Education Icon Education
Evolution Icon Evolution

Want More Misinformation from the Creators of Cosmos? Use the Official Cosmos Study Guides!

Tyson study guide.jpg
Cosmos Guide.jpeg

As David Klinghoffer wrote here recently, our new book The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos provides a detailed, episode-by-episode exposé of false facts enlisted by the celebrity atheists who created the new Cosmos series that aired earlier this year.

Well, guess what? If your appetite for atheist apologetics wasn’t satisfied by the program itself, we’ve got good news for you. The creators of Cosmos are also circulating study guides that teachers are apparently supposed to use in schools. And given the source, they’re as biased and one-sided as you would expect.

The study guides were written by Carl Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan, who was also a writer for both the 1980 original Cosmos and new series. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos itself, the guides sometimes have a scattered focus, and it’s hard to imagine how they would be very useful for a teacher. They also look a little rough and unpolished, which may be why I can’t locate the links any longer on the Cosmos website. However, you can still find the Cosmos study guides here. To give you a flavor, I’d like to call attention to a couple of points from the study guide for Episode 2.

It states, among other things, that “over the eons, natural selection can sculpt the exquisitely complex human eye out of a microscopic patch of pigment.” Is that so? Where’s the evidence for this claim other than the materialist belief system? We’ve covered the origin of the eye before here on ENV (see here, here, and here). The bottom line is this: Even if you spend millions of dollars on flashy CGI so a winsome astrophysicist can make this claim on national TV, that doesn’t make it true. It has not been demonstrated that the human eye could evolve through “numerous successive slight” modifications, as Darwin’s theory requires, and evolutionary schemes for the origin of the eye generally require great leaps in complexity.

In classic Cosmos-style flowery materialist prose, the study guide goes on to cite “the unbroken thread that stretches from the first one-celled organisms of nearly four billion years ago directly to you” and the “[c]ontinuity of life from one-celled organisms to us.” But what is the evidence for this “unbroken thread” and “continuity”? In fact leading scientists have observed that biology appears to be full of discontinuities. As Ernst Mayr wrote:

When we look at the living biota, whether at the level of the higher taxa or even at that of the species, discontinuities are overwhelmingly frequent. . . . The discontinuities are even more striking in the fossil record. New species usually appear in the fossil record suddenly, not connected with their ancestors by a series of intermediates.

(Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, p. 189 (Basic Books, 2001).)

Now of course Mayr was a thoroughgoing materialist and evolutionist who believed (by faith, I presume) that Druyan’s “unbroken thread” exists. But doesn’t that make Mayr’s admission that the raw biological data shows discontinuities rather than “continuity” or an “unbroken thread” even more compelling? For more details, see my discussion of the “tree of life” in our response to Episode 2.

The Episode 2 study guide gets down to the real point of the series when it asks students to ponder the following question:

As we see in ‘COSMOS,’ the evidence we have for evolution is confirmed by a vast amount of data. Why are so many people still unwilling to acknowledge evolution as scientific fact?

If you’ve been following Cosmos, then you know exactly how students are supposed answer that question: “religion.” A theme woven through Cosmos is that scientific materialism is the best worldview to hold, while religion always holds back the progress of science. Here, Cosmos is wrong on multiple counts.

First, history shows that religion had a strong positive influence on the birth, development, and growth of science. As we documented in our responses to Cosmos, this fact has been documented by leading historians of science and religion.

Second, as we show, Sagan’s materialist view that Earth is an unremarkable “speck” rather than what our colleagues Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards call a “privileged planet” actually leads to bad science.
Finally, the evidence for “evolution” isn’t nearly as impressive as Druyan and her colleagues want you to think it is. But what is “evolution” anyway?

If we define evolution as mere “change over time” then sure, there’s tons of evidence for it. But if we define evolution as “universal common ancestry,” or the claim that “natural selection is the driving mechanism behind life,” then the evidence is a lot weaker. Cosmos blurs the distinction between these three meanings of evolution. Are you surprised?

Image: NASA/Goddard/Rebecca Roth/Flickr.