We have received many requests to review this new Cosmos series. These requests are very reasonable, since the series is just one more materialistic push by the secular media. So this article provides the background for this new series and its predecessor from 34 years ago. This article reviews Episode 1, showing that there is nothing in those episodes that we haven’t dealt with on our site and in our books. We note that the script frequently strays from the principles of science expounded at the beginning of Episode 1. We will review Episode 2 in a subsequent article, but probably no more, since the first two will suffice to show that there is unlikely to be much of note in the rest.
The 13-part TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), and its corresponding book Cosmos, made Carl Sagan (1934–1996) a household name. About half a billion people spread over 60 countries saw this show. Sagan had a secular Jewish background, and the word ‘sagan’ means a deputy to the Jewish High Priest.1 As an undergraduate he wrote a thesis on chemical evolution (the blind-faith position that life evolved from non-living chemicals) with the famous pioneer Harold Urey, then earned a Ph.D. in astronomy/astrophysics.
With this background, Sagan made important contributions such as predicting the very high surface temperatures of Venus and liquid hydrocarbons on Titan, and was a key adviser to NASA’s space program. Sagan also accurately and fairly refuted certain faulty science, such as the claim that Venus flew past earth from Jupiter,2 as claimed by psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky (1895–1979) in his attempt to explain the biblical miracles naturalistically.3 Sagan also rebuked those who attempted to suppress Velikovsky.
Given his abiding belief in chemical evolution, Sagan is best known among scientists for his strong belief in life chemically evolving on other planets. Hence he was a strong proponent of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), and helped design the message for hypothetical aliens on the Pioneer and Voyager space probes. However, his bizarre ideas about our brains inheriting memories about dinosaurs from our alleged reptile ancestors4 have met with embarrassed silence.
In the same book, he made his dogmatic materialism very clear:
We were not told what anatomical or physiological characteristic of his brain made him believe that his mind was nothing more than a consequence of his brain’s anatomy and physiology—compare the lampooning of such ideas by British comedian John Cleese below.
This materialism was expressed in the first line of his book Cosmos, and also expressed on the TV series, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” This was a quasi-deification of the universe—compare the common doxology (praise), “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end” (cf. Hebrews 13:8). Sagan never bothered to provide evidence; we were apparently meant to accept the pronouncement of this high priest of the religion of scientism without question.
One keen astronomy student influenced by Sagan was Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958). Sagan showed considerable kindness to Tyson when the latter was 17, inviting him to spend the day at Sagan’s home. Tyson was eventually to earn a doctorate in astrophysics, with important contributions to the use of certain supernovae to measure the vast distances in space. He is now director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Tyson has also followed the dogmatic materialism of his mentor. He was a speaker at the Beyond Belief conference in 2006, an atheopathic love-fest that included Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Krauss (compare the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia, 2010), Tyson made it clear that he thought that top scientists should be atheists:
There’s 90% of the American public believes in a personal god that responds to their prayers, and then you ask: what is that percentage for scientists? Averaged over all disciplines, it’s about 40%. And then you say: how about the elite scientists—members of the National Academy of Sciences?
Tyson has also bought into the discredited ‘conflict thesis’ between science and Christianity, as explained in this rebuttal to US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Science, Evolution and Creationism. This is despite admitting the strong Christianity of scientists like Galileo, Newton, and Huygens.
However, more recently, Tyson has adopted the strategy of atheistic groups like the NCSE and BCSE, of downplaying the obvious conflicts between Christianity and evolution. As he told fanatical antitheist Jerry Coyne8 about the non-zero belief in God among even the best scientists:
Coyne was not happy, saying:
Actually, Coyne need not have been concerned (from his misotheistic perspective). The re-boot of Cosmos began with a tribute to Sagan and atheistic dogma, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” A well known secular leftist website posted the following:
The new series was launched with much fanfare. The President of the USA himself, Barack Hussein Obama, introduced this series with glowing praise for both the reboot and the original. That Obama would adulate such atheistic agitprop should surprise only the most incorrigibly naïve, since that is consistent with his past mockery of the Bible,12 support for infanticide and gay marriage, and adoration of abortion.13
It might be more of a surprise that Cosmos # 2 is presented by Fox, which has the reputation as a ‘conservative’ station. But this is only by comparison with the overwhelmingly secular-left Mainstream Media.14 The Fox News star Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Jesus presented someone aptly described as a ‘Fox News Jesus’.
