Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cosmos. Knowledge vilified.

               Cosmos. I watched and marveled at it's first incarnation led by Carl Sagan. He examined and explained the Universe in ways the average could grasp. He brought his inherent sense of awe to the viewers. A generation of scientists were inspired by Cosmos. The show became an icon of PBS and science programming in general.

I was glad to see it's return hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, today's Sagan. He is a witty, erudite spokesman for the role of science in modern life. Tyson, like Sagan, makes science approachable and relevant. He shares his awe and wonder at the scope and beauty of the Universe and loves explaining it in a way that can spread that wonder. Neil is also an outspoken critic of forcing religion into science education. This makes him a reliable target for the wrath of Extreme Christians and science deniers.

The anti-intellectual strain of thought that has been evident in America since the beginning is at historic levels today. Theirs is a uniquely American view that their ignorance is equal to and as valid as other's knowledge Science itself is seen as having a Liberal and anti-Christian bias. It is attacked as an assault on religion. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, facts don't care if you believe in them .

So, I was dismayed but not surprised by the level of vitriolic attacks on Cosmos by the Religious Right. It was right on cue.

This is seen as central to the fights concerning Creationism as a legitimate part of science education anyone who actually supports facts as truth is demeaned as persecuting Christians and denying religious freedom.

Following the broadcast of Cosmos the social media universe lit up with attacks on Tyson, the show, the science and decrying it as an organized persecution and attack on Christianity.  My response was, What the actual fuck?

The mainstream denominations have no problem with science. Many scientists are people of faith. They do not react in outrage when Neil  deGrasse Tyson says the Bible is not a scientific text. Mainstream religion does not use Genesis as the basis for how the Universe works. They treat it as allegorical not literal. To believe in science is not an attack on faith. Ask a Catholic. Or a Vatican spokesman on the papal stance on science.

You can get a good science education at a Catholic school like Notre Dame or any other Catholic University. There is a tradition of Catholic priest/scientists making discoveries that expanded modern scientific knowledge. So, I would postulate science and religion is not automatically exclusive of each other.

However today in America we have an atmosphere that seems to elevate willful ignorance to a badge of honor to be worn proudly.

Climate change is denied. When it is accepted by the right they claim God will save us from catastrophic events. Or, it's punishment. Evolution is rejected as an attack on religious freedom. How dare we expect factual scientific teaching in PUBLIC schools?  How dare Fox air such a blatant attack on Christianity?

When the original cosmos aired there were no massive complaints that it was a violation of freedom of religion. It was not derided as a liberal, secular, atheistic war on the basic tenants of the Christian faith. People of reason saw it as an excellent example of compelling science programming. It made science accessible. Amazing the difference a couple decades makes.

Perhaps I am a cynic. It does seem that this new war on Christianity is being used by assorted conservative groups and Evangelicals as a fundraising tool. Do they believe this is a war or simply a way to dupe the faithful into opening their wallet? They use radio, television and the internet to demonize science as lies from the pits of Hell. These very platforms prove science works as predicted. It proves the scientific method works and is a correct look at the universe.

I have a suggestion to those who attack Cosmos as a planned attack on your your faith. Don't fucking watch it. Do not organize boycotts or other attempts to deny more the joy of watching a well done science program on American, commercial television. That happening is in itself a miracle.

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