Cosmos: Same Old Ignorant Agitprop

A reader writes:

What’s your take on this show? Was it overtly anti-catholic or am I being overly sensitive as a Catholic?

It’s overtly and stupidly anti-Catholic. History for people who think The Family Guy is the History Channel.

For a good all-around debunking of this simple-minded “Catholic Church vs. Science” narrative, go here.

For an honest atheist’s review of God’s Philosophers, which overwhelmingly demonstrates that, so far from being the enemy of Science, the Catholic Church is its mother, go here.

The reason the three same names–Hypatia, Bruno, and Galileo–keep getting trotted out by historical illiterates as evidence of “The Catholic War on Science” is because there was no Catholic war on science. Hypatia was killed because she was unlucky enough to live in Alexandria, where civil violence was a municipal sport. Bruno was not a scientist, but a practitioner of what has rightly been described as mystic woo woo. For Cosmos to herald him as a champion of SCIENCE[TM] persecuted by the Church is like wringing one’s hand because the Pope did not convert to Scientology. And Galileo? Well, what you want to do is read Mike Flynn’s magnificent and hilarious account of how, largely due to the work of Catholic scientists, we got from geocentrism to heliocentrism–and how Galileo being a pain in the neck who went beyond the evidence available at the time and wound up running afoul of a hierarchy reeling from the Protestant revolt and jittery about his rash theological claims.

Next time some historical illiterate talks about the Church’s “War on Science” ask for details on these three. Then give the real details. Then, ask for other names. A “war” with only three casualties is not much of a war, particularly when the Church has canonized St. Albert the Great, has a couple dozen craters on the moon named for Jesuits, was mother to Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan Nicholas of Cusa, and Louis Pasteur (not one of whom the average Cosmos-educated sophisticate has even heard of), carefully fostered the work of Gregor Mendel (the Augustinian monk who founded the science of genetics), and fully supported the work of Jesuit Msgr. Georges Lemaitre, the formulator of the Big Bang hypothesis.

In sum, the iron truth remains that the more ignorant somebody is, the more certain they are they are obviously smarter than the common herd. Seth MacFarlane, the producer of Cosmos, is certain he knows what is talking about, and therefore has never bothered to discover how wrong he is.

Someday, somebody is going to have the guts to tell the story of the history of Science and the Faith that is not a cartoon. But one can hardly expect that from a cartoon maker.

  • Spastic Hedgehog

    Just curious, Mark, did you actually watch it?

  • julie

    I now am so dismayed that I spent hours during high school watching Cosmos, and believing that the great library at Alexandria was burned by ignorant Christians, and worrying because the planet was becoming horribly overpopulated and making Earth barren like Venus like Carl Sagan said. I loved Sagan, but he sold a lot of snake oil.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      The most hilarious part of Cosmos was the statement of faith with which it began: “The Cosmos is all that is, was, or ever will be.” How the hell does he know that?

      • MitchellJ

        isn’t that a line from the original one too. The original Cosmos was to me a show filled with a very mystical take on the grandness of the universe. Sagan was no theist, but he did seem to have a mystical sense of wonder; I am curious to watch this new one. I doubt that it will have that same sense. I suspect this new The Cosmos will be far to polemical to truly appreciate the radical mystery that is the cosmos.

        • Guest

          I think NDT is excited by the mystery of the COSMOS. But for a astro physicist mysteries are there to be unraveled. So it may not have the same impact on him as it does on us.

          • MitchellJ

            I haven’t watched any of it yet, so I’ll be curious to see if the producers and directors let the excitement of the host show through. That said I’ve seen NDT talk elsewhere and while he is very excited to talk about this it seems in a different vein then in the way Sagan talked about science. Keep in mind Sagan’s wife and son are proponents of Gaia theory in biology (which is not completely crazy, despite the name; its focus is on the inderdependent reality of biological life so much so that the entire earth’s ecosystem acts in some ways like a living organism itself). I think Sagan was likely clued into this sort of thinking too which lends itself to a much more organic vs. mechanistic view of nature and leaves room for a much richer appreciation of the mystery of nature.
            I’m excited to watch NDT Cosmos though, despite nonsense about Bruno, Galileo, etc.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          I actually meant the original Cosmos. I haven’t watched this one at all, so I don’t know whether it starts out with a similar creed.

          And I’m all for a mystical sense of wonder before the mysteries of the universe. If this program gets kids interested in science, I’m all for it. If it continues, however, to promote unfair ideas about the church that undermine the truth, I will continue to be a little tetchy.

      • Francisco J Castellanos

        After spending the last 25 + years of my life in academic
        science, and meeting amazingly brilliant people, some of them Nobel Prize scientists, I have reached the inevitable conclusion that smart people can sometimes be incredibly stupid.

  • Julie

    BTW, I didn’t dare watch the new Cosmos.

  • Rosemarie

    +J.M.J+

    My husband watched the whole thing since he was a fan of the original Cosmos. I watched it up to the Bruno part, then went to sleep.

    Jim says that, on the one hand, it wasn’t as anti-religious as Sagan was (though to be fair his anti-religious statements were polite and inoffensive). This show managed to be less anti-religious yet more offensive, which was no mean feat.

    He says that they dramatically portrayed Bruno being dragged out and thrown out the door of some English college, being verbally abused for not reading the Bible or Aristotle, and having him shout at them, “Your idea of God is too small.” They downplayed the fact that the authorities weren’t so much mad at Bruno for believing there could be life on other worlds (Nicholas of Cusa believed that) as the fact that he denied the deity of Christ and the Trinity. Though it was listed in the charges against him the entire thrust was to portray Christians as really “afraid” and threatened by the idea that there might be other worlds with life on them.

    They did mention that he was a mystic, not a scientist, and had no scientific training or proof for his beliefs about the universe. They just turned out to be a lucky guess. So why bring him up as the champion of science? As Mike Flynn said, saying that Bruno is a champion of science is like saying Deep Chopra is a champion of quantum physics.

    My husband says he is very disappointed and from now on he will go back to watching The Walking Dead at that time rather than the rest of the new Cosmos series.

    • Almario Javier

      The thing is that Giordano Bruno was more a propaganda icon for Italian anticlericals in the 19th century than any real scientific accomplishment.

  • Guest

    The things mentioned are fact, they’re historical. The church persecuted people who conflicted with their teachings. To argue this shows you’re ignorant of history. SMH It’s people like you who make me feel ashamed to be catholic.

    • Jared Clark

      Only in the most technical sense can some of it be described as historical. Most of the time, it is either removed from its context and exaggerated, with the spinner of the narrative skipping a few key details (such as the popes opposing the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition…the actual brutality, not the exaggerated brutality that people always talk about.) Sometimes, they outright spread lies about a situation (Galileo’s trial was about his demands that the Church dogmatically declare Copernicus’s hypothesis, which had yet to be proven, to be true. If all were right, Galileo would either be an obscure name or the posterchild for how not to be a good scientist.)