Tyson himself starts off the series by explaining that we need lots of imagination to do science, but this by itself is not enough. Science works by “strictly adhering to a simple set of rules”:
This is a typical naïve textbook account of how science works, which ignores the roles of axioms and paradigms—see If you are truly scientists. There are also meta-science issues: what underlies the working of science itself? See Why does science work at all? But even aside from these considerations, it is instructive to see whether Tyson even follows his own principles. Those who wish to watch all the episodes should keep this in mind.
The graphics for Cosmos #1 were spectacular for its time. With over three decades of improvements, it should be no surprise that Cosmos #2 is extremely good in this department.
Tyson takes the viewer on a ‘ship of the imagination’ first on a tour of our solar system. As an unstated tribute to Sagan, he pointed out that a runaway greenhouse effect on Venus that “has turned it into a kind of Hell.”15 Then we go to the lifeless red planet Mars, then the asteroid belt. I’m surprised that this section perpetuated the popular misconception that the belt is full of asteroids that a spacecraft must navigate carefully, whereas it is mostly empty space, and it would be almost impossible to hit one unless deliberately.
Then we see the four gas giant planets, with the benefit of much more up-to-date satellite pictures since Sagan’s day. First, Jupiter with its Great Red Spot, which Tyson calls a ‘hurricane’ that has lasted for centuries and could contain two or three earths. This is not quite correct: a hurricane is a cyclone with a low-pressure centre; the Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm with a high-pressure centre, so spins in the opposite direction.
Then there is Saturn, the planet with rings younger than evolutionists want; Uranus tipped on its side and doesn’t radiate nett energy unlike the other gas giants, and Neptune that should not exist according to evolutionary models.
Past Neptune, the outer planet, are “tens of thousands of frozen worlds, and Pluto is one of them”. Indeed, Pluto is no longer classified as a planet but as dwarf planet 134340 Pluto, one of many TNOs (Trans Neptunian Objects). When so many TNOs were discovered, some nearly as large as Pluto, and one even larger (Eris), were discovered, astronomers had a choice: call them all planets, or demote Pluto from its planet classification. The demotion was clearly the right choice.16
Then we see a spherical Oort comet cloud that encloses the solar system. However, this was proposed mainly to explain why comets haven’t evaporated over the alleged billions of years—see Comets—portents of doom or indicators of youth?. However, this Oort cloud has many scientific problems, and Tyson admits that it has not been and indeed cannot be seen.
As we go outside the solar system, Tyson talks about rogue planets, planets not orbiting any stars. However, their existence is rather speculative, since unlike other extrasolar planets, we can’t detect them from wobbles or eclipsing of a parent star by definition. But a team of French astronomers might have detected one 100 light years (ly) from earth.17 Tyson then speculates about life on rogue planets with liquid oceans—and I wondered if it was the same person who just said, “Follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
Tyson explained that we are 30,000 ly from the centre of the Milky Way. Actually this is an ideal radius called the co-rotation radius. Only here does a star’s orbital speed match that of the spiral arms—otherwise the sun would cross the arms too often and be exposed to supernovae—see The sun: our special star.
