Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of TV’s Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, says he wonders why anyone pays attention to what Ken Ham says about science or about his 13-part Cosmos series. Tyson, in an interview with Alternet, suggests biblical creationists like Ken Ham and the scientists at Answers in Genesis are a small and insignificant Christian fringe group that only bothered writing weekly critiques of the Cosmos series to take advantage of media attention garnered through the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate in February:
You have to ask yourself, what are the numbers behind the people making these claims? Someone like Ken Ham has beliefs that are even crazy to many Christians.
Everyone knew Bill Nye, but almost no one had heard of Ken Ham. But after the debate [Ham] realized he had some media attention. You have to wonder—if that debate never happened if he would have even bothered covering the show at all?1
Cosmos executive producer Seth MacFarlane said his new series would combat the “resurgence of creationism”2 attributable to “scientific illiteracy.”2 Recognizing this reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos of the 1980s would be viewed by many and used in schools, Answers in Genesis committed to provide a timely analysis critiquing each episode. An important aim of these articles and accompanying discussion guides has been to reinforce the observational science taught in the episodes while contrasting it with the plethora of unverifiable evolutionary speculation presented as fact.
Answers in Genesis equips children and adults with the biblical and scientific answers they need. This removes stumbling blocks to faith and helps Christians share their faith with others. Many Christian leaders and laypersons, out of ignorance or compromise, disagree with what God clearly teaches in Genesis chapters 1–11. The prevalence of unscriptural positions—such as “old-earth creationism” and “theistic evolution”—is the very reason Answers in Genesis vigorously makes sound biblical answers available to people around the world.
More Attention Than Bill Nye Usually Gets
Tyson’s assertion that no one had heard of Ken Ham before Bill Nye came along is laughable.3 Answers in Genesis has a long track record as a world-recognized creation ministry, reaching people around the world through the website, social media, highly qualified speakers, books and DVDs, radio programs, magazines, and so forth. The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, received global media attention when it opened in 2007. The museum was built with monies donated by thousands of supporters worldwide who wished the world to see that the Bible is trustworthy from the very first verse.
The Nye-Ham debate did of course attract a lot of attention. In fact, according to Associated Press writer Dylan Lovan, Bill Nye reported he was surprised at the interest in the debate, as it was so much greater than the interest ordinarily shown in his college campus appearances:
TV's "Science Guy" Bill Nye said he underestimated the impact of a February debate in Kentucky on evolution and creationism that drew a massive online audience.
When Nye agreed to the debate at The Creation Museum with its founder Ken Ham, he said he believed it would draw about as much attention as presentations he makes on college campuses.4
Observational Versus Historical Science
The Nye-Ham Debate showcased the difference between observational science and origins, or historical, science. Observational science involves testable, repeatable observations and experiments. Origins science—because it must make assumptions about a time and place no scientist has ever examined—requires the scientist to make certain assumptions about the conditions existing then.
Those assumptions depend upon the scientist’s worldview. Scientists with a biblical worldview accept the Creator God’s eyewitness account of Earth’s early history and the origin of life. Scientific observations are quite consistent with biblical history, but in many cases—such as molecules-to-man evolution—are not at all consistent with the evolutionary worldview.
“So That They May Know the Truth . . .” (2 Timothy 2:25)
As Bible-believing Christians we teach the importance of trusting the Bible from its beginning because Genesis explains why we suffer and die and need God to save us from our sin. We believe Genesis is important because the information in it helps people come to know Jesus Christ the Creator God of the Bible (Colossians 1:16–17) as their Savior and Lord (John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5–6). The good news of the gospel and the saving purpose for which Jesus Christ came as the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) make perfect sense when understood in the light of the rebellion—the sin—of the real Last Common Ancestor of all human beings, the first Adam, as described in Genesis chapter three.
Just the Facts?
Tyson asserts that in Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey he only gives viewers facts and encourages them to make up their own minds:
What I say is not an opinion.1
I am not a totalitarian, I don’t want to tell you what to believe. I want to provide you with the tools and evidence to arrive at your position on your own, and if you disagree with me, that’s fine, as long as your disagreement does not harm others.1
We must question Tyson’s veracity here. In the programs, Tyson attributed the biblical faith of many of history’s greatest scientists to the times in which they lived, times in which the Bible was accepted as authoritative by most people in western societies. He said that we have now turned away from the Bible’s “authoritative” history to “another book” that is “written in the rocks themselves.”5 Tyson suggested Isaac Newton had wasted a great deal of time studying biblical chronology before finally getting serious about publishing his scientific discoveries.6 Tyson never acknowledged that their biblical worldview guided many great scientists toward their discoveries. Cosmos comments great and small made clear that Tyson and the Cosmos writers wish to expunge the influence of biblical creation from the minds and hearts of people.
Evolutionary origins science—preached in most Cosmos episodes—is rooted in the worldview of the scientist interpreting scientific observations to draw conclusions about the unobservable, untestable past.
As to the claim that Tyson voiced no opinions, we must point out that Tyson fully endorses molecules-to-man evolution. He outlined how the eye supposedly evolved, for instance, and he said life evolved from non-living elements even though how remains a mystery. That the eye evolved in an amoeba-to-elephant scenario and that life sprang into being from chemicals—these are unverifiable worldview-based presuppositions, not facts. Yet to Tyson they are indisputable and are presented as such to Cosmos viewers.
Evolutionary origins science—preached in most Cosmos episodes—is rooted in the worldview of the scientist interpreting scientific observations to draw conclusions about the unobservable, untestable past. Unless that scientist has access to a reliable eyewitness to the time in question, his or her conclusions are opinion! Because Tyson—totally committed to his religion of evolutionary humanism—is convinced that belief in the Creator God of the Bible is a mere superstition, he is convinced his evolutionary opinions are facts.
Incidentally, the Bible has something to say about people who deny that there is a Creator God despite the clear evidence God has provided:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:18-22).
False Accusations of Harmfulness
Perhaps Tyson grants himself special dispensation to tell evolutionary unbelievers what to think because he, like Nye, thinks that Bible believers are dangerous. Nye achieved fame for more than making scientific principles cool for kids on PBS TV when his YouTube plea to parents went viral. In it Nye pleaded with parents not teach their children that evolution isn’t true for fear of ruining modern civilization and stunting technological progress.
Tyson has said that religious influence on science will produce “intellectually crippled” people unable to contribute to science and technology. Both of these assertions are patently false, as discussed in many articles including “Does Religion Cripple Science Innovation? and “Can Bible-Based Predictions Lead to Scientific Discoveries?” The only kind of “science” to which creation scientists are unable to contribute is the “science” of coming up with more unverifiable evolutionary tales.
Tyson is passionate about man-made global warming. In “World Set Free,” the episode devoted to climate change, Tyson taught that climate-change is a man-made death sentence unless the world unites to spurn fossil fuel usage. Though Tyson claims he only teaches facts and doesn’t care what informed people decide, he has harsh words for those who disagree with him. In his Alternet interview he said he taught viewers how to deal with climate deniers by hurting them financially. In “World Set Free,” Tyson leaves no doubt that he considers all who disagree with his position a threat to the survival of mankind.
Many people assume that questions about whether and why the world’s climate is changing dangerously and what can be done about it should be fully answerable by observational science. So how can an issue like the global warming debate be a worldview issue? As discussed in our article analyzing episode 12 of Cosmos and also in Dr. Alan White’s analysis “Should We Be Concerned About Climate Change?” scientists must know what the climate was like long ago in order establish reliable trends. But there is no actual record of the world’s climate long ago, apart from some historical references. Therefore, many climate scientists look to what Tyson calls the Earth’s “detailed diary written in the snows of yesteryear”7 to see what climates long past were like. But “reading” Earth’s “diary” requires a number of worldview-based assumptions.
Evolutionary scientists, for instance, make bold statements about Earth’s climate for the past 800,000 years based on analysis of ice cores drilled from deep inside glaciers. Yet the vast ages assigned to the compressed layers of ice in these are, through circular reasoning, based on dates assigned to layers presumed to be millions of years old. With this “data” in hand, evolutionary scientists then paint a picture of a past that never was and the influences that affected the climate over a long period of time that never actually happened. Since Tyson’s “facts” are rooted in unverifiable evolutionary worldviews, they are his opinions, however passionately he believes them to be true.
Adults and children need to understand how the world we live in works, appreciate through observational science the amazing designs God created, grasp the significance and scientific reliability of claims about policies that affect us individually and collectively, and evaluate intelligently and critically all science-based assertions that may be affected by a scientist’s biases and worldview. Therefore, yes, we continue to challenge the claim that Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey promotes scientific literacy. We encourage others to equip themselves and their children to be discerning enough to question Cosmos.
- Deceitful or Distinguishable Terms—Historical and Observational Science
- Can Bible-Based Predictions Lead to Scientific Discoveries?
- Does the Gospel Depend on a Young Earth?
- Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham
- Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?
- Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth
- Pat Robertson’s Word or God’s Word: Which Will You Believe?
- Why I Rejected Theistic Evolution
- Biblical Problems for Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creation
- Book Review: The Language of God by Francis Collins
- Attempts to Trace Life Back to Chemical Origins Still Maps the Willful Ignorance of the Hunters
- Should We Be Concerned About Climate Change?
- Cosmos Review: “World Set Free”
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