rational discussion.

 

I know I've already said my piece about the second part, but re: the first, your comment made me realize that my feeling about "scientists" probably depends on what they actually do/have done. For example, astronomers and physicists seem different to me than a lot of biological scientists with animal experimentation (yes, cures for disease and all, never-the-less... not a fan, and I think there's an interplay there with ethics--you might say "religion/spirituality/morality"--that isn't involved in discussion of astrophysics, etc.).

Edited by Padma

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I think I get what Intuition is talking about.  I've felt that there's a not so subtle message coming through Cosmos about scientists being open minded, decent, honest people who are not afraid to question authority and think for themselves (and engage in open, unrestricted discussion in cool almost democratic coffee houses no less), while religious people (at least the ones who don't rebel against the dogma of their faiths via science) are closed minded, indoctrinated to believe in things that can't be verified, and forbidden to question authority nor engage in rational discussion.  While this may be true of some people, I think they're painting the idea with a little too broad a brush.  I have known some pretty closed minded scientists whose minds are not open to anything save the physical world, who would deny any validity to entire disciplines such as psychology and philosophy on the grounds of not being scientifically verifiable.  Only far be it from this show to present scientists like this in a less than flattering light.

Yeah, but I think another part of this is that people in the sciences are getting used to the fringe of the "other side" doing stuff like this:

Star Trek star says she was duped into narrating film that claims the sun rotates around the earth

Putting aside Mulgrew (of interest, but not a scientist) the relevant part of the article is this:

 

 

Scientists such as Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss, and Max Tegmart all appear in the trailer, discussing the Earth's unique characteristics that allow it to sustain life.

Sungenis himself appears in the trailer to offer some of his conspiracy theory.

'You can go on some websites of NASA to see that they've started to take down stuff that might hint to a geocentric universe,' he tells the audience.

One of the physicists involved, Lawrence Krauss, has already come forward to say he has no idea how he ended up in this 'stupid' film.

 

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I think I get what Intuition is talking about.  I've felt that there's a not so subtle message coming through Cosmos about scientists being open minded, decent, honest people who are not afraid to question authority and think for themselves (and engage in open, unrestricted discussion in cool almost democratic coffee houses no less), while religious people (at least the ones who don't rebel against the dogma of their faiths via science) are closed minded, indoctrinated to believe in things that can't be verified, and forbidden to question authority nor engage in rational discussion.  While this may be true of some people, I think they're painting the idea with a little too broad a brush.  I have known some pretty closed minded scientists whose minds are not open to anything save the physical world, who would deny any validity to entire disciplines such as psychology and philosophy on the grounds of not being scientifically verifiable.  Only far be it from this show to present scientists like this in a less than flattering light.

The show has highlighted people who were responsible for important advances in the field of science who had to overcome obstacles, whether it was being prevented from receiving education by a greedy master, being jailed & tortured as heretic or dealing with an egotistical fellow scientist who discredited your work out of spite. I believe the show actually mentioned some religious motivation as fuel for at least one of the scientists' quest for knowledge.

I don't think by calling out specific religious organizations or persons as having been a particular source of suppression of scientific study the show is claiming all religious people are anti-science or anti-free thinking. I also don't see stating that the willingness to question dogma, whether religious, governmental or academic was essential to these major scientific advances equals a claim that only scientists can be "free thinkers" or that all scientists are open minded.

In reality, most people are open to some ideas and more closed to others. Seldom will you find anyone, whether priest or physicist who is either completely open or completely closed to everything they don't already believe.

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There's actually some scientific research to that effect; as a species we're somewhat hardwired to NOT challenge our convictions, even when presented with unequivocal proof that said convictions are wrong (there was some trending towards individuals in certain groups being more or less inclined to be this way).  The study I'm thinking of came out a few years ago but I can't seem to track down a write up on it at the moment.  I vaguely recall some talk about outliers within the trends and some historical examples being used (some of which this show has covered).  It was a very America specific study, though.

