RIP: Science on TV

Remember when MTV actually aired music?  Remember when you could learn something from the Learning Channel? Got actual history on the History Channel?  Or actually make a real discovery about something other than guns or auctions on Discovery Channel?  Remember when nature was cool enough no sensationalism was needed?

And remember when Animal Planet actually showed programs about real animals?  Animal Planet has decided to run a Monster Week , “a weeklong network programming stunt”.  Those are their words not mine.  The “crescendo”, again their words, is a special titled Mermaids: The Body Found.  And o’ is it special and one hell of a stunt.

I will admit right here I’ve not seen it.  Much like I won’t visit the Creation Museum, I won’t watch this bullshit.  Both could give me me some laughs but ultimately would kill off what little soul I have left.  For another 5-10 minutes I still have faith in humanity, I choose not to shorten that.

The story

Once upon a time, there lived a little mermaid in an underwater kingdom. She ventured to surface, longing to communicate with people on land…This is a fairytale told and retold to children everywhere; it’s a beloved story about a legendary creature that’s described in the mythologies of nearly every human culture in history. People across all continents who’ve had no communications with other societies have described the same half-man, half-fish anomaly – they’ve spoken about the same mythic animal. What if there’s a kernel of truth that lives beneath the legend of the mythic mermaid? Now, in MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND…Animal Planet brings viewers into the world where the legend is real. The film blends real-life events and phenomena with the story of two scientists who testify they found the remains of a never-before-identified sea creature. Spectacular CGI animates a world where mermaids really do swim below the water’s surface, cooperatively hunt with dolphins and may continue to survive in an intricate society where they stay hidden in fear of their Earth-bound relatives…

MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND is a story about evolutionary possibility grounded in a radical scientific theory – the Aquatic Ape Theory, which claims that humans had an aquatic stage in our evolutionary past. While coastal flooding millions of years ago turned some of our ancestors inland, is it possible that one group of our ancestors didn’t retreat from water but rather went in deeper? Could they have ventured farther into sea out of necessity and to find food? The Aquatic Ape Theory makes it possible to believe that while we evolved into terrestrial humans, our aquatic relatives turned into something strangely similar to the fabled mermaid.

MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND makes a strong case for the existence of the mermaid, a creature with a surprisingly human evolutionary history, whose ancestral branch splits off from a shared human root. The film is science fiction, using science as a springboard into imagination and centering the story on [two] real-world events.

At the website this text is preceded with

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

All this is so bad that actually has entry for this.  Have I used the word appalled yet? A friend of DSN a fellow for Media and Democracy and a major university stated this in email that drew my attention to this farce

It was one of the most ridiculously misleading pieces of programming I’ve ever seen on any Discovery-affiliated channel. It was a mockumentary (although this wasn’t disclosed until the very end of the credits) explaining the “aquatic ape theory” using interviews with fake “maritime scientists,” CGI and photoshopped historical records. I know some of the programming on these channels is pretty bad, but this seemed to bring things to a whole new level.

So I would like to respond with a DSN Editor’s Note

DSN Editor’s Note: This two-hour special is fiction based on no real world events and a scientific hypothesis with no evidence and long ago discounted (and laughed at) by real scientists.  DSN is appalled  that Animal Planet

1. cannot pick at least one of the millions of real organisms on this planet as the subject of a special (if you need some help just ask us here at DSN or any two year old),

2. heralding a phase where biodiversity of life on earth is not enough and we need to make animals up to entertain. (Do Animal Planet producers ever interact with the real public or do they make them up too?  Every time I talk about any organism with public, from children to adults, in classrooms, bars, or aquariums, they are fascinated. When did this become hard?)

3. put forth fiction as fact on a channel people expect fact from.  (even more appalling is waiting until the credits to admit this is a mockumentary),

4. putting any stock into the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (indeed it is not even science but pseudoscience),

5. and having actors play scientists spout off made up shit in a mockumentary that you do not announce to the end (way to denigrate scientists and life we’ve dedicated ourselves to.  I guess that big fancy Ph.D I have, all those years of research, and reading of actual scientific literature was f’n pointless.  I can just take an acting class online and make shit up).

DSN demands an apology from Animal Planet for selling fiction based on fiction off as anything but fiction on channel that should be celebrating the diversity of actual life.