      Next time you hear of some horrible crime in the Church’s past, go learn about it. We’re a bunch of sinners, so obviously there will be some bad stuff, but often you’ll find that it is either being exaggerated or it is a total lie.

      • Guest

        Spanish inquisition aside, the church was downright brutal. And they were not down with scientific thought, or rational thought in general. Justifying persecution because someone had the audacity to demand the church do anything is just ridiculous.

        If given the choice, the would have preferred to continue as things were. Science is a problem for dogma.

        • Katie in FL

          You can argue all you want about the Church and scientific thought based on actual events, but to say that the Church was not down with rational thought in general is false.

          • Guest

            That’s why the time they ruled also happened to be the Dark Ages. And if no one ever challenged their authority and dogma we’d still be there.

            • Andy, Bad Person

              Name one scientist persecuted in the “Dark Ages.” Just one.

              • Guest

                Name one scientist from the dark ages.

                • Kristen inDallas

                  Gerbert of Aurillac, William of Conches, Adelard of Bath…

                  • Guest

                    That was a question for Andy.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      If the question was answered, who answered it really doesn’t matter unless one doesn’t want it answered…

                    • Guest

                      One wanted the answer from Andy.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      So you really aren’t interested in answers but just want to make someone look bad?

                    • Guest

                      If one wants to think that one can think whatever one wants.

                      I just find it funny that we’re all here arguing because a couple people’s feelings were hurt because a 3 minute cartoon in a show about he COSMOS mentioned that the church and free thought didn’t always get along. These are historically accurate statements.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      No I think we are having this conversation because:

                      drgonz0: “Spanish inquisition aside, the church was downright brutal. And they were not down with scientific thought, or rational thought in general. Justifying persecution because someone had the audacity to demand the church do anything is just ridiculous.

                      If given the choice, the would have preferred to continue as things were. Science is a problem for dogma.”

                      When huge amounts of nonsense get flung about like this it is going to engender a response. That you seem incredibly uninterested in anything that doesn’t fit your template is….telling….

                    • Guest

                      Well I was raised catholic.
                      But seriously I’m uninterested in a lot of BS. And I’d lump much of what i’m disregarding in to BS. Dogma is BS. , The church is BS. So yeah.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >Well I was raised catholic.

                      We have a joke around here. When someone says “I was raised Catholic” that’s nature’s way of warning you that the next thing said is total bunk.

                      >But seriously I’m uninterested in a lot of BS. And I’d lump much of what i’m disregarding in to BS. Dogma is BS. , The church is BS. So yeah.

                      No you aren’t. You want to get your jollies by insulting Christians. Substituting ridicule for reason is standard fare for atheists such as yourself. People have responded to your nonsense and you simply continue to spout unthinking party lines. It has always been astonishing to me how the champions of reason seem to possess so little of it….

                    • Guest

                      I’m happy for my 20 years of Catholicism. They’ve allowed me to see religion for the BS it is. I honestly and truly am posting because I believe the OP’s position that the COSMOS episode from last night is anti catholic. It isn’t. It had a portion of the episode that showed how hard it was to present an alternate viewpoint int he world as it was when run by the church. The trolling did come secondary because there’s so much FUD here. I couldn’t help myself.

                    • Dave G.

                      You continue to not answer the previous question. Please continue. Name some scientists who were persecuted during that time called the Dark Ages.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      Except everything you’ve said is wrong and has been demonstrated as such. That you are ignoring this only shows that you are not only not interested in reason but actively fighting it. You won’t allow anything to penetrate your indoctrination.

                      I’m not sure who hurt you, but yelling at strangers and calling them idiots isn’t going to further your development as a person. You are only furthering the idiot/angry atheist stereotype.

                    • Guest

                      I never said idiot.
                      You said idiot.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >I never said idiot.

                      You might as well have. Routinely calling Catholicism bunk by simple assertion is an attitude of superiority. You aren’t interested in dialogue because you consider yourself above us intellectually. Your attitude gives you away.

                      >You said idiot.

                      Yes I did. Because the way you are ignoring responses to your points demonstrates an unwillingness to engage. Only idiots do this.

                    • Guest

                      Again having grown up catholic, and followed devoutly until my 20s, I do think I’m above it. I’m above the waste of time. I’m above eating horrible wafers pretending they’re my lord. Above having my throat blessed, and wearing silly ashes on my head. Above seeing a pope as an infallible connection to my lord. Above having religion dictated to me by people who would cover up a culture of child abuse. Yes I’m above paying homage to a system that hid the rape of countless children. It was at that point that I decided it was wrong, It was when I found that the money from my tithes bought off victims, and moved offenders around. How could you be ok with that? It was that moment that being hurt by the church. (Yes It hurt me to be part of an organization that did this). Made me search my soul and realize that the entire time it was all snake oil. It’a massive sham pulled off on people.

                      All that said. I still identify as catholic. It’s like Stockholm syndrome.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >Again having grown up catholic, and followed devoutly until

                      my 20s, I do think I’m above it.

                      And those who follow are beneath you. At least we know where we stand now.

                      >How could you be ok with that?

                      I’m not. But I don’t throw away my my Faith because the bishops failed. Judas betrayed Jesus. That doesn’t impact the claims of Faith one way or another.

                      >It’a massive sham pulled off on people.

                      And yet you offer no proof beyond massive assertions and bad arguments. You are angry. But not thinking. Normal people don’t charge into a forum claiming that everyone else believes massive bunk and then completely ignore attempts to correct that assertion with fact.

                      You are going to have to work out your anger issues elsewhere. Forums like this are for those who are willing to dialogue. You are not.

                    • Guest

                      Then be done with me. I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t feel I’m above anyone. But I do think it’s interesting how you feel my “faith” and where I put it is wrong, whereas yours is right.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      “But I do think it’s interesting how you feel my ‘faith’ and where I put it is wrong, whereas yours is right.”

                      Why interesting? Because that’s what you yourself have been doing, like when you write that “[t]he church is BS”?

                    • Guest

                      Interesting because it’s wrong when I do it but right when it’s done, because mine doesn’t agree with yours. That’s all.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Yes, you are applying a double standard. That’s hardly interesting, but de gustibus etc.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >But I do think it’s interesting how you feel my “faith” and where I put it is wrong, whereas yours is right.

                      Given that you have told me Catholicism is BS this is too funny. Are we lacking in self reflection?

                    • Guest

                      Scientology is BS too. Don’t take it personally. Believe what you want I’m fine with that. But It’s funny to me that you’ll likely agree that Scientology is BS.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >Believe what you want’ I’m fine with that.

                      Really? After all that stuff about how the Church persecutes scientists and covering up abuse and is total BS you are “fine” with us continuing with us believing in something that you claim is harmful and destructive? Either you don’t believe your own claims or you actually don’t care about others and simply want to club the Church.

