Wonder is an important part the Cosmos series. She has said that the importance of “wonder” is not meant to conjure a religious sense of wonder, she expound on this sentiment that “religiously based sense of wonder is holding society back”(Kirby, 2015).
“The series, in fact, frequently utilized religious metaphors to help explain scientific ideas such as associating DNA with the phrase ‘Holy Scripture’ and referring to the physical laws that govern the universe as ‘commandments.’”
In this piece by Kirby talks about how the idea of wonder really helps to Cosmos to relate to other people and entrigue them to learn more about the science. The ability to allow/assist in making other people be in wonder of space appears to be the main goal of those who created Cosmos and Kirby touches on it in her writing:
“ Indeed, we are told in the series that deGrasse Tyson’s “spaceship of the imagination” is “fueled by equal parts of science and wonder.” There are also many scenes in the new Cosmos where deGrasse Tyson reminds us that we need to be humble and stand in awe of nature.”
An issue that come with the science documentaries like Cosmos is that it gives people a different view of scientists than might be real. Scientists are humans. They make mistakes. Holding these scientists up on a unrealistic pedestal doesn’t do much besides create the potential for extreme let down; science isn’t exact and or perfect. Kirby has the same idea in her piece:
“An over reliance on wonder in science documentaries gives the false impression that scientists are never wrong and that uncertainty is not an integral part of the scientific process. The danger for the scientific community is that an overdose of wonder can lead to disillusionment when science inevitably proves to be fallible.”
When I was reading the piece by Prescod-Weinstein, I was really inspired by her story. She has had to overcome so many obstacles in her life to be in the position she is in, including racism and sexism by being a Black women in science. The following quote really made me think of the Black Lives Matter movement that has been going on, she touches on the fact that people are running for their lives, so why should we just sit here and talk about how wonderous the sky is.
I do not believe we can talk about the wonders of the night sky without talking about the fact that people are running for their lives beneath the same celestial structures that I get paid to think about every day. I do not want to wait to find out how this story ends if we don’t get in the way because I know, and as a Black Jew feel in every fiber of my being, what happened when Germans did the same.
I think that I definitely feel the whole wonder idea that Kirby was discussing, I love doing research and the thought that we get to discover things and learn a whole bunch of information. I wonder at the idea of being a scientists. But also like in the Prescod-Weinstein piece, I don’t look forward to being a woman in science. While, my struggles societally are not nearly has difficult than the one that Prescod-Weinstein faces, I can empathize with her pain and struggle.
- Bucchi, M. (2008). Of deficits, deviations and dialogues: Theories of public communication of science. In M. Bucchi & B. Trench (Eds.), Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (1 edition, pp. 57–76). Routledge. (PDF in D2L)
- Kirby, D. (2015, January 25). Evangelizing the Cosmos: Science Documentaries and the Dangers of Wonder Overload. http://thescienceandentertainmentlab.com/evangelizing-the-cosmos/
- Prescod-Weinstein, C. (2019, March 23). The right to know and understand the night sky. Medium. https://medium.com/@chanda/the-right-to-know-and-understand-the-night-sky-3a9fb4e04d92