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There's actually some scientific research to that effect; as a species we're somewhat hardwired to NOT challenge our convictions, even when presented with unequivocal proof that said convictions are wrong (there was some trending towards individuals in certain groups being more or less inclined to be this way).  The study I'm thinking of came out a few years ago but I can't seem to track down a write up on it at the moment.  I vaguely recall some talk about outliers within the trends and some historical examples being used (some of which this show has covered).  It was a very America specific study, though.

Aha!  The catch is that study tried to use SCIENCE to prove itself!!!

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There's actually some scientific research to that effect; as a species we're somewhat hardwired to NOT challenge our convictions, even when presented with unequivocal proof that said convictions are wrong (there was some trending towards individuals in certain groups being more or less inclined to be this way).  The study I'm thinking of came out a few years ago but I can't seem to track down a write up on it at the moment.  I vaguely recall some talk about outliers within the trends and some historical examples being used (some of which this show has covered).  It was a very America specific study, though.

Yeah, I don't think I read the study itself, but I remember reading an article referencing it that basically asserted that there was some evolutionary advantage in a) sticking to your guns, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary and b) going with the majority opinion.

Going with the majority seems like a pretty straight forward safety in/from numbers sort of thing. The idea behind the being hard wired to think we are right thing was that people with "convictions" were seen as sort the alpha dogs as thus someone more likely to be in a position of power in the community with all the perks that go along with it.

Even in modern American politics, candidates are generally criticized more for "waffling" or not being tough enough on whatever issue than they are praised for diplomatic efforts that involve compromise or other areas where it is more beneficial to be open to others ideas. Though certainly that would just be anecdotal "evidence" of possible hardwiring. I don't think the article talked about what evidence they used to support actual evolutionary advantage or what the time frame was. It would be an interesting study to read.

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Daniel Dennet calls it "Belief in Belief", meaning that simply having a strong conviction is often regarded as admirable in itself, no matter what is believed or if there is any basis for that belief. Faith, even when defined as belief without (or against) evidence, is considered a virtue.

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Daniel Dennet calls it "Belief in Belief", meaning that simply having a strong conviction is often regarded as admirable in itself, no matter what is believed or if there is any basis for that belief. Faith, even when defined as belief without (or against) evidence, is considered a virtue.

True. I know plenty of people who consider themselves open minded and tolerant that say stuff like, "I don't care what religion you believe as long as you believe in something." The implication being that faith or conviction in some higher power is an admirable trait and not believing in something is a character flaw.

Sort of the way I admire Cubs fans for being loyal to a team that never wins, even though they are "rivals" of my favorite team, except I don't look down on people who don't like baseball at all......well not much. Ok, I do.

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The implication being that faith or conviction in some higher power is an admirable trait and not believing in something is a character flaw.

 

There's also some evidence that we're hardwired to come up with religions, so while I dislike that viewpoint strongly for personal reasons, I can understand it.  I feel like NDT sort of touched on this in episode two or three (I think) when he was talking about people filling in the gaps as best they could until new information came along.  I think it was the episode that discussed humans figuring out that the Earth revolved around the sun.

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I don't think by calling out specific religious organizations or persons as having been a particular source of suppression of scientific study the show is claiming all religious people are anti-science or anti-free thinking. I also don't see stating that the willingness to question dogma, whether religious, governmental or academic was essential to these major scientific advances equals a claim that only scientists can be "free thinkers" or that all scientists are open minded.

