“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established…” (Psalm 8.3, NRSV) – these are words that call us to ponder the awesome wonder of creation. Soon, we’ll have a new chance to look at God’s stellar handiwork on network television. Last week, Fox announced a 13-episode update of Carl Sagan’s classic “Cosmos” miniseries. The show will be hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (whose occasional PBS series “Nova ScienceNow” has become appointment TV around our house). It is spearheaded by Sagan’s widow, scientist and author, Ann Druyan; and is being produced by the National Geographic Channel and…Seth McFarlane? Apparently, the “Family Guy” creator is also a long-time Cosmos fan, and is eager to help American society reawaken a “fascination with science.” McFarlane told the New York Times: “We’re obsessed with angels and vampires and whatnot…when there are many more exciting and very real and much more spectacular things to be excited about, that are right in our own planetary backyard.”
Sagan himself, of course, subscribed to no formal creed, and sometimes had harsh words for organized religion. Still, his immense and infectious sense of wonder at the universe is something that we, Christians—especially of the “sci-fi” variety—can appreciate and learn from. The cosmos is an astonishing place, as the psalmist sang so long ago; and nothing we can learn about it can threaten our faith in the Creator who, ultimately, through whatever processes, fashioned it all.
Sagan famously wrote that seeing the Earth as that “pale blue dot” in Voyager 1’s final snapshot is “a humbling and character-building experience…to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish…the only home we’ve ever known.” However much the psalmist would disagree with Sagan on theology, I think he would concur with the astronomer’s conclusion. God has given the human creatures on this tiny blue planet “dominion over the works of [God’s] hands” (Ps. 8.6)—a tremendous mission we dare not take lightly. I’m looking forward to the new Cosmos series, and hope it will help us all, believers or not, renew our commitment to living as faithful stewards of the world.
(By the way, if you’re not already listening to and watching John Boswell’s “Symphony of Science” videos, you should be! Each composition sets auto-tuned words from Sagan and other leading scientists to original music, extolling the glories of the natural world and the power of human reason. Some Christians may take issue with the decidedly secular humanist stance, but, for eyes and ears of faith, the “Symphony of Science” still offers compelling glimpses of our connection to and responsibility for the rest of God’s creation).