Anyone else watching the new incarnation of Cosmos? We’re now roughly a quarter of the way through its 13 episodes, and yet the overall thread of the series remains somewhat elusive. The first episode felt like an introduction to cosmology, with an emphasis on the vast scope of space and time. The second episode jumped to evolutionary biology (albeit with DNA models more cosmic than chemical), while the third returned to space. That doesn’t feel like a natural sequence for a general science education; in fact, the only way I can make sense of it is to assume the show is aimed primarily at people who are uncomfortable with certain scientific topics on religious grounds. Then we see that the show is ticking off those sensitive subjects one by one — the age of the universe and centrality of Earth, evolution, and most recently superstition and messages from the gods.
Although not advertised that way, the writing of the show makes it clear that the conversation with religion is a primary and explicit concern of the show’s creators. The first episode prominently features an animated sequence dedicated to Giordano Bruno which has received a lot of coverage, both for its obvious religious themes and for its questionable emphasis on storytelling over historical accuracy (although personally, saying that Bruno was burned at the stake for theological heresies unrelated to alternative cosmology is hardly an improvement for the image of God’s people).