And for those who don’t think any damage was done

First a celebrity and her sisters (for reasons I still don’t understand), tweet to there followers.  One of the Kardashians alone as almost 15,000,000 followers.  The is a huge ring of influence and it’s clear not all of them realized that the mermaid story was a mockumentary.

Of course, throughout Twitter the ramifications were seen of Animal Planetnot clearly states this WAS NOT REAL.



Even worse is children taken in by this, who may not have developed the filters to distinguish between science and pseudoscience

Luckily, some people realized it was a fake.  However, how many stopped watching before the announcement?

Apparently some missed the brief message.

But thankfully many on Twitter seem to be as appalled as us.

Indeed!  Shame on you for that fake fucking mermaid bullshit!





76 Replies to “RIP: Science on TV”

  1. Up here in Canada, we have a nature channel called Oasis. None of that gimmicky bs that dumbs down nature, or feels the need to glorify conflict.

  2. I’ve already had 2 students from prior Intro to Anthropology classes e-mail me with questions because of this show. And I’m annoyed about it. But really, archaeologists have been dealing with this kind of crap for years, just in other formats – I mean there is a show on History Channel CALLED Ancient Aliens, and it has at least 4 seasons. I’ve also seen specials that try to suggest that the Mayan Apocolypse is actually a legitimate possibility.The fact that that sort of pseudoscience gets portrayed as true science is extremely frustrating. So while a mockumentary on Animal Planet about mermaids is annoying, to me this is just another show in a long line of mislabeled ‘science education’.

  3. I gave up on US Television a year ago. Only watch BBC from England (not BBCA) anymore. They actually have nature shows about…real animals you can find in, you know, nature.

  4. A few years ago Darlow-Smithson (who made the excellent “Touching the Void” documentary) made “The Last Dragon”, another “mockumentary” about what the natural history of dragons would be like, if they really existed, complete with actors playing fake scientists investigating it.

    So perhaps this Mermaids crap is not just crap, but derivative crap at that! And just as we have “counterfactual” history (e.g. what would the world be like if the Third Reich had prevailed etc?), we now have “counterfactual” natural history?

    Even in actual documentaries these days, it’s never just about the subject, but usually the “journey of the presenter”, as if audiences can’t be engaged without that “human interest” element. While narrative is important, those of us who talk to public audiences about our research know there are other ways to do that, and the hackneyed “journey of the presenter” is pretty damn patronising (if not downright lazy).

    These days most show producers / commissioning editors also seem to think audiences have to be told something is “amazing!” by an over-enthusiastic presenter, in order for audiences to be amazed by it. But you didn’t get from the likes of Sagan and Attenborough, who guided audiences skilfully through material and let it speak for itself.

    Flying spaghetti monster help us all. Perhaps one silver lining: the dross served in many documentaries means that many public audiences are really keen to hear about real research from real researchers. But as Craig points out, there is also widespread damage from this “mockumentary” crap. To end my rant on a deep-sea point, I’ll paraphrase William Beebe: in his first in situ observations of deep-sea fish, he commented that they could “outdragon” any mere figment of human imagination.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed their documentary about dragons however long ago that was. Of course, I enjoyed it as entertaining fiction done in the form of a nature documentary. I also enjoyed the ones about the animals on an alien planet and the one about creatures to evolve in the future on Earth (I have a whole folder on an external hard drive devoted to “fictional nature documentaries”). Pure science fiction, but my kind of enjoyable fun. But if I recall correctly, all of those were completely presented as fiction up front, with not even an illusion of fact.

  6. “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. ” – Men In Black

    I think the obvious solution would be to ban gullible people from watching television. Next, folks need to spend less time tweeting. I have yet to follow anything on Twitter because, frankly, the brevity of the comments befuddles me.

    I did not mind the mockumentary at all. Granted, it wasn’t as if Jeremy Wade was reeling in mermaids but a clear disclaimer before the show, after the show, and after each commercial break would have been a better approach. Didn’t Animal Planet host a dragon mockumentary after all? Perhaps the solution would be for cable to add yet another channel: Mythical Animal Planet.

    To be honest, I was probably the target audience for this show.

    When I walk out in the woods behind my house at night, wearing a spotlight on my head and armed with a bowie knife for protection, I see plenty of deer eyes looking back at me. I have an extremely well-developed imagination and “willing suspension of disbelief”. For a hundredth of second, regardless of how irrational the thought may be, I think “ZOMBIES!”.

