Watch Cosmos, be less dumb

I wouldn’t be much of a television professional if I didn’t watch a lot of TV, have an opinion on all of it, and insist on sharing that opinion even when you don’t ask.  But I do; I do; and even though you didn’t, here goes.

I hope you’re watching Cosmos.  If you’re not, you can catch it online here as well as on Fox and a few of the Fox-affiliated networks; next new episode is Sunday night.  Astronomer/rock star Neil deGrasse Tyson is an engaging if slightly self-absorbed host for a journey of the imagination that’s not only exploring out in space, but back in time.  This version takes full advantage of the capabilities of the medium in the modern day and tells a great story.  I don’t find it as enthralling as the original with astronomer/rock star Carl Sagan back in 1980, but it’s not fair to compare the two, not for people like me who saw the Sagan series when we were young and the things he talked about were actually new and unknown to us.  For me, it had the advantage of provoking wonderment in a way the current version just can’t; I hope it does for the kids of today.

The new series, produced by Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, Seth McFarlane and others, is providing easy-to-follow explanations of some difficult scientific concepts.  The writers and producers have found a way to lay things out so you can understand the concept in the same way you eat an elephant (one bite at a time); it’s not scary to learn new things here.  I particularly liked Episode 2 for the explanation of evolution by natural selection.  Anyone who didn’t watch that show with a preset determination that evolution is for atheists could grasp the basics; yes, you’ve got to give up the notion that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that people and dinosaurs lived side by side, but you will understand what the scientific terms “evolution” and “natural selection” really mean.  It should be required viewing for the members of the Texas State Board of Education, that’s for sure.

If you prefer yours in a handy graphical form, here’s a swell chart from Reddit user SlipperyFish done for The Infographics Project (thumbnail image via Thinkstock).  Thanks to Upworthy for the link to this short answer to a perennial favorite dumb question:


Here’s where your argument falls to the ground

I’m having trouble sorting out the competing arguments on this whole “fiscal cliff” thingy: either we’ve got to prevent going over it, or it’s OK to go over it a little, or it’s not really a cliff at all but more like a slope; and if the far right criticizes Speaker Boehner’s plan and so does the president, does that mean the far right agrees with the president?

You may suffer from the same problem: from time to time and no matter the topic, there are those days when each argument advanced sounds pretty good, but then someone else opens up their piehole and I don’t know what to think anymore except that maybe I am too stupid to live. How, my friends, how are we to sort out the good from the bad, the sound from the unsound, the wheat from the chaff…the flotsam from the jetsam, the Hatfields from the McCoys? How indeed!

With thanks for the tip to the fine folks at, behold the world’s handiest tool for cutting through the crap: an interactive website which “offers definitions and examples of the most common logical fallacies plaguing our debates today.”


AND, they’ve got free posters available for download—looks like the perfect stocking stuffer, and such a thoughtful gift at this special time of year.