# An archaeologist watches the History Channel

It’s very sad. I remember when cable TV was new, and had such promise — there would be channels dedicated to specialty disciplines, that would pursue a niche doggedly for a slice of the audience. The History Channel would be about history, not von Daniken and Nazi UFOs; Discovery would be about science, not motorcycle enthusiasts and bargain hunters; the Learning Channel would be about learning, not octuplets and hoarding; the SciFi channel would actually present decent science-fiction, instead of schlock horror, ghost-hunters, and fake wrestling. Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

(Also on Sb)

1. Reverend PJ says

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

Alas, yes. I recently canceled most of my cable subscription since watching most of the channels just makes me angry.

2. says

Oh the plus side, the History Channel promotes codswallop that competes with (though more rarely agrees with) Biblical codswallop.

On the minus side, it is thoroughly misusing any authority that science and history ought to have, to promote the worst sorts of thinking and illicit “conclusions.”

It’s time that the History Channel should be treated like an absolute traitor and pariah to science, like the tabloid trash that it primarily is. We shouldn’t promote even the good shows, and should portray History Channel to be about as vile a venue as anything that can be found in the media. Because it is.

Glen Davidson

3. Lord Shplanington, Not A Frenchman says

I refuse to watch TV any more. These days I just torrent the few things I want to watch, which are mostly old cartoons and anime.

4. Phalacrocorax, not a particularly smart avian says

I quite liked the mention of the Book of Ezekiel as evidence for Ancient Aliens. It shows a great commitment to scientific truth.

I was disappointed, however, that they forgot to mention another great evidence of the presence ancient aliens: the Assumption of Mary. Clearly she and her alien son went back to their planet after sowing confusion on Earth.

5. Felix says

Garbage poisons everything.

On the bright side, the only outspoken secularist and civil rights party “Pirates” went from 0 to 8.8% of the votes in Berlin today. The libertarian/financial elite party was kicked from the Senat, and the church-friendly conservatives managed only a tiny gain of two percent.

Arrrrr!

6. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

I don’t catch the same History Channel, but some European version. I haven’t been watching it lately because there is so much documentaries about Hitler or concentration camps one can see, but I don’t remember any shows talking about aliens as some sort of real historical figures. It might depend on the public they are targeting. Americans seem to be very fond of both alien conspiracies and Bible related “studies”. I guess the program decided to adjust facts so that they suit the expectations of targeted public. Which is not to say the program I got was much better, there were numerous examples of actual historical facts being “adjusted” to sound more sensationalistic. Garbage indeed.

7. Mitch says

Reminds me of the scene from Annie Hall when Woody reluctantly visits Hollywood…
Annie: “Its so clean out here.”
Woody: “Its ’cause they don’t throw their garbage away..they make it into television shows.”

8. jheartney says

Dropped our cable several years back. Excellent decision both from the financial and mental health points of view. Oldest kid misses Cartoon Network (which, to be honest, is some of the most honest programming on cable) and cooking shows, but a good bit of that is available on Netflix, and without commercials!

From time to time I’ll find myself somewhere with cable. I’ll flip through the channels, marveling that grown adults pay money for access to that dreck.

9. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

It’s funny, I remember reading somewhere that the guy who invented tv was disappointed that it became a source of trashy entertainment, instead of a learning tool. I wonder how he would react to cable’s offerings.

(I have cable, but only for BBC America, HBO, and Futurama.)

10. Sili says

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

CNN? Aliens!

11. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

Me:

Americans seem to be very fond of both alien conspiracies and Bible related “studies”.

How about that generalization? I meant a large number of Americans, not all, of course. Sorry for perpetuating a stereotype.

12. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

PS: It’s SyFy now, if that’s any indication of the crap that they show.

13. daveau says

You just know you’re in trouble when a sentence begins with “Ancient astronaut theorists believe…”

14. magistramarla says

We’ve been finding better science fiction shows on BBCAmerica lately. We love Dr. Who and Torchwood.
We were really worried when Torchwood showed up on STARZ, concerned that the cable network would ruin one of our favorite BBC shows. We were pleasantly surprised. The entire series this season had us sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering what could possibly happen next week. It was an excellent example of what science fiction should be – asking “what if?” and then carrying that question out to it’s conclusion.
I hope that there is a next season, and that it is as well-done.

15. DLC says

Cable TV largely panders to the lowest common denominator, but you can still sift through the tailings and find a nugget now and then.
Were I in charge of the Science Channel I’d probably bore the LCD set to tears, but you could bet your last farthing you’d see some hard science! Hmm… now if only we could get a few billionaires to fund it. Oh well. I can dream, can’t I ?

16. reasonisbeauty says

(With deep regret)I just watched a history channel program about ancient Chinese shipbuilding, something about which I know almost nothing and seemed interesting…and how bad could it be? The first half was a reasonably interesting discussion of how junks were built and the riverine focus of Chinese boatbuilding.

Then the writers meds apparently wore off. The rest of the program went off on a wild tangent consisting of claims of “overturning the history of the United States” suggesting that the Chinese actually sailed an enormous fleet to the new world before Columbus, supported by a bunch of guys in the Oregon dunes DOWSING to find a lost Chinese fleet. Imagine my surprise when they failed. I’m sworn off watching anything produced by the history channel ever again, even if the title seems safe.

