This two-hour special is science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory.
ANIMAL PLANET’S PAINTS A WILDLY CONVINCING PICTURE OF THE EXISTENCE OF MERMAIDS, WHAT THEY MAY LOOK LIKE AND WHY THEY’VE STAYED HIDDEN…UNTIL NOW
Two-hour CGI Special Unravels Mysterious Underwater Sound Recordings, Dives Deep into the Aquatic Ape Theory and Questions if Mermaids are Related to People
What if there’s a kernel of truth that lives beneath the legend of the mythic mermaid? Now, …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.
Source: Monsters and Critics
Um. This does not sound good. It sounds like speculation presented in a fact-like format. I do not like that. It so easily confuses people who, even with a disclaimer, tend to see television as truth. Think of the rise in all the zany ideas connected to ancient aliens, UFOs and ghosts thanks to TV shows presented on what we would assume would be nonfiction-content programs.
The reason why Animal Planet did this is obvious. Mermaids are the new big thing. We have three stories prior to this on the site directly related to mermaids and yet that is one of the most frequently used search terms that brings people to the site. Go figure.
Is it possible that apes split off from terrestrial apes millions of years ago (due to coastal flooding) and retreated into the water, evolving into aquatic creatures somewhat related to humans?
Is it possible that we haven’t discovered every creature and that if massive whales haven’t been discovered until recently, it answers why we haven’t been able to detect mermaids yet?
Improbable to the point of saying “No, that is quite silly.” It’s based on imagination alone.
Here is a comprehensive site that tells you why the aquatic ape theory does not merit serious scientific attention:
The [aquatic ape theory/hypothesis] is a theory which seeks to replace well founded and well argued theoretical views which have been made for many years. It is also radically different. I think it is reasonable to expect that for such a radically different theory to replace all others it should not be “supported” by the sorts of sloppy and/or dishonest methods I’ve described here.
Besides the many false “facts” it proffers as evidence, the [aquatic ape theory/hypothesis] arguments are a hotbed of examples of the Logical Fallacies, including ad hominem, ad hoc, Strawman, Irrelevant Conclusion, Fallacy of Exclusion, Fallacies of Ambiguity, Appeal to Pity, and Special Pleading. It claims to use the principle of convergent evolution, but does so in a strange and unscientific way: first, they use it only in cases where they want to (inaccurately) claim similarity of features, not when it is evidence against their theory (as in the case of the actual ubiquitous aquatic features); and their version of convergence ignores the role of phylogeny (relatedness) in evolution (as in expecting humans to use reptilian or avian salt glands for salt excretion instead of kidneys as all mammals do). Since phylogeny is the central idea in evolution, this places their theory not only outside the mainstream, but indeed outside of all evolutionary theorizing for the past half century or more.
Another major problem the [aquatic ape theory/hypothesis] has arises from its ad hoc reasoning: the theory is internally inconsistent.
Animal Planet is trying to science up the idea again because it looks so cool and fascinating, why not? I’m surprised it took them this long. I guess they had to wait for the CGI to look realistic.
UPDATE (30-May-2012) The LA Times TV Skeptic called the show a stinker.
With fake news broadcasts; fake amateur video and fake expert interviews, the story lays out a fake conspiracy worthy of the “X-Files.” Here, the Navy is so determined to develop their sonar technology that they’re prepared to drive to extinction an intelligent species related to humans.
And Pop Watch emphasizes it’s a “speculative documentary”.
UPDATE (1-June-2012) A (negative) review by Wired:
Speculative biology can be a lot of fun – to wonder how different forms of life might have evolved. And, with the right context and presentation, Mermaids could have been a unique way to highlight evolutionary and biological ideas. But rather than being a hook for communicating actual science,Mermaids was a sensationalistic end in itself. The show was meant to titillate and deceive – yet another bit of noxious rot in what I have often called television’s bottomless chum bucket. I’m sure Animal Planet would defend itself by saying that it issued a disclaimer, but clearly viewers either tuned out or just didn’t pay attention. When a science fiction show, dressed up as a documentary, presents the “Dramatic Re-Enactment” caveat at the bottom of some scenes, it’s not surprising that some viewers were confused about what they were actually seeing.