Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cosmos Losses Viewers

     TV By The Numbers reports: "Cosmos earned a 1.9 adults 18-49 rating down 10 percent from a 2.1 for last week’s premiere."  I posted last week about an article on the 5 things Cosmos got wrong--just in the first episode. I started watching the second episode on Hulu, but have only watched about half of it. However, besides some of the inaccuracies (for instance, on why polar bears evolved to be "white"), the episode seemed to double-down on a basic premise that was heavily on display in the first episode: "if you are religious, you are stupid and evil."

     The second episode is about evolution. However, it is not so much an explanation of evolution, but a defense of evolution. It explains the classical theory of evolution, to wit: random mutations in DNA that are favorable for survival get carried on to subsequent generations. (Although ignoring newer findings). But it was the way the explanation was made that was problematic.

     Tyson begins by discussing dogs, and how dogs have evolved over a short period of time, mostly through breeding, to all the different forms (breeds) of dogs we have today--i.e., directed evolution. However, he then distinguishes it from natural evolution. A classic "dog-whistle" in every sense designed to insult those who believe in intelligent design. He further states that evolution is a law, even though it is clearly a theory (that is, it is not merely descriptive of a phenomena, but also attempts to explain the phenomena). Why would he make such a basic semantic blunder? Because, once again, the purpose of the show was not to explain evolution, but to attack intelligence design.

     Also, unlike Sagan's original series, Tyson does not attempt to explain the origins of life--that is, how a few varieties of atoms and simple molecules became a simple organism using a DNA strand, together with all of the other specialized chemicals and bodies found in a single cell organism. He just starts with a bacterium (already a rather complex life-form) and goes from there. Why? I can only surmise because that is an area where the science is weakest.

    Frankly, the show would be more enjoyable, and probably have higher ratings, if it simply stuck to "this is the science as we understand it" and spent less time propagandizing.

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