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Cosmos, a Spacetime Odyssey Premiered This Week

deGrasse Tyson in his spaceship
deGrasse Tyson in his spaceship

TV series Cosmos, a Spacetime Odyssey


Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new series, Cosmos, A Spacetime Odyssey, had its first episode premier on Fox network, Sunday night, March 9th and showed again Monday night on the National Geographic Channel,

The Cosmic Calendar

The series is a new version of Carl Sagan’s famous 1980 PBS program simply titled Cosmos. Tyson, sometimes called the resident “bad boy of astrophysics” recently told CNN, “You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers.” We know that some of the people targeted by his protest are religious people who hold on to fundamentalist views of the Bible. Though "the earth is flat" may not be a view they still cherish, there is the Biblical story of Creation in six days, still held to be true by many. But deGrasse Tyson does not want this creationist story given equal weight in public schools to the scientific one of our universe origins.

He is usually respectful of the fact that many scientists are religious. But he tends to speak out sometimes overly simplistically about science, like he did as a guest on Bill Maher’s show. "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it," a comment that went “viral” on the internet and Facebook. It offended some religionists who see a challenge to their religious faith in his attitude. But he delighted some atheists. It also displeased those who found the remark as dogmatic as one a religious fundamentalist might make.
Tyson hopes his new show Cosmos will encourage science and religion to enter into a new dialogue. In his CNN interview,, he spoke of a time when science and religion coexisted under the same roof, and sees no reason why such a time can’t return. “You ask people, do you pray to [a person or] God. If you say yes to that, you're religious by presumably anybody's standards of your conduct. And it’s the yes to that question that applies to 40% of scientists. So, there're plenty of atheists who are scientists or not scientists. There may be a conflict but many people in this country coexist in both worlds.”

Giordano Bruno is featured prominently in an animated portion of the premier episode of Cosmos. He cries out to the riled mob, “Your God is too small,” a pithier restatement of his theme, “The infinity of All ever bringing forth anew, and even as infinite space is around us, so is infinite potentiality, capacity, reception, malleability, matter.”

Bruno was declared a heretic by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition, but Tyson shows us in retrospect that he was truly a man of deep faith. Abby Olheiser of The Wire commented on March 10: “the interesting thing about the Bruno story to me is the fact that it’s a defense of faith, and not of science.”

With the new Fox series, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson hopes to reignite “that flame of curiosity in us all.” His passion for truth in science is not far from the same passion found in the religious quest, at least in those who do not simply accept the truth as handed down by the church. The flame of curiosity is perhaps not so very different from the light Giordano Bruno preached, “The Divine Light is always in man, presenting itself to the senses and to the comprehension, but man rejects it.”

Science may offer many new and useful truths to our modern world, yet, as in religion, there are no end to the mysteries that can’t yet be answered. In his interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, deGrasse Tyson spoke about another one of the great mysteries of the universe, or of God’s creation if you will, “We measure this phenomenon dark energy that's forcing the universe to accelerate. When you add up what we know with those two things [dark matter and dark energy] about which we don't know what's driving it, we only know 4 percent of what's driving the universe.”

Here is a speculation made while talking to Bill Moyers. “One of the more intriguing accounts I've heard is if you have multiple universes, it turns out gravity can spill out of one universe and be felt by another. And if we have another universe adjacent to ours, it could be that these sites where we see extra gravity is ordinary gravity in a parallel universe. And here we are, looking at it mysteriously like, "What is this?" It's like the blind man touching the elephant. … Maybe the elephant is ordinary gravity in another universe and we're feeling it and we're making stuff up just to account for it.”

Science writers of all kinds have speculated on the existence of a parallel universe, usually one in another time dimension, but deGrasse Tyson’s use of the word adjacent indicates that he is speaking of a physical location. In Cosmos, a Spacetime Odyssey, we see him on a quest for truth, pursuing the truth of creation, an expanded view of the universe. He is an example our religious leaders and seekers could follow in seeking their truth with more passionate curiosity and dedication.