                    • Guest

                      You’ve been emotionally tormented with the prospect of hell since you could walk. How can I judge you for not being able to overcome that.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      You’re doing a marvelous job of embarrassing yourself.

                    • Guest

                      If your the audience I’m fine with that.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >You’ve been emotionally tormented with the prospect of hell since you could walk.

                      Ah! Now we are entering the realm of armchair psychology now?

                      Besides which that isn’t true. My family converted, so I wasn’t even exposed to the concept of hell until the 3rd grade.

                      Is this what drove you away? The fear of hell? A scrupulosity that could only be removed by denying the truth? Funnily enough I did suffer from scrupulosity, but it was learning my Faith that helped me to overcome it.

                      I suspect that this reveals more about you than it does about me. Care to elaborate why you would think that I’m tormented by the fear of Hell?

                    • Guest

                      No it wasn’t the fear of hell, it was the sanctioning of child abuse by the people who were teaching me about hell my entire life that drove me away.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      >it was the sanctioning of child abuse

                      Really? Did the Church say child abuse was ok? One would think the covering up was an implicit acknowledgement that abuse was wrong.

                      >teaching me about hell my entire life that drove me away

                      Interesting. The Catholic Church that I know isn’t really preoccupied with Hell (in fact there is a criticism that your average parish priest doesn’t talk about it anymore).

                      What do you think Hell is?

                    • Dave P.

                      Then you must have a severe dislike for the public school system, which has a higher rate of sexual abuse than any religious denomination.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      It did show Bruno being tossed out of Oxford, which was not run by the Church, and being excommunicated by the Calvinists and Lutherans, which were likewise not run by the Church. They got the sequence wrong — and excommunication is not done by stamping a big red wax seal — and they showed him lecturing at Oxford, which he was not invited to do. It was that lack of an invitation that honked him off so much he wrote The Ash Wednesday Supper against the dons of Oxford. For that matter, they did not explain why he went back to “Italy” or why the Inquisition spent six years trying to talk him down off the ledge.

                      Basically, they ignored the entire exciting history of science up to then — as well as extolling the scientific method based on facts just before lauding a hermetic mystic, who by their own admission had none.

                      Who did have the facts? The Ptolemaic astronomers.

                    • Dave G.

                      Colin is correct. The question has been answered. We can continue. At this point whether or not Andy answers is irrelevant. Andy could be busy right now. He could be working. Mowing the lawn (shoveling snow?). He may not be back until later. At that point he could just copy what was said. We’ll never know. So, continue. Some scientists have been named. Please give the names of some scientists who were persecuted during the ‘Dark Ages’.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Actually, they didn’t just “mention” it. They quite deliberately misrepresented it. Observe too the artwork and colors. Bruno was tried on eight counts, and none of them involved astronomy or cosmology. Yet the cartoon claimed that the infinity of worlds was among them. This is quite simply false-to-fact. It is always astonishing how dedication to facts and rational thinking goes out the window when these folks switch from science to history. A few comments from an atheist historian in Germany that mention Tyson and history:
                      http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/where-does-the-adbc-dating-convention-come-from/

                      http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/aaarrrggghhhhh/

                      http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/apart-from-muhammad-ali-there-aint-no-such-thing-as-the-greatest/

                    • MarylandBill

                      I think in charity, we should never assume malice when we can demonstrate incompetence. As your links demonstrate, Tyson, and Sagan before him might have been great at scientific education but they simply did not know the history they were presenting. I suspect that they probably got their history from similarly popular works (based on 19th century history likely). Once these myths become established, it is awfully hard to root them out. This is why we have had so many people in this thread call the Medieval Period the Dark Ages despite the fact that that term has been known to be false for over a century.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Yet he asked you a question as well, and he asked it first. Why you should you expect an answer from him when you fail to provide one yourself?

                    • Guest

                      Being that the “dark ages” are a period where there’s massive gaps in history, do you not find it odd that the only scientists of note from the time were church approved? My lack of an answer is my answer.

                    • Dave G.

                      At this point you must be pulling everyone’s legs. You can’t believe that’s a solid argument.

                    • Colin Gormley

                      He might. Like a cornered animal flailing is his only option.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      “the only scientists of note from the time were church approved”

                      1. Define “church approved”.

                      2. Define the set of all scientists of note.

                      3. Define the set of all “church approved” scientists.

                      4. Show that the set defined in (2) is contained within (3).

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      You still haven’t answered his question. By the way, arguments from ignorance remain fallacies of informal logic, even if they’re posited by you.

                    • Andy, Bad Person

                      Surely, if there were a massive persecution of scientists in the Dark Ages, you should be able to name one.

                    • Kristen inDallas

                      Oh I get it. Intellectual curriosity doesn’t count if you get a St. added to your name. First, your argument was that scientific progress didn’t exist because the church wouldn’t allow it. Now its that the comparative abundance of church-sponsered progress proves that the entire institution of science was corrupted at that time anyway.
                      What if someone made the same claims about art? People similar to Miley Cyrus and Thomas Kinkaide did not acheive notariety during the renaissance, because the upper class hated and supressed all forms of art. (After being presented with examples of art from the period) Harrumph, well then why is it that the only artists that achieved any kind of success were the ones sponsored by the upper classes? Pretty suspect, huh?

                    • Guest

                      No, not playing down any of their contributions. However the collection of people who went against the church in scientific exploration didn’t have happy endings.

                      All I’m saying is science is all about constantly trying to challenge the status quo to get the truth. This doesn’t work well when the law is also the religion. As I said before the sins of the church of the time don’t bother me. Humanity was broken. What I’m objecting to from the start is taking offense to a small segment of a show documenting how difficult it was to challenge scientific principals at the time. These guys paid with their lives where at worst today you just get laughed at and lose your funding.

                    • MarylandBill

                      Where is this collection of people? It has been clearly shown that Galileo got in trouble not for his research, but by trying to force the Church to update its teaching to reflect his unproven scientific ideas and mocking the Pope. It has also been shown that Bruno’s execution had little if nothing to do with his unscientific ideas that just happened to be right, and far more his other ideas. And finally Hypatia’s death had less to do with her scientific ideas than the politics of Alexandria at the time. And these are the three strongest candidates you have for your contention.

                      No one is saying that the leaders of the Church have not sinned from time to time, indeed sometimes perhaps excessively, but they have never been the great persecutor of science that you make them out to be.

                    • Guest

                      Can you at least agree that the church should never have executed anyone? Or were they right because Bruno was an asshole?

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Don’t move the goal posts. You’ve yet to answer Andy’s question, let alone MarylandBill’s question. You’ve nothing but gratuitous assertions so far. You’ve been challenged to back up your claim but have thus far failed to do so. Stop dodging.

