I admit I was pretty skeptical when it was announced Neal deGrasse Tyson was rebooting Cosmos, with shows to air on Fox. It definitely wasn’t Tyson himself, who I think is just the kind of charismatic, down-to-earth science “spokesman” that can relate to the masses. While scientists may be wonderful at explaining the universe, we’re not always so wonderful at translating that explanation to the public as a whole. My concern wasn’t for the host, it was the fact that it was being aired on Fox. What would Fox allow? Would those at Fox try to use Cosmos to push the right-wing version of “science”, complete with anti-evolution and anti-global warming fallacies?
Thankfully the answer has been a resounding NO, and Tyson and Cosmos have taken on evolution full-on in the first few episodes. This week’s episode provided a wonderful, and oh-so-straightforward repudiation of the “young-earth” creationists. Obviously the fossil record, radiometric age dating, and other methods have been widely used in the past to refute creationists. From a scientific standpoint, there’s obviously no refuting the evidence in these records, but particularly for methodologies such as radiometric dating, it’s enough of a “black box” that the public as a whole has little understanding of how it works. It’s therefore easier for creationists to dismiss.
Tyson’s argument on Cosmos isn’t “new”, the same argument has occasionally been used before to refute creationists. It was the presentation and the popular venue that I think really brought it home and made it one of the most effective repudiations of Creationists. The argument is devastatingly simple. The Crab Nebula is approximately 6,500 light-years away. Young-earth creationists claim the earth is about 6,500 years old. Given that by definition, a light-year is the distance light can travel in a calendar year, if the earth were only 6,500 years old, then ALL celestial objects further than 6,500 light-years away would be invisible to humans on earth. There simply wouldn’t have been enough time for light to travel that far, so that humans on earth could observe it. Simple! Straightforward!
And devastatingly effective in repudiating young-earth creationists. Creationists have a long history of creating complete fallacies to counter the fossil record and other evidence of an “old’ earth…it will be interesting to see what laughable explanation they come up with to refute the latest Cosmos episode.