March 10, 2014

NOT a fan of #Cosmos so far

Before last night, I was looking forward to Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Now, after the first show, I'm not.

Why not?

Too much CGI graphics and heartstring-tugging music, and not enough content, for starters.

And, over-simplified, or outrightly incorrect, content, for seconds.

First, Giordano Bruno was NOT a "martyr to science." He was executed because he was a Unitarian heretic who was also a dabbler in Hermetic mysticism. Two hundred years earlier, that might have passed, but not in post-Reformation times. More here, with a bit of tongue in cheek, about how Bruno got himself killed.

And, Discover says that there was a real early scientific hero Tyson could have praised — Thomas Digges, who actually influenced Bruno (likely without credit by Bruno).

Does this mean that Neil deGrasse Tyson will next repeat Carl Sagan's perpetuation of the myth of Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria?

More on myth vs. reality of Hypatia and the Great Library here.

On oversimplification, the part about the formation of the moon was certainly that. It didn't mention one single major asteroid collision as the formation event, as is the commonly accepted theory, but seemed to imply a series of roughly equal impacts was involved.

Another issue?

What's so special about Olympic National Park for the late-show evolutionary sequence? (That's the scene with the lush greenery of tall ferns, masses of trees and m ore.)

Tyson hinted at the Cambrian explosion as part of his one-year calendar of the universe. Why not go to Canada and film that at the site of the Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park, where that's all documented.

My overall impression, other than repeating a myth that's not true? It's an impression of things being dumbed down. To be honest, I didn't learn a single new thing. And, beyond the graphics and music, for me at least, there was no "wow" factor of note.

And, this is just top observations. It's not meant to be a laundry list.

Maybe all this is the flip side, or part of the flip side, of Tyson taking his version of Cosmos to public TV. Regular readers know I'm not a blank check fan of PBS, but it does have its upsides. Another is that Tyson would have another 10 minutes each week, with a typical PBS 55-minute "hour" for the material of his show.

Anyway, I'll give it another shot next week.

Per the Library of Alexandria clip, Sagan didn't get everything right, either. That said, also, I was younger then. I knew a bit less about science and a lot less about critical thinking.

I'm hearing some skeptics say "chill" and a lot of people saying it's getting new people hooked on science. Perhaps. And, I could forgive the CGI and heartstrings music. But, oversimplification to the point of some inaccuracy is a different thing. And repeating myth as fact is a different thing entirely.

Maybe this is the bottom line:

"These are the voyages of the starship Cosmos. Its 13-episode mission is to sell new commercials, to make Fox look science friendly, to boldly go where Carl Sagan never went!"

And, related to that, the perceived omnipresence of Tyson, and the amount of hype, some of it self-driven, is probably a subconscious reason I've got a fair amount of "meh factor." I'll watch for that, too, next week. The rah-rah of many of its boosters is a similar factor. Per the Bruno myth, the show risks running the "noble science" vs. "ignorant fundamentalism" dichotomy.

And, here's the real bottom line: First episode ratings were kind of teh suck, and Fox is spinning pretty hard. 

No comments: