Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson & Sagan's "Cosmos"

by Edd Doerr

Carl Sagan's great 1980 PBS series "Cosmos" is being "reconstructed" as a new 13-week series on Fox called "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey", to start on March 9.  The series will be hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. For details see the excellent article in the Feb 17 & 24 New Yorker titled "Starman: Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new guide to the 'Cosmos'".

Though raised in a traditional religion, Tyson moved on to what we would recognize as humanism. But let's let Tyson explain it himself, as he does in the New Yorker piece by Rebecca Mead. "My confidence that there is a loving God who cares at all for your health or your longevity, based on what I see in the physical universe, is so low that it is not something that I would spend any time investing in, to try to explore any further about whether or not it's true. I'll let other people to that exploring. And, if they bring the evidence to me, that's fine."

Saying that he lacks the time or energy "to enter a debate about atheism", Tyson adds, "It's odd that the word 'atheist' even exists. I don't play golf. Is there a word for non-golf players? Do non-golf players gather to strategize? Do non-skiers have a word, and come together, and talk about the fact that they don't ski?"

Tyson speaks for a great many humanists, secular humanists, religious humanists, naturalistic humanists, and just plain "unchurched" men and women, a far larger number of people than all the members of humanist, freethought and atheist organizations combined. And this ties in with my observations as an active humanist for over six decades. My experience leads me to recognize that labels are deceptive and too often counterproductive, that the shared interests of people of a wide range of labels (chosen, inherited . . . whatever) should pull good people of all labels together to deal with the problems that face all of us -- climate change, environmental degradation, overpopulation,  increasing attacks on church-state separation and public education, mounting assaults on women's rights of conscience on reproductive matters, political stagnation, growing social inequality, poverty here and abroad, oligarchy, virulent fundamentalisms, indifference, etc.

These have been my concerns for my 32  years running Americans for Religious Liberty, 14 years as head of the AHA, 16 years at Americans United, 50 years as a writer and activist and lecturer. I am happy to be on the same page  as guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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