Monday, April 14, 2014

5 Flaws of "Cosmos"

This post by Hank Campbell at "The Federalist" blog suggests 5 myths in the Neil Degrasse Tyson's remake of the Carl Sagan's "Cosmos". I admit that Mr. Campbell may know more about the scientific validity of the claims put forth in the series (or perhaps not - it does not appear Mr. Campbell has any specialized training in physics or astronomy), but in some ways he comes off a little to harshly in the opposite direction. Here are the flaws Campbell points out:
1. Venus Was Not Caused By Global Warming
Perhaps he is right here. There are probably several factors that make Venus' average temperature consistently around 860 degrees Fahrenheit, but Mr. Campbell doesn't explain what REALLY might make Venus that hot, and it's not simply proximity to the sun: Mercury is about the same temperature as Venus on its sun-facing side, but reaches extremes of about -300 degrees on its dark side. Probably it is a combination of factors, but something has to be at work keeping the dark side of Venus at a temperature as remarkably close to the sunny side as we have observed. Atmospheric gasses play an important role (if it weren't for the green house effect we'd all freeze by the way!).
2. The Multiverse Is Not Science
In a narrow definition of science, this is a true statement. Multiverse theory is not fully testable because seeing beyond the "horizon" of the observable universe (and yes, I know the universe doesn't have a "horizon" per se) is not possible.That doesn't make it non-science. Scientists who "believe" in a multiverse derive their models of the multiverse from models that must follow physical laws we have observed in tests of other hypotheses about the big bang. In fact, the recent discovery of gravitational waves near the universe's origins, which also supported "inflation theory", increased the likelihood that a multiverse is possible.
3. There Is No Sound In Space
Ok. Sure.
4. Giordano Bruno Was Not More Important To Science Than Kepler And Galileo
Yeah, I kinda hated that part, too.
5. The Universe Was Also Not Created In One Year
As Campbell admits, this is mostly a style issue. It's meant to be a device for understanding the vastness of time. Apparently it didn't work on the founder of Science 2.0. But here is my beef with this point. Campbell states:
Rather than seeking to take jabs at religion, science should be embracing it. From a science perspective, religious people are involved in the largest ongoing experiment of all time. The major religions all disagree with each other in ways large and small and yet people are turning knobs in their lives and making adjustments to try and solve a grand mystery. What, if anything, comes next?
Whoa. I don't really see religious or areligious people as being any more or less in the struggle to understand the meaning of existence, or what comes after the life we know than the other. Much of this depends more on the individual. An atheist who adamantly believes that death is the end is no less at struggle with that grand mystery than someone who adamantly believes we will all be swept up to heaven or hell depending on our deeds and on our faith. I'm agonstic, and believe you me, Mr. Campbell, I spend much of my time turning knobs trying to figure out what's in store for me when my body's strength is gone.