It's the way they're juxtaposing and contrasting the two on a continual basis using just that language encouraging the audience to always question authority that to me seems heavy handed and is obviously targeted directly at organized religion in general.  And I don't agree with you that they aren't claiming that all religious people are anti-science or anti-free thinking.  I am sure they would find a way to argue that faith itself is a blind submission to some greater authority than one's own mind.  Which it doesn't have to be, but it's obvious that they would find a way to insist that we shouldn't engage in it but always question things.  And interestingly enough, until this show I never realized how some scientists have reduced all believers to creationists.  It doesn't matter to them whether we believe that God created the Cosmos 6,000 years ago or 13 billion years ago, if we believe in a special act of creation by God, to them we are all creationists, guilty of calling in the "God of the Gaps" to explain that which science has not (yet, according to them) explained.  And I don't think I much like being so reduced.   I think there is a point at which science is unable to explain the existence of the cosmos, or at least why it exists.

All that stuff Neil started out with about how early man didn't have science so he read patterns into things that weren't there and attributed events we later found out were natural processes to a God or gods doesn't just apply to early man, fundamentalists, or people who believe that God has a hand in everything that goes on in creation, but all people who believe in a special act of creation, because according to many scientists, even with regard to creation we are attempting to explain a natural process by attributing it to a God or gods.  And Neil fully believes that science has shown that doing this is wrong, so therefore I as a believer in God am wrong and Neil Tyson is right.  This is why Neil Tyson doesn't just upset fundamentalists but people who have studied science and religion.

I have seen Neil Tyson say in an interview that he thinks it's doubtful that the cosmos has a purpose, given all the randomness in it.  Whoa, wait a minute, what kind of assumption is that?  What if randomness is a part of the cosmos' grander purpose?  I could show him how that's possible.  Hasn't he read any Paul Davies or Stephen Hawking?  It just pisses me off that he has allowed himself to become sort of authority on this subject when I think he knows very little about it.  He should stick to astronomy because as a philosopher, he sucks.  I actually think Carl Sagan was a far more philosophical man and I love many of his quotes, some of which were very inspiring and thought provoking.  I also like "Through the Wormhole" much better on questions like this.  I don't even care that any of these people might have considered themselves atheists.  Some of what they come out with is just breathtaking and evidence to me of a person with a far more open mind and depth.

Since when isn't psychology scientifically verifiable? It doesn't give absolute results, but trends and tendencies are definitely indicated by scientific experimentation and documentation.

That isn't good enough for a lot of scientists these days.  See this article for a case in point:

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/13/news/la-ol-blowback-pscyhology-science-20120713

This general attitude is gaining momentum lately, and it's one reason I have my knickers in a twist over "Cosmos" - Because I think it's coming from that attitude amongst other things.  I am just seeing a fundamentalist scientific materialism as the core philosophy of this particular "Cosmos" series.  Yes, even scientists can be fundamentalists.  Note that I did not feel this way watching the original "Cosmos".  I was well aware of Carl Sagan's non belief, but he didn't grind it like an axe and push it in every episode like this Cosmos is doing with all the history lessons highlighting how the evil church or evil government oppressed freedom of thought and how the cosmos couldn't possibly be 6,500 years old.  OK, I believe it's a lot older myself but why push that?  Why bring up anything to do with 6,500 years unless you're intending to instigate an argument with fundamentalists?  And even when Carl Sagan engaged in his own form of proselytizing, he did it in a way that we all could join in on, like the burning of the library at Alexandria.  I never forget how upset I was to know that some people didn't value knowledge and would burn all those books.  I didn't feel like my own belief system was being campaigned against by that.  And when he said that we were a way for the Cosmos to know itself, there was no way I could disagree with that either.  Even though Carl Sagan might have been an atheist, his thoughts were almost completely congruent with a believer such as myself up until the point he said he doesn't believe in God.  But Neil Tyson?  Feh.

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How has Cosmos reduced all believers to creationists?

Most of the rest of it seems like you have a personal beef with Tyson's beliefs or your perception of them or maybe your perception of his perception of your beliefs anyway and you're entitled to it, but I'm really not seeing him make any if those claims thus far on Cosmos.

Pointing out that the Earth isn't 6500 years old did seem a bit out of left field, but beyond that I haven't seen anything that I thought was specifically aimed at organized religion.