Effing dowsing rods, arrrrgghhh, teh stupid, it burns.

17. Xenithrys says

When you make your living selling advertising, you want your audience to be large, but more importantly you also want it to be gullible. Advertisers aren’t interested in paying for their ads to be shown to critical audiences. So you buy space on channels that show crappy programs. It’s natural selection: those programs move to fixation in the population of channels.

18. BaldApe says

Yup.

And the SciFi channel is professional wrestling and Ghost Hunters, Home and Garden is all about hating on paneling and ceiling fans,…….

19. Sastra says

Phalacrocorax #4 wrote:

I quite liked the mention of the Book of Ezekiel as evidence for Ancient Aliens. It shows a great commitment to scientific truth.

Don’t remind me — the book The Spaceships of Ezekiel was once of my father’s favorite history books because he believed it made one of the best scientific cases for Ancient Astronaut theory (yes, he was a member of the Ancient Astronaut Society back in the 70’s … and possibly still a member ‘in spirit’ till he died last winter.)

The book was written by a man who had worked at NASA! A scientist (well, ok, an engineer, but the same thing)! Who had patented the design of a rocket put together based on a careful study of the Book of Ezekiel (“This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel, etc.”)! He felt sure that if I read it, just read it, I would be every bit as impressed as he was. It had opened his eyes not just to possibilities, but to how very strong the rational case for ancient astronauts was.

I read it. It was a mess on many levels. Sure, there was a lot of technical stuff crammed in, but only after the writer had made huge, breathtaking leaps of faith totally unsupported by any real historical or anthropological data. Sort of like “what if Ezekiel had really seen a space ship? And what if he was describing the mechanism in terms primitive people would understand — so that “angels” meant “rocket thrusters” and so forth? If so — then we can only conclude that Ezekiel had really seen a space ship!”

My dad asked me to ask Randi about it at the 1st Amazing Meeting. Randi (and Phil Plait) suggested that if the ‘vision’ had been based on anything it could have been based on a sun dog, an atmospheric anomaly of rings in rings, etc.

All my dad cared about, though, was whether Randi had read the book: if not, then he had no right to criticize it. But I had read the book and found it chock full of logical holes so large you could drive a space ship through them.

20. Rowan says

21. says

It’s been a long time since I watched the History or Science channels. One day I suddenly remembered that my parents had cable, and turned on the TV, and I looked at the guide for History and Science… They were both showing some reality show about loggers.

It’s no wonder they only watch the Golf Channel.

Of course, it’s not all bad for entertainment. Doctor Who at least has fun with its absurd premises, instead of treating alien interference in history as fact.

I still need channels devoted to history and science, though. I miss the days when I could turn to History and Science to entertain and educate me, regardless of time of day. :(

22. J.M. says

#10

It’s called capitalism. Profit is god.

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

That’s the American Dream becoming a nightmare it was always edging towards. Please stop trying to export it to Europe.

23. says

Says the “History” Channel:

Most ancient alien theorists, including von Däniken…

I’ll take exception to that in Mr. von Däniken’s behalf. Sure, he might be alien (to how history and archaeology are done, for starters), but ancient? Come on! 76 years is not that old!

24. R says

Some day they’re going to have a special entitled: “Was Hitler an Alien who Fought in the American Civil War? A Comparison of Nostradamus and the Bible Code Reveals the Truth”

25. Ian says

Discovery still has Mythbusters. They’ll treat any bit of woo that makes empirical predictions very seriously. You say pyramids sharpen razor blades? Let’s build a pyramid and find out. Busted woo gets treated with casual contempt. What more could you ask for?

26. says

The Science Channel shows Science Fiction and the Cartoon Network (and the spin offs) often don’t play animation. *sigh*

I might point out that generalizations are true of large populations. So yes, Americans do seem to like ghosts and aliens. Not every American does, but Americans <- plural with a little s, do.

Lastly, it's illegal to dig or use metal detectors in Oregon parks, so that's probably why they had dowsers. Not that real researchers couldn't get permission, but tv shows go with the quick and easy. This is why all home improvement shows have unreasonable time tables.

27. Larry says

What, you got a problem with 5 shows centered on a bunch of obese vehicle re-possessors or 3 pawn shop shows or 7 shows running clips of dumb people doing stupid things?

Be grateful that Kate+8 bitch is finally gone.

28. daveau says

R@27-

Some day they’re going to have a special entitled: “Was Hitler an Alien who Fought in the American Civil War? A Comparison of Nostradamus and the Bible Code Reveals the Truth”

What the hell, R? They’re already in the second season…

29. 'Tis Himself, OM says

SiFi (pardon moi, SyFy) put out Tin Man and Alice, both of which were pretty good.

30. David Marjanović, OM says

the only outspoken secularist and civil rights party “Pirates” went from 0 to 8.8% of the votes in Berlin today.

8.9 even! Arrrrrrrrr!!!

The libertarian/financial elite party was kicked from the Senat

It’s down to 1.9 %. Fun is, that party and the conservative party form the federal government. I think that coalition is going to walk the plank sooner or later.

31. Kagehi says

Problem with catering to the lowest common denominator is that eventually you drag the uncommon people down with you. Or, at least lose any possibility of them watching.