                    • chezami

                      Sure. But the issue is not “Did Renaissance Europeans universally believe in the death penalty for heresy?” but “Is Bruno a martyr to science?” Also, stop dragging in the priest scandal and stick to the subject. Your sole warning from the Management.

                    • Guest

                      When giving my reason for the loss of my faith, the church covering up the molestation and rape of little boys is my reason. I make statements to that effect and when talking about sins of the church, but this offends your sensibilities as a contributor to those events. So Warning aside, I’ll not listen.

                    • chezami

                      This thread is about Cosmos and Bruno, not about your personal psychological history.

                    • MarylandBill

                      That is a different question, and holding the 17th century to the standards of the 21st is hardly relevant to the question of whether or not the Church persecuted scientists for the sake of being scientists.

                      Do I think the Church should have executed Bruno? No, but then I don’t think countries should have executed people for being pick-pockets either, but it happened, and I still think it was a crime.

                    • chezami

                      What collection would that be?

                    • Guest

                      Curpurnicus, Gallielo, Bruno.

                      Que people saying they were persecuted for other reasons. Like that makes it better.

                    • MarylandBill

                      Curpurnicus? Do you mean Copernicus? Who died in bed of illness at the age of 70? (A quite respectable age back then).

                    • Guest

                      Sorry yes, also should have clarified. He lived in fear of publishing his works and it wasn’t done until after his death to avoid persecution.

                    • MarylandBill

                      Sorry, again, there were actually church prelates who knew of his work prior to his death and were quite curious about it. If he was reluctant to publish, it was probably because he feared ridicule over his then novel hypothesis.

                    • Guest

                      ahh again, conflicting historical viewpoint?

                      The Church banned Copernicus’ “Des revolutionibus” for more than 200 years. Yeah seems they were thrilled with his work.

                    • MarylandBill

                      Yes, they banned the original version about 60 years after it was published. That being said, a slightly edited version was allowed, and Copernicus’s model was used to help calculate the formula used in the Gregorian Calendar reform.

                    • Almario Javier

                      In other words, if de revolutionibus was condemned in toto, why did they use an edited version as a basis for setting the calendar and calculating Easter?

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Copernicus was quite clear that he feared the ridicule of the physicists because what he proposed went against the Established Science and he was a mere mathematicus. (For a flavor of how this seemed to the ur-scientists of the day, imagine someone who runs a pet store today proclaiming Darwin was wrong.)
                      De revolutionibus circulated for about 70 years, during which time there were only about 10 Copernican mathematici. The humanists loved him, but the ur-scientific establishment pooh-poohed the whole thing. They had what seemed very solid evidence against it.
                      Copernicus’ book was not suppressed, but only withdrawn from circulation “pending corrections.” These consisted of altering statements which seemed to assert the system as fact to statements asserting it as a mathematical system that was mostly correct.

                    • chezami

                      Rubbish.

                    • Guest

                      Bollacks

                      See I can write one word answers too.

                    • chezami

                      Goodbye. I have no obligation to play host to an ignorant loudmouth. If you want to becom unignorant, go here and read the whole series: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html

                    • SteveP

                      And McDonald has a very brief article buttressing Flynn’s first point: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2014/03/our-ancestors-werent-idiots/

                    • MarylandBill

                      He feared ridicule of other philosophers, not the Church.

                    • chezami

                      And was buried with honors beneath the floor of the Cathedral. Some persecution.

                    • PalaceGuard

                      Curpurnicus was Gallielo’s dog.

                    • chezami

                      You are ignorant. Copernicus was not persecuted: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/catholic_church_lets_copernicus_out_of_hell

                      Nor were Galileo and Bruno martrys to science. And frankly, I don’t believe your BS about being terrorized about hellfire either.

                    • Dave G

                      Apart from the actual details, you’re sort of making Mark’s point. When people speak of the hapless hordes of scientists put to the sword by the science-hating Church, they only and ever seem able to name the same three (if they’re ignorant of the actual facts, but the same three nonetheless): the ones you mention. Why, is the question. Certainly there should be more than that. Name some others. Take away Copernicus if you’re schooled, and let’s assume the worst in the other two cases, that’s still not a sustained campaign given the centuries we’re talking about.

                    • Almario Javier

                      First, it’s “Copernicus” (or Kopernikus if you’re German).

                      Second of all, it’s heavily, heavily disputed in the scholarship as to whether, when he was alive, his fear of criticism was religious in nature, or the usual intellectual disputes among academics (which can be brutal, I tell you – step into a faculty meeting one of these days).

                      Galileo and Bruno have already been dealt with above.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      the collection of people who went against the church in scientific exploration didn’t have happy endings.

                      Your argument would be much more concise and far more convincing if, instead of theoretical and generic “people,” you could actually name some individual persons and describe their unhappy endings. You would still have the problem of showing that these were typical, but at least you would be dealing with facts instead of myths.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Which dark ages? The one when barbarian tribes were roving all over Western Europe burning things down? The gaps in history aren’t really too massive, though there are points where information has been lost. But then we have less information on other areas of history, like the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and Minoan Crete; India after the Maurya Empire; and so on. For the Western Dark Age, we do have quite a bit in comparison. For example: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/gregorytours/gregorytours1.shtml
                      And a sampling here:
                      http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook1.asp

                  • Dave P.

                    Not to mention the anonymous monks who preserved and carried on knowledge and introduced things like crop rotation.

                • Heather

                  Roger Bacon? Isidore of Seville? Gerbert of Aurillac (also knows as Pope Sylvester II)? Peter Peregrinus of Maricourt?

            • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

              You give yourself away: No legitimate historian uses the term “Dark Ages” any more, and no one has for decades now. Why? Because it’s just name-calling by the same people who decided the period of murderous nationalism that followed quickly upon the Reformation was the “Enlightenment”.

              You are exposed as a victim of propaganda, unfamiliar with any actual history. Please, tell us when these Dark Ages began and ended, what happened during them, and, specifically, how the Church promoted superstition and opposed logic and reason – dates, names, some little indication that have the slightest familiarity with the subject you are using as a blunt object here.

            • LFM

              This is simply ignorant. The label ‘Dark Ages’ was given to the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (AD 476) to the much less clearly defined beginning of the ‘Renaissance’ in the 14th century (1300s) by a group of poets and humanists who had no interest in science but were interested in the revival of classical Latin.

              The humanists, who were not what we mean today by humanists, looked down on the ‘Dark Ages’ not because those years were unscientific, or because they were ruled by the Catholic Church (western Europe was still pretty much ruled by the Catholic Church in the 14th century), but because those years were a period of the collapse of learning, institutions, commerce and infrastructures. And the reason THAT had happened, they knew, was not because of the rise of the Church, but because of the Fall of Rome. Once the will, the armies and the money to maintain the facilities created by empire were gone, much of Europe collapsed into barbarism. Even if you aren’t barbaric yourself, it’s hard to concentrate on science or any kind of learning when you have to spend much of your life fighting barbarian invasions.

