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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

I used to be a big fan of the nature channels, but so many started peddling absolute nonsense. Apparently, viewers like it, because apparently the mermaid program was a huge hit. The history channels started showing pseudoscience crap, too, like "Ancient Aliens." Beam me up, Scotty, I'm done with the human race.

The wages of pseudoscience

I completely missed the disgraceful hokum the Animal Planet channel aired last week, Mermaids: The Body Found, a completely fictional pseudodocumentary dressed up as reality that claims mermaids exist. You can watch it now, though, until Animal Planet takes it down.

It’s genuinely awful. Total nonsense, gussied up with more nonsense: would you believe it justifies the story with the Aquatic Ape gobbledygook? Brian Switek has torn into it, and of course Deep Sea News is disgusted. How could the channel have so disgraced themselves with such cheap fiction?

Here’s the answer:


Monster Week’s MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND Made Mighty Splash with More Than 3.4 Million Viewers

(May 30, 2012, Silver Spring, Md.) – Animal Planet devoured the month with its best May ever, earning its strongest performances in both prime and total delivery among all key demos, including prime deliveries of 681K P2+ (+7%), 508K HH (+7%), 330K P25-54 (+21%), 301K P18-49 (+12%) and 193K M25-54 (+30%), and total day deliveries of 456K P2+ (+13%), 355K HH (+10%), 215K P25-54 (+26%), 203K P18-49 (+13%) and 120K M25-54 (+32%).

Animal Planet’s May victory was propelled its first-ever Monster Week (the week of May 21), featuring MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND, which made a huge splash at the “tail” end of the week. MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND delivered nearly 2 million viewers (1.96M P2+) for its premiere, making it the most-watched telecast since the Steve Irwin memorial special in September 2006. The two-hour premiere scored a 1.3 HH rating and helped rank Animal Planet #2 in the timeslot, including 960K P25-54 (0.9), 482K M25-54 (1.0) and 477K W25-54 (0.9). The subsequent late-night airing of MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND earned the title of Animal Planet’s most-watched late-night telecast ever, delivering nearly 1.5M viewers (1.46M P2+), bringing the combined viewership to more than 3.4 million viewers. MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND encores Thursday, May 31, from 8-10 PM ET/PT.

Brace yourselves. More of this will be coming…unless more of us protest by turning off the Animal Planet channel altogether. They’ve just been rewarded for epic dishonesty with peak traffic; what lesson do you think they’ll learn from this?

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From the program:

From Brian Switek's blog:

Late last night, my friend and fellow blogger Miriam Goldstein sent me an e-mail with the title “please oh please debunk this.” I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly in the debunking mood at the time, but I couldn’t resist having a look – what rotting bit of pseudoscientific nonsense had washed ashore now?

Miriam’s e-mail led me to the promotional page for Mermaids: The Body Found. Part of Animal Planet’s inaugural Monster Week, the press release announced, the documentary-format special “paints a wildly convincing picture of the existence of mermaids.” An editor’s note at the top stated that the show “is science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory,” but the rest of the release was written as if all the imaginary evidence for fish-bodied humanoids were authentic.

This wasn’t the first time Animal Planet presented fantasy as reality. In 2004, the Discovery spin-off network aired Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real — an hour-and-a-half special about the evolution and biology of fire-breathing dragons. The speculative show hinged on the fabricated discovery of a dragon in the Carpathian Mountains, and, in a similar fashion, Mermaids relied on imaginary forensic evidence (see the video above) and audio recordings to play out its story.

Yep! The windjammer sailors mistook manatees for mermaids because they suckled their young. Since sailors of yore were a pretty good at telling tall stories helped to give rise to mermaids.

The lesson they will learn from this is nought. Because Mammon rules their house. 

It's all about ratings and the gullibility of the american public.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a network exploring what if scenarios. I loved Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real by Animal Planet and I'll probably watch this one too. I want them to do vampires and werewolves next. What if they were real? How could you have a scientifically explainable fairytale creature. I also liked the "Ancient Aliens" documentary too I thought that was interesting.

Sounds more like Syfy channel programming than animal planet.

I agree with Neal, there are already science fiction channels. There are so many fascinating real animals to make shows on, why feature fictional beings on a nature/science channel? 

I was watching NatGeo yesterday and saw this amazing, short lived flower, pollinated by a bat whose tongue is longer than its body, it evolved the tongue to reach the nectar; as it sinks its head into the flower, it gets "dusted" with pollen and when it goes to the next flower, the deed is done. That plant would not exist without the bat. That's the kind of stuff the nature channels should be showing; there are many other channels dealing with dragons, vampires, etc., there are many shows on fantasy beings already.

These shows belong on science channels because they promote scientific discovery, as long as they explain that its only theoretical and not real it doesn't matter. Theory is a major part of what it means to be a scientist.

As a scientist, I beg to differ. Hypotheses are important, but they must be based on preliminary credible evidence. When we write grant applications to get funds for research, we present our hypotheses in the context of what's known and what makes sense given the current body of data. Nobody would fund a research project based solely on fantasy. Otherwise, I could simply say I want to search for unicorns on top of Mount Everest or winged people in Tasmania, based on interviews with some locals and fake photos, and pass that for reputable science. It simply isn't.

Those shows do not promote scientific discovery. How are they doing so? 

Eye witness counts, however untrustworthy, is still evidence of something - wither fraud or not. The only reason we shouldn't investigate something is because something else is more important and therefore more deserving of funding, but If we had all the money/time in the world, it would be wrong not to investigate the possibility of a unicorn atop Mount Everest. What a discovery would that be if true. TV is entertainment. Science channel entertains with Science. These shows use our knowlage of science to ground myths in reality and Its fascinating, to strip away magic from the creature and force it into the realm of possibly. Its cool! And strikes home with a lot of people that would not otherwise like the subject, thus it promotes science. I was raised with Bill Nye, Reading Rainbow, and the Magic School Bus these shows are no different. They entertain us to keep our focus and educate us without feeling like school. Its what Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson and  Michio Kaku do all the time.

I understand your point that if the shows are entertaining, kids get excited about science. However, Bill Nye and deGrasse Tyson never used fictitious stuff to make science interesting. My point was that the natural world is exciting and fantastic enough, there is, for example, no need to resort to fake monsters, true monsters exist (and existed) and they are terrifying and awe-inspiring. 

Believe me, the long-tongue bat show did not feel like school! LOLZ

Bill Nye did too use fictitious stuff. He had goofy animations, skits, and implausible situations all the time on his shows, to make points. One episode all the wood in the world disappeared and in another his senses got mixed up and in another a boy did not eat the crust on his sandwich which caused the earthquake. The Magic School bus well used a Magic Sentient Bus and a lizard with human intelligence to entertain. People shrank and went in side other things and they created a brand new star as a birthday present. They are gimmicky yes, but they serve their purpose.


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