New on AlterNet: Cosmos and the Creationists

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe. It’s about the new Cosmos TV series, and its reminder that those who advocate new ideas have always met fierce violent resistance from the credulous masses and the elite guardians of popular orthodoxy, from the persecutors of Galileo and Giordano Bruno in the medieval era to creationists, climate-change deniers and anti-vaxers today. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:

For the vast majority of our history as a species, we were wanderers, small hunter-gatherer bands. Civilization is a recent innovation, arising within the last few thousand years, and science is more recent still, appearing only in the last few hundred. But in just those few short centuries, we’ve made dramatic strides, from wooden sailing ships to space shuttles, bloodletting to bionic limbs, quill pens to the Internet. We’ve drawn back the curtain on ancient mythologies and glimpsed the true immensity of time and space. Compared to that vastness, we’re unimaginably small and insignificant; yet we possess an intelligence and a power of understanding that, as far as we still know, is unique among all the countless worlds. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

However, not everyone accepts this as a positive development. There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

Continue reading on AlterNet…

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jim Baerg

    Here is a somewhat related post against “anti-scientific superstitious nonsense”.
    http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=24014
    The author of that blog leans libertarian & so tends to get similarly leaning regular readers & commenters. In this post he states that the facts point to anthropgenic global warming being real, & gets some hostile replies. I like his response to one of those hostile replies.

    “Facts are facts, even if they are believed by leftists”

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

    Just think of how different history would have been if Galileo had signed with FOX and had a sponsorship deal with Samsung.

  • Pattrsn

    He still tries to shoehorn the facts into a libertarian framework, the only two choices being free market or doom, necessitating a fair bit of denialism. And the “lefties” still end up to blame.

  • J-D

    I see that Cardinal Sodano said in 2000 that the inquisitors did everything they could to save Giordano Bruno’s life.

    That is, of course, they did everything they could short of _just not killing him_.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    From what I’ve read, Bruno was burned for heresy (denying the virgin birth, divinity of Christ, etc.) not his cosmological views, while Galileo had insulted the Pope and violated his order to not expressly advocate heliocentrism by publishing a book that did both. Heliocentrism was deemed insufficiently evidenced by scientists then, not just theologically questionable (a lot of the evidence for it only became available following Galileo’s death) so their stories weren’t quite as simple. Both were still undoubtedly persecuted by the Church, however. The murder of Hypatia also does not appear to have been over her philosophy, but due to being caught up with a feud between Alexandria’s Roman governor, Orestes, and its bishop, Cyril. Hypatia was known to advise Orestes, and thus some Christians came to believe that she was holding him back from reconciling with Cyril, so she was murdered because of this suspicion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    From what I’ve read, Bruno was burned for heresy (denying the virgin birth, divinity of Christ, etc.) not his cosmological views…

    He was burned for both. His view on an infinite universe was listed as one of the heresies he was condemned for.

    …while Galileo had insulted the Pope and violated his order to not expressly advocate heliocentrism by publishing a book that did both. Heliocentrism was deemed insufficiently evidenced by scientists then, not just theologically questionable…

    Notably, neither smarting off to the Pope nor proposing an idea that’s not yet supported by evidence constitute a justification for threatening someone with torture, censoring their books, or sentencing them to imprisonment.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    Well if so I stand corrected. I do not condone what the Church did to either Bruno, Galileo, or anyone else. They can safely be viewed as martyrs to freethought. My post was made simply to point out some popular historical myths.


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