“Cosmos” Episode 10 Tonight

Tonight’s episode of Cosmos: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is titled “The Electric Boy.”

One of the major topics discussed will be the work of Michael Faraday. There’s not much opportunity here for any mention of creationism, because Faraday is known for his research into electricity and magnetism — and chemistry too — but not biology. Aside from that, he died in 1867, less than a decade after Darwin’s Origin of Species was published, so his work was essentially pre-Darwin.

Although Faraday was deeply religious, we’re not aware of any creationist attempt to claim him as their own — at least no more than they usually do when they insist that religion inspired the work of other pre-Darwin scientists, such as Kepler, Newton, etc. They always do that for scientists who lived in Christian societies, but they never give the Olympian gods any credit for the scientific insights of the Greeks.

According to the preview at the Daily Galaxy website, “The Electric Boy”, Tyson makes a connection to evolution by explaining that “without a magnetic field the rate of mutation amongst Earth’s living organisms would increase significantly.” That should be enough to provoke a reaction from the creationists.

Even if Tyson doesn’t make too much of the possible linkage to evolution, the creationists will nevertheless complain that he deliberately promotes atheism by failing to suggest (or possibly even dismissing) the alternative “theory” that everything is attributable to supernatural causes.

If you watch the show tonight, let us know what you think. We’ll have later posts about the inevitably enraged reactions from the science deniers.

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9 responses to ““Cosmos” Episode 10 Tonight

  1. Our Curmudgeon quotes Tyson:

    “without a magnetic field the rate of mutation amongst Earth’s living organisms would increase significantly.”

    I’ll wager the Discoveroids will mine that quote for evidence of fine-tuning of our privileged planet in 5…4…3…2…

  2. docbill1351

    They already have. They pulled out Michael Denton whose 1985 book inspired the “intelligent design” movement to reiterate the vaunted Anthropic Principle of a tuned-universe. Yes, water is so intelligently designed, well, just look at that puddle, there!

  3. “we’re not aware of any creationist attempt to claim him as their own”
    Leave this to the IDiots from Seattle.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/04/mike_lemonick_time_magazines_n003484.html

    “Faraday would be appalled to see his work used as an example of science divorced from faith in God and from the inference to design in nature. He believed passionately in both.”

  4. Cosmos starts in about 25 minutes.

  5. It’s half-way over, and I don’t see anything for the creationists to complain about. At least not yet.

  6. This one’s going to be difficult for the creationists: right at the outset Tyson describes Faraday as a fundie whose science was inspired by his faith. To be fair, Tyson never returns to that point; but it’s going to be hard for creationists to claim he glossed over it.

    I might be wrong, but I don’t think any episode so far has seen so much of the narrative carried by the animation. I was surprised by how little I thought this was a bad thing.

    I did think Humphry Davy got a bad rap. If he’d wanted to, he could have submerged Faraday’s contribution entirely.

  7. I learned a lot from tonight’s episode. For one thing, I was not aware of Faraday’s experiment using polarized light to show the connection between light and electromagnetic forces.

    realthog, I agree. The animated narrative works. I wish I had had this series available while I was teaching. It’s done in a way that would definitely hold the interest of middle school students. That was a problem with the original Cosmos series by Carl Sagan, although to be fair I think Sagan had an educated, adult audience in mind.

  8. @mnb0

    The thing I find funny about “What this person would have thought” suppositions is that they always assume the person being discussed would never be willing to re-evaluate their beliefs based on what we’ve learned in the decades/centuries/sometimes millenia since they died. Sure, Newton or whoever may have been a god-botherer in his own day, but why assume that giving him access to 21st century knowledge would do nothing to tip the scales? I don’t think anyone would dispute that modern science could easily turn Newton away from his beliefs in alchemy.

    Of course to be perfectly fair we’d also have to allow the remote possibility that perhaps famous dead secularists might also re-evaluate what they thought based on 21st century theology…but not effin’ likely since none of it is really new or novel.