              Incidentally, there is a strong school of thought among historians that divides the time from Rome’s collapse up to around the 11th century as the ‘Dark Ages’ and the time from then until the Black Plague began (@1347) as the medieval period. Note that this had nothing to do with the Church’s ‘rule,’ either.

              • MarylandBill

                Actually I would say that many scholars would place the Dark Ages even earlier, and end it by the time of the Carolingian Renaissance.

                • LFM

                  I was trying not to stretch gonz0′s credulity, as he appears to consider the failure to use the label ‘Dark Ages’ as a species of political correctness… Odd, because professional historians, as I have cause to know, unfortunately, seldom bother to try to be politically correct about the Catholic Church. If they conceded that this label should be used more restrictively, it was because the historical profession had come to a consensus, more or less, on the subject.

            • Kristen inDallas

              The dark ages are named such because of our lack of historical documentation from the time. Dark doesn’t mean bad, or slow, or backwards… it means hard to see. Keep in mind the printing press wasn’t invented until 1436. Prior to that the preservation of written documents (and the progress they chronical) was dependent on someone somewhere copying them down many many times. The advancements of the Romans are well chronicled because of the copying-down of the monks that followed. The dark ages were followed by the 30-years war, the reformation, and leadership which did not have a particularly favorable view of the previous regime. It’s not super surprising that fewer manuscripts were reprinted, fewer buildings left intact, and fewer acheivements were memorialized…

              • MarylandBill

                Kristen, no offense, because, I know it was well intended, but the term Dark Ages, as they were originally applied had little to do with lack of knowledge about the period but rather were based on the rather parochial conceit of scholars during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

                That being said, scholars now generally reject equating the Medieval period with the Dark Ages. If they use the term at all, it tends to be applied to the period of 5th-7th century A.D. where there often is a scarcity (though not a complete lack of) of documents (which does in fact support your earlier description of Dark Age, but one that much narrower in scope).

                Large parts of the Middle Ages, especially the latter half are very well documented and we probably know more about that period than we do about much of the classical period.

                • Kristen inDallas

                  you are correct… there are several different ways that the “dark ages” have been defined temporaly. I was giving Drgonz0 the benefit of the doubt and hoping he was referring to the early medieval, more narrowly defined version in which it really is hard to find a lot of scientific writings. But yes the original term, as applied to the entire medieval period by those involved in the Enlightenment, is largely bias and pretty easy to debunk.

            • MarylandBill

              Please, you have no idea how modern scholars view the Middle Ages (They no longer call it the Dark Ages for a reason).

              • Guest

                Yeah apparently. It’s politically incorrect and people get butthurt when you use it.

                • MarylandBill

                  No, its not a question of being politically correct, its about being just plain wrong.

        • Dave P.

          Galileo had a quite a few supporters within the Church; however, he had a knack for alienating people. If he had mastered his ego just a little bit, he would have found himself in less trouble. As it was, his sentence was relatively light – recitation of the penitential psalms, which was delegated to his cloistered daughter. And he was basically pensioned off. He had servants, comfortable quarters, a decent allowance, and the resources to continue with research. And he lived to be 80 years old. Not a bad deal, in the long run.

          • Guest

            Ohh well that makes it ok then. The point of the argument is we’re better off now that the church doesn’t run the world.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              How very eurocentric, you vile little racist. Europe isn’t even half the world, even if it is the only part concerning you.

              • Guest

                Let’s be honest from a historical context. As far as the church was concerned at the time, it was the world. See the crusades. Please take your objections up with the historical view from the European/catholic perspective at the time not me.

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  Crusades? You mean the 100-year counterattack in the middle of a 1000-year jihad?

        • Dave P.

          I will also bring up my counter example to Galileo: Johannes Kepler, who actually got things right about planetary motion. The Protestants were nastier than the Catholics regarding heliocentrism. Kepler was given refuge by Jesuits, and that during the Thirty Years’ War.

          • Kristen inDallas

            Kepler is one of my favorite scientists… maybe he got his pass from all the torture and killing by not actually claiming heliocentrism, but rather helio-slightly-off-centrism. ;-)

            • AnsonEddy

              This was actually clever and hilarious. Took me back to the Brahe/Kepler lecture in college physics. Well done.

        • MarylandBill

          The Catholic Church is not, and never has been a fundamentalist Church. As has been pointed out time and again, there were probably more scientific advances made between roughly 1000-1500 than there was in Europe during the prior 1200 years. This at the time when the Church was at the peak of its temporal power. Not exactly the sign of a Church trembling in fear of scientific knowledge.

        • Jared Clark

          Science is a problem for some dogma, yes.

          If the universe makes sense, then it seems obvious that its intelligibility is purposeful. If man is intelligent enough to study nature, then it seems obvious that his intelligence is not merely material.

          The only problem is, it’s atheistic philosophy, not Catholic theology, which is at odds with the scientific method. Science is a problem for some dogma, not ours. This is why it was theists in general, and Catholics in particular, who invented and developed the scientific method.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      I am so damn sick of Classical Liberalism. It’s a dog’s breakfast of historically and philosophically vacuous and inconsistent tropes that substitute ignorance and emotion for any kind of rational discussion. It makes me ashamed to be human.

      • Guest

        You can check out any time you like. I’ll support it. If you want to have a rational discussion that’s one thing. If you want to argue against fact, then you’re a fool.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          The point is that the facts don’t mean what people think they mean. “The [Catholic] church persecuted people [whose ideas] conflicted with their teachings.” So what? Unless you posit the utterly absurd and unrealistic premise that “It is always wrong to persecute people whose ideas conflict with your teachings” then there’s no significant point to be made.

          If people want to argue that it is sometimes wrong to persecute people whose ideas conflict with your own and that the church in this particular case was, in fact, wrong so to do, then you can have an informed, historical, and reasonable discussion.

          But if people, under the influence of emotional appeals to “freedom of thought” or speech or whatever, want to posit that it is never right to persecute people whose ideas conflict with your own, and that therefore the Catholic Church is a special, historical case of that particular kind of evil, then you’ve entered philosophical dream-land, where nothing makes any sense and you’ll be (as moderns do) contradicting yourself within two sentences.

          • Guest

            Very few (if any) organizations still exist after all that time. The catholic church may be the only standing organization that dates back that far. I believe it is.

            So to hold them to the it’s always wrong standard gives the opportunity to blame something that’s still around. So that makes the church a special case in all circumstances because they’re the only one’s left standing.
            This is what gets people so bent out of shape. It doesn’t upset anyone to criticize the old french or British monarchy, or Genghis Kahn or … because they don’t have followers today. Instead of getting butthurt about someone talking about the historical actions of the church accept it and move on. That’s what rational catholics have done.

            • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

              In which case, there’s no case to be made for the Church being an essential special case, which is what people want to establish and what they are trying to teach with special programs like this (assuming that details of the program as related by Mark and Rosemarie are, in fact, accurate).

