On Sunday night, the premiere of the science documentary series "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" on the Oklahoma City Fox affiliate KOKH was briefly interrupted by a local news promo. These things happen all the time on TV. Big deal, right?
Well, it just so happens that host Neil deGrasse Tyson was referring to the theory of evolution just as the accidental preemption occurred. As first reported by the left-leaning website Raw Story, in the omitted portion, Tyson explained how "three and a half million years ago" humans "stood up and parted ways" from our biological "ancestors." (You can see the uninterrupted version here.)
In the version that aired on KOKH, posted below, Tyson's 20-second discussion of evolution is elided almost entirely, thanks to a misplaced spot plugging an upcoming local news broadcast.
The series, which executive producer Seth MacFarlane sees as a corrective to anti-science views, has drawn criticism from religious fundamentalists. Because of Oklahoma's culturally conservative reputation and the almost too perfect timing of the misplaced promo, some have suggested (or even assumed) the cut was made deliberately.
But on Wednesday the station issued an apology via its Twitter account, blaming the glitch on human error. A representative of KOKH told the Times that the interruption was caused by a "master control operator error" but declined to elaborate further.
Some outlets have characterized the omitted section as the "only" reference to evolution in the episode, but this is not exactly the case. While it is the only instance in which Tyson specifically referred to humans developing from other forms of life, the premiere episode also included the introduction of the Cosmic Calendar, which condenses the 13.8-billion lifespan of the universe into a single year in which modern humans evolved only in the last hours of Dec. 31.
And in another scene set on a beach, Tyson explains how life emerged from the oceans as an animated Tiktaalik, "one of the first animals to walk on land," crawls out of the waves and onto the sand.