John Seven: 'Cosmos' is antidote to anti-science


NORTH ADAMS -- The airing of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's update of "Cosmos" -- on Fox of all places -- has lured plenty of anti-science zealots from under their 6,000-year-old rocks and out into public to make untrue claims. That they are barking about evolution is obvious -- Cosmos dissects the genetic evidence for that scientific fact -- but the harumphing about the Big Bang is particularly amusing.

A pity the airing of Cosmos coincides with the fantastic news about the gravitational waves from the beginning of the universe, which cements the TV show's Big Bang claims and makes the anti-science zealots look even more out of the cosmic loop.

That much of this anti-science extends from religious belief isn't actually very important. I know all sorts of people who manage to bring their religious beliefs together with scientific reality. In the cases of evolution and the age of the universe, the religious component is just the way the anti-science crusaders are justifying and framing their ignorance.

I think anti-science is the most terrifying scourge on the earth, and if we don't get it in check, it's our likely downfall. Science is a method of weighing evidence, deducing by proof, and, as such, is useful beyond revelations about space. The anti side has manifested itself most immediately in the form of climate change deniers, sometimes linked with religious belief, but plenty to do with secular ideology and fear.

The consequences can be as dire either way, revealed by the inevitable result of the anti-vaccine movement, now crystal clear with the measles outbreak in New York City and whooping cough popping up everywhere, including one infant death in Texas. Mumps is also back in Ohio.

Anti-GMO efforts have brought in similar problems in the form of the Vitamin A Holocaust currently sweeping Asia. Golden Rice was created in order to efficiently get the vitamin into people's systems and prevent millions of deaths and billions of cases of blindness in that part of the world, but people opposing GMO veggies on their own tables successfully halted it despite the evidence proving its safety.

I think that's where something like Cosmos comes in, making the scientific process a normal, everyday thing, and understanding that science is neither magic nor mysterious. But the best way of achieving that result isn't to sit your kid in front of it or rely on schools to get that message across, it's to sit down, as a family, view it, talk about it and learn together.

"Do as I say and not as I do" is a powerful deterrent to learning, so why practice it? How can you expect your kid to understand reality if you are not interested to try?

Knowledge as togetherness is really the only thing that's going to save us from anti-science. Learning as a family is the best way to build a community of knowledge that understands and applies science, that can wield it as a strong defense against the ideologies and speculation that cause people to dismiss evolution or risk the death of children to whooping cough out of fear of toxins in vaccines.

The community of knowledge you create in your family will help you understand that shutting off technology to people on the other side of the world who are dying in huge numbers because the technology you ideologically oppose is no longer available to save them is probably not the most neighborly policy.

Sitting down and watching a show like Cosmos as a family is a small but important component to crafting a human experience based on reality. It's a good place to start.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


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