              • Guest

                Watch the program, mark is wrong. It’s not making any special argument of what the church had done outside of the historical facts. It’s merely stating that inspire of knowing that they would be persecuted, they learned from banned books, unlawful knowledge and contributed to the betterment of humanity. Sometimes knowing that would be martyred.

                Really should watch it for yourself instead of taking Mark’s overly sensitive review. It wasn’t a show about the church. It was a small segment for a history of exploration of the cosmos.

                • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                  Well, that’s certainly fair, considering that I have not watched it. I don’t feel a great need to check out another science popularization program, since I’ve been a Feynman, Asimov, Scientific American, etc, devotee from my youth, but I’m all for fair and philosophically consistent popularization of science. I’m just hyper-sensitive to the extreme irony of people being told that by exposing themselves to these programs – and others like them – they are “thinking for themselves” and moving beyond the dark days when the wicked church told people what to think.

                  • Guest

                    It’s intention is to get people involved in scientific thought, not to indoctrinate anyone. That said, having the president make the opening remarks probably caused a number of people to turn off the television. My whole point to poetic is that Mark is way out here and positing as a catholic objecting to the mere mention of any wrongdoing in the churches past. The church as done much in the past that was wrong. Most catholics know and accept this, yet he’s raging.

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      It’s intention is to get people involved in scientific thought, not to indoctrinate anyone.

                      This statement is either an outright contradiction or else a sad indictment of science education in this country.

                      *update* And I, for one, don’t give a rip about the president introducing the program.

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  A very disproportionate digression at the expense of the actual history of science — and misrepresents intellectual histoy. Tyson could discuss the Big Bang without once mentioning it was first worked out by a Catholic priest, but he could spend several minutes on a comic-book version of Bruno. E.g., Cartoon Bruno is shown reading a cartoon manuscript copy of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (and getting thrown out of his monastery because of it). No comment on where that copy came from even though he was shown reading a codex, not a scroll. The text had been meticulously copied by Christian monks during the “dark ages” and then again and again during the Middle Ages. Indeed, copies were known in the 9th century, and other manuscripts survive which quote lines from the poem. There were also philosophical inquiries that paralleled thoughts in De rerum… but these may have been independently thought.

                  In any case, Bruno, if he had a copy, would have had a printed copy, not a manuscript. It was printed in several editions starting in 1473. A hundred years later, copies would have been widely available.

        • LFM

          But you do not know what the facts are, drgonzO. You ignore the various challenges that others here offer – the vast numbers of scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and thinkers of various types who were not only Catholic, not only grew up in Catholic societies, but were actively supported by the Catholic Church. Do you even know who Roger Bacon is? Do you realize that most of the first proponents of the principle of ‘Occam’s Razor’ were priests or monks? Do you know that the first mechanical clocks were created by monasteries? Do you know that the universities that trained the first scientists and mathematicians in Europe were nearly all Church-funded and staffed?

          You demand evidence in support of those who state that the Church supported science, but then ignore any evidence offered to you without bothering to refute it first, and then loudly assert your rationality and others’ lack of it.

          No one here is denying that the Church was at times guilty of discouraging intellectual inquiry and speculation. In certain times and places it *did* do so, but this was by no means a continuous or near-continuous fact of its existence.

          • Guest

            I’m not saying great things /research/banking /math art etc. didn’t come from church sponsored learning. However if anything conflicted with the church it was put down toot sweet. What I’m objecting to is the solid negative reaction to a very small portion of a good program discussing the challenges of scientists who disagreed with the church.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              Toot sweet?

              If you want to be taken seriously, stick with words you understand and can reasonably spell.

              And do it tout suite, please?

              • Guest

                Meh

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              The biggest challenge to the Church teachings came from the Cathars, a group that held the material world was evil and sex was dirty. But the Church engaged in dialogue for three generations before the Cathars assassinated a papal legate and patience wore out. That’s not tout suite, really. In the dictionary under “Rapid Response Team” they do not have a picture of the Catholic Church.

          • Kristen inDallas

            Even then… I’d say it was never “the Church” that discouraged intellectual inquiry, so much as certain individuals or groups within the church. Much like Drgonz0 is doing above, as a member of the church, but not as the ultimate arbitor.

            • LFM

              Well, yes, but the fact remains that the Church led some of the worst instances of persecution, like the Dominicans’ persecution of the Cathars of Languedoc in the Albigensian Crusade. While much of this was carried out by the French Crown, the Crusade was launched by Innocent III, and it would be difficult to argue that he did not represent the Church. A less well-known example: the Church authorities in Paris, with the cooperation of the Crown, relentlessly burnt at the stake anyone who attempted to translate and print the Bible in French. Ostensibly this was because these translations were heretical, but the dearth of efforts to print non-heretical translations suggest that their real motive was otherwise: they apparently did not want French people to get hold of Bibles they could read, or have read to them, in a language they understood. Even Martin Luther wondered whether it had been such a good idea to translate the Bible into German after all, when he saw the results of it. Sigh.

              But what drgonz0 should take from all this is that it was religious rather than scientific inquiry that was somewhat more likely to be persecuted by the Church, and for that matter by the state. Scientific study did not threaten the established order, whereas religious upheaval did.

              • MarylandBill

                I would point out that the Cathars were not simply persecuted because of their religious beliefs, but also over their practices and the implications both had for the continuation of society. Most people forget that at the time Catholic Beliefs also were the underpinnings of society.

                Indeed, look at what happened when Protestantism became established (whose beliefs and practices are quite a bit closer to Catholic beliefs than the Cathars were), for the next 150 years, Europe was ravaged by some of the worst wars it would experience prior to the 20th century.

                • LFM

                  Oh, I won’t disagree with anything you say here, Md Bill. The trouble is that the Church’s officials had a tendency to treat ignorant and unlettered people as if they were scholars who understood the full implications of what Catharism taught, and punished them accordingly. However, what most of the ordinary people who took up with Catharism saw, to my knowledge, which could be outdated, was an ‘alternative’ sect that did not seem to them to be very different from Catholicism; the weirder doctrines and practises of the Cathars were not well-known, and reserved for senior initiates.

                  What’s more, they practiced a self-denying austerity that was attractive compared to the self-indulgence of many of the Church’s prelates. And they were *there*. While I took a PhD in French history (of a later period, to be sure) I was astonished to learn that priests were scarcer on the ground in the late Middle Ages than today, at least at the level of peasant villages. Many parishes lacked any priest at all, or had only men in ‘minor orders’ who could say Mass but not (I think) distribute communion or hear confessions.

                  The trouble was that once a man’s family or community had spent money on educating him for the priesthood, they and he developed higher ambitions for him than to say Mass in country parishes. People could go and hear Mass at a monastery but of course these were widely scattered, while the Cathars were everywhere.

