Wonders of the Universe with Brian Cox

I’ve never felt terribly comfortable with the display of passion from believers. It isn’t that it bothers me that people believe false things (though it does) or that someone is claiming to be so emotionally moved by their belief. It’s that it lacks something. It’s one of those intangible things that’s difficult to really identify. It’s like the body from Weekend at Bernie’s. Yeah, it was moving and it fooled a lot of people, but it was ultimately lifeless.

That isn’t to say I think believers are being insincere or that they aren’t really wrapped up in their belief. Of course they are. But when they try and convey that, they lose me. And it isn’t merely that I find what they believe to be silly. Hitler believed a lot of moronic things (including creationism), but when he conveyed them, he didn’t lose anyone in the room. He had a real passion, awful as it was.

And the same goes for a lot of figures, including one’s much more revered in history. Sticking with the WW2 theme, Churchill and FDR conveyed some real passion in their words. Moving further up in history, JFK and MLK both passed on their passion. You could feel it. You knew they meant what they were saying.

I think the same goes for a number of scientific figures, but probably for different reasons. With the political and social people I just mentioned, I’m not so sure what it is that really drove them. For Hitler, it was probably simple hate. For the others, they probably had convictions fundamental to who they were as humans, I would hazard to guess. But I’m not sure there was one underlying thing that made their passion so real. For people like Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, though, I think what makes their passion so special is that it is underlined by a deep understanding. When they speak their beliefs, they know they are as close to truth as anyone can get. Religious believers may think they’ve found truth, but since they have zero methods for determining as much, they can’t know it.

And that brings me to Brian Cox. He currently has a fantastic show on The Science Channel right now called Wonders of the Universe. Throughout every moment of the show, it’s obvious he has a passion. You can feel it. And along with the Dawkins’ and Sagan’s and Tyson’s of the scientific world, he conveys it in a way that is uniquely powerful, unavailable to mere believers.

I won’t be so bold as to call him the next Carl Sagan, but he has that same passion, that same fire. It’s really exciting stuff, under all of which lies an intensely deep understanding.

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9 comments on “Wonders of the Universe with Brian Cox

  1. Awesome post! I agree 100%! When you look at ‘passion’ that religionuts display, and I have, up close, you know it’s empty and baseless…. and just a little pathetic. Sometimes I’ve felt like shaking them and telling them about the profound awesome that’s REALLY out there…

    The passion that people like Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Neil Tyson and most especially Carl Sagan have (… and had…) is awesome and inspiring and you are right! The fact that what they are passionate about is the empirically proven, peer reviewed, scientifically integrated truth makes it so much more awesome.

    I watched Phil Hellenes’s new video this weekend and he also has the passion and skill to move a person… and then there’s the Symphony of Science videos!

    Science is awesome.

  2. I was waiting for someone to point that out.

    So was Hitler and FDR and Churchill and JFK. But at no point did any of them, including MLK, wax about religion in a way that had much life. That is, they were moved by a variety of factors in their non-religious speeches which gave life to their words. There is no one factor, I would hazard, that underlies why those words had so much vigor, but it was not religion. Perhaps their belief played a role, such as with King, but I more strongly suspect that it was deep social and civic convictions which drove the power of what he, and all these figures, had to say.

    With these scientists, however, it is always the combination of that desire to know what is true combined with an actual deep understanding of that truth. No one can read creationist writing by a Dembski or Behe and begin to compare it to the passion of a Dawkins. One side has actual knowledge, and that’s a huge advantage.

  3. “No one can read creationist writing by a Dembski or Behe and begin to compare it to the passion of a Dawkins.”

    It may be true that Dawkins and Cox are passionate, however the above comment is pure, biased, speculation based on subjective feelings.

    In addition, I would argue that MLK’s beliefs did had a lot to do with both his faith and the social convictions. MLK constantly relied on and inserted religious ideas into his writings. It isn’t as black and white as you portray it.

    The feeling one gets from this writing is that scientists are truly passionate and believers aren’t, at least not truly. The reality is that you are moved by the passion that you see in science because you identify with it. You don’t identify with the passion in people of faith and so you aren’t moved by it. This isn’t all that profound.

    Also, you forgot to mention that Hitler was heavily influenced by a twisted form of social Darwinism. This was much more of a factor in his “passion” than any type of creationism.

  4. You’ve missed the point entirely. In fact, you usurped a point I made and twisted it in order to fit your misinterpretation.

    In addition, I would argue that MLK’s beliefs did had a lot to do with both his faith and the social convictions. MLK constantly relied on and inserted religious ideas into his writings. It isn’t as black and white as you portray it.

    As I already said, and as you’ve pretended you just originally said, yes, King probably was motivated by his beliefs. But let’s go back to the original post here, as well as my subsequent response. Believers can give great speeches. Hitler, JFK, Churchill, and FDR were all believers and they could all give great speeches. But their great speeches were not about their belief. Any time anyone makes a speech like that, it comes across as dead in some way. Indeed, every single religious speech I’ve ever heard could easily be placed on one of those evangelical channels without anyone knowing any better.

    The feeling one gets from this writing is that scientists are truly passionate and believers aren’t, at least not truly.

    Your feelings are fine and all, but I have explicitly said I don’t think believers are being insincere or anything of the like. What I think is that they have no fundamental understanding. That’s the reason their words are so dead. Their ignorance shines through in every sentence.

    Also, you forgot to mention that Hitler was heavily influenced by a twisted form of social Darwinism. This was much more of a factor in his “passion” than any type of creationism.

    Social Darwinism is not science, nor is a twisted form of it science. And he was not influenced by that. He already fully believed Jews were less beings. He was influenced by nationalism and the bitterness of all Germans left over from WW1. You may as well attempt to associate the Soviets with Darwin because Lysenko used failed ideas about evolution.

    This is just the same old tired Christian horseshit about associating an icon of evil with evolution. It’s a fundamentally dishonest method that attempts to undermine evolution via an argument from consequence and negative association. And aside from being logically invalid, it isn’t even true. Hitler was a creationist. End of story.

  5. Hitler was certainly influenced by several factors, but creationism was probably the least of them.

    You are wrong that Hitler wasn’t influenced by a twisted form of Darwinism. Here is a quote from “A History of World Societies”, which is a collegiate level world history textbook. ”

    “From Luegar and others, Hitler eagerly absorbed virulent anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred of Slavs. He developed an unshakable belief in the crudest, most exaggerated distortions of the Darwinian theory of survival, the superiority of the Germanic races, and the inevitability of racial conflict.” (Page 914)

    Other sources could be cited as well, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate your clear error.

    You have a a responsibility to your readers to research your facts before making untrue assertions.

  6. Hitler was a creationist, but no one said he was influenced by his creationism in any of his speeches. As I said, it was largely nationalism and WW1 bitterness that motivated him, not to mention general racism and probably a desire for power.

    Your fundamentally Jack Hudson-style dishonesty about Hitler and evolution is tiresome. You may as well say Hitler and Nietzsche are two peas of the same pod because Hitler believed in the German superman. Or maybe you could associate Hitler and Newton. After all, Hitler had to use gravity in order to send off his V2 rockets.

    But you’ve moved the topic very far from your original complaint. You pointed out that MLK was a believer (forgetting for a moment that so was every other person I named) and I pointed out that the power of his words came from non-religious speeches, even if he involved religion or was influenced by it in some way. Your response has been to ignore that and go on like a good Christian does, pretending that you’re just stating facts when you attempt to associate Hitler and evolution.

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