    I am fascinated by the sea yet I am not a marine biologist. I follow the Merbellas “mermaids” (swimming entertainers) on Facebook, my avatar on Second Life is a weedy seadragon merman, and I run an undersea game of Dungeons & Dragons that is loaded with merfolk and sea elves. I have a mermaid mosaic on the bottom of my swimming pool (swimming face down – I lost the coin toss).

    I am a certified SCUBA diver and have nearly 1,000 gallons in saltwater aquariums. I also believe in ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, Nessie, fairies, and Atlantis. Bad science? Absolutely. Fuel for the imagination? Without a doubt.

    “Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box” – Dr Ullén, “Dopamine System in Highly Creative People Similar to That Seen in Schizophrenics”

    Graned, I feel that Sense of Humor and Sense of Wonder are required to prove one is a higher life form. Did the Mermaid special fool me? Maybe for a hundredth of a second, regardless of the cheesy CGI, implausible condition of the “mysterious spears”, and horrid acting on the part of the “scientists”. But then again I enjoy fooling myself. Zombies… mermaids… it’s all good.

  7. As a guy who makes his bread and butter from speculative biological fiction, I totally agree with you Craig. There’s a time and a place for science-inspired fiction, and tricking people in a half-assed way with a documentary *wink wink* isn’t it. If this show had aired on SyFy it’d be a different story.

  8. Animal Planet is not a science channel, nor has it been for some time. It is a lifestyle channel for those who identify with animals, much as MTV is a lifestyle channel for those who identify with bad music and vapidity.

    I think the Mermaids show is disingenuous, but it is also pretty obviously fiction. But I can see how others might think it real, and it was certainly promoted as real. That is the problem, really…letting misunderstanding about the content help promote the content. Creating a mockumentary about mythic creatures is silly content, no sillier, really, than half of the content Animal Planet runs on a daily basis.

    Watching television is like eating food. Most of it is bad for you. Make smart choices about your time and be happy about it. Getting upset that people make and watch crap TV is a bit like shouting at the rain.

  9. That’s the key point isn’t it? No one’s saying we can’t have fanciful creative TV. Let’s just call it what it is and put it on the right channel.

  10. I think this show would make a great TV series, to be honest, “Man From Atlantis” (yes, I watched every episode) meet “SeaQuest DSV” for the new generation. Government coverups, conspiracy theories, and bad science intermixed with ocean exploration and good science (SCIENCE!)… hopefully with better CGI and acting (or at least bring back the marionettes from Stingray).

  11. Aside from the occasional gullible soul, does this kind of mockumentary actually fool anyone? The show is obviously fiction, and you guys should give people more credit — they know it’s a speculative exercise. It’s fun, it encourages us to look at nature that *does* exist in a new way, and it reminds you to keep yourself open to at least the possibility of new discoveries.

    Frankly, if someone thinks this or “Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real” are actually harming science or the public’s understanding of it, it just shows a staggering lack of imagination on their part. That’s like saying we should ignore “Jurassic Park” for its biological inaccuracies, even though it sparked a renewed interest in dinosaurs and sparked the imagination of a whole generation of paleontologists. For goodness’s sake, use this show as a springboard to get some curious minds interested in the ocean and its wonders! Don’t trash these documentaries just because they try answering questions like “What if mermaids were real?” or “What if dragons existed?”

    What better place than Animal Planet to show people a speculative scenario that opens them up to all the weird and surprising possibilities that nature actually *does* hold?

  12. I had to stop watching a Nat. Geo show about volcanoes because of the zooming editing. loud 80’s guitar “music”, and flashing graphics. Considering how intense volcanoes really are, I couldn’t imagine why they would need to be more extreme. And in fact it made it seem more tame and utterly unreal.

  13. Thank you for writing exactly what I was thinking – well done! It is so sad to see Discovery and Animal Planet lower their standards to engage an audience by using cheap tricks, misleading information, and imaginary science. I used to be a big fan and supported their ability to bring fascinating science to a broader public. No longer, and this is the low of the lows. And you are exactly right, when I speak to audiences of all ages they are fascinated by the very real and very weird organisms that actually live in the ocean today – hagfish, sea slugs, the well endowed queen conch or vampire squid…..We lack vehicles to reach a broader public and to see one go so far down the drain is disheartening. And unfortunately many people will believe this crap!