I do watch some Syfy, but only the actual shows, like Eureka, not the crap in between. I don’t mind some like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, American Chopper, and some of that, because they can be kind of interesting some times, and they deal with real stuff, not total bullshit. Lets see.. otherwise – The late night Anime on cartoon network (when they are not bloody reruns), and a few like the Iron Man: Armored Adventures, on another one, because its interesting seeing the characters re-mapped as teens.

The other “race” shows, and the like.. well, they can keep survivors, since its lost what interest it had after like season 2, when everyone on the thing figured out how to play it anyway (i.e., be assholes and back stabbers). Amazing race can still be interesting, in that you see some things you might now on other shows. The pirate one *could have* been interesting, as a change, but only with some serious retooling, which I don’t think they where ever going to even think about. But, it would have devolved, within a few seasons, into something as bad as Survivors.

There was some new race one, this year, which attempted, and mostly failed, to recapture the original “ecochallenge” concept, which the maker of Survivor did, before creating his show. But, without the real grit of a bunch of nuts, all trying to *actually* race, through multiple challenges, and without very many set time limits… it just isn’t the same. The ecochallenge was nuts. You might start with 20 teams, 5 would finish, and the “top” team was often 2-3 days “ahead” of the second placer, by the time it was over. The path included just about everything from climbing glaciers, to swimming a leg around a section of land, in the ocean, and you didn’t, “go to blah, and search for your next clue.” *That* was an interesting show. But, it was also expensive to run, while “simpler” challenges, in controlled conditions, is way cheaper.

Yeah.. Not a lot of shit on TV that I would be willing to watch all the time. I think I abandoned the “sitcom” right around when “I Dream of Genie” was no longer shown, even in syndication. lol The modern shows of the sort… too much, “We need a soap opera, but less soapy.” Its just not the same, and the ones that even try to reclaim the original concept are few and far between. Thinking.. last ones I saw that came even close where probably Married With Children, or Third Rock From the Sun. But, then… I haven’t “tried” to look for any in some time, since the only channels likely to even get close are, again, a few like Syfy, with “Eureka”, or, stupidly, cartoon channels, with things like The Venture Brothers, or The Boondocks.

Sigh…

32. Audley:

PS: It’s SyFy now, if that’s any indication of the crap that they show.

A while back, I was scrolling through the guide to see if anything worth watching was on, and noticed yet another channel name change. There was a channel named Sleuth, mostly recycling Law & Order shows and the like. Seems that sleuth is one of those really difficult words, because they changed the name to Cloo. Yes, Cloo. :eyeroll:

33. illdoittomorrow says

And yet cable TV came up with Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Damages, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire…

Cable TV does fine, as long as it produces fiction and doesn’t pretend it’s anything other than that.

34. Tolpuddle Martyr says

I think when Sci Fi changed it’s name to SyFy it sort of became official.

The dull beige corporate advertising men didn’t even want to be associated with the brainy geeks who were the initial target audience for the channel, they found them embarrassing!

35. Soul says

I feel you PZ! It sucks. I use to love the discovery channel and animal planet, and use to eat up all those ocean shows! Alas, no more. every time I turn it on it’s either sadly..ghost hunters, bike shows, or that stupid pawn shop show. A show about a pawn shop? I mean come on. . .come on. . .just go off the air for an hour if that’s what it’s come to. It’s just a load of time filling crap, and it’s kind of a huge bummer since I use to love those channels.

36. Cloo

Isn’t that the technical term for that weird gunky stuff that builds up in sewer pipes?

37. alkaloid says

“And yet cable TV came up with Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Damages, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire…

Cable TV does fine, as long as it produces fiction and doesn’t pretend it’s anything other than that.”

The problem is that there’s comparatively little of that (and shrinking) and too many totally pointless reality shows and antifactual garbage.

As far as the historian who watched the History Channel is concerned, I feel sorry for him.

How do the quote tags actually work on this site?

38. Seeker says

Don’t be too swift to dismiss entertaining tripe! My husband and I were devout and very active Roman Catholics when we sat down to watch the Ancient Aliens series last year and we are now ardent atheists because the series prompted us to look at the Old Testament in a completely different light and we finally asked the question “If Adam and Eve aren’t real then what does that mean about original sin and redemption?’

Obviously I don’t buy into the whole aliens / manna machine etc etc thing but in a funny way it helped us to free our minds from the decades of religious indoctrination that we had never even thought to question.

39. Therrin says

or 7 shows running clips of dumb people doing stupid things?

I’m still boggled that a TV show can exist solely to play Youtube clips.

but only the actual shows, like Eureka

Eureka was pretty good until they (the main cast) went back to the past and forward into a different future. Every second plot device became integrating into a timeline they didn’t live through, it’s getting tiresome.

Warehouse 13 on the other hand is still entertaining. I love some of the artifact ideas they come up with, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s childhood building blocks.

Oh, and 30 Rock. Those were quite funny. I think it’s due back soon.

How do the quote tags actually work on this site?

<blockquote>How do the quote tags actually work on this site?</blockquote>

^^

40. alkaloid:

How do the quote tags actually work on this site?

