May 01, 2014

#Creationists, critters and #Cosmos — Fox vs. PBS

Not that I'm bothering to track down links to individual stories, but, per a number of online friends of mine, creationists, especially young-earth creationists  have been all atwitter about Neil deGrasse Tyson's remake of Cosmos on Fox. (Yes, there are old-earth creationists, too, who don't take Genesis 1-2 literally, but who don't generally accept the neo-Darwinian synthesis; one is named Pat Robertson.)

Well, Fox the broadcast network, as opposed to Faux News the stream of blather doesn't necessarily track conservative. Wouldn't shows like "The Simpsons" and "Married with Children" have gotten more wingnut blather, otherwise.

It's interesting, though, that PBS' recent three-part presentation of a film version of Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish" has apparently gotten less atwitterness.

There's a couple of possible reasons, I guess.

One is that PBS doesn't have Fox-like marketing department money, so this didn't hit the YEC world's collective dashboard, outside of professional agitators such as Discovery Institute.

Another is that, for professional or semi-professional "scientific skeptics," or "movement skeptics," or whatever handle we and they use, Shubin isn't one of "us/them" (I'm not an "us" myself) in the same way Tyson is. In short, tribalism has led such folks to notice YEC umbrage at Cosmos more than at Fish. And, to shove it back in YECers' collective faces.

In reality?

Given that OECers as well as YECers are hung up on evolution by natural selection, Fish was/is a much bigger time bomb.

It was also much better produced.

Take Cosmos week before this. The first half of the episode was pretty good, about trying to date earth and rock formations by geologic strata. Then, when it was realized that wasn't perfect, on we moved to uranium-lead radioactive dating.

However, Tyson then threw a curveball. Just before one of the many usual, long commercial breaks, he said that U-Pb chemist Clair Cameron Patterson wanted to tell his mom about his discovery and nailing down of this method before anybody else, but that he was about to land in big trouble.

I figured, after the break, that we learn his mom is a YEC who disowns him.

Not even close.

Tyson moves on to tetraethyl lead in gasoline. "Nice," but not much more. The issue of lead poisoning from our pre-1980s gasoline has been thoroughly covered in the past few years. Waste of half an hour for Tyson to do this.

Instead, he should have first given a hat tip to Marie Curie's work on radioactivity. He then could have gone to C14 dating for earlier events in our history, while noting its limitations. From there, he could have gone to strata, then uranium-lead dating, and briefly touched on other radiometric systems like potassium-argon that are used on certain rocks, and why other radiometric dating systems are used in certain cases. He could have wrapped up with an overview of how star and galaxy types, and finally, cosmic background radiation, are used to date the universe.

It would put his whole "calendar" schtick into one program and given a lead-in to this week's episode about stellar evolution and star types.

But, he didn't. That's how poorly produced Cosmos is. Not to mention cheesily produced.

Fish? Well done. One episode each on our inner fish, our inner reptile and our inner primate. Animation, when used, was of better quality and uniform design.

And, as far as something that should have both YEC and OEC folks gagging? It's Fish, more than Cosmos. With the three episodes, Shubin simple nailed how our evolutionary history, hundreds of millions of years of it, is present in our current human bodies.

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Coming soon: Cosmos and commercialism.

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