  14. well lets see after being aTV new photographer for 30 years I see these people as the same ones who think Survivor is real. there has to be many many people on and off the land to take pictures.prepare food for the crews etc etc. these shows do not make themselves.
    if no one watched them they wouldn’t make money and they would not appear.
    but let’s face it,it’s entertainment. for some. not me/
    they won’t get my retirement nickel for the advertisers

  15. “Much like I won’t visit the Creation Museum, I won’t watch this bullshit. Both could give me me some laughs but ultimately would kill off what little soul I have left.”


  16. When I need a mental break, I’ve got a guilty pleasure called the D-Listed blog (totally not safe for work).

    Today, I read that the TLC is going to have a new show spin-off of Toddlers and Tiaras. As the author was writing about the new show, he called TLC the “Traumatizing Little Children” channel.

    Now, you shouldn’t complain too much about the abysmal state of science on TV. Because there was no longer quality science on TV, I dumped my cable, have Netflix and spend A LOT more time reading blogs such as yours. So, for you, long term, it’s a win.

  17. I don’t really understand what you’re so pissed about. You speak about the fact that The Kardashian’s have thousand’s of follower’s and that they are thinking it’s real because the kardashian’s do… of course… tehy are fans of the KARDASHIANS!!!! What do you expect! lol If some one is naive enough to believe something from something called MONSTER WEEK or from what they hear from a KARDASHIAN without doing any of their own research then does it really matter what they think or believe. I think it’s just an entertaining movie and I don’t understand why you care SO MUCH about what some idiot’s believe. What does it hurt? YOU seem to know it’s not a real documentary, I know, I’m positive a lot of other’s know it too. Who really care’s if some people are so simple that they believe EVERYTHING they are told.

  18. Funny I was going to mention Ancient Aliens. But I decided to pick just one battle. A colleague referred to programs on these channels as scientainment

  19. I am so relieved that someone else see’s thing’s from a different point of view! I have to say that I fully agree with you! Good for you for speaking up when other’s just follow and don’t express their opinion’s if they are not around other’s that are like minded. Too many “sheep” not enough “Sheppard’s”.

  20. But TV and the internet is how most people get their science information…sooo maybe we can’t just ignore it

  21. “Animal Planet is not a science channel, nor has it been for some time. It is a lifestyle channel for those who identify with animals, much as MTV is a lifestyle channel for those who identify with bad music and vapidity.”

    Nicely explained

  22. I have this argument with my 11-year old son all the time. He is quite literal. If he cannot see it, it cannot be real by his reasoning. Imagine his frustration when I side with my 8-year old daughter, regarding the existence of leprechauns, stating “just because no one has ever seen one, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

  23. Obviously it did fool people as evidence by twitter (above) and anecdotal information coming in from my marine biologist colleagues. While it maybe “fun” it is also dangerous as it spreads misinformation.

    “it encourages us to look at nature that *does* exist in a new way, and it reminds you to keep yourself open to at least the possibility of new discoveries.”

    How would it encourage us to look at nature in new way? If anything it leads one to a misunderstanding of biology, ecology, and evolution, nature, and science. It was cause a misguided view of the world around us. As a deep-sea biologist my bread and butter is new discovery and I’m definitely open to it. But this says ignore science and evidence against mermaids and just believe.

  24. Glad someone caught that. But of course the creation museum is not only bad science but bad theology as well, so I could be religious and/or Christian and think the creation museum is bs.

  25. I’m pissed because I don’t believe in writing off parts of society of good science and understanding of the natural world. I don’t think labeling someone as an idiot is particularly helpful either. My point is the influence that the Kardashian’s have. Imagine the power if one of the Kardashian’s actually spread some interesting scientific fact

    “hey did you all know that sea slugs contain both male and female parts?” It is all science for the win!

    Whereas I do know this is fake, it is clear many did not. I found thousands of comments on Twitter to this effect. It hurts because it is not true and it is not science. It gives people an incorrect view of the world around them

    Again, I not sure why you and John above feel it is alright to ignore a large part of society because they are ignorant. Why not try to get the correct information out to everyone?

  26. I have actually incorporated a discussion of pseudoscience in pop culture into my Intro Course now, because I know that the bulk of my students are coming in with this information, and no classroom-based knowledge of anthropology. This requires me to break them down and then rebuild. And every semester I am sure to say ‘and if ANYONE says ANYTHING about aliens on their exam I will FLUNK you.’

    The good thing about that? Students feel comfortable e-mailing me when they see this crap. They know I’m happy to redirect to good sources.

