|Yes, Animal Planet had a serious documentary about|
the reality of mermaids. Click for photo credit.
It is interesting to go back to those posts and gauge their relevance in today's conversations on the environment and sustainability. If you have any suggestions as to what I should feature in this year's series on overlooked environmental issues, send a note or leave a comment.
So far this year, I've written about the science of early humans and the stark reality of climate change. You can catch the posts here and here.
Today, I'm writing about the overall expansion of junk science in popular culture. Certainly it is not surprising that scientific thought and reasoning take a back seat in an American culture where the Kardashians and a duck hunting reality show have high ratings or when Miley Cyrus gets more votes than any world leader or major thinker in Time Magazine's people's choice award for person of the year.
A whole bunch of the junk science is focused on kids and young adults. Just take a look at the recent documentary on Animal Planet cable channel on mermaids. It was a documentary that basically took a pseudoscience look at mermaids as if they were real. It wasn't tongue in cheek. It was a seriousish effort. You can see it here. I would have been embarrassed to be involved with this one!
Now let's go over to National Geographic Channel. One of their hot shows is called Diggers and is basically about a bunch of looters of archaeological artifacts. They also have shows called Polygamy USA and Rocket City Rednecks. National Geographic has gone a long way toward destroying their well respected gold-seal brand based on over a century of solid scientific and geographic writing in their magazines by helping to dumb down television.
The Discovery Channel originally focused on historical and scientific documentaries. Now, it has shows like Amish Mafia and Naked and Afraid (I guess they put naked people in nature and see what happens).
I won't even begin to list what passes for Art and Entertainment on A and E. Suffice it to say people are leaving cable in droves due to the lack of thoughtful or interesting stuff. So many of my friends now have cable just for the internet. Sure the bad TV is fun, but too much of it is bad for our culture.
But that's TV. What about in schools and museums? Well, take a look at who is choosing public school textbooks in Texas or the Creation Museum. Note: I am not anti-religion, just anti anti-science. The expansion of anti-science thought leads to these kinds of issues where it becomes problematic for science teachers to teach basic accepted science.
Even in our public discourse, there is bad science that creeps in. Just take a look at the GMO debate. There are reasonable arguments to be made on either side of the issue, but there is a ton of bad science out there that distracts from the real issues. It leads to headlines like this.
The problem with all of this anti-science stuff in our culture is that it gives a voice to really bad people who want to intentionally deceive the public on important issues like environmental change. Plus, the expansion of bad science in public or private schools makes students from those schools far less competitive nationally and internationally. Do you really want your doctor to graduate from a high school or a university that is considered outside of the accepted norm of scientific or intellectual reasoning?
I don't want to be too harsh, because there are many great things in our culture that celebrate science and intellectual thought. However, look around you and you will see that there is more and more junk out there--and it is more and more accepted.