Truth, Lies, and Mermaids

mermaidRecently I caught a story on the Today Show about how some people had mistaken a “fake documentary” to be the real thing and now believed the existence of mermaids was a proven fact. I did more research and discovered this to be true. Apparently the Twitterverse was packed for a while with folks Tweeting that they now believed in Mermaids. Here’s a link to one of the articles.

Now, anybody who knows me, or who has read my blog knows I don’t have a problem believing that there may be things we don’t understand. For instance, I feel sure there are unidentified flying objects, but I’m not convinced they are alien ships. I believe there is a possibility for creatures like bigfoot to lurk in the dense forests of our planet. And I have no doubt we are not alone in our universe. Whether we will ever visit or be visited by an intelligent species from another world, I have no idea.

As for mermaids, I try to keep an open mind. Although the science-minded biology person inside me feels two such diverse creatures as human and fish are highly unlikely to be combined genetically—unlikely to the point of impossible. Still, I try to keep an open mind. On the other hand, what I am or am not willing to open my mind to is irrelevant. When I see a documentary, especially one on a seemingly legitimate network, the thing should be rooted in fact.

In the reporting of this “documentary,” the bigfoot and ghost hunting shows also shown on Animal Planet are mentioned as other instances of many of us being gullible. First, I resent that. To question whether something modern society has declared “nonsense” is not being gullible. Second, those shows are “reality” shows—which is another blog for another time.

The bottom line is that the Animal Planet network pulled a prank on its viewers the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Orson Wells broadcast “War of the Worlds” in 1938. That radio show caused a huge panic, and media since then has been careful to broadcast fictional works with an obvious disclaimer. From what I’ve read, the only disclaimer Animal Planet offered was in the credits. The mermaid fiasco was even offered up with “scientists” portrayed by actors, giving seemingly serious scientific input.

I have to say, I’m appalled. The United States ranks much lower than we should in science teaching of our children. I was a college biology tutor for a while, and I was shocked at the lack of basic biology knowledge, even from recent high school graduates.

We have to be more science savvy in this country. And we can start with a dialogue about a fake documentary using computer generated images and actors playing scientists. We can ask ourselves and our children some hard questions. Like: How do you know a person really is a scientist? Just because that person is a scientist, does that mean he/she really knows what he/she is talking about? What is this person’s credentials (in this Internet age, it’s fairly easy to check this)? Is this theory one you have heard before? Does it make rational sense? What evidence is put forth to support the theory?

What questions do you think we should ask of a TV show that purports to be presenting science? Where do you feel the line should be drawn between fact and fiction?

Have a great rest of the week!



If she can’t believe what she sees, can she believe what she feels? When photojournalist Stephie Stephanova visits Ugly Creek, Tennessee to help her best friend, Madison, she expects a boring visit. Then she snaps a photo of something she shouldn’t have seen–and falls for a man she definitely shouldn’t have.
The Ugly Truth available only in ebook from Amazon until August 16 when it will be available in electronic and paperback formats from all major book outlets.


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