Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos is coming back in version 2.0 with a new cast of atheists to spread the gospel of scientism.
Two generations have passed since Cosmos became a hit TV series in 1980 with the atheist popularizer of science, Carl Sagan. Now, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the PhD astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, is reviving it with the help of PBS and Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan. Tyson, no less enthusiastic and articulate than his predecessor (if not more so), is also, like Sagan, an atheist, a staunch believer in cosmic evolution, and a passionate defender of science as the fountainhead of all certifiable knowledge.
The new 13-episode Cosmos series will begin airing in March on Fox and the National Geographic channel. Space.com tells about the “rebooting” of the series and how, 34 years later, it is being recast for a new generation that expects cutting-edge video and audio. A video clip promoting the new series begins with Sagan’s memorable opening manifesto of materialism from the old series, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be” – an assertion beyond science that launched a thousand commentaries and criticisms, such as the book Cosmos: Carl Sagan’s Religion for the Scientific Mind by Christian apologist Norman Geisler.
Producer of Cosmos 2.0 Brannon Braga (Star Trek) describes the series as, if not opposed to religion, at least one-up to it:
“Science doesn’t have to be the opposite of religion in terms of its emotional value,” he said. “Science can move you like any other story. Science can be a visceral, emotional experience. Religion doesn’t own awe and mystery. Science does it better.”
The producers expect the new series to continue on past its initial release in reruns, disks and other media platforms for many years. Undoubtedly there will be a book and website. While clips of Sagan will be interspersed in the shows, Tyson will have many advantages not available to Sagan in 1980: the internet, social media, and 34 years of planetary and astronomical discoveries.
The original Cosmos was criticized for its promulgation of a largely debunked “warfare hypothesis” of science vs religion. Judging from the trailer, that theme will still be prominent. Sagan portrayed religion as anti-intellectual, responsible for all the wars and regresses of nations. Science was always the savior and liberator of mankind. Central to the plot was Darwinian evolution – not just biological, but cosmic. The trailer includes flashbacks that will probably make it into the “reimagining” of Cosmos: religion burning Giordano Bruno at the stake for suggesting the possibility of life on other worlds, for instance (a largely distorted, though inexcusable incident – he was killed for other sins, historians say).
As Cosmos 2.0 makes “the case for science,” it will undoubtedly equate science with cosmic evolution.
Critics of scientism had better prepare themselves, because this miniseries is bound to be very appealing to a lot of people, including Christians, Jews and other theists. It will also provide a shot in the arm to the new atheists who are becoming increasingly assertive. Cosmos 1.0 took on a life of its own that has lasted for over 3 decades, reaching around the world as one of the most successful and widely-watched science documentaries in TV history. Now, with 34 years of progress in animation, production quality and scientific advances, it would be surprising if Cosmos 2.0 does not surpass its famous predecessor.
One reason is Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. He is a dynamo: energetic, tall, muscular, handsome, articulate, smart, funny, possessing an engaging aura that exudes positive vibes. For some, he will gain extra points simply for being black. He’s likeable, very intelligent, and already has a big following. I’ve seen how effective he is as a communicator; once he gave a special video greeting to the Cassini team and had them all on the edge of their seats. In my opinion, he will be more effective than Carl Sagan in communicating the case for scientism, especially when it’s clear from the trailer he will be presented to viewers as almost a demigod or superhero. What is unknown is whether viewers who can download Lord of the Rings on a smartphone will be so jaded by high-tech wizardry as to find another miniseries just another miniseries. Sagan didn’t have to compete with a thousand cable channels, Netflix and YouTube.
Much of the appeal of Cosmos 2.0 will be all the stuff that’s right about it. There will be plenty of good science, like a depiction of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and the Titan landing. Christians will say “amen” as Tyson debunks astrology and other superstitions. This will desensitize them to the poison in the pill, when the “warfare of science and religion” theme (largely discredited by philosophers and historians) builds bit by bit, anecdote by anecdote. Many viewers won’t know the truth about the Bruno affair, the Galileo affair, and the Christian faith of great scientists, because the stories will be spun to fit the warfare mold. He will also make the origin and evolution of life look very simple and plausible. As Tyson announces “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be,” his persona along with the careful scripting and appealing visuals will make it hard to dismiss. Church-goers may come to their pastors with lots of questions. The worst possible answer is: “I don’t understand science; just have faith.”
Parents, pastors and youth leaders should not shield young people from the series; they’re going to get the same propaganda in college anyway, most likely, or in the general culture. You don’t build strong faith by ignoring challenges. You get it by facing them with better weapons and the skills to use them. And Christians have the better weapons! Despite its arrogant facade, the scientism theater is a house of cards if you know where the weaknesses are. For instance, by using logical argumentation, evidence, and reasoning, Tyson and the cast will be cutting their legs out from their own materialistic feet. Where does logic come from? From hydrogen? Perceptive viewers will also notice Tyson turning science into a religion, with superstitious imagery that makes astrology look tame (examples: a big eye embedded in the Ring Nebula; zipping around the universe on a whim faster than the speed of light, space aliens everywhere). With a few master strokes, you can unmask the Cosmos production set as a den of thieves. They plagiarize parts of the Christian worldview (belief in truth, logic and morality) to build a materialistic castle of paper on sand. Pastors and teachers can empower young people and adults with good answers and apologetic training; it will make them stronger after the battle than before. It can actually make them excited about their faith, more passionate to defend it.
Specific unbiblical scientific claims should be faced. Creation-Evolution Headlines has a search bar for researching many evolutionary claims; if you don’t know something, look it up. Don’t be overly critical; for instance, both Tyson and Sagan are reputable astronomers deserving respect for their science; Sagan did valuable work for NASA’s Mars and Venus missions, for instance, and became a bit less arrogant in his atheism in later years. Be circumspect in your criticisms; don’t call them fools or evil; go after the claims, not the men. But especially, freshen up your critical thinking skills with our Baloney Detector, recognizing card stacking, big lie*, half truth, visualization**, loaded words, glittering generalities***, suggestion, reductionism, red herring, equivocation, straw man, and other tricks of the propaganda trade. Since the series will be heavy into astronomy, read up on our biographies of Newton, Galileo, Kepler and other Bible-believing astronomers; also, know something about the anti-Darwin biologists and the sordid history of the Darwinian revolution. A prepared mind can enjoy the good aspects of the series, learning things, appreciating its strengths but remaining alert to its weaknesses. It’s safe to say this will be one of the strongest and most consistent presentations of scientism one is likely to see on TV. If you can rock that Goliath to sleep with a logical stone, you’ve got reason for confidence.
*Example of a big lie from Cosmos 1.0: Sagan stated emphatically, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory. It really happened.” Then he tried to illustrate it with trivial examples of microevolution and even artificial selection.
**Example of visualization: In Cosmos 1.0, Sagan narrated a series of one-dimensional drawings of animals morphing into one another, following evolutionary stages from bacteria to man. This is not only asinine, but contrary to evolutionary theory itself. Straight-line “orthogenesis” is a debunked theory. Animals do not evolve as one individual into another; offspring and whole populations must be considered. It was pure propaganda – simplistic, at that.
***Example of glittering generalities: In the last episode of Cosmos 1.0, Sagan summed up the whole cosmic evolution scenario in sweeping generalities. At one point, he said, “Eyes evolved, and now the cosmos could see.” As evolution advanced, leading to sumptuous scenes of civilization, transportation and space exploration, with a final musical crescendo, he capped it all off with this monstrous generality that he admitted sounds like “epic myth”: “These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.”