Sunday, March 23, 2014


“The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”  -Carl Sagan

noun: cosmos
Origen: Greek: Kosmos
1. The universe seen as a well-ordered whole.
"He sat staring deep into the void, reminding himself of his place in the cosmos"
2. A system of thought.
"The new gender-free intellectual cosmos"
plural noun: cosmoses
3. An ornamental plant of the daisy family with single dahlialike flowers. Native to tropical America, it is widely grown as an ornamental. -Google

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

   I knew this would happen. I predicted it.
   “Herkimer,” I said to my invisible cat, “this is really going to piss off those right-wing, creationist bastards.” And I was right.
   I usually am.
   Anyway, you may be aware that the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is currently hosting a new incarnation of the 1980 science advocacy PBS 13 part series, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” entitled “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” surprisingly on several of the Fox networks, and the National Geographic Channel. New episodes air on Sunday nights, at 9:00p.m. here in Los Angeles on Fox (Monday nights on the NGC). Ostensibly the new version was produced to introduce discoveries in science (with an emphasis on astronomy) that have occurred since “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” first aired on September 28th, 1980 (through December 21nd), such as the discovery of the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle which is associated with mass generation in other particles without which we wouldn’t be here. I don’t know where we’d be, but it wouldn’t be here.
   Other discoveries since 1980 include the detection of extrasolar planets, which are planets revolving around stars other than are own (not necessarily earth-like planets, just other planets). As of last Thursday we have discovered 1779 planets in 1102 planetary systems including 460 multiple planetary systems, which is really cool, and the second factor in the famous Drake Equation, which is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. 
   We’ve also discovered, or inferred the existence of what we lovingly call dark matter, which is a type of matter hypothesized to account for certain effects that appear to be the result of mass where no such mass can be seen, instead, the existence and properties of dark matter are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the large-scale structure of the universe. Like black holes, we know it must be there by it’s effects on mass or energy near it.
   I wish I had some right now to play with... like Silly Putty.
   If updating current scientific knowledge to the 1980 series was the reason to produce “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” then it’s already outdated, due to the recent discovery by scientists at the South Pole, using a BICEP2 telescope (pictured above) to probe the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the echo left over from the Big Bang, from which our universe emerged 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago, and which has helped to validate the theory of Inflation (or at least provided the first direct evidence for it by detecting gravitational waves), a theory which purports that space expanded for a fraction of a second in the early universe at a rate much faster than the speed of light. This discovery also supports the idea of a Multiverse, that our universe is just one of many. In the first fraction of the first second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others, which created "bubbles" of space-time that then developed into these other universes, which may have different laws of physics other than are own.
   I’ve suspected this theory of a multiverse to be true for years because the U.F.O.s have to come from somewhere.
   So, as far as “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” goes, it’s already old news.
   Yet, I recommend it to absolutely everyone.
   That includes you Uncle Dwezel! 
   I was in the navy when Dr. Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” was first broadcast, and probably goofing off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere. I first saw “Cosmos" on PBS repeats though, after I got out of the service, in a little apartment in Van Nuys, California (on Orion Ave, appropriately enough, right next to the freaking San Diego Freeway), and was instantly transfixed by it, as were many others (“Cosmos” was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television until that documentarian bastard Ken Burns came out with “The Civil War,” in 1990. Wikipedia tells us that of as of 2009 "Cosmos" was still the most widely watched PBS series in the world).
   For the life of me I can’t remember when I first became aware of Carl Sagan’s work, but I can say this for certain, it was either before I was in the navy, or after. I’m almost positive. I can tell you this as well. I either first read his books and then watched “Cosmos,” or the other way around.
   And I can say this, if I ever had what is commonly called a mentor, it was Dr. Sagan, as he was to so many others, possibly for Dr. Tyson.
   He spent a day with Carl when he was 17 years old after Carl had suspiciously intercepted Neil’s college application, and attempted to recruit him to Cornell University, where he was the director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. 
