Skip to comments.Cosmos Finale Takes One Last Shot - "Delusion that We Have Some Privileged Position in the Universe"
Posted on 06/11/2014 11:55:22 AM PDT by Heartlander
As David noted yesterday, the final episode of Cosmos aired Sunday night. It was a fitting end, in keeping with what we've seen already in the series. Much of it covered uncontroversial science, such as how cosmic rays were discovered, or why cosmology developed concepts like dark matter (to help explain why stars orbit so quickly at the edge of their galaxies) and dark energy (to help explain why the universe continues to expand despite all the matter it contains).
Neil deGrasse Tyson rightly acknowledged that ideas about dark matter and dark energy are really a "code word for our ignorance." A NASA website puts it this way:
What is Dark Energy? More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe's expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. ... What is Dark Matter? ... We are much more certain what dark matter is not than we are what it is.
Alongside such material was the customary promotion of scientism and materialism, and especially the Copernican Principle -- the idea that the universe was not designed, and that we in no sense have a privileged existence within it.
Sunday night's episode thus included a lengthy segment quoting Carl Sagan from the original Cosmos series giving his famous pale blue dot monologue. Sagan called Earth a "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam," and "a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark." The monologue promotes the materialistic view that "In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." But perhaps the most telling Sagan quote replayed on Sunday night cited:
the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pail light.That comment from Sagan, of course, played an important role in instigating a project by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards -- their book The Privileged Planet, which investigated whether Earth does have a privileged position. The new Cosmos entirely ignores the actual debate over whether Earth's position is "privileged," and promotes a straw man caricature instead. It goes like this: If you think that Earth is a privileged planet, then you must think our planet is literally at the center of the universe, and you must think you have all the answers and there's no reason to engage in further investigation.
Tyson asks us to conduct a "thought experiment" where we consider all the stars with planets in the galaxy:
Suppose on one of them there lives an intelligent species. One of the ten million life forms on that planet. And there's a subgroup of that species who believe that they have it all figured out. Their world is the center of the universe. A universe made for them. And that they know everything they need to know about it. Their knowledge is complete. How seriously would you take their claim?He continues, stating that "our ancestors believed that the universe was made for them" and that "the architecture of our language, myths, and dreams comes from that prescientific age."
Yet again, Cosmos is whitewashing history. The notion that the universe was "made for" us or that we have a special place in it isn't just some relic of the "prescientific age." On the contrary, that view was held by the founders of modern science, and it continues to be taken seriously by influential scientists today. These scientists certainly don't claim we "have it all figured out," they don't think the Earth is literally at "the center of the universe," and they certainly don't think "they know everything they need to know" or that "their knowledge is complete."
Cosmos is also flat wrong in suggesting that such ideas are scientific unfruitful. As I mentioned, belief in a designed universe helped give rise to modern science. In contrast, it is the Copernican Principle promoted by Cosmos that has led to failed scientific predictions. In Chapters 12 and 13 of The Privileged Planet, Gonzalez and Richards identify eight bad predictions stemming from Sagan's view:
Gonzalez and Richards find that when we look at the scientific evidence, weighing it in a scale with these predictions, we find that:
actually may have slowed the progress of science, by leading astronomers to underestimate the importance for life of seemingly trivial details like comets, asteroids, moons, and outlying planets. Similarly, it may have discouraged astronomers from giving the concept of our Solar System's habitability zone due credit. (p. 256)To appreciate how Sagan's viewpoint has hindered scientific discovery, consider what Sagan wrote in the book, Cosmos, published a few years after the original 1980 Cosmos series aired. Here's how he articulated the Copernican Principle:
We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy which is a member of a sparse cluster of galaxies, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine, 1985), 159)In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Our Milky Way galaxy is flat and disk-shaped with spiral arms. At its center is a giant black hole that rips apart any star system that gets too close. The area around the galactic core is densely packed with stars and filled with intense radiation that would destroy Earth's atmosphere and any life. The center of the galaxy is clearly not a desirable location.
On the other hand, a position too far from the center would also be inhospitable to life because the outskirts of the galaxy lack sufficient heavy elements necessary for complex life. The optimal location for life within our galaxy is a narrow band in the middle that escapes the large zones of deadly radiation at the core, yet contains the necessary elements. This region, called the galactic habitable zone, is precisely where our solar system resides.
The very concept of the galactic habitable zone was developed in part by Guillermo Gonzalez. It supports his reasoned conviction that the cosmos was designed, and that Earth occupies a privileged position within it. That's good science.