  27. As someone who teaches Anthropology, the problem for me is that the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis was an idea that some (not many) anthropologists supported, and which others got on board with. And they spun it well and it intrigued people (as so much pseudoscience and bad science does). So it made its way into lots of spaces. Then this mermaids show morphed it into something new, so now a LOT of people are googling it and saying ‘wow – even if the show wasn’t real, this AqApe stuff is kind of intersting…’
    So even if they don’t believe in mermaids, I will now have to explain Aquatic Ape Hypothesis in my class. It’s tangential, but I KNOW someone will bring it up next term, since 2 people already contacted me about it after watching this. So think of how many people will not be in my class, but will google AqApe and find the websites that are not written by anthropologists.

  28. Agreed. I have an off topic question for you, how did this site grab that picture of me? I didn’t upload it here. I have an account with Origin (a part of EA Games) that I uploaded it to. So, how did it grab the picture from there?

  29. It could be the first show on the Mythical Animal Planet channel I mentioned earlier. Just don’t give it to Syfy, or you’ll end up with “Feejee Mermaids Versus Jenny Haniver”. Mind you, “Globster” has Syfy written all over it. ;)

  30. Sadly I feel the bulk of the American population has become less scientifically literate in my (relatively short) lifetime. Things such as Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and the like drove me towards the marine sciences as a profession, and as a result I quit watching TV altogether as Discovery was nothing but motorcycle shows and the rest of the purportedly educational channels were filled with similar dreck.

    Perhaps the “documentary” filmmakers from Animal Planet stumbled across the 1990 paper from Limnology and Oceanography and failed to realize that tongue was firmly in cheek when this was published:

    …probably not,but at least it was clear in this instance that satire was being presented and neither the authors or target audience were confused as to the nature of the article.

  31. I agree with you Dr.M I am one of the people who did think this show was real and when I found out it was a hoax ( I was on my way to send very mean emails to the president and the Navy about being sniveling little snakes ). I’m just glad I did my research first.This special was VERY misleading and both my boyfriend and I feel very cheated by the nonsense we stayed up late and watched.

  32. Sadly these theories aren’t just wrong they are dangerous. Passing faked information, or just wild imaginings, off as true theory or fact is extremely harmful. It harms science by attacking it’s public credibility. It harms those who hear it by “uninforming” them about reality. Most scary, mistaken theories have caused massive human suffering. The Khmer Rouge instituted their “Killing Fields” based partly on mistaken theory that canals around jungle ruins indicated massive crop outputs, which had not happened. Antisemitism continues to draw on weird theories as to the divergence between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. I don’t even need to go into all the mislabeled as science theories that the 3rd Reich drew from. Applying the label of science to pure BS is not just wrong, it is evil. It tears at the fundamental tool in human advancement for the last 700 years, and it leads moronic simpletons to thinking they have some brilliant idea.

  33. “But this says ignore science and evidence against mermaids and just believe.”

    Yes, it does ask us to believe for the time we watch it…just like a movie. That’s suspension of disbelief. Just like a special on the wooly mammoth asking you to pretend that you’re looking at real mammoths instead of CGI for 1-2 hours.

    And the thing about suspension of disbelief regarding a fictional narrative is that it ends. People are not going to come away from this thinking mermaids actually exist. Or if they are one of the gullible folks I mentioned, I give them about 2 weeks tops before someone corrects them. If that’s a threat to science, then I will eat my shoes.

  34. Wait a minute, and get off your haughty high seahorses. You do not have to be a moron to believe this, just a moron if you do not research later on. I have only had cable for about a month and never watched Animal Planet before last night. I tuned in about 15 minutes in and didn’t know what I was watching. I had no idea these “scientists were actors”. I was presented evidence that debunked the theories I thought I knew to be scientific fact and so I watched. Any good scientist would know that science is constantly presenting us with new possibilities; to rule them out based on nothing other than previous speculation would make one truly a moron. If the movie was based on facts, there would be some compelling arguments to explore. I sat there and thought wtf, mermaids are real?! And so I did what any intelligent person does, I researched it more… that’s why I’m here. I thought the show was real. I graduated with a 4.0 in a science field. I’m not an idiot by any means. As for people that follow the Kardashians Twitter posts…. well that would take some explaining.

