Miscellany

Cosmos: science propoganda

I’m not a big fan of science shows like the new Cosmos, and while listening to the most recent episode of the podcast Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project Norm captured my feelings perfectly. He explained that it feels a lot like science propaganda and that if there was a creationist version of Cosmos that just stated things as if they were fact that he would be totally unsatisfied with it. Cosmos suffers from the same failings.

(That’s my highly paraphrased version of Norm’s words, but you can hear the Cosmos discussion right at the start of the episode. The nub is about 4 minutes in.)

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

The Neil deGrasse Tyson quote above (often simplified as “facts are true whether you believe them or not”) exhibits the same problem. It sounds compelling if you’re pro-science (as I very much am) but it’s a needlessly hostile statement to science skeptics, for whom the counterargument could just as easily be that the good thing about Christianity is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

It also seems to grossly misrepresent the ‘truth’ of science, which isn’t that it has all the answers but that it’s a working method for being able to discover all the answers. Religion is a fixed truth and only changes (when it does) by looking backwards and reinterpreting itself. By contrast science looks forwards to learn whatever it can, updating the facts as it goes.

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