[blockquote]text[/blockquote], except use the pointy brackets < instead of [. If you use Firefox, you can get a nifty text formatting toolbar here: http://codefisher.org/format_toolbar/

41. says

That’s pretty much a model of humans:

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

But then again, I’m cynical. It’s greatly depressing – it’s one thing that humans are massively ignorant, often doing stupid things (that I can deal with), but it’s infuriating that so many people not only are ignorant and stupid, but express no desire to change these conditions, to the extent of flat-out saying, “I don’t care about logic!” (and here I’m not talking about a fundy creationist rabid anti-science type – been told this by just an averagely sane, averagely intelligent person). Seriously, accepting yourself doesn’t mean, “You have to put up with whatever I do because that’s just who I am!” – it means understanding that you have flaws and strengths and neutral characteristics and not letting these drag you down unnecessarily, rectifying things that you can in the pursuit of making life more livable for everyone (at least, that’s how I’ve always seen it).

I never thought people took those history channel shows seriously (the ones about Ancient Aliens and the Bible and stuff) – when I was growing up with them, I considered them excellent fodder for science fiction stories, and nowadays I would consider them as good starting points for the average person wanting to pen a speculative story catering to the plebeian masses (which I mean to have nothing whatsoever to do with the genus Lycaenidae FYI).

42. Seems that sleuth is one of those really difficult words, because they changed the name to Cloo. Yes, Cloo. :eyeroll:

I like Cloo.

According to Wikipedia, it’s because “Sleuth” was too common for a search term and Hasbro owns the rights to “Clue” from the game.

43. alkaloid says

Thanks to those who responded for the help about the quote tags. I understand how to use them now.

44. I like Cloo.

I don’t like that I don’t know the subscript tags here.

45. First Approximation says

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

Definitely a vast wasteland for non-fiction*. “News”, “history”, “science”, etc.

However, for comedy or fiction, cable TV is about 95% garbage. You can find some good shows if you look hard enough (e.g, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report).

* Possible exception for MythBusters.

46. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

I don’t like that I don’t know the subscript tags here.

At the moment, they aren’t available. Makes it hard to write out correct chemical compositions.

47. says

I agree. But, uh, can we keep the schlock horror? It’s kinda fun…

48. David Marjanović, OM says

At the moment, they aren’t available. Makes it hard to write out correct chemical compositions.

For that, we have to resort to LaTeX. The instructions are buried somewhere in TET.

49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

For that, we have to resort to LaTeX. The instructions are buried somewhere in TET.

Dang, I should have remembered. Used Latex to update some nuclear reactions for how to form carbon-14.

$MgSO_{4} <--> Mg^{2+} + SO_{4 }^{2-}$

$^{13}C(n,hv)^{14}C$

Appears Latex is shut off too.

50. uncle frogy says

what I learned from Mad magazine low these meany years ago is still true TV is filled with mostly trash.

I have reverted to doing too much flipping back and forth from channel to channel and program to program to stave off complete boredom.
I confess I am some what a vidiate.
not much everyday to really catch my interest very little I feel is good enough that I would record it for later anyway. better science on NOVA and then even they do not hit it every week. better science fiction on BBC america then the scyfy more then just dr who and torchwood the one from last year about the aftermath of some kind of devastating plague was very good as was the the one called Outcasts was well done
PBS still gets most of my watch time even when the program is not so perfect they don’t interrupt it with adds for condoms, auto insurance, pop tarts or drugs.

newton Minow in a speech on may 6 1961 “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.[6]”

it still is true only thing that has really changed is the size of the wasteland. though if you keep flipping to some other channel you can with effort mitigate its effects some what.

uncle frogy

51. imthegenieicandoanything says

Not garbage, but money.

And if anyone had really thought about it back then (and it wasn’t me, but I’m sure someone, without snarking, laid out the likelihood that what we have now was almost certain to happen), the certainty that such channels would be unable to provide decent content for even a few years was obvious and certain.
HBO manages because it rakes in enough to have the choice to provide quality programs (whether it does or not is another question – look at the pandering weak tea that is CNN 24/7 “news” – but it has the resources to do so, as long as these programs are moderately successful commercially). THC, etc., simply cannot offer enough of what they say, and so they, like a desperate junkie, start using whatever will get them by for today, until they7re promoting ancient aliens.

A sad but solid lesson for us all.

52. Ragutis says

Hey, Pawn Stars is ok. They get some interesting stuff. Hell, there’s probably more educational value in one of those 2 min. segments where they consult with the relevant expert than there is in the rest of the day’s entire schedule. Although, they did make “How the Earth Was Made” a couple of years ago and every once in a while, they re-run a relic of their better days like “The History of Sex”.

What driving trucks through snow or building custom motorcycles and cars have to do with history though, I have no fecking idea.

Isn’t Sci-Fi getting Lost Girl? That’s a fun show. And they’ve got DW, Eureka, Warehouse 13… Wish they’d continued the Dune mini-series. Those were pretty good.

I’m actually going to be getting MORE channels soon by bundling my cable, internets and phone. YAY, I’ll have BBC America and the Soccer Channel. About the only good stuff on my cable now are Rachel Maddow, The Daily Show, Mythbusters and Nova. Oh to live in Britain: QI, Mock The Week, Horizon, Brian Cox, Alice Roberts, Mitchell and Webb…

53. Midnight Rambler says

A scientist (well, ok, an engineer, but the same thing)!

