The 1980 television series Cosmos, starring Carl Sagan and running 13 episodes, is one of those series that truly stands the test of time. Despite its becoming slightly dated both in terms of special effects and some of the science, it’s an excellent snapshot of what humans know about this universe as of 1980. And it appears it’s about to get a sequel, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson.
So, it’s high time someone made a sequel to it, and now someone is! In partnership with Sagan’s colleagues Ann Druyan (who is also his widow) and Steven Soter, Seth MacFarlane — yes, that Seth MacFarlane — is going to produce a new 13-part series to serve as a sequel and modern update to Sagan’s masterpiece.
Taking over the hosting duties will be none other than well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has served as host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS for the past five years, so he has plenty of experience making science accessible to the general public. It would be difficult to think of anyone who would be better able to succeed the late, great Carl Sagan.
While I wholeheartedly agree that Tyson is an excellent choice for this endeavour, one of the things that I liked best about Cosmos was its unabashed humanism. It fell just short of proclaiming outright atheism, but it emphasized the primacy of the empirical, the demonstrably true, and made no bones about stating what we know to be fact and what is yet to be settled. The series made a number of statements that then were unimpeachable, but today would be frowned upon, like “evolution is a fact, the theory is just an attempt to explain the fact”.
I understand Tyson is an agnostic, and bristles occasionally that atheists like myself “claim him” as one. I argue as I always have that gnosticism and theism are different scales. The fact that he does not believe in a god makes him, like me, an agnostic atheist. It’s all a matter of which label you’re most comfortable with, honestly, and I don’t begrudge him the label he’s chosen — as a public figure in a country as rife with anti-atheist sentiment, I might do the same. My chief concern is that he represents the humanist values that Sagan espoused and held so dear. So long as that’s the case, I’m happy with this project.
Also, I really hope Seth McFarlane lives up to his obvious love of the series and does not include himself in any visible manner in the project (especially not to do voiceovers). While “Cosmos for Rednecks” might be funny on Family Guy, it has no place on what amounts to Carl Sagan’s legacy.
Of course, now I have to embed that video.