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It doesn't seem out of left field to me because it's one of the more common anti-scientific "theories" kicking around out there. 

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If they had been doing an episode on debunking common misconceptions, then I'd agree, but in the context of talking about how old the earth is and how they know it, it seemed very pointedly a sort of, "in your face with a can of mace!" rejection of the young earth crowd's beliefs.

They could have made the same point without that specific reference. However, I still assert that this is an example of addressing a particular erroneous (according to science, which is what this show is about) belief and not a blanket condemnation of religion.

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"It's the way they're juxtaposing and contrasting the two on a continual basis using just that language encouraging the audience to always question authority that to me seems heavy handed and is obviously targeted directly at organized religion in general." 

Questioning authority is not obviously targeted at organized religion; it's a basic of critical thinking and scientific inquiry. 

Every college student is encouraged to use critical thinking in physical and social sciences instead of blindly following the status quo. 

Without critical thinkers, we wouldn't have the advances we have today. If people of organized religion are uncomfortable with questions and discoveries that lead to new ideas and innovations, then they shouldn't employ them. They can't pick and choose what science they use if they can't "believe" in the foundations of the science behind those innovations.

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Without critical thinkers, we wouldn't have the advances we have today

 

I think you nailed it in the idea of how this may offend religious beliefs. "Question everything" and "Think critically" have nothing in common, methodologically, with religious belief. I think showing how many people have compartmentalized science and religion--so they could think "scientifically" without it impacting their belief system about God--is about the "best" he can do with this. It may not be intellectually consistent, but for some scientists, it works.

As for the earth not being 6500 years old, that was one of my favorite parts of this show, because he showed how everyone can verify it for themselves just by understanding how light travels and by looking at the stars.

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Cosmos is more about a way of thinking than any scientific discovery in particular.  So it's no surprise the real thesis uncovered is being perceived as an attack on a core philosophy that in many ways is the exact opposite.  

This is one of those rare examples where, as crass and unfair as it sounds, the solution may be "if you're not into it don't watch".  I know that sounds judgey, but I don't mean it that way--I literally think it may just be a case of irreconcilable philosophies.  It is, the same to me, as if people came around railing against The 700 Club and someone (politely I hope) pointed out that the show was for believers and shouldn't have to accommodate every possible person who stumbles across it.   A show about the process of critical thinking, as well as the history, is inevitably going to explain itself in terms of comparisons to thinking that's based on leaps of faith and belief in the unprovable.  

Are there ways to accommodate both scientific and non-scientific thinking side by side?  Sure.  But I don't think it's the job of a show like this to communicate how.  

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My take is that while NdGT is an outspoken atheist, the voice of Cosmos isn't atheism.  If anything, it's more spiritual, in a "look how amazing the universe is" sort of way.  And while the show has criticized some organized religion like the medieval Catholic Church, it has also criticized secular authority figures (the Chinese emperor who destroyed the ancient Chinese camera) and praised religious societies that didn't stifle learning (the Arab world that preserved the ancient Greek and Roman knowledge during the Dark Ages).  So I think Cosmos is much more anti-authority / anti-obedience than anti religion.  In my opinion, getting people to question the natural world and our society is a good thing.

All that being said, I honestly don't think things have changed drastically about organized religion, so many of the shows criticisms are still valid.  And of course there are some liberal religious sects, but I'm speaking to some of the more hardline mainline religions.  The RCC did apologize for how they treated Galileo, but they've also stifled the use of condoms in Africa that would have helped reduce the spread of HIV.  Not to mention the religious organizations in the US that are leading the opposition to things ranging from teaching evolution / creationism / intelligent design in schools all the way to same-sex marriage.  And some (but of course not all) of the people who take the conservative views on ID in schools / condom use / same-sex marriage do it based on not questioning an authority figure to consider recent scientific evidence, so Cosmos can have a huge impact by getting even a few people to start questioning, not just in the religious realm, but in the political realm also.

Edited by futurechemist
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