Whoa…you’re just asking for a fight with that sentence.

54. Kathy says

Don’t even get me started on Bravo, A&E, and National Geographic.

55. marella says

The History channel, you mean the WWII channel? WE gave up on cable TV and now just torrent want we want to watch. The only problem with this is you can miss stuff cause there’s no ads, so thanks for the suggestions for good shows, I will see if I can get them. The relentless dumbing down of TV is the main reason for supporting public television, only when the profit motive is removed is there any hope for quality programming.

OT. Believe me engineers are NOT scientists, I have several in the family and their attitudes are not really scientific. For example as Tim Flannery noted yesterday at “Think Inc” in Melbourne, they tend to be very much in the forefront of climate change denial, IMHO because it is attack on what it means to be an engineer. Engineering is all about creating a better world via technology, and to be told that their efforts for the last 300 years have put us all in peril of wild swings in the climate is an affront to their whole raison d’etre. I love engineers and engineering but it isn’t science.

I generally DVR the real documentaries so I can watch them when I’m in the mood for wildlife photography and a soothing narrator (though the blinding banality of the scripts that are read over the films of wildebeests is amazing sometimes). The Science Channel has a bit of real documentary work left, and so does Animal Planet and National Geographic Wild. The real NatGeo network mostly shows things about prisons and dog training, for some reason. I don’t know why that’s happening or how to make it stop.

Anyway, today my dad was watching The Naked Archaeologist What could be a fantastic, if very specifically targeted porno is in fact a show about a belligerent man who bothers scientists. My father’s hobby is Middle Eastern Archaeology and he claims he can put up with this man in exchange for the footage of interesting sites. I can’t.

Here’s his schtick. He hears about some discovery, probably long after every qualified person has. His understanding of hearsay concerning this find convinces him that it confirms something described in the bible. He drives to the location and demands that the actual researchers agree with him. With varying degrees of patience, they explain why he’s anywhere from mostly to completely wrong. The show then cuts away to him condescendingly explaining why his common sense and understanding of biblical history means they and all the actual, qualified researchers are wrong and he is right. That’s pretty much how every half hour goes. I kind of want to punch him in his smug face, but I’m too damn civilized.

57. magistramarla says

Marella @ #58
I live with an engineer who would take a great deal of exception to what you said. He has been a strong voice for evolution and all things Darwin since our college days.
Of course, besides the engineering degree, he also holds degrees in biology, chemistry and computer science.
He managed to reproduce another one just like him, too. Our oldest daughter holds degrees in engineering, computational neuro-science and neurobiology. She is as outspoken as her father about evolution and atheism.

58. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

OT. Believe me engineers are NOT scientists, I have several in the family and their attitudes are not really scientific

Stuff and nonsense. All that demonstrates is that those particular people have those attitudes. People qualified as engineers do science. People qualified as scientists do engineering. People with literature degrees do engineering. And science. And people with science or engineering quLifications create art.
Stupid people believe stupid things whatever they are nominally qualified as- if anything.
Science is about solving puzzles, typically about the way the universe work. Engineering is about solving puzzles, typically about making the universe do what we want. The intersection is huge and fluid.

59. easterngal says

@marella

I believe that was because too many engineers/engineering education don’t pay enough attention to the science underlying their discipline, I don’t think it is about “engineers don’t feel good about their efforts causing havoc”.

Engineers aren’t scientists, sure, because they are not the ones trying to discover new scientific theories, etc; but, engineers shouldn’t be ignorant about the scientific thought behind their work. Sadly, it seems that many engineers like to treat those things as black box and don’t care how it works exactly, and especially don’t care about how scientific methodology – which is a weird phenomenon, we engineers do experiments all the time, even though we are not making new discoveries, we do test new devices! How does it even work when an engineer doesn’t believe in the scientific method? As an engineer I feel sad about this…

60. azkyroth says

OT. Believe me engineers are NOT scientists, I have several in the family and their attitudes are not really scientific. For example as Tim Flannery noted yesterday at “Think Inc” in Melbourne, they tend to be very much in the forefront of climate change denial, IMHO because it is attack on what it means to be an engineer. Engineering is all about creating a better world via technology, and to be told that their efforts for the last 300 years have put us all in peril of wild swings in the climate is an affront to their whole raison d’etre. I love engineers and engineering but it isn’t science.

Narrower brush, plzthx.

61. Otrame says

Garbage conquered all, didn’t it?

Yep. I think a graph of my television-watching hours vs. the amount of crap on the Science Channel would be very close to a straight line. I so seldom watch anything these days that if it weren’t for the other people in the house I’d probably drop my cable. There is still some good TV out there, but you can get it on the Internet, often commercial-free.

62. ichthyic says

suggesting that the Chinese actually sailed an enormous fleet to the new world before Columbus, supported by a bunch of guys in the Oregon dunes DOWSING to find a lost Chinese fleet

63. ichthyic says

How does it even work when an engineer doesn’t believe in the scientific method?

when I first started debating creationists online, I often ran into creationist engineers that worked for oil companies.

they said that flood geology works just as well for the oil industry, because it doesn’t affect how they go about finding oil.

many, MANY time, I tried to explain the paleontology and geology actually underlying the methods they use, even so much as laying out great examples of microfossil evolutionary series for them, and how forams basically made their jobs possible.

