In Part I, I described the beautiful way that Carl Sagan encouraged a 17 year-old Brian deGrasse Tyson back in the 1970s and now, all these years later, that Dr. Tyson in turn paid beautiful tribute to Sagan in his new series– a second coming of “Cosmos,” the TV series that originally made Sagan a scientific celebrity.
My point in Part I was that wholeness gets imparted in many ways, many that have no direct connection with good “battling” against evil.
But such are the complex interweavings of forces in the world, the interplay of cause and effect, that the viewer of this outstanding new Cosmos series can see something important about the long-term nature of that battle: i.e., how the wholeness in the form of human kindness that Sagan extended is now bearing fruit quite relevant to the battle between good and evil in America today.
The series that Dr. Tyson is hosting is clearly not only about teaching people some important scientific truths about our universe, and about the unfolding of life on earth. It’s about all that, but also more than that.
One might say that this new Cosmos series is a long advertisement for science. But it would be still more accurate to say that it is a forceful argument for the honest and open-minded pursuit of the truth and against those forces that impose dogma as a tyranny over the human mind.
Again and again in the series, Dr. Tyson tells us of heroes who, asking questions, followed the truth wherever it led. And repeatedly, he contrasts these heroes with those who, with closed and narrow minds, insisted on blocking honest inquiry and on using raw power to impose their falsehoods on their societies.
Here are two examples.
One of the heroes is Giordano Bruno. Bruno had ideas of the vastness of the universe that have proved correct (by a “lucky guess,” Dr. Tyson suggests). But his ideas differed from the dogmas being enforced by the Inquisition, and Bruno ended his life imprisoned for years and then burned at the stake.
A second hero was the ancient Chinese philosopher, Motze, who propounded much of what might be called the scientific method. Dr. Tyson presents his open-mindedness in a suitably positive light, and then shows how a tyranny known by the name “Legalism” subsequently arose in China to snuff out that movement, burning books and burying alive those scholars who would not yield to the dogmas of the new rulers.
But it’s more than just the stories. In Dr. Tyson’s entire presentation one intuits an implicit awareness that his voice is being raised in a cultural/political context in America today in which the spirit of truth-seeking is embattled. One can sense in Tyson’s persistent advocacy of the spirit of honest inquiry that science represents an effort to counter those forces in America today that partake of the same spirit that burned Bruno in medieval Italy and burned the books in ancient China.
The battle between the forces of wholeness and those of brokenness, of which I speak repeatedly here, takes many forms. But surely one of the most important is the battle between the spirit of the truth and the spirit of the lie.
Truth is one of the vital forms of wholeness. For our beliefs to correspond to reality is a kind of wholeness. For our beliefs to be in conflict with reality is a form of brokenness. And a force that continually works to spread falsehoods — which is one of the most striking aspects of the spirit that has taken possession of the American right in our times — is a force of destruction, of brokenness, of evil, of death.
(In the cosmos series, the image of skulls is used to accompany the stories of those earthly powers that use force to strangle the truth.)
As Dr. Tyson now talks to a mass audience of Americans through this series, we see one of the long-maturing fruits of what Carl Sagan sowed in encouraging the young 17 year-old kid from the Bronx. The generosity of heart shown some forty years ago has become a force to battle to rescue our nation whose integrity is now under siege from the spirit of the Lie.
Admittedly, the series is not an expression simply of Dr. Tyson. But his role is important. And we might suppose that had that positive exchange between the older man and the younger man not occurred in the 1970s, we would not have this powerful, appealing, and effective voice talking to America — on the Fox network no less– to call us to the better, and more honest, angels of our national nature.
Such are the workings, over time, of the force of the good.