Cosmos episode 6 is ostensibly about the miniature reality of the atom. Once again, there are some spectacular animations explaining the nature of the atom, and how they interact to form chemical bonds. We are also treated to animations of semi-steampunk-style molecular machines, supposedly mimicking molecular machines in biology. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson has yet to dare tackle the question of how molecular machines might have evolved, but in this episode he did throw in a little tidbit supposedly highlighting a successful prediction of Darwinian evolution. He observes, "plants covered the surface of the earth for hundreds of millions of years, before they put out their first flower," and then states that this led Darwin to make a prediction:
"On this basis of his theory of evolution through natural selection, Darwin speculated that somewhere on the Island of Madagascar there must live flying insects with extraordinarily lengthy tongues -- ones long enough to reach the pollen. No one had ever seen such a beast there. But Darwin insisted that an animal fitting this description must exist. It wasn't until more than 50 years later that Darwin was proven right."
And of course Tyson then notes that a particular hawk moth species exists on Madagascar that slurps the pollen with its long tongue, "exactly as Darwin expected it would." He says, "There can be no stronger test of an idea than its predictive power," as if this fulfilled prediction regarding insects and flowers shows the amazingly successful predictive power of Darwinian evolution. A little critical thinking and investigation shows that nothing could be further from the case.
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