Our distance from the center and our position between the galactic arms are also important. Were our solar system located inside the arms, extreme radiation from supernovae and "star nurseries" would again be a problem for life. Contrary to Dr. Sagan's belief that we are "lost between two spiral arms," we are placed exactly where a life-friendly solar system needs to be.
This diagram shows a rough approximation of the galactic habitable zone:
Earth's position in the galaxy is privileged in other ways, too. Our location isn't just optimal for life; it also provides an ideal position to view and learn about the universe. Spiral arms are full of dust and light that, much like city lights and clouds, would obscure astronomical observation. Between the spiral arms, our planet has a clear view of not just the galaxy but much of the universe. This diagram shows an approximation of the ideal location for astronomical observations in the galaxy:
Though these are rough diagrams, the zones in the galaxy that are optimal for habitability and for astronomical observation match very closely. Despite all of Sagan's belittling remarks about our position in the galaxy, were it not for our privileged location, none of us -- including Sagan -- would have existed, much less would we be able to study the stars.
One Final Look at Cosmos's Metaphysical Bias
In the final episode, Tyson says: "That's one of the things I love about science. We don't have to pretend we have all the answers." Yet over the course of 13 episodes, Cosmos has repeatedly sought to give answers to the greatest metaphysical questions facing mankind.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Tyson admitted that Cosmos has larger, non-scientific goals, stating that we must "think of Cosmos not as a documentary about science," but rather about "why science matters" and why "science is an enterprise that should be cherished as an activity of the free human mind." He referred to the show's hoped-for impact on "these states of mind that you carry with you for the rest of your life." And what are those "states of mind"? When asked by Moyers whether faith and reason are compatible, he answered, "I don't think they're reconcilable," and later stated: "God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance."
Executive producer Seth MacFarlane said in an interview with Esquire: "There have to be people who are vocal about the advancement of knowledge over faith."
Executive producer Brannon Braga is creator of numerous Star Trek episodes. There's nothing wrong with that -- in fact I'm a big fan of his work. Yet during a talk at an International Atheist Conference in 2006, Braga described his involvement in Star Trek as creating "atheist mythology." He stated his "conviction that religion sucks, isn't science great, and how the hell can we get the other 95% of the population to come to their senses?" He even said Star Trek provides a "template for a world" where "religion has been vanquished, and reason drives our hearts" -- a future he says he "longs for."
Cosmos appears to be part of his attempt to achieve these goals. He said in an interview that the new series aims to combat "dark forces of irrational thinking," adding that: "Religion doesn't own awe and mystery. Science does it better."
This really is the essential message of Cosmos: religion leads into "darkness," whereas only science offers truth. Such scientism is a corollary of Sagan's view that the "The cosmos is all that is," and that Earth is "an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy which is a member of a sparse cluster of galaxies, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe." According to Cosmos, only by embracing these truths can we escape the confines of ignorance that entrap us.
However, every premise of this ideology is wrong:
It has given the appearance of investigation, but in fact the series has consistently whitewashed both the scientific and the historical evidence, evidence that shows materialism to be a false picture of reality. That's too bad. It's a disservice to science, and to the program's intended audience. But frankly what else would you expect from a team of celebrity atheists, handed millions of dollars to promote their views on national television?
A stupid series that I only watched Episode 1 for a few minutes to tell me all I needed to know.
It will go down in the dustbin of history like AlGore.
I got annoyed when they started blaming Venus’s climate on CO2, if this were the case mars should be hotter than earth...
Venus is hot because of the lack of plate tectonics and lack of magnetic field which caused all the water to evaporate, and the hydrogen from the water to get stripped away by solar wind...
The only decent environmental story in the whole cosmos series was the one about the lead in the gasoline, which was actually a problem, but then they poisoned that story by trying to haphazardly equate it to the CO2 levels...
Lead is not a natural occurring substance in the air at the amounts it was when we started leading gasoline, CO2 has been around since basically forever and won’t kill a darn thing unless it is in HUGE quantities...
They also talked about earth’s climate like it was some fragile teeter totter, that if you pushed in one direction too far it would spiral out of control.... We have a surface covered by 75% water this acts a natural buffer to absorb a LOT of variations, that and they never seemed to take into the account of all the natural fires humans actually prevent that put CO2 into the air...
sloppy agenda based science...
The fool says in his heart, There is no God. -- Psalm 14:1
Communists tried that in real life. It didn't work out so well.
The series lost me with all the global warming crap.
I don’t get the controversy. When Dante described his ascent into the heavens toward God, he looks back and sees how puny and insignificant the Earth is and smiles.
