Earth A Biography - Science/Nature shows and religious determinism

Wednesday, 16 July 2008 00:50 by salim

The new three part series in National Geographic is one of the endless series of very high definition earth imageries that now fills the Science/Discovery/NG channels. This, like most other documentaries of the type gives a rather peripheral view of the earth and its evolution.

The series examines different aspects of earth's life through beautifully captured imageries, that rightfully stands at par with Planet Earth and Blue Planet.

I have not watched the whole of it yet. But from the three parts I have already watched, it feels a bit empty except for those gorgeous shots. Dr.Iain Stewart is not the most entertaining presenter if you ask me. But more than the presentation itself, it is the abundance of platitudes that kill the enjoyment.

Here is one example. The episode is Volcanoes and Iain is talking about the carbon cycle. The scene starts with really beautiful micro-shots and quite dazzling aerial and satellite pictures of the sea green with algae. Then he describes how algae absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and eventually die and sediment at the bottom of the ocean. Then comes the revelation! If the algae continues to absorb carbon dioxide, it will eventually thin out the green house effect and the earth will become too cold. That will be the end of life! He then continues to talk about the seduction as the tectonic plates move and the carbon in the sediment gets converted to carbon dioxide.

This is actually a constant theme in these science/nature shows. There is always this single overarching reason for life to survive. Reduce the temperature by a few degrees, a rogue meteor. This not just is limited to the destiny of life, but for the universe itself! Often you will hear if the value of cosmological constant was a bit off, or if the initial temperature of the universe immediately after the big bang was a little lower...

As I see it, these are the same fatalistic deterministic world views that is so ingrained with our age old views of the world, mainly controlled by theological dogma and mythological delusions.

Deterministic narratives of cosmology is fundamental to the propagation of religious dogmas. Any assumption of creation - as Einstein amply demonstrated - has to preclude any questions about a deterministic evolution. Remember, god does not play dice!!

We should, by now, know that there is not just one path that leads to the current state of the Universe. While past might be fixed, it does not, by any means say that this is the only possible current state. Nor does it mean that our past is the only way to reach here.

I am eagerly waiting to see a narration that is devoid of the fatalistic proclamations one of these days. May be I should watch Nova more regularly!!!

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