   “Interestingly, when I applied to Cornell, my application dripped of my passion for the study and research of the Universe. Somehow the admissions office brought my application to the attention of the late Dr. Sagan, and he actually took the initiative and care to contact me. He was very inspirational and a most powerful influence. Dr. Sagan was as great as the universe, an effective mentor,” Tyson writes.
   Carl taught me sceptical thinking, how to apply the scientific method to almost everything, introduced me to the Bologna Detection Kit and invisible dragons, he explained many complicated aspects of science in such a way that even I could understand them, and was one of the many individuals who taught me how to write... at least as much as I can currently demonstrate.
   “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” aired in 13 one hour segments. It was notable for its use of then ground breaking special effects. It incorporated the music of the Greek composer Vangelis, which provided the haunting theme which can be heard in the above clip. It was written by Carl and his future wife, Ann Druyan (pictured above with Neil. They married in 1981), and astrophysicist, Steven Soter. And it told the story, not of the cosmos really, for that would be impossible, but of what we knew of it at the time, and about science and it’s simple 3 part self correcting method, and about ourselves and the life that surrounds us.
   I’ve watched the series many times. I’ve read the book. I own the book. I have the series on DVD, and could watch it this very instant if I so desired. But right now I’d rather write this... maybe later.
   Here’s a quick overview:
   In Part 1 Carl introduces us to the Cosmic Calendar, as Neil did in Part 1 of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” the Cosmic Calendar representing the history of our universe from the Big Bang to the present represented within 12 months. He took us with him on his "Spaceship of the Imagination" on a trip throughout the solar system and beyond, and introduced us to Eratosthenes of Cyrene and the Library of Alexandria.
   In Part 2 he takes a look at evolution, as did Neil. He took a look at the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; how we are connected deeply to all of the living organisms on this planet, and speculated on how it got started.
   In Part 3 he discussed the pseudosciences, such as astrology compared to astronomy, and creationism vs evolution. He spoke of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler.
   In Part 4 we look at comets and asteroids, and the planet Venus, and it’s runaway greenhouse effect.
   Part 5 is devoted to the red planet Mars, our closest neighbor.
   In Part 6 he talks about the Voyager spacecraft, and their close encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, before they ventured out into interplanetary space, each carrying a special message on a golden record (at Dr. Sagan’s urging, Voyager 1 was turned around to take a last picture of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, “A Pale Blue Dot,” pictured above).
   The discovery of a star’s true nature are examined in Part 7, as well as the careers of Aristarchus of Samos, Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, Theodorus of Samos, Empedocles, and Democritus, who championed scientific inquiry, while Plato, Aristotle, and the Pythagoreans held different views.
   Space and time are the subjects of Part 8, as well as the expansion of the universe. Albert Einstein, and his theory of relatively, Leonardo da Vinci, travel near the speed of light, time travel, the origins of the Solar System, the history of life, and the immensity of space.
   Part 9 examines “The Lives of Stars,” their evolution (that’s right, stars evolve just like us. It’s crazy, I know. It’s going on everywhere!), different types, and their deaths (that’s right, stars die too).
   The origen of the universe, radio astronomy, different dimensions, those pesky multiverses, all are discussed in Part 10.
   In Part 11 intelligence is looked at (and it’s yet to be seen if human intelligence that has brought us so much... at least some of us so much, will be proven as a successful survival mechanism), as well as DNA and the human brain.
   The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), U.F.O.s, the Drake Equation, and the possibility of a repository of information about other worlds in the galaxy, a Encyclopedia Galactica is discussed in Part 12.
   And in Part 13 we ask, “Who Speaks for Earth,” the future of humanity, the lost expedition of Jean François de Galaup,  the destruction of the Aztecs by Spanish conquistadors, the still existent threat of nuclear warfare, and the threats shown by the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia, are examined in the 13th and final episode.