  35. No, its NOT just like the woolly mammoth thing, because that animal actually EXISTED; what you’re looking at is best-evidence rendition of something real. Mermaids never did. Put mermaids on SciFi and leave Animal Planet for, y’know, animals.

  36. Here in Germany, there is a pretty simple and most reliable indicator whether a documentary is really a documentary and not just (dis)infotainment. It’s public or private TV? Nearly all good nature documentaries were made by or atleast for European public TV. BBC is especially outstanding but also the German and French equivalents do well. I know, I guess I’m an arrogant smug European but two things are better here for sure: healthcare and documentaries.

  37. Seconded. This is just lazy and contemptible. Give me the same production, and I’d frame the whole thing as a thought experiment and invite REAL scientists to play. Same budget, same story, just some professional behavior, is all. Oh, I forgot — Hollywood has joined Detroit and DC as high-school make-work camps.

  38. a few years ago Animal Planet also aired a special program on dragon-not komodo dragon, but those fictional fire-breathing dragons.
    Apparently two scientists found the remains of the beast alongside a tyrannosaur and told the gov etc, followed by the usual gov-cover-up plot.

    I admit I was taken aback for a while, went googling and brought back to sense after I saw the website of animal planet said “it’s all science fiction”

  39. Hi drew, WordPress uses a service called gravatar ( that uses your email address and some social networking logins to grab your avatar there. I guess it attempts to centralize your online presence. As far as I know though you had to have uploaded it to a wordpress account or gravatar directly. Perhaps Origin is somehow connected to gravatar? My guess is that it recognized some saved cookies in your browser and connected it to your email address that you used when filling out the comment form. You might want to clear your browser cache or cookies. Let me know if you want me to try to remove this image for you.

  40. And yet you are still seeing something that is not actually there. Just put a little disclaimer at the beginning (I think shows like that actually do this), and let it go. If you think science can be harmed or hindered by this show, you have much less confidence in its resilience than I do.

  41. I second what Kellie said. My husband and I are not morons, but we fell for the show hook, line, and sinker. We’ve been talking about it ever since and I finally looked online today for information about the show…to find out when it would be on again so we could watch it again because we found it so fascinating. That is when I was fortunate enough to stumble across the truth. Should I have researched it sooner? Yes. And if I were going to write a paper on the subject I certainly would have done my own research. But for my day-to-day purposes, I thought I was watching interviews of scientists (because that’s how they were labeled) and I believed that was sufficient to fuel chit chat with my hubby. I started out thinking that anyone who would believe in mermaids was an idiot. After watching these “scientists” I believed their stories. Shame on me! I learned a very important lesson from this exercise: the media can manipulate information (or misinformation) to make people believe whatever they want them to believe. We MUST take responsibility for ourselves and conduct our own research before we form opinions. In this case it was just a silly thing like believing in mermaids and I am really only guilty of being gullible. But as other commentors have pointed out, misinformation and pseudoscience have been used before to justify heinous acts. Lesson learned.

  42. Thank History Channel? They air fucking ‘Ancient Aliens’ that tries to explain how the dinosaurs became extinct because of a nuclear explosion detonated by aliens. They are JUST AS BAD as Animal Planet, if not worse.

  43. Gee, that’s sad. Reminds me of the recent CDC announcement that, actually, no, there’s no zombies.

    From the NOAA link (fixed):

    Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That’s a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists psychologists.

  44. Legendary news site The Daily Mash finally got around to covering this topic in its inimitable style; below is an extract, and the link:

    “After the Animal Channel showed mocked-up footage of mermaids which many viewers believed was real, programme makers are to ignore any distinction between facts and bollocks.

    New ‘ficumentary’ shows include The Werewolves of Henry VIII, Stalin’s Mission to Mars and Anne Frank: Android Assassin.”

    For more, pop to:

    …but only if you lack the Puritan-inherited gene, seemingly common among some parts of the US populace, that fails to find swearing inherently funny.

  45. Oh god, I just watched this on Discovery Channel.
    The shit they put in this “documentary” makes me want to put my head through a wall.

    It’s seriously sickening.
    I tried posting my disapproval of the show on their website and it didn’t make it past “waiting for approval”.

    I also tried mentioning that when they were calling the bullshit on their shows “theories” that it was a misnomer.

    I’m not sure whether to be angry or really sad.

