In our preview post we wondered what the creationists would complain about, and we speculated:
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.
We weren’t too far off, although we failed to predict the depth and intensity of the Discoveroids’ hatred for Tyson and his show. Their reaction is probably because Tyson’s Cosmos, like its predecessor hosted by Carl Sagan, is becoming a cultural symbol for the power and beauty of science.
The job of posting the attack on this episode was given to David Klinghoffer, the Discoveroids’ journalistic slasher and poo flinger. He has just written The Whitewash Continues: Cosmos Conceals the Sources of Scientific Inspiration for Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell. He says, with bold font added by us:
Last night’s Cosmos episode, “The Electric Boy,” was beautifully done, and quite moving. I got choked up more than once …
Yeah, yeah — come on, Klinghoffer, spare us the squishy stuff. Get to it! Ah, here it comes:
Do I need to tell you what Tyson leaves out of this uplifting story? Yes, of course, it’s any admission of how Faraday and Maxwell were inspired in their science by their Christian commitments. In fact, you could hardly ask for two names of great scientists whose work was more influenced by passionate religious views, including the vision that nature reflects a single unified cosmic design.
Uh, David … there are millions of people — maybe hundreds of millions — who are every bit as committed to their religion as those two guys. In fact, loads of people are far more devoted to religion, and they become clergymen instead of scientists. It’s true that Faraday and Maxwell were religious, but they chose to follow secular careers.
Aside from that, there must be more to it than mere religious faith, because those two did things that no one else had ever done. You gotta get specific, David. What was it about their religion that directly led them to their accomplishments. And please explain why, with the same bible and the same religion, none of the other religious people in all the centuries before them, or in their own generation, could do what they did?
Klinghoffer doesn’t answer us. Instead, he continues to criticize Tyson:
Faraday’s faith is mentioned at the beginning but implicitly dismissed as having anything to do with his science. Cosmos shows us his impoverished family saying grace at the dinner table and explains that he “took [their] fundamentalist Christian faith to heart. It would always remain a source of strength, comfort and humility for him.” That’s it — nothing more than a warm blanket on a cold night.
Okay, David, we’ll say it again: If religion had scientific significance in Faraday’s work, then you need to spell it out for us. What part did religion play in his scientific work?
Finally, Klinghoffer offers what we assume is the best evidence he’s got. He gives us what he claims is a quote from Ian H. Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT:
One example of the influence of [Faraday’s] theological perspective on his science is Faraday’s preoccupation with nature’s laws. ‘God has been pleased to work in his material creation by laws’, he remarked, and ‘the Creator governs his material works by definite laws resulting from the forces impressed on matter.’ … He sought the unifying laws relating the forces of the world, and was highly successful in respect of electricity, magnetism, and light.
Ooooooh. Yeah. Just like it says in the Good Book. Somewhere — but only if we ignore all the miracles that overturn those natural laws and do things the Discoveroids claim nature can’t do — like making DNA and causing the Cambrian explosion — which the Discoveroids attribute to their magical designer. But Faraday didn’t attribute magnetism to Oogity Boogity. Was he a heretic, in the same way that Darwin ignored supernatural influence in explaining the appearance of species? Klinghoffer ignores these issues. He continues:
As for Maxwell, his faith is not mentioned in this episode at all, though he and Faraday, while coming from very different social and economic backgrounds, were equally devout. As Stephen Meyer recounts in Signature in the Cell, Maxwell insisted that a verse from Psalms, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein,” be inscribed in Latin over the entrance to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University.
Okay. Let’s put Klinghoffer’s “bible inspiration hypothesis” to the test. Take Maxwell’s favorite scripture passage and then add all the brains assembled in the Discoveroids’ “think tank,” and what scientific wonders do they produce? So far, they’ve accomplished exactly nothing!
Now we’ll skip to the end:
Given that [whatever “that” is], there is no good reason for obscuring the place of religion in scientific discovery, and Tyson knows it. Clearly, the issue was at the very front of executive producer Seth MacFarlane’s mind. Tyson has gone out of his way, indeed twisting the facts, to depict faith as an obstacle to science. But when acknowledging its vital role in scientific history would be most appropriate, Cosmos invariably falls silent.
Perhaps we’re missing something. That must be it. Klinghoffer seems convinced that the great work of Faraday and Maxwell is directly attributable to their religious faith, but we don’t see the connection. So we call upon you, dear reader, to help your Curmudgeon out. Explain it for us. We shall be ever so grateful.
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