Tyson is making history with every word he writes and speaks. However, he falls short when it comes to delivering historical information on his series. The narrative driving “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is presented from a Western, Euro-centric perspective. Some statements made on the show are historically inaccurate. Other statements clearly place importance on European contributions to science while excluding discoveries made by other cultures. Racial and cultural inclusion within science history would make the information he provides on “Cosmos” accurate and empowering to all.
The Ancient Egyptians Studied The Stars 5000 Years Before Europeans
Tyson tells the audience that the cosmic perspective is a relatively modern phenomena. He says, “This cosmic perspective is relatively new, a mere 4 centuries ago our tiny world was oblivious to the cosmos, there were no telescopes the universe was only what you can see with the naked eye.”
This statement is not correct. Not only did the Ancient Egyptians have a grasp on the cosmic perspective more than 5,000 years before European scientists, but astronomy was an integral part of Ancient Egyptian society. Astronomers and architects worked together to construct temples, pyramids and monuments in alignment with cardinal points within the stars. For instance, the Great Pyramids have air shafts facing south that point to the star Sirius, marking the start of the Egyptian year. Orion, which represents death and rebirth, is also a focal point.
The Mysteries of Nature Were Decoded Before Modern Astronomy
Tyson attempts to put the age of the universe into perspective by using one Earth calendar year. He draws parallels between the last 40,000 years of human history and the last 60 seconds of the last hour on the last day of the calendar year. He then says, “Moses was born 7 seconds ago. Buddha, 6 seconds ago. Jesus, 5 seconds ago. Mohammed, 4 seconds ago. It was not even 2 seconds ago that, for better or worse, the two halves of the earth discovered each other. It was only in the last second we used science to unlock and reveal nature and her laws.”
Their discoveries occurred before the birth of Moses. The Stone Circles found in Nabta Playa serve as physical evidence of a 365- day calendar created by Egyptian astronomers. These early scientists were well-versed in observing stellar events such as the conjunctions, phases and risings of the Sun, Moon and planets.
Using science to understand nature even predates the modern religions that presently object to its findings. Ancient Egyptians incorporated what we now call science into almost every facet of their civilization. For instance, astronomy was instrumental in mapping time to understand cyclical changes in nature and improve agricultural planning. The Stone Circle found in Nabta Playa was originally created to assist farmers by predicting Nile river flooding. Ancient civilizations in China and India used astronomy to predict climate and seasonal changes as well.http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/04/09/5-neil-degrasse-tyson-quotes-cosmos-get-side-eye/3/