A Date Night with PBS
“I can’t believe she just said that.” Those are the words that came out of my wife’s mouth at the end of a PBS documentary on sharks. To be honest, I was surprised she even sat there and watched it with me. She typically leaves the Nova and Discovery Channel programs to me while she goes and does something a little more productive.
This particular show was a part of the new Nova series, “Inside Nature’s Giants,” focused on the great white shark. In 2010 off the coast of South Africa, a 15-foot-long great white shark was trapped in a net designed to protect humans from its deadly threat. The shark weighed in at 1,984 pounds and is the largest one caught since 2002.
The Indoctrination Begins
In the middle of the show, I begin to wonder what the purpose of the show really was? Lots of great science was presented, but then it also presented as fact the writers’ ideas of how the shark evolved. Atheist evangelist, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was included in the show to tell the story of how the shark’s teeth and jaws evolved from its outer skin and gill arches. Here the show promotes something that steps totally outside the realm of science and into fairytale land. Seriously, why can’t we just learn about the anatomy of the shark and how it works today? Why must these writers or producers shoehorn this fairytale that has nothing to do with sharks into a science program on sharks? Or better yet, why can’t we just admit that the shark is designed to do what it does? And who designed this brilliant piece of anatomy? How is it that people can be so willingly ignorant?
The One-Line Shocker
The real shocker came at the end of the show. Biologist Joy Reidenberg, who was a special guest on the program and helped to dissect the shark, looked through a microscope at an embryo of a fish. She showed us the gill pouches on a fish and how they form the gills. She then took a model of a human embryo and began to describe how we humans go through the stages of evolution inside our mother’s womb, retracing our evolutionary past. In scientific terms, this idea is known as “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” It is a premise that began with Ernest Haeckel just 10 years after Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, was written and gained a lot of support as evidence of evolution. Five years later, Ernest Haeckel was convicted of fraud by 5 professors from his own university, The University of Jenna, for faking his evidence. Yet still today, this idea is taught in science books and on TV programs as evidence of human evolution from fish. The show ended with Joy saying, “If you go back far enough, we are all just fish.” As those words came out of her mouth, my wife’s eyes got really big and she said, “I can’t believe she just said that.” I would have to agree.