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Rising above the denier fray, Neil deGrasse Tyson makes science cool again

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 8:09am
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Whether it’s discussing the Big Bang Theory or global warming, Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the “Cosmos series produced by Seth McFarland airing Sunday nights on the National Geographic channel, says he won’t follow in the footsteps of Carl Sagan when it comes to debating issues with contrarians.

The stunningly visual premier of “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey” was narrated by Tyson as he traveled in a fictional ship through 13.8 billion years of time to the beginning of the universe all condensed into a single calendar year. He denoted the almost incomprehensible reality that human history has been present in the cosmos for only the last 14 seconds of that imaginary calendar.

Sagan, who was Tyson’s mentor, used to compare the human timeline on Earth to butterflies, “who flutter for a day and think it’s forever.”

The 13-episode series has already brought out in droves religious creationists, who preach the Earth, is only 6,000 years old and science deniers, who say global warming is just a natural cycle not caused by the industrialization of man.

Ken Ham, founder of Answers Magazine and AnswersInGenisis.com, which credits itself with providing “Bible-affirming, creation-based” information interpreted from God through the book of Genesis, took issue with “Cosmos” and the Big Bang theory, “the big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned."

Ham’s statement was published ironically near the same time that new “smoking gun” components were discovered by astronomers to support the theorized cosmic events, which occurred just after the Big Bang’s dramatic and sudden expansion of the universe, as reported in the New York Times.

Chris Mooney noted the right’s objections to climate change principles espoused by “Cosmos” in his recent Mother Jones article that was reposted in Alternet:

“It seems some conservatives are already bashing Tyson as a global warming proponent. Writing at the Media Research Center"s Newsbusters blog, Jeffrey Meyer critiques a recent Tyson appearance on “Late Night With Seth Myers”: “Meyers and deGrasse Tyson chose to take a cheap shot at religious people and claim they don"t believe in science i.e., liberal causes like global warming.”

Nonetheless, the rollout of the “Cosmos” series was one of the largest in television history as it debuted in 181 countries on 220 channels, in 45 languages; according to National Geographic.

Tyson, who holds that his views aren’t “anti-religion” as much as they are “anti-dogma,” claimed that “cherry-picking” science to support an argument shows a clear misunderstanding on how science works.

As for debating the deniers?

Staying above the fray, Tyson said he won’t do what Sagan did or what Bill Ney is currently doing to try to change minds. “I don’t have the time or the energy or the interest in doing so. As an educator, I’d rather just get people thinking straight in the first place, so I don’t have to then debate them later on.”

Underscoring another reason not to debate deniers, the show’s writer Steven Soter said that Sagan would be “appalled” by the current load of disrespect and criticism heaped on reputable scientists and how politicized everything has become.

The message of “Cosmos,” according to Tyson, is if people are empowered by knowledge, methods and tools, would they use their wisdom to be good shepherds and protect civilization or be complicit in its destruction?

More reports from PrairieDogPress

Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.

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