After this, Tyson seriously proposes the idea of multiverses as if it were settled science—that our universe is just “one tiny bubble in an infinite ocean of universes” (so our cosmos is not all that is, after all?). But there is not only no evidence, there could be no evidence in principle. Rather, it is a tacit admission that our universe is finely tuned for life, which is hard to imagine occurring by chance if ours is the only universe (“What about a Creator?” did you ask? Don’t you religious fanatics know that a Designer is not scientific, even if the evidence supports it? We must have an a priori commitment to materialism, because we can’t allow a divine foot in the door!). But if we were only one of uncountably many universes, then it just happens that ours has the right fine-tuning—if it didn’t, then we wouldn’t be here to observe it, as many secular cosmogonists answer.18 And if you asked a survivor of the Black Death how he survived, then he of course would reply, “If I hadn’t survived, then I wouldn’t be talking to you.” Maybe Sagan’s Cosmos book didn’t happen by design either—we are just in the lucky universe with the infinitesimally small probability of the book arising by monkeys typing on typewriters. For more, see my discussion of multiverses in a rebuttal to Stephen Hawking, and Multiverse theory—unknown science or illogical raison d’être? New Scientist columnist falls on her own sword over multiverse theory.
Indeed, as Tyson says, the world is minuscule compared to the vast universe. But then he claims, “A mere four centuries ago, our tiny world was oblivious to the rest of the cosmos.” This is historical nonsense. As C.S. Lewis was fond of pointing out, the medieval theologians were well aware that compared to the vastness of the heavens, the earth was but a point in space. He documented this from the standard astronomy textbook of the Middle Ages, the Almagest by Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 90–c. AD 168):
But somehow modern antitheists like Tyson and Hawking think this is news, and regard it as a profound disproof of God, as if God needed a small universe to exist. But if the universe were small, then these same critics would probably complain, ‘If God is so great, then why didn’t He create anything else?’20
Even earlier, King David was similarly aware of our tininess compared with the universe’s vastness, and likewise came to a different conclusion from modern atheists in Psalm 8:3–5:
Tyson claimed that back in 1599, everyone knew that everything revolved around the earth. Supposedly, the only exception was Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), “who was in prison.” However, ideas of the earth moving (geokineticism) were around long before him, held by people in good standing with the Church. Tyson later mentions Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), yet he had published his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) before Bruno was born. Copernicus was also a canon of the church.21
And even before Copernicus was born, Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) had recognized that wherever an observer stands, everything else appears to be in motion around the observer. Thus we on the earth perceive motion around an immobile earth, but the same would be true of observers on the sun or any other heavenly body. Yet he was a Cardinal of the Church in good enough standing to be appointed became vicar general in the Papal States. See discussion in Refuting absolute geocentrism: Biblical phenomenological language. Naturally, Tyson doesn’t mention him, although Bruno admired Nicholas so much that he called him “the divine Cusanus”.
Tyson claims that Luther regarded geokineticism as a scandalous affront to Scripture. However Luther’s only recorded comment on the issues is a single off-hand remark (hardly a concerted campaign), during a ‘table talk’ in 1539 (four years before the publication of Copernicus’ book). The Table Talk was based on notes taken by Luther’s students, which were later compiled and published in 1566—twenty years after Luther’s death. Luther actually said:
Note the parts I have italicized. These show that a major reason for Luther’s objection was Copernicus’ challenging the establishment and common sense for its own sake (as Luther saw it). At the time (as opposed to 20-20 hindsight), there was no hard evidence for geokineticism. And Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), a devout Lutheran, saw no conflict between geokineticism and Lutheran theology. He showed how Joshua 10:12 could be explained as phenomenological language, using Luther’s own principles of biblical interpretation! See also Joshua’s long day: Did it really happen—and how?
Even before Copernicus, in the late Middle Ages, several clergy-scientists had safely proposed geokinetic ideas. E.g. the French priest, scientist John Buridan (c. 1300– after 1358), also a notable logician who solved various versions of the ‘Liar Paradox’,22,23 seriously considered geokinetic ideas. And one reason was precisely the tininess of the earth in relation to the rest of the universe that Tyson implied was a modern discovery. From this, Buridan proposed that it might be more elegant if the tiny earth rotated rather than the vast cosmos revolved around it. Ph.D. historian of science James Hannam says in his book God’s Philosophers:
Buridan also refuted scientific objections, such as Ptolemy’s claim that a moving earth would produce a massive wind. The answer lay in Buridan’s concept of impetus, essentially the same as the modern concept of momentum, and anticipating Galileo’s idea of ‘inertia’ by about three centuries. That is, the earth would impart an impetus to the air, which would move along with it, so we would not notice it. Buridan compared it with being on a smoothly moving river boat: the boat shares its motion with everything on it, so passengers can forget they are moving. And if they looked outside at an anchored boat, they could easily think that the other boat was the one moving.
