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Opinion

The Fannish Life: Why ‘Cosmos’ Matters To Me

Ann Morris takes a look at why she’s watching Fox’s science show


Have you been watching “Cosmos”? I have and it’s gotten me thinking about why I think science is awesome and why I accept its explanations for how our universe, and we, came to be.

Though I am not gifted in science, I have always been interested and have admired scientists. Until I realized I was never going to be really good at it, it was my favorite subject in school. Chemistry was wonderful but it showed me that my gifts lay elsewhere.

When I learned about evolution in ninth-grade general science, it made sense to me. A few years later, that put me in some people’s bad books. I was naïve and thought that if something of that sort made sense to me, it would also make sense to my father, who pushed me to do well (not always successfully) in school.

Whether or not my father thinks evolution is how we came to be or not, I don’t know. I do know that being a bit of a troublemaker and a smart-ass, he decided it would be a good, or maybe a funny thing to do to tell the preacher of the church we attended that I believed in evolution. I don’t know what he was thinking the result of that would be, but what happened was that the next Sunday found me sitting in church hearing from the pulpit, “Anyone who thinks mankind came from monkeys is going to hell.” There was more but it all added up to “Ann is going to hell.”

That was the last time I went to that church. There had been other backward thinking that had annoyed me, but having a sermon preached against me was the final straw. I was 17 and done with the Southern Baptists.

I had a brief fling with organized religion (a different one) while in college, but after college, I never went to a church other than to go to a wedding or a funeral.

I’m just not a churchy person. I have my beliefs and my moral code, which some people tell me make me a Buddhist. One person has said I’m a pantheist. I call myself a free-thinker.

I like science. I don’t worship it but I like it a lot. Science lets you think for yourself. Whatever you think, science is going to keep on working with or without you and science doesn’t tell you that you are going to hell if you don’t agree with it.

I like “Cosmos.” It presents scientific evidence and facts and illustrates concepts in a way that is accessible to lay people. Yet, it does not talk down to its audience. I’m guessing the writers assume that the majority of people watching are doing so to confirm what they already think or to learn.

There are some people who, judging by their presence on Twitter and Facebook, are all up in arms about the show because they think it denies their religious beliefs. If they think the earth is only 6,000 years old, it does. I won’t try to tell anyone who takes religious texts literally that it doesn’t deny what they have read. If one thinks that the stories in the various religious texts can be interpreted liberally and taken metaphorically, it doesn’t.

The host of “Cosmos,” Neil deGrasse Tyson, doesn’t have a quarrel with religion as long as it’s kept at home and in church. He says it’s not supposed to be in public school science classes. He doesn’t debate science deniers. He says he doesn’t have time for that or an interest in doing so. He wants to educate, period. That’s what “Cosmos” is all about.

So, why did we need a new “Cosmos”? That’s simple. When the first series was shown in 1980, we didn’t know as much as we do now about the make-up of our universe, or even the evolution of life on our own planet. There has been a tremendous amount of information gathered in the past 34 years. We can get a concise and understandable overview through watching the new “Cosmos.”

“Cosmos” is being shown around the world — in 120 countries. What’s amazing about that is that the only other shows that have had distribution of that sort are sports events, the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special and the Oscars. What this says is that science doesn’t take a back seat to sports, celebrity worship and fictional entertainment. Science can be appreciated by the average person. Science is cool.

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