In a time when the attack on science has become commonplace, National Geographic’s ‘Cosmos’ presents like a beacon of hope. Developed by Ann Druyan, the widow of renown scientist Carl Sagan, and hosted by astrophysicist and cult icon Neil deGrasse Tyson, the third season of ‘Cosmos,’ aptly titled “Possible Worlds,” presents viewers with a somewhat optimistic, albeit cautious, view of the world and the potential of what the future holds by not only exploring the possibilities of life outside the confines of our planet, but also scientifically exploring the possibilities of the world around us.
During an interview with both Druyan and Tyson promoting the upcoming season of ‘Cosmos’ on the Nat Geo channel, Druyan lights up as she explains, “That’s exactly what I intended with the title: not just the possible worlds of the exo-planets that we can visit, worlds of other suns, but the worlds within us. ‘Cosmos: Possible Worlds’ is a vision of the future we can still have if we have the wisdom and the will to act on what the scientists are telling us.”
But how will this season translate within the current environment of science deniers? After all, a lot has changed since the series last aired in 2014.
Creating An Allure For Science
In an age where science has become an option and a distraction, the question becomes how do you get science to stick? One of the goals this season for Druyan was to present episodes that would excite viewers who may not realize they have an aptitude or even an interest in science. Each episode has been carefully crafted to draw viewers in by presenting the topic in a very entertaining story-telling manner – all done with intentional purpose. “We are aiming for your brain, your eye, your heart, your senses, your ears, music, the VFX,” says Druyan, “everything has to be working together in concert to give you the most consummate experience and to attract you to want to know more. That’s the dream of ‘Cosmos.’”
This very method of presenting scientific ideas in such a charming manner is what amazes Tyson so much about the series. He enthusiastically proclaims, “What impresses me most about ‘Cosmos’ as an entity is that while you are watching it, at no time while you are watching do you think you are watching a documentary. Documentaries can be informative for sure, but do they continue to live with you? And that’s part of the DNA of ‘Cosmos’: it’s its capacity to blend the science with storytelling which has never been put together before.”
“Nature is so much more creative and dazzling than the best stories we human have ever been able to make up,” Druyan excitedly says. “We are part of nature, we are a reflection of nature and so our fairy tales and our deceptions are very thin and they only have a shelf life that is finite, whereas the real beauty of nature, in my view, is infinite so we tap into that beauty and present it so that people will be attracted to it.”
You Can’t Lie Your Way Through Science
Druyan has a very passionate stance on this subject, as one would expect. Her serene demeanor belies the fire within her as she talks about the importance of science in our society and the present atmosphere of denying what science has to offer.
“Science in our civilization is so compartmentalized and not integrated into our daily experience the way it must be,” she says, “and we have gotten ourselves in a terrible predicament. It’s more important than ever for us to begin taking the insights of science to heart. It matters what’s true.”
She goes on to declare, “You can’t lie your way to Mars or the stars. You can’t do it. If there is any fudging in any one of those steps of the hundred thousand or a million different steps of redundancy, you will miss your mark. Science delivers the goods. There has been an antipathy toward science which I believe is to our greatest peril… How are we going to keep it from happening unless we don’t have an enlightened public?”
Druyan is not alone in her views as the surge of science deniers has perplexed many.
Tyson also voices his concern regarding the current attitude about the subject stating, “There are people who don’t believe in the scientific method, they don’t believe in science. They think science is optional, but there’s just no better way of learning.” He continues mirroring the same views as Druyan on how the truth matters. “We make a point.” he expounds, “that the methods and tools of science are the most effective and potent means ever devised by humans to establish what is objectively true because it matters what is true. If you are going to base decisions that will affect civilization, it will matter on what is true.”
And while there may be some frustration in how science is being demeaned these days, Tyson does bring hope and illustrates how ‘Cosmos’ may be part of the answer in combatting the lack of awareness on the importance of science. “So rather hit people over the head for their beliefs,” he explains, “we just present the notion that if we are to survive ourselves, at some point you have to sit down and establish what is true and what is not and recognize that what we learn about the natural world is revealed by the tools and methods of science. Science matters, objective truth matters and science may be our only hope to save us from the short-sighted decisions we are all part of.”
With a title like “Possible Worlds,” ‘Cosmos’ brings the image of what is conceivable… potential… promising. The episodes also convey these very hopeful messages that both Druyan and Tyson are eager viewers will pick up. But as Tyson expresses, while the series may give them knowledge, it really is up to them as to what they will do with this knowledge. “In the end, it is up to the viewers to find a way that matters to them and empowers them to become a better shepherd for civilization.”
‘Cosmos: Possible Worlds’ premieres today, March 9, on National Geographic and will be re-broadcasted on the FOX network over the summer.