   In 1986 a special edition of Cosmos featuring new computer animated sequences and filmed segments with Carl was produced. 
   As of this particular moment Dr. Tyson has aired the first 2 episodes of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” and predictably, considering the times and political atmosphere, some of our conservative friends are a tad upset about it. Why? Good question. Let’s take a look shall we.
   First off, they never did like Dr. Sagan‘s quote from above because of course it doesn’t mention God as some kind of factor, or some entity that exists outside of the cosmos. Well number 1, as I’ve mentioned many, many times before, if you are going to enter a factor into a problem, situation, equation, or whatever, it’s your job to prove, unequivocally and unambiguously, that that factor exists. It’s not my job to disprove that it it exists, it’s your job to prove that it does in order to be taken into consideration in any serious discussion. As far as I know, and I may be wrong about this, the existence of God has not been empirically proven.
   Answers in Genesis's (a non-profit Christian apologetics ministry) very own astronomer, Dr.  Danny Faulkner, says this: “There is not a bit of science in that statement. When Sagan said it 34 years ago and then wrote it in his book, a lot of people were saying, “Wow! What a profound scientific statement,” but it’s actually a philosophical statement. It is denial of the supernatural, saying the only thing that exists is the physical world, the natural world. But to say that with any certainty Sagan had to get outside the physical universe and see that the physical universe is all that there is. And he would have had to do that in eternity past and in eternity future in order to say that. If he could really see that, then he would be god. It’s a very bold, metaphysical statement. It’s an assertion. But it’s not science. It’s not a scientific statement.”
   To that I say balderdash!
   I’ll go so far as to say it again... balderdash!
   I say there’s not a bit of science in Dr. Falkner’s statement! He claims the possibility of some “supernatural” something that may exist outside of the cosmos without providing a shred of proof, or evidence that it exists, or that Dr. Sagan needs to view the cosmos from outside of it to make sure it doesn’t exist before his statement can be considered valid... by him. Again, that’s not Dr. Sagan’s job. By definition nothing exists outside of the cosmos, because the cosmos is everything that there is. If there is a God, then he, she, or it, lives within the cosmos, if he, she, or it, is interacting with entities within it. Like the statement “The ends of the Earth” (there is no end of the Earth as the Earth is a sphere, and a sphere has no edge or end) “outside of the cosmos” has no meaning. 
   Second, the definition of the word “cosmos,” Google graciously provided above doesn’t mention anything about God, so why should Carl in his introduction to a television series entitled “Cosmos?”
   Beats me.
   On to the new program. 
   Answers in Genesis’s Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, an obstetrician and gynecologist, doesn’t like the Big Bang Theory. 
   I don’t know. I’ve never seen the program. But the actual Big Bang, she states, “The “observational evidence” to which Tyson refers is not, however, observations that confirm big bang cosmology but interpretations of scientific data that interpret observations within a big bang model of origins. The big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned.”
   “Interpretations of scientific data that interpret observations within a big bang model of origins,” is exactly what science is about. The prevailing line of scientific thought supports the theory of the Big Bang, like that cosmic microwave background radiation we were discussing earlier. If there is evidence that supports some other theory for the origin of the cosmos then let it be reviewed by the appropriate scientific authority, and if it is valid, then it shall have to be considered. That’s how science works. As of yet, no other satisfactory theory has been advanced. Once again, it’s not science’s job to disprove a biblical interpretation of the origen of the cosmos, it’s for biblical authorities to prove that their theory has scientific merit if it is to be considered as science, rather than a creation myth. 
   “The big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned.” What scientific observations is she referring to? And even if the Big Bang theory currently cannot account for some observation or effects, that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future, and does not invalidate the theory, a fact that she does not mention. 
   Evolution, oh yeah, let’s talk about evolution. 
