Tom McDonald on the Dishonesty of the New “Cosmos” series

The man is right, of course.  Plus, he works in a Star Trek ref, so Shea approves.

It’s funny.  The original Cosmos perpetuated the myth of the Christian destruction of the Library at Alexandria because Sagan, as a historian, was a good science popularizer, but a lousy historian.  Apparently the creators of the reboot had that pointed out to them.  But in obedience to some unspoken convention in the pop sci subculture, they felt they needed *some* kind of “War on Science by Evil Catholics” creation myth.  So we get the new myth that Bruno (a purveyor of mystic woo woo of the highest order) was a “martyr to science” from the Evil Science-Hating Church of Science Hatred.

And, by the way, why does no one ever stop to ask where Bruno got his copy of Lucretius.  Hint:  it was not from the public library.

My hope is that having chanted its creation myth, the makers of Cosmos will get on with actually talking good science instead of crap history.

Oh.  And let’s dispose of a big fat red herring: The question at issue is not “Were medievals and Renaissance types wrong to kill people they regarded as guilty of thoughtcrime?”  If it comes to that, so are a lot of moderns, including atheists (we will glide over the unfortunate Himalaya range of 20th century corpses killed for thoughtcrime that dwarfs the piddling body count of the medievald Renaissance world).  If you want to talk about whether it was wrong to burn a quack like Bruno, I’m happy to agree with you since I reject the death penalty.

But:

1) I’m also enough of a grown up to realize you judge people by the standards of their time and culture, not by your provincial suburban conviction that you are the measure of all things; and

2) Cosmos is supposed to be a show about the history of science, not about medieval standards of justice.  So the *only* questtion that should be at issue here is whether Bruno was persecuted *for science*.  He was not.  If they want to make a show about how mean and crude medievals were in comparison to our enlightened culture that rips babies limb from limb, turns veterans out to freeze to death in the snow, incinerates entire cities, and racks up a body count in excess of 100 million human sacrifices to atheistic communism, they certainly can.  But that’s not what Cosmos is supposed to be.


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