  46. Yes, this show was probably Dumb as Hell, but the worst part is how the writers linked it to the so-called Aquatic Ape Theory, which the author herself clarifies, is not a theory at all but a hypothesis, and includes absolutely no mention of mermaid-ish behaviors or breathing underwater, etc. The hypothesis itself is an attempt to explain certain Homo Sapien physiological anomalies, in contrast to other hominid characteristics- including a lack of body hair, a marine sort of fat distribution, and a completely upright gait. In her theory, humans spent a period of development living in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats in order to utilize a feeding niche and reduce competition with other land-based hominids. Elaine Morgan, the author of The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, was immediately trounced by the academic community when she came forth with her hypothesis after studying the ideas of Desmond Morris (and finding fault with the Savannah Theory), and marine biologist, Alister Hardy, who mainly kept his sympathies with Morgan secret, fearing professional backlash. While this show was obviously goofy sensationalism of the lowest form, Morgan’s book is decent and thought-provoking, especially for any one who has spent significant time in a marine environment. The danger of science is never new ideas, but the rejection of ideas simply because they are new. Newton, brilliant though he was, had the true nature of gravity wrong; yet, until Einstein, there was no real impetus to challenge it. Evolution is a messy subject with twists and turns that are very hard to see in hindsight.

  47. Does anyone have any information regarding the section on the program that showed beached whales bleeding from their ears due to sonar testing off of Washington State?

    No wonder NOOA denies any truth or fact connected to this program, although they only say there is no proof of mermaids existing.

    I could care less but I am concerned for the welfare of the whales and dolphins everywhere!

  48. Well done, I agree with everything you have posted here. IDVR’d this waste of time and half way through it I began to think, “Wait a minute. What’s this BS?” So then I went to Google and typed, “Okay what’s this bull shit about meraids on animal planet?” and your website was number 1 in my search. Again I say, “Well done.”

  49. Today, I was channel surfing and saw Mermaids: The Body Found on The Discovery Channel, and I went full rage-mode. I fired it into google and saw immediately that it was a mockumentary. I am fucking livid with how irresponsible these networks are being with their programming. They are airing blatant bullshit to the masses as if it’s real mainstream science. They are making my job as an educator a fuckton harder because it’s much easier to sell a tabloid than it is to sell a good science story.

    Several months ago a friend told me in passing that she was watching a documentary that released proof of the existence of mermaids. She couldn’t tell me what it was called or what channel it was on. I tried to explain to her that the idea is implausible and ridiculous, but she completely bought into it because she believes the government has files on “mythical” creatures and hides their existence from the public and she went as far as saying the government would be assassinating these scientists soon.

    Programming like this is contributing to the paranoia and insanity of conspiracy theorists and is misinforming the otherwise slightly more reasonable public. There is being real damage being done to the minds of people that is much harder to undo.

  50. If you so-called scientist would take examples from Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein and others that were also criticized about their theories, and learn to think outside the box, you too might discover something amazing. Its educated idiots like yourself that dismiss creation (something that Einstein also believed in) and speak of your soul in the same sentence and all the while never contemplating that the soul does not exist if God doesn’t. The whole idea of scientific research is buried in the premise of discovering the truth, not dismissing something because you are “too smart” to buy into it. I’m afraid that you wasted your time and money on a degree that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on if that’s how you respond to a hypothesis that is put together as well as Mermaids and Ancient Aliens. There is a whole lot more evidence to support these claims than there is the THEORY of Evolution in which you so readily use to benchmark your intellect and most importantly, base your eternity. As far as creationism, if Theologians are wrong, then we’ll never know it. However if they are right, you and people like you will definitely know it and regret being so self-centered and ignorant for the rest of eternity!!! Our Earth is being destroyed by people just like you who seek knowledge and have no wisdom to use it. (note: the bible predicted this influx of knowledge w/no wisdom over 2000 years ago) Knowledge without wisdom is useless. Our creator gave us two ears and only one mouth which means we should listen twice as much as we speak. Do yourself a favor, stop discrediting yourself with your mouth and open your ears, you might actually learn the truth. You cannot prove that something doesn’t exist and if you can’t prove it you shouldn’t be commenting on it.

  51. Several years ago, a science teacher noted on that he wouldn’t let his children watch the kids’ movie “A Bugs Life” because the ants weren’t anatomically correct enough for his liking and he didn’t want them to learn ant anatomy incorrectly. I thought he was taking this a bit too seriously because the show was a cartoon.