Buridan’s student Nicole Oresme (c. 1320–1382), a bishop, mathematician, and physicist, refined this further. He argued that the earth would impart an impetus to everything on it—air, water, and projectiles—so they would share the earth’s rotation as well. Oresme also realized that many of the biblical passages that were later hijacked to support dogmatic geocentrism were equivocal. That is, they used the earth as a convenient reference frame because it reflected everyday perception, that is, “by saying that this passage conforms to the normal use of popular speech just as it does in many other places … which are not to be taken literally.” 26 However, he came across Psalm 93:1 and concluded, “everyone maintains, and I think myself, that the heavens do move and not the earth.” Hannam says:
Indeed, the same Hebrew word for ‘moved’ (מוֹט môt) is used in Psalm 16:8, “I shall not be moved.” Surely, even Tyson wouldn’t accuse the Bible of teaching that the Psalmist was rooted to one spot in a straitjacket! So the word actually means ‘falter’.
Back to Bruno in 1599. First, note that this is not in the Middle Ages, but well into the Renaissance. The usual story is that was a ‘rebirth’ out of the ‘dark ages’, but in reality, the Renaissance was a reactionary step that put aside many of the scientific and logical advances of the Middle Ages and instead romanticized ancient Greece and Rome. Yet these civilizations loved slavery, which was opposed by the Church of the Middle Ages (see Anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce: Christian hero). For that matter, Slavery was abolished by Christians, not the “Enlightenment”.
But Bruno’s time period explains why, as Tyson said, Bruno followed Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC), who was no scientist but was a Roman poet and philosopher. He was an advocate of Epicureanism, an early evolutionary philosophy that taught that everything was the result of chance collisions of particles (atoma or ‘atoms’). This was opposed by the Roman writer, orator and statesman, Cicero (106–43 BC) and by the Apostle Paul (see A brief history of design).
The Renaissance also saw a resurgence in ceremonial magic. A major variety of this Renaissance magic was Hermeticism, based on writings attributed to a mythical figure called Hermes Trismegistus.27 The writings advocated an esoteric monotheism with reincarnation, and taught that man could control nature with rituals (theurgy), alchemy, and astrology.
Bruno was heavily influenced by Hermetic magic. He was also a heretic, denying the Trinity; and the divinity, Incarnation, and virginal conception of Christ. So while Tyson whinges that Bruno was rejected by the Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans, it was for his heresy, not his geokineticism. Also, Tyson failed to mention Bruno’s magical views; he just admitted that Bruno was not a scientist and just made “a lucky guess”.
A revisionist series on science and religion would not be complete without a falsified account of a scientist persecuted for his faith. For Tyson, the only one he could find was Bruno. It’s notable that the Australian atheist and skeptic Tim O’Neill is scathing about such arguments—but then he knows history and really does “follow the evidence where it leads” in this case. Although he was favorably reviewing Hannam’s book God’s Philosophers (see above), he could just as easily have been reviewing this section of Tyson’s Cosmos:
O’Neill mentions Hypatia (AD 350–370—425), who was the martyr presented in Sagan’s version of Cosmos. Sagan called her “the last scientist” of her time, and claimed:
Actually, Hypatia was a neo-Platonist philosopher who believed in a perfect primeval infinite Source of Being called “the One” or “the Good”, and some Christians adapted this to the God of the Bible. She was even the tutor to Synesius, who became Bishop of Cyrene, and wrote glowing letters to her as “mother, sister, teacher, and withal benefactress, and whatsoever is honoured in name and deed”, and “my most revered teacher”.30 Cyril’s main political opponent, Orestes, was also a Christian. Another Christian, the historian Socrates Scholaticus also wrote very favorably:
Then he explains the real reason for her death (when she was actually over 60, not the young woman portrayed in Agora): nothing to do with her teachings, but vicious partisan politics, that engulfed even someone as admired as her:
Socrates was totally appalled, pointing out that this murder was completely contrary to Christian teachings (cf. ‘Christian’ vs evolutionary atrocities):
Tyson laments that Bruno “lived in a time where there was no such thing as separation of Church and State.” Actually, we still do today! This phrase is not mentioned in the US Constitution, and circuit judge Richard Suhrheinrich lambasted some atheistic litigants in ACLU vs Mercer County (KY, 2005):
Thomas Jefferson certainly cited a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, which in the context of the day was to protect the Church from the State (see discussion in Erring on the side of censorship (Brittany McComb’s address cut short): US government schools are becoming Christ-free zones). Similarly, the First Amendment to the US Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …” Note, this is a directive towards Congress not churches; it was not meant to marginalize the Church, but to marginalize the Federal Government!
