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Aug 12 2011

Cosmos 2: Cosmic Boogaloo

The 1980 television series Cosmos, starring Carl Sagan and running 13 episodes, is one of those series that truly stands the test of time. Despite its becoming slightly dated both in terms of special effects and some of the science, it’s an excellent snapshot of what humans know about this universe as of 1980. And it appears it’s about to get a sequel, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson.

So, it’s high time someone made a sequel to it, and now someone is! In partnership with Sagan’s colleagues Ann Druyan (who is also his widow) and Steven Soter, Seth MacFarlane — yes, that Seth MacFarlane — is going to produce a new 13-part series to serve as a sequel and modern update to Sagan’s masterpiece.

Taking over the hosting duties will be none other than well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has served as host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS for the past five years, so he has plenty of experience making science accessible to the general public. It would be difficult to think of anyone who would be better able to succeed the late, great Carl Sagan.

While I wholeheartedly agree that Tyson is an excellent choice for this endeavour, one of the things that I liked best about Cosmos was its unabashed humanism. It fell just short of proclaiming outright atheism, but it emphasized the primacy of the empirical, the demonstrably true, and made no bones about stating what we know to be fact and what is yet to be settled. The series made a number of statements that then were unimpeachable, but today would be frowned upon, like “evolution is a fact, the theory is just an attempt to explain the fact”.

I understand Tyson is an agnostic, and bristles occasionally that atheists like myself “claim him” as one. I argue as I always have that gnosticism and theism are different scales. The fact that he does not believe in a god makes him, like me, an agnostic atheist. It’s all a matter of which label you’re most comfortable with, honestly, and I don’t begrudge him the label he’s chosen — as a public figure in a country as rife with anti-atheist sentiment, I might do the same. My chief concern is that he represents the humanist values that Sagan espoused and held so dear. So long as that’s the case, I’m happy with this project.

Also, I really hope Seth McFarlane lives up to his obvious love of the series and does not include himself in any visible manner in the project (especially not to do voiceovers). While “Cosmos for Rednecks” might be funny on Family Guy, it has no place on what amounts to Carl Sagan’s legacy.

Of course, now I have to embed that video.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    krissthesexyatheist

    I know he says he’s agnostic…but he’s atheist. Just like you ma and everyone else. Hope you are having a great summer buddy.

    Kriss

  2. 2
    Anthony McCarthy Leveler

    Jason, I had an e-mail saying that you believed you had found the ultimate refutation of what I’d said at Laden’s blog in part of a refutation I’d given to a creationist at Thoughts From Kansas. However, when I looked I saw that you left off the entire refutation of the creationist that came immediately before the passage you used. It reads, in context:

    Scientism is the belief that only that information produced by science is valid.

    Science is the study of physical evidence, the collection of data about physical evidence, it’s measurement, the analysis of that and the results of that analysis published, the review of that analysis of that information by others able to adequately evaluate it and it’s continually being susceptible to future challenge. It is also the contingent acceptance of that information, the necessity of assuming that information is accurate based on the review of it by competent people. It should also be the knowledge of the limits of science, which is incompetent to deal with anything except those things which can be successfully subjected to its methods. It should also be the knowledge that there are many known phenomena and ideas which can’t be subjected to those but which don’t suffer the fate of non-existence or falsification of those things due to science not being able to process them. It should also be the acknowledgement that science has bred an astonishing amount of arrogance in a large number of its practitioners and its fans that is the very essence of scientism.
    Those arrogant sci-fans are just another variety of fundamentalists.

    That said, evolution is the best available explaination of an enormous amount of evidence, there is no other phenomenon in science which has more evidential support. As I said, if you want to challenge it on the basis of science, you’ve got your work cut out for you. If you believe that God created life on Earth, through the mechanism made manifest in that evidence, that’s not an invalid idea, though you can’t insert it into science because science couldn’t deal with the idea of the divine creation of life, science couldn’t deal with the idea.

    That, Jason, is where I’m coming from, a position of actual skepticism instead of pseudo-skepticism, not pretending that belief is knowledge and not pretending that you can use religion to do science with or that science can deal with anything but physical evidence, that when scientists go beyond what is supported by physical evidence what they produce is belief, not knowledge.

    I hadn’t intended to use the sci-ranger part of the conversation in what I’m writing but I may now. What I believe had nothing to do with the argument I made at Laden’s blog except in so far as I admitted that I believed that all life on Earth had a common ancestor based on what genetic and evolutionary science had discovered. What you believe is obviously the entire thing for you and for Raging Bee (the “Pagan” materialist), Greg Laden and the rest of you. Which is very useful to understanding how the “skeptical” and sciency are pretty clueless, how they mistake ideological dogma for science.

  3. 3
    Jason Thibeault

    No Anthony, you insipid little troll, the ultimate refutation of what you wrote at Greg’s is right here, three posts down from the one you decided to leave your brain droppings err “thought crime” on here. What’s at Greg’s is an explanation of why you argue how you argue. It is not a refutation of any of your arguments, it’s an explanation. Comment in THIS post about Cosmos 2, or get thee banned.

  4. 4
    Anthony McCarthy Leveler

    Jason, I just figured I should point out that you lied about what I said by omitting a good part of it. I will use this too

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    You know I did no such thing. I said you’re a theist. Is that a lie?

    And this post is about Cosmos. I’ll say it again — you’re off topic, and I’ve even provided you with a more appropriate post to talk about your particular prejudices. Post in this post about something other than Cosmos again, and you’re banned. Second and final warning.

  6. 6
    Anthony McCarthy Leveler

    You said that my religious belief had something to do with what I was arguing at Laden’s blog when what I argued there was that science can’t be done without physical evidence. I never did what you claim I did, you lied. Which I will use in conjunction with what you said at Laden’s blog.

    You have just made yourself and your pals the topic of a blog post sometime in the next few weeks.

    I don’t care if you ban me at your blog, there’s nothing worth reading here, anyway. Typical sci-ranger blather.

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    I didn’t say it had something to do with WHAT you argued. I said it had to do with HOW you argued. Liar.

    Typical anti-science blather. And heavens to Betsy, don’t dare BLOG ABOUT ME. I don’t even have pearls to clutch!

    Also, banned. Since you “don’t care”.

  8. 8
    Chia Fiscalini

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