Measured Against Reality

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Problems With Documentaries

I watch the History Channel frequently. There are a lot of good documentaries on it, and you can really learn a lot from just a few. However, I’m consistently disappointed by the documentaries that investigate more radical claims.

A recent one on the Bible Code comes to mind. There codes have been thoroughly debunked (this is a collection of such debunkings). The people who still think that Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Bible produce prophecies are deluding themselves and ignoring all of the evidence. But somehow, a program about the Bible Code gives them most of the time. Skeptics get a soundbyte, and proponents get the rest of the show. This makes it sound like these claims have a foot to stand on, when they really don’t.

Continue reading...The same is true of every sensational topic, including a recent show on “The Exodus”. The Biblical exodus didn’t happen, “from the period within which the Exodus should have happened -- the 16th-13th centuries BCE, in the broadest definition -- there is no evidence whatsoever of an exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt.” But the program brought up crazy ideas, like Israelites going to Minoan Greece and being buried there, along with stories of the parting of the Red Sea on graves and golden images of the Ark of the Covenant. It was essentially a crazy interpretation that relied on nothing but one guy’s opinion. How can you make such outrageous claims with essentially no evidence backing it up? It’s irresponsible.

Whether the topic is UFOs, the Lock Ness Monster, other “monsters”, the Holy Grail, the Exodus, the Bible Code, or any other controversial topic, skeptics get less time, and people could walk away from the show believing a position that is countered by all the evidence. We live in a country where the majority of people believe that evolution, a scientific fact, is wrong, where horoscopes based on nothing are published in newspapers and widely read, and where people believe the ludicrous over the evidence. I would hope that popularizers of Science and History should get their facts right rather than be sensationalist and contribute even more to this problem. They have a responsibility to the public, and they air documentaries such as these, they fail in that responsibility.

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