The problem with Bruno is a powerful state getting involved in matters of religion—it was the state that sentenced Bruno to burning at the stake. The First Amendment, as originally understood, was meant to prevent such things.
Tyson goes on: “Expressing an idea that didn’t conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble.” But then, try questioning goo-to-you evolution, and see what happens to dissenters at secular schools and universities!
Tyson naturally defends the big bang dogma, although many secular scientists disagree—see Secular scientists blast the big bang: What now for naïve apologetics? He skimps on alleged evidence like the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, despite the lack of predicted shadows and the logical fallacy of verified predictions (see The Big Bang fails another test and Nobel Prize for alleged big bang proof).
Then he claims that stars “condense like raindrops” from the gas clouds produced. But there are identically qualified astrophysicists who disagree, e.g.:
The above eminent astrophysicist is also, by an uncanny coincidence, named Neil deGrasse Tyson.34
The big bang is supposed to have generated only hydrogen and helium. But there is a problem with the very high stability of the helium-4 nucleus, 4He.35 It means that any nucleus with mass number 5 will immediately fracture into 4He plus a proton or neutron (5He has a half life of only 7.6×10−22 seconds). There is another barrier at 8: e.g. 8Be very quickly splits into two 4He with a half life of 6.7×10−17 seconds.
Instead, heavier elements, which astronomers call ‘metals’, are thought to have formed by nuclear fusion in star cores (nucleosynthesis) But for elements above iron, fusion absorbs rather than releases energy. So chemical evolutionary theories of elements propose that they are formed by explosions of massive stars that temporarily outshine galaxies: supernovae. So no wonder Tyson claims, “we are made of star-stuff”, but see instead The elements of the universe point to creation: Introduction to a critique of nucleosynthesis theory.
Tyson, the Cosmos version anyway, then explains how stars formed galaxies. However, such enormous-scale structures are a problem for evolutionists. Very distant objects, by big bang reasoning, should have formed not long after the alleged bang. However, some of these discovered superstructures, including the Francis Filament of galaxies,36 should have taken far longer to form by naturalistic means.37,38 Dr Karl Glazebrook, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, admitted:
Tyson claimed that repeated collisions produced a glowing ball of debris to form earth. But who said they had to melt and stick? The evidence points to them rebounding off each other:
Tyson also explains his ideas for origin of our moon. Interestingly, judging by the graphics, he seems to advocate a co-accretion theory that the moon formed along with the earth. The dominant theory is the ‘giant impact’, by an object called ‘Theia’, two or three times the mass of the planet Mars. But this “would produce an earth-moon system with twice as much angular momentum as they actually have.”42Also, the impactor would be expected to have a different composition from the earth’s, resulting in a different chemical composition for the moon. However, high-precision analysis of titanium content of the earth and moon shows an almost identical composition of this element,43 “more similar than existing models permit.” 44
This might explain why Tyson shows the accretion theory. But as stated above, objects would rebound rather than coalesce. Also, it has the opposite chemical problem of the impact theory. That is, the impact would predict compositions more different than are measured, but the accretion model predicts that they would be more similar than are measured. That’s why it was no longer the dominant model, e.g. it had great trouble “explaining why the abundance of iron in the Earth and the Moon is so different.” 45,46
Tyson also said that the moon was 10 times closer when it formed, and tidal forces made the moon’s orbit recede. The recession would have been much stronger at the beginning, since as Tyson says, ocean tides were 1,000 times higher (indeed, tidal forces follow an inverse cube law with distance). Actually, lunar recession is a strong argument against the claimed 4.6-billion–year age of the earth-moon system—see The moon: the light that rules the night and the more technical The moon’s recession and age, and a refutation of an attempt to counter this argument by coral growth layers.
