Neil deGrasse Tyson, the brilliant man behind the re-imagined Carl Sagan television series Cosmos, has created a lot of controversy lately. Young earth creationists are angry at deGrasse Tyson and the show because creationists believe that the earth is about six thousand years old; an idea that is directly contradicted by easily observable scientific evidence. However, while some are very angry with deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos, the show can actually strengthen religion and faith for others.
On last Sunday’s episode of Cosmos, deGrasse Tyson disproved creationism by showing how scientists can observe the speed of light traveling from far away galaxies. They know that light takes a certain amount of time to arrive and be seen, therefore, the light that has traveled from faraway places in space and is observable to people on Earth has taken a lot more than 6 thousand years to arrive. What creationists say is akin to saying someone drove 1,000 miles in a car and arrived at his or her destination in five minutes. Obviously, we know that is impossible. We know that it takes a lot longer than five minutes to go 1,000 miles in a car. Similarly, we know that light from some galaxies takes a lot longer than 6,000 years to arrive.
While creationists, fundamentalist Christians, some Orthodox Jews, Muslim extremists and a variety of other religious people are upset with Cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson, others say the show has actually done much to strengthen their faith in God and religion. Rabbi Michael Knopf has written a moving essay entitled Science and religion need each other. Would Cosmos’ Neil deGrasse Tyson agree? In his article, he says that belief in the origins of the universe can deepen the personal relationship many feel they have with God. He explains:
As a person of faith, I appreciate Cosmos because, while it describes the sometimes-tense historical relationship between religion and science, it refuses to argue that this clash is inevitable… This relationship of integration also allows science and religion to be at their best. For example, Cosmos reminds us that the universe and all it contains originated in the Big Bang. To me, this teaching affirms the Jewish belief that if God is one, there is no other God and thus if God created the cosmos, all existence is ultimately one.
Another essay by Christian author Edward T. Bowser is entitled Fox’s ‘Cosmos’ isn’t an affront to religion, it’s divine confirmation of faith. In this article, Bowser describes how his love of the cosmos and his thirst for scientific knowledge has led him to a fuller love of God and religion. He says that God’s time is vastly different from human time, and therefore, the claim made in the Bible that God created the earth in one week should not equate to the time we measure in human minutes. With this explanation, Bowser’s view of Neil deGrasse Tyson and the show Cosmos strengthens his belief in religion, and his personal faith. In his interpretation of the Old Testament, there is no conflict between the Bible and scientific proof for the origins of the universe. “I don’t understand the need to draw battle lines between science and religion. In fact, the more I learn about science, the more in awe I am of God’s work,” he writes.
Of course, there are still many for whom personal faith and belief in religion is shaken by Neil deGrasse Tyson and the show Cosmos, but those who are secure in their faith can find ways to reconcile Biblical teaching with modern scientific evidence. Additionally, the line between an atheist’s view of science and a religious person’s view of science does not have to be in conflict after the moment of the Big Bang. Atheists and religious people who accept science only disagree on one detail: what happened right before the Big Bang. Religious people who accept scientific evidence believe that God created the Big Bang; atheists believe in Stephen Hawking’s view, which is that “the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
However, nearly everyone who accepts science; religious and non-religious alike, accepts the Big Bang, evolution and the fact that the universe is billions of years old. Therefore, there is no reason for religious people to be in conflict with atheists, since the two groups agree on nearly everything except the detail of exactly how the Big Bang occurred.
Furthermore, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos strengthen religion and faith for some, while strengthening atheistic thinking for others. If creationists would get on board with modern scientific proof and evidence, they might find, like the two authors cited above, that they can have a deeper and even more profound relationship with God. They might even be able to narrow the ages-old chasm between science and religion; because at the end of the day, isn’t religion all about unity, love and acceptance anyway?
Opinion By: Rebecca Savastio