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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cosmos, Fox, and Cognitive Dissonance

I'm guessing that the revived series Cosmos on Fox, and especially tonight's (March 16th) episode, has some folks scratching their heads, or even writhing in the throes of cognitive dissonance.

"This show touts the scientific method and the glories of science! Why, the latest episode even made a point of attacking Intelligent Design, using ID's pet example, the eye, for good measure! Isn't the Fox network made up of knuckle-dragging anti-science conservatives? What's going on here?!?"

Well, when a new piece of evidence appears inconsistent with one's prior assumption, it seems to me that the properly scientific thing to do is to examine the evidence underlying that prior assumption, to see if it can be interpreted in a way consistent with the new data.

Doing some more guessing, I'd wager that for many people, the assumption of Fox's anti-science attitude springs from the frequency with which they air the views of climate change skeptics (deemed climate change/global warming "deniers" by some of the zealous). If all climate change skeptics are either ignorant of or willfully ignoring well-settled science, then why would any network with any respect for science give them that much air time?

I'll toss out some hypotheses to explain how Fox can find room both for Cosmos and for these opponents of the allegedly settled predictions of anthropogenic, catastrophic global climate change.

(A)  Fox treats different branches of science differently. There's some corporate tie, some financial or personal interest, leading whoever runs Fox to make climate change an exception from either a balanced or a pro-science attitude.

(B) The exception isn't global climate change -- it's Cosmos. Someone owes someone a favor, or has some other lever, to make Fox hold its collective nose and air this pro-science program.

And finally --

(C) Skepticism toward climate change is not, in fact, a sign of either ignorance or disdain for science, but rather, true science in action, with skeptics refusing to be stampeded or bullied into accepting a politically pervasive message. The facts are more complex, and/or point at least in part in a different direction.

I haven't examined (A) or (B). As my husband (aka The Hoosier Gadfly) would say, "I'll leave that as an exercise for the student." As the reader will probably have guessed, I currently incline toward Option (C). For some of the data that's led me in that direction, you can take a look at this post from 2010. (I'd suggest ignoring the comments, as they somehow veered off into areas utterly unrelated to anything on my blog ever.)

Meanwhile, I hope you're enjoying the reboot of Cosmos as much as I am.


Karen A Wyle said...

(I should add Option (D): Fox is not a monolithic structure, and can thus have different shows evidencing different attitudes. A way to test this hypothesis: look for air time given to proponents of ID.)

Danusha Goska said...

There is unthinking dogma on all sides, as we both know. :-)

Karen A Wyle said...

Aaaand Cosmos ends up parroting misleading global climate statistics and poorly supported predictions. Sigh. I may be writing to DeGrasse Tyson on the responsibilities of a "science communicator."