National Geographic Made Me Throw Stuff At My TV Today

It happened while I was watching a show called Human Ape. In some ways the show was an interesting exploration of the differences between humans and apes. There was some interesting stuff I agreed with and there was some stuff where I thought they went astray (their discussion of Australopithecus boisei and Homo erectus, for example). Somewhere it happened.


At first I thought I hadn’t hear correctly. Then it was repeated in a form that I couldn’t explain away. I forget the exact phraseology but it went something like “…and this is one of the differences that allowed humans to ascend to the top branch of the evolutionary tree…” Aw, fer the love o’ Pete! This is nothing more than the great chain of being/evolutionary ladder and phrasing it in terms of trees and branches doesn’t change the stupidity of the statement. The picture of the “evolutionary tree” was just has bad and, certainly, was nothing more than the evolutionary ladder concept drawn in tree form. As I say I almost threw something at my tv. Especially when it happened a third time. National Geographic, please, stop it. Don’t do that again, otherwise I might have to start watching the History Channel – where if it ain’t about teh Bible it ain’t history.
Update 1: Apparently NGC is having Bible day as well, what’s a poor atheist to do…

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10 Responses

  1. Don’t forget the Nazis. The Bible and Nazis.
    The God-win Channel?

  2. Don’t forget the Nazis. The Bible and Nazis.
    The God-win Channel?

  3. They’ve aired far more egregious stuff in my opinion. They had a show on where Noachian flood “theories” were presented side by side with scientific evidence supporting a localized flood (I can’t remember where, The Black Sea, maybe) as the origin of flood mythology.

  4. What you’re all upset about is a very, very common mistake, which pops up everywhere. The problem with “tree” analogies for evolutionary changes is, thatall parts of a tree are alive, whereas an evolutionary “tree” looks like a recognizable tree, but only some “branches” will be alive(that is, present today). And evolution is complicated and messy, which is natural,since it is going on all the time, every day. But in “simplifying for the masses”, National Geographic and others(the Discovery Channel is notorious for this kind of thing), they try to make things “neater”, but it isn’t reality. A better analogy for lots of evolutin(including at least some areas of human evolution) would be a “braided stream”, yet I have never seen any such analogy presented on any “popular” TV program. Science has a lot of work to do.
    Anne G

  5. Update 1: Apparently NGC is having Bible day as well, what’s a poor atheist to do…
    I’m watching Tank Girl on one of the Encore stations. I may put in a DVD later. Anything to keep from watching those programs.


  6. Anne G said…
    A better analogy for lots of evolutin(including at least some areas of human evolution) would be a ‘braided stream’, yet I have never seen any such analogy presented on any ‘popular’ TV program.
    Hmmm. A quick google search shows no ‘hits’ on the first couple of pages for ‘braided stream’ and ‘evolution’ of the biological kind.
    Have never heard of that analogy before. Would you have a reference..??
    …tom…
    .

  7. I saw Human Ape and was also offended by the shallowness of their understanding of evolution.
    NGC has recently broadcast a string of programs that stuck me as egregious examples of science misinformation. The worst, in my opinion, was A Man Among Bears. I have a long comment on it at my blog. The highlight: Ben Kilham (the man among bears) believes that humans have inherited their complex social behavior from black bears.
    Television producers have to balance science content with entertainment. I understand that. But the thin science content should at least be accurate.

  8. Tom wrote: “no ‘hits’ on the first couple of pages for ‘braided stream’ and ‘evolution'”. I’d suspect that’s because Anne came up with the analogy herself. And a very good one it is too. As species move about they break up into regional varieties. These then move about in turn and hybridise with others to form new varieties, although some carry on in their own stream to become separate species.
    Regarding the main subject. I used to have Discovery, History, Nat. Geo. etc. (have to pay for them here) but gave up on them when I realised they were all pushing “THe Bible is Basically Correct” line. Six days? Not a problem. Just means six periods of time. So J.C. died and came back to life after three periods of time? Oh no. That’s literally true. Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees? No. Someone put Chaldees in so people would recognise the place. What other bits might have been altered to fit the contemporary political situation? Any bits you like. You can interpret the bible to mean anything you want it to mean.

  9. On the flip side of this, the programs on Discovery/Science and NG channels use way too much cg-animated visualization. I think it does a disservice to science when they talk about behavioral patterns and even *animal vocalizations* for 160-million-year-old creatures.
    It pushes the shows into the realm of science fantasy.

  10. On the flip side of this, the programs on Discovery/Science and NG channels use way too much cg-animated visualization. I think it does a disservice to science when they talk about behavioral patterns and even *animal vocalizations* for 160-million-year-old creatures.
    It pushes the shows into the realm of science fantasy.

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