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13 Ways Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos Sent Creationists into Total Freakout Mode

Each of Cosmos's 13 episodes inspired a mixture of panic and outrage from the religious right.
 
 
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LOS ANGELES - Jan 13: Neil deGrasse Tyson at the FOX TCA Winter 2014 Party at The Langham Huntington Hotel onJanuary 13, 2014 in Pasadena, CA
Photo Credit: Helga Esteb

 
 
 
 

One of the most anticipated shows of 2014 was Fox’s "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," hosted by notable astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Seth McFarlane and Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan, the host of the original "Cosmos" series. The new "Cosmos" had the largest worldwide debut of a mini-series, capturing an audience of over 8 million viewers in the U.S. Controversy surrounded the show immediately, thrusting Tyson into the spotlight of religious fundamentalists and science deniers on the extreme right. How did each episode upset the religious fundamentalists and call out scientific denialism?

Episode 1: "Standing Up in the Milky Way"

Tyson wasted no time inspiring the world with the opening episode, telling a story about meeting Carl Sagan and the impact it had on his life. Introducing viewers to the cosmic calendar that would often be used throughout the show, we are given a 12-month calendar that shows the history of the cosmos, immediately setting off creationists because the calendar shows a universe that is 13.8 billion years and an earth that is 4.5 billion years old.

However, this got the least amount of attention from the naysayers, as Tyson mentions Giordano Bruno, a Catholic who dared to challenge the church's geocentric theory of the cosmos and proposed that the earth actually revolved around the sun. Bruno was jailed, charged with heresy and eventually burned at the stake. While no Christian apologists tried to condemn the church for such a killing, instead they tried to make the killing not about science and simply about speaking out against the church.

The controversy didn’t end quite there, as it was later discovered that during the only time Tyson mentions the word evolution in this episode, a Fox station in Oklahoma cut out to a promo before returning to the show, sparking outrage in the scientific community for censoring the show.

The station later claimed this was a complete accident, but many remain skeptical.

Episode 2: "Some of the Things That Molecules Do"

Evolution is a fact, and Tyson did not hold back his words or feelings when expressing this. He tore down the one argument creationists and intelligent design proponents have attempted to hold onto for years: Irreducible complexity, the idea that some functions or organs are too complex to have been built from scratch. The most notable organ used in this debate? The eye.

Creationists often see the eye as far too complex to have evolved, but Tyson tears this argument down, showing viewers how the eye developed from very simple organisms that had an eye just to see light to the very complex eyes we see today, to the flaws in the eye that show if designed, it was done so poorly.

This episode really set off groups like Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization ran by Ken Ham, the owner of the Creationist Museum, most known for his debate with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) about evolution versus creationism. However, just as in the debate with Nye, Ham and his organization could not debunk the science of the episode and instead attempted to redefine evolution and claim that scientists have “hijacked” the word and are not using it properly. They turned to Bible scripture as their only rebuttal, something that became commonplace after subsequent episodes of the show.

Episode 3: "When Knowledge Conquered Fear"

The world almost never knew the greatest works of Isaac Newton. The Royal Society was financially failing, books were not selling and new books could not be published and claims of plagiarism were running wild. Newton’s most notable work, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was basically dead before it was born.

 
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