Friday, January 24, 2014

The Implications of Junk Science

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I was hanging out with a friend of mine recently and we had an interesting conversation.  My friend doesn't have a college education, but is pretty smart.  He watches lots of what most would consider good television:  History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc.  So I was surprised when our conversation turned into one about aliens, predictions for the future, and other odd things.  He had succumbed to the influence of junk science.  I've written about junk science several times on this blog and it seems to be a trend for me.  I most recently wrote about it here.

Well, it turns out my friend was binge watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel.  You would think that the History Channel would have, you know, real history.  Instead, they, and other "good" channels, are showing silly programming like Ancient Aliens.  I find these kinds of programs offensive for a number of reasons, but I particularly find these ancient alien types of programs offensive to past cultures.  The front photo for the program on History Channel's Website is of Easter Island statues. This implies that the prehistoric Easter Island culture couldn't have possibly made those statues or had a reasonable reason to build them.  It must have been aliens!  Lazy science and reasoning.  From yes, the History Channel.

It would be all fun and games if the shows didn't come off like real documentaries and if they were under another network, say "Fake History Channel" or something like that.  But their very presence on networks that seem like viable educational outlets gives this junk science elevated platforms that make people believe that this stuff is real.

So my very smart friend was taken in by the stuff shown on Ancient Aliens.  If he was taken in, there are many many more out there in the same situation.  The implications of this are pretty strong.  It is hard enough to get people to pay attention to real science and history when the reputation of the field is tainted by junk.

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