    I watched this show, thinking to tune in to AP for the first time in nearly a month and could tell upfront that is was a fake because of the “scientists.” The weren’t very good actors, and as soon as they mentioned Aquatic Ape I knew it was a fiction story and only another half hour in the same way that I would watch a train wreck.

    I think that there are good ways and bad ways to present this sort of topic, and a good way would be in the same way that the “Walking With…” series were presented; with real paleontologists and anthropologists as appropriate taking us into the break with explanations. It could have been fun if it were more well-made, but it wasn’t.

    I definitely agree that real weird life is more entertaining than bad CGI and hoaky acting and that the sucky part is that they money used for this could have paid for a series on squids, or narwhals or other true denizens of the deep.

    That’s what pisses me off. Money wasted on “reality” shows that could be used for reality.

  52. I agree, this show was a complete slap in the face to real science. Entertaining, but degrading to all the professional scientists of the world. As an actress, however, I would like to point out that this section—

    “I guess that big fancy Ph.D I have, all those years of research, and reading of actual scientific literature was f’n pointless. I can just take an acting class online and make shit up).”

    —is degrading to my profession. From our culture of screen media, we all have an innate sense of when people are acting and when they’re speaking extemporaneously. To make a monologue sound like an actual off-the-cuff interview is very difficult and takes a lot of practice and training. The amount of work that goes into earning a science degree and becoming a believable actor is similar; the only difference is in the end goal (for science, it is discovery, and for acting, it is entertainment).

    The point I’m trying to make is this: it isn’t the actors’ faults that the “science” in this show was crap, so please do not—while watching pseudo-documentaries in the future—attack the actors for the poor science quality, or suggest that acting is easy compared to science.

    Someone Who Is Also Serious About Her Profession

  53. OMG Thank you. I am hating my Twitter feed that is stuck on stupid because of Animal Planet. The CGI isn’t even that good and the actors were bad. How can people be so stupid? I blame the dumbing down of public education. I homeschool my kids and for hot minute they thought it was real and then pissed off that such a show would be on a science channel. This country is truly lost when we have so many following mock news on the Comedy Channel and then this crap. I feel like choking an Animal Planet producer.

  54. And this describes, oh so well, why I pretty much NEVER watch ANY of those animal channels, even though I am an actual biologist who works with actual wildlife.

    Or, maybe, BECAUSE I am an actual biologist who works with actual wildlife.

  55. I’m just an amateur enthusiast; but my friends always come to me asking about this stuff, and I try to redirect them to good docus (they aren’t readers, so I have to work with what I’ve got). It’s so heart-breaking that instead of, idk, renewing a great show like Connections, or doing any of the dozens of other science tv things I grew up with (like bill nye and magic school bus), we get… what the hell is this even supposed to be? I think I’d respect it more if it weren’t on Animal Planet/Discovery and trying to be passed off as fact! I respect a good world-building fictional thing, but don’t pass it off as real and half-ass your disclaimers like that. That’s just dishonest, and skeevy, and… jesus, it’s depressing to find out that internet-culture has better ethics than the mainstream, at this point….

    Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I’m glad to see that you redirect your students to reputable sources of information, instead of mocking them and thereby diminishing their interest in real facts. That really heartens me. I’m not very ‘educated’ and that makes a lot of people assume I’m stupid and don’t want to learn new things. It’s nice to see that’s not true across the board.

  56. Agreed! I find it sad that some people feel the need to bash speculative fiction in the name of science, as if it was some kind of threat. They remind me of small children who are just learning the difference between fact and fiction and need to constantly remind themselves of it. I wonder if Dr. M also prides himself on knowing Santa isn’t real.

  57. Why were you ever considering a pay for view cable network was an adequate source of education is beyond me.

  58. Most “aquatic ape” stuff is written by anthropologists, biologists & medical doctors. The term “aq.ape” isn’t very correct: it’s not about apes, but about Homo, and “littoral” is a biologically more correct term than “aquatic”. An update: AAT is about Homo populations during the Pleistocene (Ice Ages), less than c 2 mill.yrs ago, following African & Eurasian coasts & later rivers, feeding on shallow aquatic & waterside foods. The “littoral theory” is incomparably more correct than the popular pseudo-scientific idea that our Pleistocene ancestors ran over open plains such as savannas. Google
    -econiche Homo
    -Greg Laden misconceptions Verhaegen
    -Rhys Evans Vaneechoutte
    -econiche Homo

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