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Episode 7 "The Clean Room"
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4/20/2014 at 9:00:08 PM GMT
Posts: 142
Episode 7 "The Clean Room"
This topic is devoted to episode 7 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Last edited Sunday, May 11, 2014
4/21/2014 at 2:42:36 AM GMT
Posts: 142
How in the world did Tyson decide to focus on the dangers of lead contamination in this episode? Interesting story but a bit peculiar in the flow of the series. It was good to get a little more specifics than in previous episodes of how ages of rocks are determined. But nevertheless, lots of crucial details got left out. He seems to follow the philosophy of leaving out details in order to make it more understandable. But in so doing, it's actually less clear.
So what was the prevailing understanding of the age of the earth before Patterson's work in the mid-50's? I had thought it was already considered to be a few billion years old so was it mainly precision that he provided? If I recall correctly, in the early-50's there seemed to be a paradox of the earth appearing to be older than the universe.
Of course, Tyson had to pick on Ussher, the well-known focus in the biblical age of the earth. At least he didn't belabor the point too long.
The last half was all classic conflict of environmental health vs industry interest. Seems as if this plays out over and over in many different fields--and no doubt we'll have many more to come.

4/21/2014 at 5:52:54 PM GMT
Posts: 21
I really enjoyed this episode. There is a sense in which personal stories are what this world is about, and the fact that Patterson involved himself in both a matter of pure scientific interest, and, based on what he learned there, got involved with such an important practical matter in the lead controversy I found fascinating. When someone both does good science, and takes a reasoned and principled stand on a practical matter where other scientists are selling their souls, it does a lot toward convincing the public that science most often is an honorable and good thing. The further story of course is that, just because one guy bucking the system was right, doesn't mean that everyone who bucks the system must be right. Read up on Stanislaw Burzinski to see it the other way around, where the "brave loner" is actually a greedy, dishonest snake oil salesman.

4/21/2014 at 6:07:32 PM GMT
Posts: 41
Bias is the issue
Well said, Preston and good points, Randy.  

It actually bothered me more than I thought it would, since I haven't held to that in a long time, about them bringing up Ussher's estimate of a young earth from the genealogies. Maybe its because they have made no effort in any episode to point out the reality that not everyone looks to scripture for science or some such conciliatory remarks -- its just cherry picking and in your face -- this is what happens when you look to religion for what is true. They are reinforcing the warfare model and false dichotomy.

That cherry-picking would be sort of like a person of faith saying, "See the horrible evil science did by putting all that lead into the atmosphere in the first place!" I wondered if maybe they weren't trying to give a balanced approach by including the lead story here. But, that is probably giving too much credit. It was more like they were trying to show how science saved the day when the issue is really bias.

I think they missed an opportunity to really spell-out the real issue, which is bias and that bias can come in religious, atheistic, greed, and a number of other flavors, and NO one is immune. But look what happens when one courageous soul, Patterson, identifies bias, puts it aside, takes a stand and, accordingly, really makes a difference.

Denis Lamoureux has recent series of guest posts on Peter Enn's blog on genealogies in scripture, BTW.

Last edited Monday, April 21, 2014
4/21/2014 at 11:47:36 PM GMT
Posts: 21
Yes, (I want to call you be your first name - Ken, Keith, Kalvin? :) ) bias, but what bias means is that some kind of self-interest can distort our judgment. It can be greed, or just the desire to avoid a hassle (chemists didn't really have that much trouble finding other anti-knock agents, but it must have taken some little trouble), protection of a world view, protection of "us" vs. "them," simple egotism (I need to win this argument!) or any number of things that we want to get or hang onto.

I didn't perceive that Tyson wanted to make too much out of Bishop Ussher. He noted, I think, that what Ussher did was pretty much in line with the assumptions of the time.

4/22/2014 at 1:59:02 AM GMT
Posts: 41
Preston, Keith here. I agree.  Sure, Tyson could have made a lot more of Bishop Ussher.   It's just the continuation of the scientism gibe, as if to say sacred scripture doesn't have real answers, only science does.  That just happened to rub me the wrong way this time.

