Saturday, June 01, 2013

Mermaids ... MERMAIDS???

Nothing is more irredeemably irrelevant than bad science. ~ John C. Polanyi

Brian Switech's article says it as well as I ever could:  "Mermaids embodies the rotting carcass of science TV."

A while back, I saw ads for this nonsense and assumed that it was something fanciful like the program on dragons a couple of years ago.  And it was.  Unfortunately, the producers didn't bother to make the fictional nature of the program obvious until the closing credits, by which time the crowd that thinks Mars is going to be as big as the moon in August was already going nuts over the broadcast.

The various channels in the History-Discovery axis have been giving us monster sightings, UFO's and aliens for some time now.  Sadly, I'm sure it does wonders for the ratings.  Unfortunately, it also helps rot the brains of an already largely confused public that doesn't understand science -- or history for that matter.

In an otherwise acceptable History program, a section on the Roman emperor Constantine came to the point that he was baptized on his deathbed.  The narrator then said something to the effect that "now it was alright to become a Christian."  This ignored the fact that Constantine had embraced and championed Christianity ever since the start of his reign.  His mother was running around the Holy Land, for crying out loud, identifying important Biblical sites (based on a sort of divinely inspired intuition).  Constantine held out, most likely, because he was raised on the old Roman gods and there was still a large religious structure based on those gods.  He was hedging his bets.  When he was dying, he decided to make that final commitment when it wouldn't impact the religious and political forces he was dealing with.

You may think it's not that big a point, but it is.  Constantine was convening councils to establish the orthodoxy of Christianity, hardly the actions of an emperor who was waiting to die to make it okay to become a follower of Jesus.  He had stopped the persecution of Christians.  For all practical purposes, he established the structural basis for the modern Church.  Hardly something one could do on one's deathbed.

What's scarey is that it's the misinformation that sticks with people.  As Mr. Switech points out, "Not that my debunking will do much good. I don’t know how many people watched Mermaids, but I’m certain that many more people saw it than will ever read this post."  I hear bad science all the time, gleaned from stupid chain e-mails, bad science web sites, and awful programs like the mermaids and dragons nonsense.  There is an inviolable law about information that's been around much longer than the Internet.  That is that bad information drives out good information.

It's the only way to explain flat earthers, creationists, UFO freaks, Bigfoot believers, and homeopathy fans, among others.  Worst of all, it distracts from the things that really need attention.  David Shiffman has a short list of five items relating to the oceans and life in them that really need public awareness but get short shrift from so-called science-oriented channels.

We are in bad need of another Jacques Cousteau.

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