   Dr. Mitchell has this to say: “Finally, Tyson, standing in a lovely setting surrounded by rocks and pools, deals with the origin of life. Abiogenesis—the origin of life from non-living elements through natural processes—is essential to naturalistic evolutionary dogma. Yet abiogenesis has never been observed in science. Moreover, abiogenesis violates the natural laws that govern everything known to chemical and biological science. Invoking blind faith in evolutionary principles, Tyson therefore says, “We still don’t know how life got started. For all we know it may have come from another part of the Milky Way. The origin of life is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of science.” Scooping up some water, he adds, ‘That’s life cooking, evolving all the biochemical recipes for its incredibly complex activities. By Nov 9th [of the cosmic calendar], life was breathing, moving, eating, responding to its environment. We owe a lot to those pioneering microbes.’
   The scientific method has led to the discoveries and technological leaps that shape our lives and our understanding of the universe. Unfortunately, when it comes to the topic of unobservable origins, mainstream scientists who believe big bang cosmology and molecules-to-man evolution think that the god-free framework they have invented is a factual reality that accurately and reliably describes a past they can never examine. They test their ideas about the past within their own concept of what the past was like, and they believe they are actually using the scientific method to make observations about the past.
   Despite the admonition to “question everything” and to “reject” ideas that “don’t pass the test,” the fact that abiogenesis violates the fundamental laws of biology is ignored. Evolutionary blind faith in a “great mystery”—such as that invoked by Bill Nye in the recent Nye-Ham Debate—trumps the scientific method. Why? Because molecules-to-man evolution must have happened for Darwinian notions of origins to be true.”
   And then goes on to tout a “Creation Museum Planetarium production, 'Created Cosmos.' In Created Cosmos we see how we as people of earth stand in relation to the immensity of God’s Creation. So seeing the enormity of what God in His power created, we get a better perspective on God’s great love for us. God made all that we have just seen, told us how and when He did it in His Word, chose to continue loving rebellious human beings, and sent Jesus Christ, the Son of God, into the this world to suffer and die to bear the sin-guilt of us all (Hebrews 2:9–10).” 
   I believe I’ve given Dr. Mitchell more license than her argument deserves. 
    “a past they can never examine.”
   That’s a bold and ill considered observation all in itself. 
   When you look up into the night sky, at the stars, dear readers, you are not looking at the present, you are looking at the distant past. The light emitted from those stars travels at 186,000 miles per second. The distance between the stars is so great that it takes 4.22 years for the light of our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, to reach the Earth. When you look at Proxima Centauri you are seeing as it was 4.22 years ago, not as it is now. Most of the stars and galaxies that appear in the night sky are much more distant, which in itself disproves (as does radioactive carbon dating of rocks and fossils, and the existence of petroleum products within the Earth) a 6,000 to 10,000 year old Earth hypothesis. The “God Created Everything with the Appearance of Age,” theory is a twidge too self-serving to be considered seriously, and again, there is no evidence.
   Evidence, evidence, evidence! As Dr. Sagan said himself, extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence. Not hearsay, not antidotal, not because it makes us feel better evidence, not because that’s the way we want it to be. We must go where the evidence takes us if we are to truthfully and courageously explore nature and it’s secrets.
   When we detect the cosmic microwave background radiation, we are detecting electromagnetic radiation reaching out to us from the very beginning of our universe,  a few moments after the Big Bang, as far back in time as we can currently see. The recent discovery of gravitational waves is further evidence of our ability to delve deeper into nature’s secrets. 
   “Yet abiogenesis has never been observed in science. Moreover, abiogenesis violates the natural laws that govern everything known to chemical and biological science...  Despite the admonition to “question everything” and to “reject” ideas that “don’t pass the test,” the fact that abiogenesis violates the fundamental laws of biology is ignored.”
   These statements are just patently false. First, just because the formation of living organisms from non-living organic compounds has not been observed does not mean that it didn’t happen. Please remember, the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years old. The first biogenic substances (materials indicating the presence of living organisms) are detected a little more than a billion years after the planet’s formation. Given the right ingredients, and a vast amount of time (which is difficult to duplicate artificially) who knows what can happen? Since life exists on the Earth, and there is no evidence of a creator, abiogenesis is the best explanation of how life originated on this planet (the Panspermia theory that life came to Earth from an extraterrestrial source is plausible, but that theory still begs the question, how did this extraterrestrial life manifest itself?). 