I got acknowledgement, and then, inevitably, the very next day (sometimes sooner), they would immediately revert to their previous state of thinking the science underlying all of oil exploration to be irrelevant.

*sigh*

I blame instructors letting engineers (and often MDs too!) get by without even remotely understanding the massive amount of science underlying medical technology and engineering.

64. ichthyic says

“If Adam and Eve aren’t real then what does that mean about original sin and redemption?’

there’s been some entertaining looks at that issue on Jerry Coyne’s site, as he shreds the Biologos attempts to explain it all away as misinterpretation and metaphor.

you might get a kick out of reading some of those threads.

here’s some of them:

65. easterngal says

I blame instructors letting engineers (and often MDs too!) get by without even remotely understanding the massive amount of science underlying medical technology and engineering.

That’s my gut feeling too (though I have no actual proof for it, maybe someone can present something more evidence-based). But it is just hard for me to imagine engineers that actively resist scientific methodology and findings.

I mean, taking the road to become an engineer, aren’t students at least required to learn the most basics of physics, chemistry and biology at high school, before you delve deep into one specific engineering area. Shouldn’t those be the preparatory stuff needed and be the foundation of the work engineers do? I would have thought all those years of basic science would have make it clear you can’t do engineering without science.

66. Bernard Bumner says

In the UK we have (albeit reruns from another channel) Time Team on History; actual archaeology. Even if some archaeologists are uncomfortable with the format (the dig crammed into “just three days to do it”), then they would also probably have to admit that there would be fewer young archaeologists were it not for the show.

Actually, bona fide and popular archaeology shows are quite common on UK television; Meet The Ancestors, History Cold Case, Time Team/Digs…

Can’t get enough of them myself.

67. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

At least in the UK you have to have a degree to get to be an engineer – leaving aside the ‘grade inflation’ that results in dustbin men being ‘sanitation engineers’ – plus several years experience to get chartered status. To get to do an engineering degree you have to get several science related A levels; I did physics, maths chemistry, a fairly typical mix. To do relevant A levels you have to have previously got a suitable set of GCSES(or as in my day, O levels) which will naturally include several science courses, plus maths, languages, etc. So, barring shenanigans by the schools, it would very difficult to avoid a decent grounding in science before you get anywhere near a degree course. Once on the course you get to study things like thermodynamics (oh those sciency laws and stuff), more maths, matierals, electrical theory, more maths, economics, languages, computer systems, more maths, history, philosophy of science, fluidics, stress, dynamic systems, sociology, more maths, chocolate biscuitology and more frakkin maths. Notice all the sciency stuff? Ok, so engineering students probably don’t get those essential courses on grant writing and journal editor schmoozing.
To the best of my admittedly out of date knowledge ther are no religious universities in the UK so I doubt you can get an even faintly convincing engineering degree without going to a real university. It is, after all, not the US.
Despite all that I’m sure that there will be some people that manage to graduate and yet still believe in some religious bullshit or even libertarianistics. Some will go on to become murderers or even politicians. What can you say? People are funny.

The channel needs a revamp and a catchphrase – “It’s not History it’s Hystory!”

69. Eidolon says

First – R @27 for the win

Second – Even Mythbusters gets a few lumps for not at least explaining some of the basic physics that would tell anyone with an IQ over room temperature that it’s a DAMN MOVIE!! and not reality. Can you make a bullet curve after it is fired by swinging the gun in an arc? Not according to Newton, no. Do bullets fired horizontally hit the ground at the same time as one dropped at the same instant? Yep -or so says Mr. Galileo. Both principles are demonstrated every year in physics classes across the land. Granting the need to make the demo entertaining, maybe at lest just a nod to the science behind the the question would be nice.

Third – What seems to be developing here is some sort of a ‘scientists are smarter than engineers’ trend in the posts. The issue is not who is smarter or knows more science. All you biologists out there – how are you with your fluid dynamics as it relates to fluid transport? The real issue is someone who is knows a lot in one area assuming their knowledge extends everywhere. Thus we have doctors pontificating on climate change. It works the other way as well. Remember Linus Pauling? One of the most brilliant chemists ever and yet there was his infatuation with vitamin C.

The fuck are you on about? Over here the History Channel is entirely and exclusively about two things. The second World War, and the military situations of Rome.

71. skmarshall says

I am picturing all our lolbertarian friends here wanting to post how much this tv programming sucks, but stopping with their fingers over the keys, stymied by the thought that the power of the Free Market brings us the “History” Channel but PBS brings us Nova. Yikes.

72. cynic04 says

One thing the market is good at is giving people what they want, you can’t really fault cable companys in the business of making money for trying to make money. Now why there is such a demand for that programming is another story.

73. Birger Johansson says

“DOWSING to find a lost Chinese fleet”

Obviously, the Chinese were taking the direct route, burrowing straight through the Earth.
— — — — — — —

“what I learned from Mad magazine low these meany years ago is still true”
I live in Sweden but actually subscribed to American MAD Magazine in the early eighties.
The wisdom of MAD back issues will outlast most TV programs.

74. greame says

The only “reality” show that was ever any good was Joe Schmoe. The one where they got a bunch of actors to pretend that this one guy was actually in a Big Brother type of reality show and they just fucked with him for a few weeks.

