Saturday, March 8, 2014


Several decades ago astronomer Carl Sagan produced and narrated a series of science shows for PBS titled Cosmos. It was a smash.

Now the series is being reprised with Neil deGrasse Tyson, a disciple of Sagan's, filling the late astronomer's role. The series starts tomorrow night on Fox (9:00 Eastern) and should be quite good as long as it sticks to the science.

Unfortunately, if the opening statement in the trailer is any indication - it's Sagan's famous summarization of metaphysical naturalism in his own voice - the show will probably interlace the science with metaphysical assumptions presented as the deliverances of modern science. It'll take an alert viewer to filter out the metaphysics from the science.

But I'm just guessing. Maybe Tyson and the script writers, unlike those who wrote the original Cosmos, will just stick to the science. Here's the trailer:

Tomatoe and Rspect

Readers of a certain age will remember, perhaps vividly, how the media forever stigmatized Dan Quayle as a dunce because he couldn't recall, off the cuff, whether there was an 'e' at the end of the word 'tomato' or not. When a Republican vice-president gets a brain freeze that causes him to flub a spelling, it becomes an iconic moment in American political history, and the hapless Republican is never allowed to live down the embarrassment.

That's what the media does to Republicans, but don't they do the same thing to Democrats who stumble over words that any reasonably intelligent fourth grader can spell? Well, not so much. You probably hadn't even heard of this example of mind-lock until you watched this video:
I'm not making fun of the president. Anyone could suffer the same sort of lapse. I know I have, and that's the point. Journalistic hypocrites in the media skewered a good man like Dan Quayle for experiencing what they themselves have doubtless also experienced. They held him up to derision, portraying him as a dope, simply because he's a conservative, but they go into media mute mode when progressives like Mr. Obama commit the same faux pas.

That sort of double standard, the willingness to ridicule the other side for trivial slips to which everyone succumbs, is why many journalists or commentators, whether liberal or conservative, have so little credibility with anyone on the other side of the ideological divide.

Here's a suggestion: Before we tear down someone with whom we disagree for a goof like President Obama's or Vice-President Quayle's, let's ask whether we would tear the person down if he were someone on our side. If the honest answer is "no," then let's grant our opponent the same grace and forbearance we'd grant our ally. If we're not willing to do this then we don't deserve to be listened to.

This is not to say that we shouldn't civilly criticize what we see as errant policies or behavior among our political class. We absolutely should do so, but it does mean that we shouldn't criticize harmless human foibles to which everyone falls prey, just to make our political opponents look bad.