Cosmos’s intention is to educate and revive interest in science among a new generation of potential young scientists and critical thinkers to help solve current and potential future problems. However, the show and its host, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, has been criticized and passionately blamed for misinterpreting one of the most widely read books: The Bible. When Neil deGrasse Tyson recently mentioned that the Bible isn’t a science book and that people should not consider it to be science, creationist Ray Comfort told him off that evolution, and among many things, is not scientific. The New Zealand evangelist and minister mentioned on his show last week in The Comfort Zone that Tyson should not have said that because he is not a theologian.
Comfort’s definition of science is “knowledge,” in which science can have different kinds of knowledge. “When you say the Bible is not a science book, you’re saying it’s not a knowledge book? It tells us how God created the Earth!” he said. Comfort argued that the Bible provides all the foundations of the world’s life forms, which is “testable and observable.” Evolution, however, given the scope of time that spans in the millions and billions of years, is not observable or testable. He added that the Bible contains “unchanging scientific facts” that can be relied on to explain natural phenomenons. “It’s God’s word.”
The term “science” isn’t just about knowledge, and facts can change with new evidence or ideas. Science is a systematic way to observe, test, and interpret the data from the test in pursuit of new or better understanding. Dr. Harriet Hall, M.D., who is one of the editors of Science-Based Medicine, stated that science is the only way that people don’t fool themselves and to correct human “errors of perception and of attribution.” It is common for people to misinterpret information and automatically conclude things to have a causation and correlation effect.
Tyson had not made any replies to Comfort’s comments about evolution or any related scientific theories and facts. If he did, Tyson may point out that evolution is indeed scientific. According to evolutionary biologists at University California of Berkeley, evolution can be observed and tested. Fossil records provide snapshots and clues to how species change and adapt over eons. Observing and analyzing how generations of fruit flies and bacteria change and adapt provide a glimpse of what evolution may be like on a macro scale. Even studying the behaviors and structures of modern animals and plants provide clues to how they came to be, such as why do cheetahs and northern elephant seals have higher rates of genetic defects than other species of their genus. Even though evolution cannot be tested or observed in a lab, the method of deduction and analysis is no different from how astronomers study the stars and galaxies. They cannot measure the Milky Way’s diameter with a tape measure, but there are techniques to estimate the distance.
If this doesn’t convince Comfort or anyone else who doubts the theory of evolution may have their vision narrowed by their confirmation bias. Rather than basing a conclusion from evidence and rational thinking, people who confront a problem with confirmation bias may ignore facts that contradict their opinions and beliefs and accept facts and evidence that support them. Creationists’ viewpoint and explanation on how the world works may be just that. For example, when discussing the origin of the Earth, creationists do not consider human cultures, such as the Australian aborigines, Native Americans, and the African bushmen, that have existed on the planet way beyond their proposed 6,000-year-old Earth. If the Earth is indeed that old, when in their timeline did these people existed?
Societies had evolved from relying on mythology to using the scientific method to explain natural phenomenons. Whether it is about evolution of life or the origin of the stars, Tyson may not have an uphill struggle to educate the public about science. Perhaps it is better to let creationism stay in the comfort zone.
Opinion by Nick Ng