75. David says

Eidolon @72: Dismissing experiment in exchange for logical argument and argument from authority is literally medieval. In any case, a thrown paper airplane doesn’t hit the ground at the same time as a dropped one; the aerodynamics of falling objects is a bit more complex then Galileo would have it. Does a bullet spinning at 100,000 RPM generate lift? The answer is apparently not, but while I believe a physicist could figure it out without doing the experiment, it’s not a room temperature IQ problem.

76. etcetera says

Echoing a lot of other people here, but I haven’t had cable for almost a decade. I simply can’t justify paying their rates.

Where I live, basic cable is about 40\$ a month. That gets me all of the networks, plus CMT, Treehouse and YTV. There’s nothing on network T.V. that I can’t get from their own websites a day later and I have no kids, and I loathe country music, so I’m not watching any of the other channels.

“Classic” cable would cost me 70\$ and then I would get:
Five different sports channels (I would rather play them),
A&E (died after one year),
MTV (essentially the same as YouTube),
Outdoor life Network (would rather go outside),
BBC (well, maybe)
Discovery (getting pretty sick of “reality” shows),
Slice (reruns)
W (equating women with romcoms and newagey pap)
TLC (again, nothing but “reality” shows)
Bravo! (mostly reruns of movies you can find in the bargain bin)
Encore Avenue (all reruns, all the time!)
Spike TV (Explode ALL THE THINGS)
American Movie Classics (Like Bravo!, but AMERICAN!)
History TV (Nostradamus was history, right?)
Teletoon (Canadian version of the Cartoon Network)
SPEED (Expolsions! but FASTER!)
TVTropolis (yet another rerun channel)
Turner Classic Movies (like Bravo! but TURNER!)
E! (Perez Hilton, but on TV!)
CTS-Crossroads (More country for those who can’t get enough!)

If I wanted a channel that has anything you might actually pay for, (HBO) that’s extra. And then there are the three movie channels that all play the same movies over and over again when I can just go down to the local convenience store and rent for 2\$ rather than pay the extra 20\$ per month.

So yeah, cable’s dead. If anything, it’s gotten worse since I left. I look forward to the day when I can buy programs online directly from the producers rather than channels or networks. Since the advent of broadband, networks and distributors are worse than useless. They’re parasitic.

77. Kevin says

@17…

That’s based on a book “1421: The Year China Discovered America” by Gavin Menzies. I have it in my library (actually, it’s near my left hand at present so I can get the author’s name correct.)

Interesting book. A lot of fairly well-documented history mixed in with some pretty far-reaching hypothetical stuff.

But it’s nowhere near the level of ancient aliens on the loony-tunes scale.

78. dunstar says

lol. Yes the History channel is pretty funny these days. They somehow always have UFO and Alien shows as the origin of mankind type programs with that dude with the funky-ass hair being the resident expert on these matters.

79. airbagmoments says

Sorry, free Cable indeed sucks, but we are living in a golden age of television from the premium channels and even a few shows on the old big 3 + the Simpsons.

Movies used to shame television, but now it’s the other way around. Hollywood movie studios are completely adrift. Meanwhile the smart, talented folks are now working on TV.

80. says

cynic04 #75

One thing the market is good at is giving people what they want, you can’t really fault cable companys in the business of making money for trying to make money. Now why there is such a demand for that programming is another story.

Making programs that make the most money is not the same thing as giving people what they want. Making something that 10 million people will end up halfway watching because it won’t distract them from the other things they’re doing is far more profitable than making something that 5 million will find fascinating.

The most valuable viewers are the ones that aren’t really paying attention to the show. The viewers that are really watching will notice how annoying the adverts are. And a fair number of the people who are really into a show will DVR it and and skip the ads anyway.

81. Ophelia Benson says

the Learning Channel would be about learning, not octuplets and hoarding;

You forgot to mention quiverfull! “18 children and I’m still ovulating for God so stay tuned”

82. reasonisbeauty says

@81

I’m quite sympathetic to the notion that there was ongoing contact between oriental cultures and the west coast of North America prior to Columbus even though there is little physical evidence as of yet to support the idea. The 1421 book posits an interesting if poorly supported hypothesis.

BUT

The evidence laid out in the book is pretty thin, and trotting out a field team of dowsers who state with certainty that they have found a lost Chinese junk purportedly washed ashore during tsunami in 1421 based on walking over a random dune field with dowsing rods does not inspire confidence, expressions of shock when digging the site produced nothing notwithstanding, and statements by the author that this will “overturn our ideas of the peopling of the new world” when nothing the Chinese did in the 15th century had anything to do with that process is enough to convince me that the history channel has completely abandoned any attempt to differentiate fiction from real history or archaeology.

83. pacal says

Ancient Aliens utterly shamefull. I watched the4 first episode and I could not b elieve how bad it was. It was full of distortions and out and out lies. The amount of crud now poluting the History channel is huge. What with enormous amounts of crap about Nostradamus and other pieces of crud.

But watching Von Daniken spout his utter crap while this show bathes him in the glow of maverick brillant thinker is postively disgusting.

What also unbelievable is that there has been THREE seasons of this crap. My good why can’t they rebroadcast old episodes of Archaeology?