This was in the 1300s.
Methinks some scientist types ought to read more Christian literature.
I had high hopes for this series, but I only made it one episode and I think 5 minutes of the next. Too much liberal/anti-religion BS for me. I remember liking the original Carl Sagan one when I was a kid.
Their own lives and remarks contradict their suppositions.
The first great atheist uprising was the French Revolution, which sought to dethrone God with godless Reason and sought to replace the Holy Trinity with the atheist trinity of liberté, egalité et fraternité. The man who is traditionally attributed with coining this triune revolutionary war-cry, which would later be officially adopted as the motto of the French Republic, was Antoine-Francois Momoro, a rabidly anti-Christian radical who advocated the eradication of religion. He played an active and bloodthirsty role in the crushing of the Catholic peasants of the Vendée and was a key figure in the notorious Cult of Reason, an anthropocentric alternative to religion, which effectively enthroned self-worshipping Man as the Lord of the enlightened cosmos. In 1793, Momoro supervised the nationally celebrated Fête de la Raison (Festival of Reason) in which his own wife was dressed and paraded as the Goddess of Reason, surrounded by cavorting and costumed women. In a wild and licentious liturgical dance, the Goddess of Reason processed down the aisle of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, surrounded by her female entourage, to a newly-installed altar to Liberty, the Christian altar having been desecrated and removed. All across France, Christian churches were desecrated and re-established as Temples of Reason.
The Cult of Reason metamorphosed into the Reign of Terror in which the streets of Paris literally ran red with the blood of its victims. The Goddess of Reason made way for Madame Guillotine who was omnivorous in her bloodlustful appetite, devouring Christians and atheists alike.
Guillotine, Gulag and Gas Chamber: The Glorious Gifts of Atheism to Humanity
I turned on the first episode and there was Obama. Immediately turned it off and haven’t seen a second since.
Exactly. I don’t find the concept of a puny earth insulting at all. Paradoxically such a realization led me to belief in God.
After all, since the universe is so vast, if one believes humanity is merely some evolutionary accident, it takes a great amount of hubris indeed to believe one’s life has any significant meaning at all.
There is no other choice when faced with the reality of creation and the reality of my own human desire: it’s either accept God is real or behave as an animal. I don’t want to be an animal (that’s just something real about me, that’s a fact, about me), so there must be a God.
No smoking hot spot
1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.
Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever.
If there is no hot spot then an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming. So we know for sure that carbon emissions are not a significant cause of the global warming. If we had found the greenhouse signature then I would be an alarmist again.
He is also full of crap about the heat absorbing properties of CO2. That has been thoroughly debunked and it has been shown beyond doubt that most radiant heat is lost back into space. He must have told 15 baldfaced lies on last week's show.
“The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1
Did Cosmos ever explain what a "pail light" is?
I thought the original series was pretty even-handed until the final episode, which was very heavy on leftist politics as somehow being "scientific". If anybody connected with the show admitted to studying philosophy or number theory, they would have admitted that their statements required them to "step outside" their cosmos to make observations of what would be unknowable within the system, itself. The same thing applies to faith, although it's generally more openly admitted there.
So we all enjoy a privileged position in the universe, because we can logically place ourselves outside of that universe to enable us to talk and speculate, right or wrong. Our biggest problem is that we're a single point on an otherwise empty piece of graph paper. We're only now developing the tools to start looking for other candidates that might go on that graph. Unless we get really lucky, we'll have to plod along building new kinds of observatories, and re-interpreting old data.
But we're already in a privileged position in that vast, uncaring universe. We're just looking for other locations that might have privileged observers looking for us. Perhaps we're on someone else's photographic plate, with hints of our existence there for centuries, but nobody has found the needle in a particular haystack, yet.
Thank you for this thread... the additional information you provide in some of the subsequent posts is equally enlightening.
For those that question “God’s” involvement in the universe...
1) the odds of life happening in the universe by random chance. (1-10/236 power) http://ontherightside.wordpress.com/articles/the-odds-against-life/
2) the odds of the earth being in the right place in the right solar system, in the right place in the galaxy, the right distance from the right star, with a celestial body the right distance to provide the right tides and wind speeds to support life... (and 120 other necessary parameters 1-10/139 power) http://www.mankinds-last-hope.org/probabilityofearth.html
3) the odds of Jesus (or any one) fulfilling 300+ Old Testament prophecies in His lifetime. (1-10/157th power) http://voices.yahoo.com/what-odds-jesus-700-plus-prophecies-fulfillment-5064980.html
Thank you for pointing that out. I almost forgot about that.