Neil Degrasse Tyson Wants to Be Conservatives and Religions Best Friend

neil degrasse tysonCosmos premiered on Fox News amidst rave reviews, controversy, and irony, as well as some palpable nerd excitement for those who idolize Neil Degrasse Tyson, the popular astrophysicist. Within this mish-mash of differing reactions, however, there is a serious problem with how supporters and opponents are approaching the new show. In reality, Neil Degrasse Tyson, who is an atheist himself, should really be conservatives and religious believers’ best friend and he would be, if those people were doing something more than knee-jerking based on their chosen ideology.

To see this, one need only look at the first episode of Tyson’s rebooted Cosmos. This episode spends most of its time telling the story of the Christian monk Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for believing and teaching that the universe was much, much bigger than just our tiny little galaxy. The truly memorable quote from this story is from Bruno, who tells his detractors in the Roman Catholic church that their God is “too small.”

Most conservative religious people were immediately up-in-arms about this, taking to Twitter and other social media to combat the idea that the church was somehow evil for killing Bruno for heresy. Some claimed that the entire story was edited in such a way to make science look good and the church look bad. Still others complained and have kept on complaining that the show didn’t give a fair hearing to Creationist and Intelligent Design views. With each successive episode, Cosmos just makes these shrill protestors even more frenzied.

This is a truly unfortunate situation for conservatives because science may have just handed them their best, non-religious argument for the existence of God, a scientific argument, in fact. This argument is found in the nature of the Big Bang itself. The discovery of what are being called ripples in the fabric of the universe provide evidence for the idea that the universe, matter, and all life within it had a specific start date. Basically, instead of a random collection of matter that just happened to bump into each other in the right way to create a universe with the capability of supporting life, everything started from a random point that went from no existence at all to existence. As many conservatives are now arguing, if there was a beginning there had to be something or someone to make it begin and, they believe, that beginner is God.

This is a nice and tidy argument for the existence of God that can even appeal to scientists because it is based on scientific evidence. Whether or not it actually proves a creator is a whole other story, but for now it is conservatives best hope for supporting their views in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are wrong. Conservatives should be crowing right now, should be shouting on every rooftop and biased cable news channel that they finally have a rational, science-backed reason to believe in Creationism and, therefore, to teach it in an actual science class.

Obviously, no one is doing that. Instead, most conservatives seem focused on tearing down Tyson’s scientific show and proving time after ludicrous time that they disagree with it for very little scientific reason at all. This brings us back to Cosmos’ first personality story about Giordano Bruno. The conservative God is still “too small” because conservatives still insist on attacking every new scientific idea that comes about instead of considering it at all. They are recreating the situation Bruno was in back in the sixteenth century, except they can’t burn Neil Degrasse Tyson at the stake anymore because murder is illegal.

If conservatives actually stopped for a moment and tried to find common ground with Tyson and Cosmos, to let him be their best friend, it might look something like this:

The first episode of Cosmos provides a framework with which to watch all the other episodes – a framework in which faith, religion, and science all work in tandem to create a complete view of the universe. Science helps people see the imminent grandeur, the unimaginable scale of the finite universe which reflects the grandeur and infinite qualities of the God which faith and religion believe in. Thus, when watching any of the amazing graphics and special effects Tyson has at his disposal, people will be able to see a correlation between science and faith in God.

In this case, science actually enhances people’s belief in God by refusing to confine him to ideas that we understand. Because science is more about asking questions and examining what answers might be found, it leaves space for the unanswerable contained in an omnipotent creator-God. Faith and science, then, both end up taking the same path toward knowledge by asking a myriad of questions leading up to greater, yet still unsure knowledge. After all, Tyson admits that there are still things he doesn’t know that science cannot explain. And in religion, the inability of finite man to understand infinite God is dogma. Science and religion, then, share a common purpose which is to question what no one can ultimately completely understand.

This is what it might look like if conservatives tried to find common ground with the science Tyson presents so articulately in Cosmos. It is certainly possible to do, so that begs the question, why aren’t they doing it? The answer to this lies, not coincidentally, in Texas, which has long been a conservative bastion for Creationist ideas.

In a race for state senate, Don Huffines beat the incumbent Republican for the Republican nomination and is expected to win the seat in the November mid-term elections. In an interview with a local news station, he was asked about his educational ideas, including creationism in schools which has always been a hot topic in Texas. Huffines’ response was unequivocal support for teaching creationism in schools, especially in science classes where it would be taught right alongside evolution.

This is the reason why conservatives cannot take a more thoughtful approach to Tyson or to Cosmos. They don’t object based on scientific grounds or actual evidence or any other reasonable idea, barring straight out religious conviction. Instead, conservatives want to win primaries, they want to appeal to the ideologues in their party who will hopefully vote them in to office, and they can’t do that unless they say the things those ideologues want them to say. Speaking for a more moderate approach to evolution is political suicide and ideologically forbidden.

