thecakeisalie asked: What's your honest opinion about the Cosmos premiere? I was surprised to hear it got modest ratings, with a chunk of the viewers tuning out at the half way point. Why do you think that is? Do the "controversial" animation sequences have anything to do with it?
My honest opinion is that it was brilliant. I don’t think it’s an overgeneralization to suggest that most people are visual learners in terms of animation (bright lights, VFX) being able to grab someone’s attention span while engaging them with stimulating information simultaneously, which COSMOS did and does exceptionally well.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the first episode. The beginning gave me chills the moment I heard Carl’s voice and the end was crushingly emotional personally, because Carl’s impact on Neil resonates with me on a profound level. When I was led into the cosmic perspective via Carl and some significant others - Neil being one of them - I can’t say “I never looked back.” In fact, the accessibility of the cosmic perspective and the pursuit of science literacy has continued to lead me back to several other origins beyond the beginning of the observable universe: life on Earth, our geologic history, chronological history, trials/tribulations of our human history, origins of our species’ religions/myths/superstitions, and the long history of science - most notably - astronomy, as we learned of our actual place in the cosmos.
As much as I love all of the awe-inspiring images returned from space probes and telescopes, I continue to gain more respect and adoration from the men and women of previous generations who - through true hardships in the harshest and some of the most ignorant of times - truly brought us closer to the understanding we have now and the advancements in knowledge we achieve due to their curiosity and persistence.
I do not at all think the animation sequences were “controversial” whatsoever. Those sequences were engaging and provided a nice narrative opportunity for Neil due to his ability to communicate science with clearly understood tone and inflection. I believe the problem with said viewers who “tuned out” halfway through was strictly due to the content surrounding the sequences themselves.
We have to keep in mind who this television broadcast is aimed toward: the scientifically illiterate and let’s just be honest - religious fundamentalists, creationists - who may be so blinded by the cherry-picked pieces of the Bible/scripture communicated to them throughout their childhood or feel-good church communities that they’ve not only overlooked the obvious nonsense played off as ‘historical fact’ and nonfiction, but have done so while not becoming any further educated beyond high school academia on the subjects we now have a multitude of miscellaneous subfields along with the technological advancements by which we can access this information on a global scale.
People - especially those indoctrinated and stubbornly, psychologically convinced of a predetermined bias - are going to get their feathers ruffled; and that’s OK. The first step in changing our society for the better is simply to initiate the conversation; and with a series like COSMOS presented in such a professionally-glamorous way, this will lay the foundation for days, weeks, months, and years ahead as we continue to steamroll into the future.
COSMOS is a celebration of science, yes. But, at its best, it’s a celebration of history, of US and of the precious time we have here “to take longer strides" (to pull from Kennedy’s powerful 1962 speech).
And actually, let me rephrase bits of Kennedy’s speech as it applies to here and now….
"It’s not surprising that some of us would have us stay where we are a little longer. To rest. To wait. But these countries we’ve labeled, civilization we’ve created, this species called homo sapein, were not established, built or evolved upon those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. Our society was generated by those who moved forward, and so will space.
Carl Sagan, speaking in the 1980’s within his book ‘Cosmos’, said “Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that humans, in their quest for knowledge and progress, are determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and to become a spacefaring civilization is the greatest adventure of all time, and no civilization which expects to survive and flourish can expect to stay behind in the quest for space exploration.
Those who came before us made certain our civilization in the future would ride the first waves of sustainable energy, the first waves of exponential growth, and the abundance of power through nuclear fusion. And this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the epoch of space exploration. We mean to be a part of it, we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world have and will continue to look onto Mars, to the solar system, and to the cosmos beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this civilization can only be fulfilled if we in it are ambitious, and remain forever passionately curious. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and prosperity, our obligations to ourselves and others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all life on Earth, and to become a space-faring society.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on the human species. And only if we work together toward our journey to the cosmos can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that humans have made in extending our writ around this globe of ours.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all humankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, become a spacefaring species? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why explore the deep ocean? Why, 37 years ago, send the Voyager spacecraft headed toward interstellar space? Why does Earth orbit our star?
We choose to go to space. We choose to go to space in and beyond this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we must accomplish for our own species’ survival, and the others, too.
JFK’s “Moon Speech" (1962, reworked for 2014+ by Rich Evans)