   And the theory of abiogenesis does not violate any laws of biology that I’m aware of. It just has not been observed in a laboratory, and probably never will be given the immense time scale involved. 
   Let’s move on. 
   From Right-Wing Watch last Friday: “The Creationist group Answers In Genesis, which was already incensed about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s revival of Cosmos, is now complaining that the show lacks scientific balance because it fails to provide airtime for evolution deniers. Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis and the Creation Museum appeared on The Janet Mefferd Show yesterday to criticize Cosmos for not providing airtime for Creationism adherents. When Mefferd asked if Cosmos will “ever give a Creationist any time,” Faulkner responded by lamenting that “Creationists aren’t even on the radar..”
   More from our old friend Dr. Faulkner: “I don’t recall seeing any interviews with people – that may yet come – but it’s based upon the narration from the host and then various types of little video clips of various things, cartoons and things like that,” he said.
   “Boy, but when you have so many scientists who simply do not accept Darwinian evolution, it seems to me that that might be something to throw in there, you know, the old, ‘some scientists say this, others disagree and think this,’ but that’s not even allowed,” she said.
   I assume the above paragraph was quote from Ms Mefferd.
   This is what Dr. Tyson had to say concerning this “equal balance” claim: “You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” Tyson told CNN. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick.”
   “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” is a series of programs concerning science. What Dr. Faulkner, the creationists, and the intelligent designers are offering is not science. They do not employ the methods of science. That’s it! I don’t know how to make it any simpler.  
   They have their own video out apparently, the “Created Cosmos,” mentioned above by Dr. Mitchell. Here’s a link to where you can purchase it from Amazon if you so desire. It’s 22 minutes long and costs between $15 and $20, plus shipping and handling. 
   I have not heard of Dr. Tyson demanding equal time on “Created Cosmos.” Was an offer made to him? I don’t know.
   If these people are so upset about “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” being aired, then let them get the Fox networks, or anyone else, to air “Created Cosmos.” 
   They may need to expand their content a tad to 13 hours or so, but I’m sure they're up to it.
   Most Sunday mornings when I turn on the television I see religious programming. I find it interesting that there is usually a little 800 number down near the bottom of my TV screen where the folks watching at home can call in to give whoever it is who’s preaching money. All of these programs have this in common, give us cash.
   Anyway, this is the forum for what the creationists offer. I don’t see an abundant outrage from the scientific community clamoring for equal time. 
   Even if one were to accept an intelligent design theory as being remotely possible, that theory poses more questions than it answers, such as, where did the designer come from? The designer has always been here you say. What do you mean by always, and if that’s true, why haven’t we always been here, but are only 6,000 to 10,000 years old? The designer works in mysterious ways you say. Why does the designer work in mysterious ways? Where is the designer now? Why doesn’t the designer manifest itself? Is the designer shy? Dead? Drunk?  Asleep at the switch? On and on and on, ad infinitum... Science does not work with theories that utilize the unproven existence of ad infinitum as their foundation. 
   Religion does though.
   It is not my intention to attempt to change anyone’s fundamental beliefs here. What I am presenting is a fact/truth based approach to looking at the cosmos based on science. Creationists tend to live in a self-reinforced multiverse that is unique to them where facts are of little consequence, unless they further their arguments (they’re already trying to assert that the discovery of gravitational waves is proof of God’s existence... because it’s so complicated and all) . I accept that.
   So creationists, you get to advocate your position every week... 52 weeks a year!
   Let science have it’s 13.

Creationists keeping crying.

Neil de Grasse Tyson is Keeping Creationist Up at Night

No comments:

Post a Comment