It’s a real shame that conservatives aren’t allowed to be friends with Neil Degrasse Tyson, or watch Cosmos with pure enjoyment unsullied by ideological frenzy, or even dissent from the majority opinion like Giordano Bruno did. They are so wrapped up in their conservative and religious ideologies that no good response for them is possible. It’s too bad, because Tyson is really trying to be their best friend if they’d only let him.

Opinion By Lydia Webb


The Wire


The Raw Story



12 Responses to "Neil Degrasse Tyson Wants to Be Conservatives and Religions Best Friend"

  1. Kat   April 18, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    A lot of the commenters here need to quit spewing hate against christianity and be tolerant of other viewpoints. I can’t speak for all of us, but many of us are tolerant of other beliefs and lifestyles. We just don’t get on the news for it like the hateful crazies do.

  2. Kat   April 18, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I am a Christian who also has a fascination with science. In my opinion, how can something so complex and beautiful be the product of anything but intelligent design?

    I am on episode 3 of Cosmos and so far I feel it has been quite respectful to all religions. And it should be. The more scientists keep bashing the thing that is most important to so many people, the less likely they will want to hear it. That does a disservice to our society because we need people to be educated about science.

    As far as the Bruno story, its not making the christian faith look bad, it is showing the very real fact that some people within religious societies are not holding up the commandments their faith is based on. “Thou shalt not kill.” There are crazies in every group. Thats not to say every religious person is evil or closed minded.

    I believe in a loving god, i believe in an incredible universe, and i believe in trying to find common ground.

    • S.K. Williams   April 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      You just illustrated why the Bruno segment is so resisted. You say that it illustrates the very real fact that some in Religious Communities do not live up to the teachings of their Religion, but how does the Bruno segment do that when anyone who checks the facts regarding Bruno will discover that Cosmos lied about him?

      The problem with the Bruno Segment is that the Story as presented in Cosmos about Bruno is nort True. he was not executed for his Cosmological beliefs that the Earth went roudn the Sun or that the Sun was just another Star or even the ideas that life existed on other worlds, but for denial of the Trinity, of the Divinity of Christ, or the Real presence of Christ int he Eucharist, and other such events.

      Further, the “Forbidden book” he read, Lucricious, was not forbidden and was discussed openly by academics, and he was not some gentle dreamer but a snide, cynical, sarcastic fellow who made many enemies with his sharp tounge.

      The problem with the Bruno segment is that it’s simply not True, and if Cosmos is willign to lie to us from Episode One, why shoudl I trust any subsequent episodes? That question si waht a lot of us asked.

  3. SK Williams   April 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I was one of those people who critisised Cosmos for its depictions of Bruno. I didn’t do this as a Conservative Christian who hates Evolution or because it villified the Chruch snd shoudl have said it wss good to kill for Heresy, but simply becsue the sory of Bruno as tld by Tyson was a complete Lie. Bruno was no t killed for his Cosmological Views but for his rather Pagan and Mystical beelifs, such a the worhsip of Thoth, an Egyptian god, and he den ial of the Divinity of Christ, the Virginit of Mary, the Real presence of christ in the Eucharist, and other suchmatters. He was also not the poor man with no jobs, and often lost his jobs due to his own hioosility and snide sarcasm, not his Religious beleifs.

    This show did not depict the Real Giordano Bruno, but a fitional maryr for Scince, and that is to me inexcusable, to lie like that.

  4. merlynleroy   March 24, 2014 at 6:28 am

    “Basically, instead of a random collection of matter that just happened to bump into each other in the right way to create a universe with the capability of supporting life, everything started from a random point that went from no existence at all to existence.”

    This is such a terrible description that I can conclude the author has no real grasp of cosmology.

  5. Ken PalmerKen   March 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

    I didn’t know only conservatives believe in God. Who would have thought! Bad jpurnalism to say the least.

  6. raisethequestion   March 24, 2014 at 12:02 am

    You used the phrase “begs the question” incorrectly.

  7. Kathy Webb   March 23, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Rusty Yates, how much time have you spent studying the Bible? Just wondered how much weight I should give your statement, “The bible is not true.” I think ‘science’ is as afraid of ‘faith’ as faith is of science. I am a woman of faith and science doesn’t scare me. There is nothing in science that threatens my faith… my God isn’t too small.

  8. Rocky Balboa   March 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Kudos to Tyson and series creator Ann Druyan for taking the gloves off and telling it like it is…that is the only defensible approach in the long run.

  9. jim buckley   March 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    tyson should have taken his expertise to another is a joke as are most of their viewers.these people don’t follow any logic.they are a destructive force..very sad.

  10. Rusty Yates   March 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    “The universe was created in six days.” is completely incompatible with big bang theory no matter how you stretch it.

    On the most fundamental level the bible is either true or it is not. Hundreds no thousands of errors of fact have been found in the bible along with hundreds of contradictions.

    The bible is not true.

  11. leonkrier   March 23, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Lydia Webb: Please go to Jerry Coyne’s website (Why Evolution Is True) to understand the incompatibility of science and religion and how critically important it is to avoid an accommodationist viewpoint.


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