I’m a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s charismatic, he’s entertaining, and he is genuinely enamored with science. That sense of excitement and enthusiasm is positively contagious, making all of us just as interested and just as captivated by the universe around us. And that’s why I was so stoked when I heard that he would be the host of the new Cosmos TV show that premiered earlier this month.
As you may already know, this “new” TV show is meant to be a continuation of the original series hosted by the legendary Carl Sagan. While the original was “A Personal Voyage,” this incarnation is “A Spacetime Odyssey” instead. The idea is to make science a little more accessible to the masses, making it more entertaining and interesting without being so esoteric and scary. I think that’s a great thing, because a more educated public is better for society. And the subject matter can be pretty darn fascinating too.
To this end, I love the show. We’ve explored the origins of the universe, we’ve looked into the evolution of the eye, and we’ve examined the history of understanding comets. This isn’t some sideshow entertainment either, because Cosmos has received some real primetime billing. The premiere was shown on no fewer than ten Fox networks, including Fox itself, as well as Fox Sports 1 and National Geographic Channel.
Science and education aren’t just for geeks; it’s for everyone.
But it’s not all great. I understand that the scientific literacy of the mainstream audience will vary widely, so the producers can’t get too technical, but there are several moments where I feel like Cosmos becomes more of a children’s program rather than one geared for the whole family. Yes, the Spaceship of the Imagination is a holdover from the original, but it turns a little too much into the Magic School Bus at times. The animated sequences can also feel a little juvenile too.
Then, there’s all the controversy that’s being stirred up by creationists and evangelicals, among others. They say that the show is anti-religion with its overly liberal agenda. For better or for worse, Neil deGrasse Tyson does not shy away from the religious right whatsoever. He simply states what is generally accepted among the scientific community, even if he might paint more religious theories in a less than desirable light.
It may not be perfect and it may not present information that some of us already know, but if nothing else, Cosmos is doing a terrific job of demystifying science for all the people out there who may otherwise be intimidated by it (or simply not interested in it). This is precisely what Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a recent interview. This show isn’t necessarily for those of us who are already geeks and nerds. We’re already converted. It’s a show for everyone else, so they may also be interested in what science can teach us.
And if this means we get fewer reality TV shows about teenage moms and tiara-wearing toddlers, I’m all for it.