Of course, we want faith believers to have a high view of science.  But, as discussed throughout the forum posts on the COSMOS series presenting an attitude of scientism in science communications is going to be counterproductive to that end.

As I've been thinking  about scientism vs. the truth of the gospel, I'm mindful of a recent accident in front of our church a couple months ago.  The news reported that two teens were apparently drag racing, according to some at the scene. One of my teen son's best friends, her brother and another teen girl that my daughter knew, all from the church, were walking on the sidewalk in front of the church when one of the cars went out of control and hit the two girls. We heard on the news that one of the girls died and another was in critical condition. We didn't know which girl. It was a couple hours before we learned that my son's good friend might live. Now, she is now finally beginning to walk again. But, her brother, who wasn't hit but saw it happen, is still haunted, I understand, by the cries of the teen driver who kept hysterically screaming out to the effect, "What have I done?!? What have I done?!?" "Oh, what have I done?!?", knowing that his actions were involved in the death of a lovely young woman who had, by all accounts, everything to live for and was described as one of sweetest young women you'd ever want to know. It was tragic all around and our worlds were rocked.

For those who think science is the only means to truth, I think, as Christians, we have to ask, "What does science have to offer the driver(s)? What does it have to offer the brother who witness the horror?" Yes, it certainly helped to save the life of my son's friend, but it cannot fix and can't even speak to the conscience of the driver who otherwise stands to be riddled with guilt (assuming he was truly at fault) the rest of his life or the horror of the brother who witnessed the consequences. What can science say?

The gospel, and only the gospel, on the other hand, has everything to say.  The gospel has the answer.  

I'm sure you have your favorite way of thinking on this scientism issue too.

Last edited Tuesday, April 22, 2014
4/22/2014 at 4:34:52 PM GMT
Posts: 10
Giving attention to a practical application of the science - and in the process confronting tendentious science denialism - was a good idea. But it took better than half the program to get to the point - i.e., what the threat referred to at the beginning actually was. I wasn't familiar with the historical details (like the vast majority of viewers I'd guess) & was thinking at first that this was going to be connected with the possibility of an asteroid impact.

4/23/2014 at 3:45:36 AM GMT
Posts: 21
It's seems like TV program video is a medium that grabs the attention of many people, especially if it has impressive graphics, and it's good for telling someone's story, either by documentary-style or skilled dramatic presentation. For me anyway, it's not a very time efficient method for getting information. But I'm one of Chesterton's 1 out of 10 philosophical type people, and the other 9 prefer stories, anyway. Given the selection of TV as a great mass medium, using the stories of individual scientists seems like a good way to get peoples' attention. And for those of us who learned our science in lectures and textbooks that paid minimal attention to the history of science, it's a nice way to fill out the background a little. Of course, we're trusting the presenter to be fair and accurate about the history. That's why we need Ted Davis and those like him to keep them honest.

4/27/2014 at 12:15:06 PM GMT
Posts: 23
Smashingly cool effects! I loved seeing the layers come apart. You can't convince me that science folks (or at least the special effects folks anyway!) don't have "God complex" aspirations. I could just imagine Tyson warning a couple of dazed and amazed hikers "don't stick your fingers in there; I'm about to put those back together again."

Randy, I think this lead episode is designed to show how science can sometimes thwart greedy interests and promote the welfare of the community or even the globe. And I take it as a healthy sign that the villains of this episode were not icons of religion but were big corporate interests instead. (Tobacco certainly got poked at; did you notice all the evil villains smoking up a storm?) Like Garrison I didn't detect any undue nastiness towards Ussher --I think they could have dwelt on that more if they really wanted to rub it in. But to actually focus more on a real enemy of science instead of trying to make up religious enemies was, I thought, a good shift of direction. Not that big corporations haven't funded good science too, but their influence is powerful for better or for worse.