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Science, fiction and fact

A week or so ago, I watched an old sci-fi movie, circa 1958, with my wife. It featured horrible special effects and an unrealistic story line about manned missions to Mars. Of course, it was made 55 years ago, so it should come as no surprise that the science was outdated, but we also noted that on the flight back to earth, from Mars, all the meals were served by the female scientists. The women were clearly treated as equals, scientifically, but still expected to clean up after dinner and serve the men coffee.

I also recently read a Smithsonian article about Carl Sagan, in anticipation of the new Cosmos series.

It dawned on me, that Sagan spent a considerable amount of his time in an attempt to bring the study of space, as well as an understanding of the vastness of the universe to the common man, especially the children of the 70's and 80's.

Additionally, I recently watched the HBO special called Questioning Darwin which included interviews from scientists defending evolution, as well as discussions with people who believe in the bible as scientific fact.

The 50's science fiction movie made me think about how far our technology has come. While we have not landed a man on Mars, we did make it to the moon. More importantly, the advances in communication, whether it be via cell phones, the internet, twitter or the other various social media, have changed our world in ways we are still coping with and understanding. The Carl Sagan piece made me think how upset Sagan would be at the state of science in America today. From climate change deniers to bible-as-science-fact supporters there seems to be an attack on the research and accomplishments of science. The HBO series about Darwin made me wonder if those who would take us back to the 1800's as regards to evolution, are as willing to do the same in the area of communication and medicine. Do those who believe the bible is a science book, eschew cell phones and computers because they are not in the bible? Do they seek cures for cancer and heart disease in Genesis as well or seek out the best medical advice of the day?

Fortunately, I watched the second part of the new Cosmos series last night. The new host, a man with a clear and personal memory of Carl Sagan's passion for science, presented a wonderful defense of evolution as fact. The episode made me think that Sagan would have been proud of this episode, and that I was wrong it my initial thought that Carl would be demoralized at the attacks of science. He would have doubled his efforts! And perhaps he wouldn't have waited so long to do it.

The beauty of the evolution episode of the new Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is that it presented the theory of evolution, not as a replacement for those who believe in the Genesis story, but as an updated version of that story. Just as we might tell a young child that the stork brings babies until they are old enough to understand the biology of conception, the Genesis story attempts to explain to mankind not "old" enough to understand the true story of the beginning. It is a story created to simplify the complexity and the mystery of the universe to a people that could not fathom the discoveries that science, the scientific method and the telescope would provide us today.

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