Tyson presents his dogmatic long-age view by comparing the alleged 13.8-billion–year age of the universe to 1 calendar year. On this scale, he explains, humans evolved on the last hour of the last day. However, this graphically shows why evolution and billions of years directly contradicts Christ: He explicitly said that humans were made male and female “from the beginning of creation” , not near the end of billions of years. This important argument is explained in Jesus on the age of the earth: Jesus believed in a young world, but leading theistic evolutionists say He is wrong.
To finish off this review, I’ll mention some of the highlights of Tyson’s calendar:
Jan 1: big bang
Aug 31: sun born
Sept 21: life began, 3.5 Ga. Tyson admits, “We still don’t know how life got started.” But then he proposes the unscientific panspermia idea that just puts the problem back a step: “For all we know, it could have come from another part of the Milky Way. The origin of life is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science.” He also doesn’t explain how such life could have avoided being burned in our atmosphere.
Then we see bubbling water as Tyson narrates: “That’s life cooking. Evolving all the biochemical recipes for its incredibly complex activities.” Don’t expect him to deal with the unsuperable chemical problems (see Origin of life: An explanation of what is needed for abiogenesis).
Nov 9: life was breathing, moving—and it invented sex (not that evolutionists have a clue how).
Dec 17: “Tiktaalik was one of the first animals to venture on land.” We see an animated Tiktaalik crawl out of water towards him, with far more developed legs than even evolutionists believe (see Tiktaalik roseae—a fishy ‘missing link’. Also, evolutionists themselves believe that footprints occurred earlier on this cosmic calendar than Tiktaalik, a serious problem for evolution (see Is the famous fish-fossil finished? Tiktaalik, the transitional star, faces an evolutionary dead-end).
Tyson claimed that around the same time, about 300 million years (Ma) ago, forests supposedly sank and turned into coal, although there is no trace of any soil in coal deposits. Rather, there are huge broken tree trunks at different orientations. The evidence points to the material being transported by huge amounts of water—just as Noah’s Flood would provide. See Coal: memorial to the Flood.
Dec 28: First flower bloomed.
Dec 30, 6:24 am: the graphics show a big meteorite and a few smaller ones flying through the sky to crash. This is the alleged cause of the dinosaur extinction, which evolutionists date to the K–Pg boundary at 65 Ma. However, if dinosaurs were that old, then we would not expect to see blood vessels and blood cells, proteins, DNA, and 14C in dinosaur bones, but we do (see Double-decade dinosaur disquiet; see also Dinosaur soft tissue: In seeming desperation, evolutionists turn to iron to preserve the idea of millions of years).
Tyson narrates: “For more than 100 million years, the dinosaurs were lords of the earth, while our ancestors, small mammals, scurried fearfully under foot.” Supposedly the impactors freed mammals from dino domination. But they actually needed no help: some mammals ate some dinosaurs, and see also Dinosaur demise did not jump start mammal evolution.
11:59 46 sec: Tyson: “All of recorded history occupies the last 14 seconds.” He tells us that Moses was born 7 seconds ago, and Jesus 5 seconds ago.
Cosmos certainly has spectacular graphics, and a friendly presenter. However, rank materialism, no matter how spectacularly presented, is still rank materialism. The above analysis should show why there is nothing in Tyson’s evolutionary science or revisionist history that should stump any informed Christian.