A summary of how off the "history" in the first episode was:
4. Giordano Bruno Was Not More Important To Science Than Kepler And Galileo
According to Cosmos, at the dawn of the age of astronomy there was “only one man on the whole planet who envisioned an infinitely grander cosmos, and how was he spending New Years Eve of the year 1600? Why, in prison, of course.”
Now we are getting away from the cosmic stuff and into the juicy personal side of science, with its anarchy and back-stabbing, and insurrection — a much different reality than the cold, logical, evidence-based perception of scientists. What science giant are they talking about? Galileo? Kepler? Brahe? No, Tyson is instead talking about Giordano Bruno, who, we are told, “couldn’t keep his soaring vision of the cosmos to himself” at a time when “there was no freedom of thought.”
And we are to believe science is the reason why he was in jail, because Copernicus “did not go far enough” and supposedly Bruno did.
First, let’s examine this freedom of thought concept. Yes, this was the time of The Inquisition — no one is defending that — but most people brought up on charges of “heresy” (a moving target, to be sure) apologized for whatever they did and went on their way. So in some cases The Inquisition suppressed freedom of expression, not freedom of thought. Bruno was excommunicated from three different religions, which means two of them accepted him after he had already been excommunicated from others. If freedom of thought was really suppressed, they wouldn’t have taken him at all.
The cartoon we get about Bruno shows him getting run out of Oxford also, but the audience must realize he got invited to talk at Oxford even though they knew what he was about, so clearly they were not suppressing freedom of thought. He lived in England for two years. What is left out of this very long cartoon — 10 minutes of a 41-minute program is devoted to this revisionist history of Bruno – is that Bruno only agreed with Copernicus because he worshiped the Egyptian God Thoth and believed in Hermetism and its adoration of the sun as the center of the universe. Both Hermes and Thoth were gods of…magic.
The church and science did not agree with Bruno that pygmies came from a “second Adam” or that native Americans had no souls, but they were also not going to kill him over it. There is no evidence his “science” came up at any time. He was imprisoned for a decade because the church wanted him to just recant his claims that Hermetism was the one true religion and then they could send him on his way. When he spent a decade insisting it was fact, he was convicted of Arianism and occult practices, not advocating science. It was discovered shortly after his execution that the “ancient texts” he believed had predicted, among other things, the birth of Jesus Christ, had only been created a century earlier, not at the time of Moses.
After the cartoon about Bruno, Tyson immediately concedes that Bruno was not a scientist.
This leads to an obvious question: Why would a science program devote 25 percent of its first episode to the persecution of someone who was not a scientist, was not accepted by scientists, and published no science, but was instead a martyr for magic?
That is a mystery only the producers can answer, but science historians can’t be happy that Galileo’s primary credit to the science of astronomy in Cosmos becomes that he “looked through a telescope, realizing that Bruno had been right all along.”
We can’t know exactly what Galileo thought when he looked through that telescope, but we can be certain that a sun-worshiping philosopher was not on his mind. Instead of being a champion for science and a martyr for freedom of thought, as Cosmos tries to portray him, Bruno undermined science — religious authorities, including the Pope, who had been interested in a good argument for Copernicus, began to wonder if it was all a cult. Yet they didn’t kill to protect religion from science, no matter how the story of Bruno is framed. Both Copernicus and Galileo, actual scientists who shook the pillars of heaven, died peacefully in their sleep.
There is one good thing about believing in the multiverse, though: if there are infinite universes, in one of them the story of Giordano Bruno happened exactly as the Cosmos show says it did.
Unfortunately, in the actual universe, it did not.