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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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Replies to This Discussion

Bill Nye did too use fictitious stuff. He had goofy animations, skits, and implausible situations all the time on his shows, to make points.

Except that one wonders what point is being made with ancient aliens. What is actually being taught here?

I'm defending Dragon: a fantasy made real and this show. Ancient Aliens I just enjoyed because I like syfy, I entertain the what ifs. You can actually say its wrong to air it, because, unlike the dragons made real show and the mermaid one, it wasn't explained to be full of conjecture, which made it far worse.

You are right; Bill Nye did use fictitious stuff, and the Magic School Bus was, well, magic, after all. But these are kids' shows. None of the shows we are talking about target elementary school kids.

And at least from the Magic School Bus that I read to my boys, it was pretty clear it was fictitious. Like a cartoon. The shows we are discussing about are not that clear on whether they are talking about fun fictitious stuff or whether these creatures actually exist. 

Editor's Note: This two-hour special is science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory.

Offical Site: Mermaids: The Body Found

Its pretty clear to me. Any reasonable person will see it for what it is, those that don't will believe anything and there's nothing that will stop that.

Jen had a fun long rant about Ancient Aliens a couple of months ago, BTW.

The genetic “proof” for ancient aliens

I have a new, horrible obsession – the History Channel’s show Ancient Aliens.

On Saturday I found myself drinking with a group of my boyfriend Sean’s friends, when one of them announced that we must play an Ancient Aliens drinking game. I had no idea what the show was, but became intrigued when they started discussing the rules of when to take a drink:

  • Whenever someone being interviewed has no relevant credentials like a PhD
  • Whenever someone says the phrase “Some scientists say”
  • Whenever someone says the phrase “ancient astronaut theorists”
  • Whenever an ancient manuscript is displayed
  • Whenever there’s a terrible CGI reenactment
  • Whenever Giorgio starts talking

Me: Who’s Giorgio?
Them: Oh, you’ll know who Giorgio is soon enough.

This is Giorgio, by the way:

…That’s all I’m going to say.

They decided to reduce the list so we would wouldn’t get alcohol poisoning. But I found myself following my own rule of “drink whenever someone says something that blatantly defies logic or is a total non sequitur.” Which meant I was pretty much constantly drinking for an hour and a half. Especially when you’re jumping from pyramids, dragon drawings, Tesla coils, and the Bible all being proof of aliens (just to name a few).

For those of you who’ve never seen the show…I’m not quite sure how to summarize it. The footage looks professionally done since it’s on the History Channel, and some of the shots of the ancient artifacts are cool to see. But if I had to summarize the major theme, it would either be “Brown people never could have done <insert amazing feat here> because they were too lazy and/or stupid, therefore aliens had to help them.” I think my favorite mindblowing moment was when Giorgio explained that:

  • People worship “Gods”
  • But people only believe in things they have evidence for
  • They had written/drawn evidence for these “Gods”
  • Written/drawn evidence is always realistic and never abstract, imaginative, or metaphorical
  • But “Gods” don’t actually exist
  • Therefore they were actually aliens

Oh, Giorgio. How I wish point #2 was true.

Something about the show hooked me in its terribleness. My emotional reaction was actually very similar to the time when I visited the Creation Museum. Yes, I was mad at how they were twisting science, using terrible logic, and spreading blatant lies. But the absurdity of it all was oddly amusing. By the end you find yourself playing along, like you’re watching a fantasy novel… and not something people actually believe.

Also, being heavily inebriated helps.

So Sean and I plowed forward to episode two, since the first two seasons are conveniently available on Netflix. Our “game” was to guess what sort of bizzaro conspiracy theory the show would provide to explain a phenomena they were hyping before the show made the reveal. Sean was a little too excited when he correctly guessed the “Humans and aliens had sex and interbred” plotline. To which I replied, “But they’re an alien. Humans can’t even breed with chimps. Humans would have to actually be aliens seeded here or something for interbreeding to be possible.”

And then that’s exactly what the show said, and I nearly peed my pants laughing.

But the real kicker came when the show brought up the human genome. Sean and I both study genomics and evolution, so we exchanged a wary look. I’ll let you see it for yourself. The clip begins at 7:34 in the first video, and continues until 3:03 in the next.