              • jaybird1951

                Interestingly, by the time of Martin Luther there were already dozens of approved vernacular translations of the Bible including several in High and Low German, French dialects, Dutch and other European languages of the time. The first printed book was the Catholic Bible in Latin, the lingua franca of educated people of the age. Mistakes were made by high churchmen in the Galileo case but he had his defenders in the hierarchy too. He was given the option of presenting his ideas as an hypothesis rather than proof that proved some passages of Scripture wrong. However, he insisted on asserting he had the proof even though, at the time, he didn’t. His strongest opponents were other scientists of the period including those in Protestant areas. His “persecution” consisted of house arrest in a series of villas with I believe, the freedom to correspond with the outside world.

                • LFM

                  Yes, it’s surprising in a way about the vernacular translations of the Bible in the various places you indicate. I did specify, however, that this issue was peculiar though not unique to Paris, which throughout the 16th century was a ‘hotbed’ of religious and political dissent. France (of which Paris’s ‘Ile de France’ was the central part) had a series of weak kings throughout this period, a situation that led to nearly chronic war on all its frontiers and the constant threat of civil war, finally fulfilled in the miserable period between 1562 and 1598 during the ‘Wars of Religion.’

    • Alexander S Anderson

      If you assert something hard enough that will make it true!

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I didn’t watch Cosmos, but we do watch a lot of Science shows, and I do think that very often the anti-Catholic bias is deliberate. We watched an hour long program on the Big Bang, and the name Georges Lemaitre wasn’t mentioned once. Not once. In fact, Hubble was credited as coming up with the Big Bang Theory, which is a bald-faced lie. I had to pause the show and give my kids a quick history lesson.
    .
    There’s also just some plain illogical nonsense that anyone with a brain ought to catch on. Like when Michiu Kaku (who strikes me as a very smart, nice, affable, if occasionally deluded guy) says that contrary to what ancients thought, “We now know the universe COULD have come from nothing! Thanks to string theory, physicists now think that the Big Bang was caused by alternate universes banging into each other.”
    .
    You don’t need a physics degree to catch that error. Just speak English. If the universe came into being when alternate universes collided (which may or may not be true), how does that qualify as “nothing?” Alternate universe = “nothing.” To quote the wise Inigo Montoya: “You keep using this word. But I do not think it means what you think it means.”
    .

  • Kristen inDallas

    Yeah, I made it about 30 seconds and checked out when I heard “…Explore the planets of stars that never die, discover atoms as massive as suns, and universes smaller than atoms….” Sorry show claiming to be about science, if you want me to pay attention you must first learn the definitions of the words “never” and “universe.” Sincerely, someone who thinks science is awesome and compelling all on it’s own with no need to embellish or sensationalize what it really is. (Sensationalizing one star as one that “never dies” is only mildly interesting for a short time until you realize it’s complete hyperbole. The concept of entropy and the laws of thermodynamics STILL blow my mind when I reflect on what that must mean about the history of the universe.)

    • Guest

      You really should have held on a bit longer, you really missed out.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Meh. It’s on hulu if I change my mind. But I’m about as dumbed-down as I can get after I watch family guy, and I couldn’t stomache it even then. (At least Family Guy employs sarcasm when saying things I know aren’t true).
        I love the Rolling Stones… and I do enjoy the occasional documentary as a supplement to the music itself. But if someone starts a documentary by claiming that the reason the Stones are so great is because of how Paint it Black is some commentary on the US bipartisan system, and then goes on to misquote lyrics I know by heart in order to prove this theory…. I’m not going to watch that. Because 1) it’s simply not true. and 2) If they can’t see all the legitimately good reasons why the stones are amazing, I’m going to start to suspect that it’s really not a documentary about the music at all, but rather about how much the makers of the film hate some other thing and are attempting to co-opt and misinterpret an otherwise enjoyable band into making their point for them.

  • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

    Sagan set the bar with the original series: the goal is to make sure we little people stand in humble, pliable awe of the dude in the lab coat, who, with his buddies, has given us everything that is good. Little if any science properly called is communicated – we are assumed to be too stupid to get it. Instead, we are shown pretty pictures and told very select and highly spun stories. Just so we understand who the smart guys are, and where we stand in the pecking order.

    I have not caught the new series yet, but, based on what I’ve heard so far, it seems like it’s a worthy successor to Sagan’s original, which I did catch back in the day. Maybe I’ll catch in on Netflix or something someday, assuming my blood pressure is holding steady.

    • Guest

      It’s supposed to inspire people to get into science. Are you so intimidated by “smart guys”?

      • MarylandBill

        Perhaps one should keep in mind that “smart guy” and scientist are not synonyms. Indeed, one of the big objections I have to some modern famous scientists (Dawkins and Hawking for example) is their assumption that being great scientists qualifies them to make pronouncements on areas of knowledge they clearly know nothing about.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Not a whit, just offended by smart guys passing of shallowminded dumb crap.

      • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

        *You* imagine *I* am intimidated by smart guys? Or that I don’t know science? Fascinating.

        Since I do know science, I can spot a phony – Sagan’s a phony, a merely competent college astronomy professor who made only work-a-day contributions to his actual field of expertise such as any competent astronomer might make. Yet, he holds forth on ALL areas of science, and philosophy and history, as if calculating the heat generated by any force sufficient to stop the earths rotation (something he did once as part of debate, and something any college sophomore getting Bs in physics could have done) qualifies him revise history to his liking (Lysenko, anyone?) and to browbeat people over fantasies such as SETI and Nuclear Winter. If you don’t understand why SETI and Nuclear Winter are rank Cargo Cult science, I think you need back away from the keyboard and go read some Feynman.

        To inspire people to pursue science you’d need to, you know, talk about science, not some fantasy version of science for which facts and truth are strictly optional.

        • Guest

          Please reference your published works.

          • MarylandBill

            He said he knew science, not that he was a professional scientist. Heck, I know lots of PhDs in science who go on to have careers in… computer programming. It doesn’t mean they don’t know science, just that they decided they could do something else. Now of course he might be a scientist, but he didn’t claim he was in the above post.

            • Guest

              Fair enough. He did claim he can spot a phony. So he’s calling out one of the most celebrated minds of our time as a phony.