84. says

I used to like the green channel. even the reality shows on it were kind of interesting (the one about rebuilding Greensboro, for example; and “Living with Ed”, despite highly stereotypical gender-relations, was very entertaining, too); but I hear that one has gone to shit now, too.

85. Erulóra Maikalambe says

I stopped watching the “History” Channel when they aired some stupid show that started with “Archaeologists believe…” and followed it with something archaeologists don’t believe.

86. says

…18 children and I’m still ovulating…

Given the context, this sounds like some kinda creepy alien abduction yarn, now you mention it… Woman kidnapped by the Greys, hooked up to some horrific apparatus, forced to pump ’em out endlessly, painfully…

Oh. Wait. It kinda is that, actually, isn’t it?

(/Well, minus the aliens, and minus being fiction, anyway.)

87. Kagehi says

newton Minow in a speech on may 6 1961 “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse.

They did a variation on that for The Boondocks. The “smarter” kid in the family watched “black” TV for 24 hours straight, to see if it really made you stupid. There was a double joke in the episode, the “dumber” one hooked up with a creepy artists, and started doing like art museum quality murals on everyone’s house, the smart one just reached a point where he couldn’t even remember why he walked into a room for something, i.e., he got real stupid for the duration of watching it. lol

88. Kagehi says

I’m actually going to be getting MORE channels soon by bundling my cable, internets and phone.

This is, imho, one of the big reasons that crap does get a foot hold. If your “good” channels are bundled with 10 other crap ones, 14 sports networks, etc., etc., then you have to compete with the crap. If people where allowed to buy a damn bundle that included the ones they wanted, instead of getting the equivalent of, “I am sorry, but from now on, when you buy a new car, we are *required* to fill it with 500 pounds of manure, strip the paint off, and put fuzzy pink dice, and a crucifix, on the mirror!”, bundles.

Where is the, “I just want the channels that don’t usually show crap!”, bundle? If we had that, maybe the perception that History, Learning, etc., *needed* complete shit to get by, wouldn’t have happened.

89. Kagehi says

Science is about solving puzzles, typically about the way the universe work. Engineering is about solving puzzles, typically about making the universe do what we want. The intersection is huge and fluid.

Unfortunately, there is also, in that intersection, a fair number that do “engineering”, but damn little else, who see two things with stuff like Global Warming:

1. No simple, easy, engineer-able solution.
2. A system they can’t actually control.

If they could, plausibly, invent a weather machine to fix it, they would have no problem that it is happening, and needs fixing. But, the problem is decades of *bad* engineering, much of it known to be flawed, short sighted, and eventually prone to running out of resources, which that loud subset hates. That its not just a resource problem, but… an exhaust problem, or something, and the end result isn’t simply manageable, but requires drastic changes in assumptions, doesn’t help. There has been a damn lot of “engineering”, that has, traditionally, looked at the end product, which wasn’t wanted, i.e., waste, not as something that needs to be sequestered, reused, or even prevented, but simply, “gotten rid of in the easiest and simplest way possible.” Its, quite literally, “not their problem what happens to it”. All of the sudden it *is* their problem, and they don’t have a damn clue what to do about it, without, in many cases, seriously rethinking, or even shutting down, their machines.

90. etcetera says

@airbagmoment

You’re right. This may be the golden age of T.V. There are fantastic programs out there.

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to get the premium channels without buying ALL of the other channels first. Let’s break it down. Let’s say there are five decent shows on T.V. that you like to watch. We’ll say Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Glee, just for fun. They’re all decent shows and I don’t really have time to watch any more than that.

Three of those shows, I can watch online on the network T.V. channels’ website for free the day after they air. That leaves me with two HBO shows that I can’t otherwise get.

Let’s say I wait until they come out on DVD later. I cough up 60\$ each for a year’s worth of episodes. Cable’s idea of fair is to make me pay 70\$ for all of the crap channels I will never watch, plus an extra 20\$ for HBO per month.

I’m not a math major or anything, but I can do a simple arithmetic

91. Lola says

Fun fact: in the Netherlands, Ancient Aliens is aired by National Geographic Channel.

92. What a Maroon says

Five different sports channels (I would rather play them),

Would you rather plonk on the guitar than listen to a recording of Andres Segovia or Paco de Lucia?

I mean, there’s value in both, and I don’t mean to denigrate your picking skills, but still….

(FWIW, I only watch TV when I’m traveling, but that’s because I know if we got cable at home my latent couch potato genes would be activated.)

93. Etcetera says

@What A Maroon

Touché.

The point remains that for me, having to purchase multiple channels I will never watch in order to have access to the few shows I will watch is a ridiculous rip-off. It’s like making me buy an entire city block every time I want to rent a hotel room.

94. Kagehi says

The point remains that for me, having to purchase multiple channels I will never watch in order to have access to the few shows I will watch is a ridiculous rip-off. It’s like making me buy an entire city block every time I want to rent a hotel room.

Unfortunately, this is outside the control of the cable companies. There are some that “tried” to provide al a carte, and they where shot down by the studios that “own” the damn stations.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/07/64399

The irony is that the “key” argument was that, “cable would be a much less attractive buy compared to other outlets.” Yet, we have people here flat out stating that this is *precisely* the strategy that is making it “less attractive compared to other outlets”.