In case you can’t watch the video or had trouble following that pristine argument, let me summarize:

  • Geneticists discovered the gene HAR1, which is unique to humans and plays a critical role in the development of the human brain.
  • Did it develop through evolution? Francis Crick says human genes couldn’t have evolved because there’s not enough time for DNA to evolve by accident. He said it would be as improbable as a hurricane going through a junkyard making a Boeing 747.
  • Since it couldn’t have evolved, the aliens performed a targeted mutation in HAR1to make us “human.”
  • We only understand 5% of the genome. If you wanted to record an eternal message that could be decoded by a creature that eventually evolved enough intelligence to decode it, you shouldn’t put it in a monument or text that can be destroyed…put it in the DNA! OMFG THAT’S WHAT JUNK DNA IS! SECRET MESSAGES!

And now, for a quick debunking:

  • HAR1 is present in all mammals and birds, not just humans. But in all non-human species, the sequence is effectively the same, or conserved. The human copy in particular has a number of differences compared to other species, so we consider the human copy of HAR1 divergent. This is not at all the only human gene to be divergent. And all species have uniquely divergent genes – that’s precisely what makes things different species. But no one is arguing that marmosets or fig trees or syphilis are actually aliens with special alien genes inserted into them. Well, maybe people are arguing that. There’s four seasons of this crap, and I’m only on episode 3 of season one. Maybe the syphilis aliens are right after the episode titled Aliens and the Third Reich (I shit you not).
  • Francis Crick has always been a strong supporter of evolution and has spoken passionately about how evolution shaped his scientific investigation. He was one of the Noble laureates who advised US courts bogged down by creationists that “Creation-science’ simply has no place in the public-school science classroom.” He also was an advocate for making Darwin Day a British national holiday. While he was initially doubtful of the origin of the genetic code and wondered if panspermia could be the answer, he later published a retrospective article where he and his colleague “noted that they had been overly pessimistic about the chances of abiogenesis on Earth when they had assumed that some kind of self-replicating protein system was the molecular origin of life.” So, um, no.
  • Francis Crick did not come up with that 747 argument – Fred Hoyle did. That’s why it’s called Hoyle’s fallacy. It’s already debunked a bajillion times by biologists – Dawkins wrote two books about it – so I won’t waste time trouncing it here.
  • Whatever alien thought junk DNA would be a great place for an eternal message is a dumbass. Because junk DNA doesn’t code for a protein or have some sort of regulatory role, it’s what geneticists refer to as “neutrally evolving.” It means it’s at liberty to gather mutations because they don’t have any major effect that would weed them out via natural selection. This is especially true when the show’s premise is that the message was placed there eons ago, and had tons of time to accumulate changes. It also doesn’t explain why chimps share a lot of junk DNA with us, or why a huge proportion of junk DNA are remnants of ancient viruses. I’m sure Giorgio would say that those aliens were trying to throw us off the scent by making it seem like our genomes had evolved through natural processes.
  • They never address the fact that the hypotheses they present throughout the show aren’t even internally consistent. At one point they say all life on earth was put there by aliens, and it evolved naturally. Then they say we ARE the aliens. So what, were the aliens unicellular organisms? How can we interbreed – like they say we do – if we’re that distantly related?! But then they say the proof that we’re aliens is that we look like the aliens…so how about those billions of years of evolution?

The Real Mermaids are eating up this story

Jun. 13, 2012

Funny Animal Captions - Words Hurt Bro... They Really Do..

Words Hurt Bro… They Really Do..

Jun. 30, 2012

wtf photos videos - Merskeleton

I watched it on TV last night. Well, I watched most of it; I missed the last 20 minutes of the 2 hour program. It was interestingly done: for the first 45 minutes, there is no pseudoscience whatsoever, it's all about the Navy testing new sonar weapons that caused the death of a large number of pilot whales and dolphins along the Washington State coast. Up to that point, if they hadn't had put the title ""Mermaids", one would have thought it was a program about the Navy testing weapons, wrecking havoc among marine mammals and trying to cover up the mess. It was entertaining, and gripping. Then it started going downhill, with perfect examples of people jumping to conclusions with very little evidence. One of the scientists interviewed even says stuff like: "we did not know what we were looking at" (talking about a half eaten carcass inside a great white shark), followed by "at that point immediately we knew that we had made the most significant discovery in biology". Isn't this a bit contradictory and hyperbolic, to say the least? 

When they started the computer animation of the mermaid people, supposedly an offshoot from a common ancestor, that became a marine mammal-ape (aquatic ape), it was actually a bit too silly to hold my attention any longer. It became sci-fi; possibly entertaining sci-fi, but not what I like to watch in a science channel. 

Sounds so cool! I can't wait to watch this program.


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