This article originally appeared on AlterNet
Neil deGrasse Tyson is keeping creationists up at night.
Almost a month after the premiere episode of Cosmos on Fox, the leading creationist organization, Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis (AiG) is still upset that Tyson dared suggest life on earth started without the help of God. Tyson honestly stated that the very origins of life are not yet understood. That field of science, called abiogenesis, is searching for these answers. Because abiogenesis has yet to turn up any verifiable results—not that they have claimed any are verifiable—AiG is calling that evidence of a clear flaw. What’s clear is that Tyson isn’t just a threat to creationists. Their big target is the reputation of science.
Scientists consider the origins of life one of the great mysteries of our time and are looking for answers with great excitement; however, according to AiG this mystery will not be solved until, “[…] They acknowledge God’s eyewitness account of the origin of life in the Bible.”
AiG continues in an attempt to discredit the science, saying:
“Abiogenesis has never been observed in experimental biology and violates the most fundamental law in biology, the law of biogenesis. Nevertheless, the authors of the review are confident there was a naturalistic chemical origin for life.” [Biogenesis is the natural law that life comes from reproduction by living things].
The jaw-dropping irony of these statements is lost on these creationists. To claim abiogenesis has not been observed (an honest statement), and then to say this proves their creation story is something that would raise the eyebrows of a first-grader.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, the claim that abiogenesis breaks the law of biogenesis is simply dishonest. The law of biogenesis, attributed to Louis Pasteur, states that life cannot come from non-life, yet Pasteur did not demonstrate that this is impossible, only that it does not happen in everyday life, and that life around us was more connected than people thought. Pasteur argued this before we had any understanding of genetics and he would have realized just how connected we are and the simple fact all life derives from a single source, a common ancestor.
The assumption that their audience lacks basic scientific understanding gives AiG permission to be “fact-free.” Neil deGrasse Tyson gives viewers a naturalist’s explanation for the world, and when he says science does not yet know something, this is not a sign of the failures of science, but instead a powerful example of the necessary honesty in which science thrives. The very fact that AiG sees the words “I don’t know” as a weakness shows the lengths of intellectual dishonesty they are willing to go to pull the wool over their followers’ eyes.
This reaction from AiG shows their new position of pure panic. Neil deGrasse Tyson has become their biggest fear, public enemy number one. Not only does Tyson make science accessible to people; he is likeable and non-controversial. And he does not self-identify as an atheist, meaning his reach across both sides of the aisle is greater than that of Dawkins and Ham.
Millions of viewers each week are inviting Tyson into their home and listening and watching as he explains the magnificence of the world we live in. If the population begins to understand the living world and realizes it originated from natural events with no help from any supernatural forces, this causes the creationists a serious problem. Not that people will walk away from their faith, but that people will walk away from creationism. That would stop lining the pockets of AiG’s Ken Ham and push his creation museum into further financial despair.
Tyson has become the creationist scapegoat as they watch an intellectual world move right on by them. Their attempts to paint him in a dishonest light may convince their most loyal of followers into staying on board, yet will do nothing to expand the foundation they are trying to build off of.
Tyson’s honesty and sense of wonder makes science feel cool again, just like Carl Sagan, his predecessor in the Cosmos series, once did. He is helping to revive America’s love of science—and nothing scares the religious fundamentalists more.