              • MarylandBill

                Well, I do seem to remember that the scientific establishment at the time was rather ambivalent about Sagan. Certainly he did real science, but he was far better known (and far more celebrated) as a promoter of science.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                celebrated mind. Insofar as history is concerned, his celebrated mind has been raked over by historians,

      • Kristen inDallas

        The problem is, this kind of thing doesn’t inspire kids to become scientists, only to revere “scientists.” I say this as a former HS Physics and Chemistry teacher btw, when kids are presented constantly with exagerated claims and oversimplified processes, their first encounter with real science can often knock the wind right out of their sails. Just as many more tune out when eventually presented with the false dichotomy between science & philosophy. The cool thing about real science is that you can sometimes find something really neat, that you weren’t even looking for, because of a well recorded mistake. That you can constantly find out new ways to be wrong about something and still call it progress. That some of our most comprehensive theories are a result of “bookworms” who just sat there and wrote down observations of the exact same thing over and over again for the majority of their adult lives. That no matter how many mysteries we “solve” there is always a new question to take its place. My students were far more inspired watching an average episode of mythbusters (average people who were sometimes right and sometimes wrong but always clearly in love with what they do)

        • Guest

          I think myth busters is great for science. I have no problem with it, it’s a staple in this house. That said watch the show and give it a chance before passing judgment on inspiring kids to revere scientists vs inspiring kids to become scientists.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Your comment reminds me of something I read not so long ago. I may not give the exact wording, but it went like this: A scientist (Emerson? you see how much I don’t know…) tried 1000 times before he managed to invent a light bulb that worked. Someone asked why he did not get discouraged at failing so many times. He is said to reply that, each of these times that he failed did teach him something important – another way or reason why his experiments were not working. After eliminating all of these, he finally arrived at the one that worked.

          • D.T. McCameron

            Edison, most likely.

          • Kristen inDallas

            I’ve seen the Sagan version… and made the unfortunate mistake of using it in a class that was about a week ahead in material from all the other classes. This was one of my classes most enthusiastic about science. Half of them were asleep by the end of the period. I will withold judgement of the new version (beyond the first minute – of which I was not a fan)

          • S. Murphy

            Edison. :-)
            Emerson wasn’t that bright…

        • kenofken

          Sagan wasn’t trying to get everyone to become scientists. He tried to stir that passion and tried to welcome anyone who was bright and determined enough for such a rigorous career. He certainly played a pivotal role in Tyson’s career. His real passion and his mission was to spread scientific literacy to a a general population that was in desperate need of it.

          He wanted to convey some sense of the grandeur and scale of astrophysics beyond the literal handful of its elite academics. More than anything else, he wanted the average person to understand the power and accessibility of the scientific method.

          Sagan wanted people to understand that the true power of science lay not in its accumulated knowledge or methodology, but in strength as a way of thinking about the world and framing and answering questions. Not everyone can or should be professional scientist, but the average person needs to have a basic level of literacy and critical thinking skills. Democracy can’t work without that and it’s doubtful whether humanity can survive itself in a modern world without it.

          We are, if anything, in worse shape as a country on that score today than when Sagan hosted the original series. Our students are way behind most of their European and Asian counterparts, and falling farther behind. Our high school students as a whole are not even in the top 20 anymore. We’re falling behind Vietnam, the guys who were fighting us with sharpened sticks a generation ago. The guys we wanted to bomb back to the Stone Age but couldn’t because they were already there.

          Almost half of our population believes in young Earth creationism and even more seem to uncritically swallow whatever self-affirming New Age hokum or conspiracy theory comes down the pike. We’re increasingly a low-wage economy because we’re not the center of innovation in a lot of areas, we don’t invest in basic science and we don’t even bother to analyze any science that tells us anything we don’t want to hear.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)
  • SteveP

    I did not tune in simply because it was advertised as a remake. I.e. nothing new simply previously presented information (probably in HD [where available]!)

  • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

    Mark, we were having fun. :-(

  • PhilipNerianish

    Wow. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to understand something here.

    Mark, your criticism of Cosmos is that it’s anti-Catholic because it inaccurately portrays the Holy Church in a bad light for claiming the Church tortured and burned alive Giordano Bruno for disagreeing with the Church’s cosmology, when really it tortured and burned him alive for disagreeing with the Church’s theology?

    I want to get that right, so correct me if that’s wrong.

    So, if Cosmos accurately showed Bruno being tortured and burned at the stake for his non-Trinitarianism, his denial of transubstantiation, and his other heretical claims, that would show the Mother Church in a good light?

    Your denunciation of the show is based on it’s getting wrong the Church’s rationale for burning Bruno alive?

    • Le Fox

      No, the criticism is that the common narrative is that the Church was so anti-science it burned everyone who dared question it. The truth is not so, and for the most part, those who were burned did so on their own accord, not due to their theories.

      And yes, you are late to the party.

      • PhilipNerianish

        Hmmm, maybe I didn’t have my Catholic-persecution senses up, but I really didn’t get that the first episode of Cosmos at all. Other places I have sensed that narrative, just not in Cosmos.

        To me the narrative was that the Church was authoritarian and didn’t tolerate heresy or theological dissent (which, of course, was true), but non-Catholics often don’t grasp and fail to see how the Church can get worked up about non-Trinitarianism, denial of transubstantiation, scripture and liturgies in non-Latin prior to the Novus Ordo … you know, the traditional burning-alive-at-the-stake offenses. Understandably, non-Catholics don’t see much a moral distinction between torturing and killing people for their views on cosmology and torturing and killing people for their views on theology.

        Complaining about how people get the reasons for Bruno’s execution wrong just comes across as whining pedantry. Yes, yes, I know. “The evil secular narrative casts us as the enemies of science, and it’s not fair!” May as well just cry “Help! Help! We’re being oppressed!”

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          Right. Because no one, ever, nowadays, accuses the church of being anti-science.

    • chezami

      Come on. It’s not hard to figure out. If you want to have a discussion about the fact the Medievals inherited from their ancestors the belief you should torture and kill heretics, that’s fine. But this is not a program on premodern jurisprudence. It’s about science and offering a false narrative about the history of science. That’s the focus of the discussion.

      I oppose the death penalty. At the same time, I recognize that there’s this thing called “historical development” and that holding premoderns to modern standards is a childish game.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Highly disingenuous.

    If you are unable to back up your claims, then we may safely dismiss them – after all, quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  • Jared Clark

    Charming.

  • Guest

    I’ve given my answers above before, not accepting your challenges. So please see my previous instructions on what to do .

  • ivan_the_mad

    Yes, I know that you don’t know how argument works. But again, we can simply dismiss your claims. The onus lies with you to prove them.

    You may decline to supply reasoning, but that doesn’t buy you anything other than the curt dismissal warranted by the normal ground rules of rational discourse.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I merely reiterate the established method of inquiry, which provides the foundation of the scientific endeavor. Your problem is not with me, but with logic and science.

  • MarylandBill

    Arguing that the sex-abuse scandal is out of bounds on a discussion of the intellectual history of the Church hardly constitutes a cover-up. Mark, like all of us here are deeply aware of the sins that were committed by priests, both directly and in the ensuing cover-up. We also however know that it doesn’t change the faith any more than Einstein leaving his wife changes the importance of his science.

  • MarylandBill

    How did he challenge the status quo? The ambivalence toward Sagan had little to do with his scientific work and more that many in the establishment felt he better at self promotion than at science. I don’t hold that personal view, but his scientific accomplishments hardly rocked the world of science like you have just implied.


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