Comments

  1. says

    Well of course they WOULD say that wouldn’t they? I’m sure they got plenty of tips from the Airforce and NASA in good ways to hide the truth…

    But seriously. This is really sad.

  2. gregpeterson says

    I have to give props to that 19th century mermaid drawing, though, for finally depicting a person-of-mer who I can see getting lusty over. Previously, I’d always been a tad put off by the extensive fishy parts. But if it’s just flippers below the thighs, hell, I can see that. If only Ariel had been so constituted.

  3. cartomancer says

    Elves?

    Here in the UK we have a national elf service to make authoritative pronouncements on such matters.

    When you have followed suit you can know the answer!

  4. says

    The horrifying thing is how many seemingly intelligent people I know who get sucked in by this kind of crap. They can reject pablum from deities to homeopathy, yet the suggestion of conspiracy seems to shut down all of their higher brain functions.

  5. says

    Well, PZ just got back from Iceland, where the huldufolke are consulted before construction projects. They’re elves of sorts.

    They dislike crosses, churches, and electricity.

    Two out of three ain’t bad.

  6. Josh, Official SpokesBrah says

    What? I just put a downpayment on a new Mer-Me™ xtreem makeover. FUCK NOAA.

  7. tmscott says

    But… but what about that guy who’s,

    “…father was the keeper of the Eddystone light,
    and he slept with a mermaid one fine night.

    Out of this union there came three,
    a porpoise, and a puffer, and the other was me.”?

  8. timberwoof says

    /me facepaws.

    Two horses were walking along, chatting about horsey stuff—the latest race results, indigestion from bad hay, the usual. A dog came up to them and asked for the time. One horse looked at the other and said, “Wow. Get a load of that! A talking dog!”

    Remember the sea monster that turned out to be a raccoon?

  9. davem says

    But are mermaids real? No.evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found

    Here in the UK we have a national elf service to make authoritative pronouncements on such matters.

    Are you sure you aren’t confusing it with Elfin Safety?

  10. Stevarious says

    It’s Merpeople. ‘Mermaid’ is sexist AND elitist – one would assume that only about half of them are female, and most of them probably aren’t cleaning staff (not that there is anything wrong with being cleaning staff.)

  11. billgascoyne says

    Why do they have to issue this statement? Because if they said the same thing about imaginary people who had wings and flew through the air, they’d be pilloried for persecuting religion.

  12. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    Some people like to play-act as mermaids, but the above statement still holds.

    I always thought the gender-neutral term was Merfolk.

  13. cicely ("No-one of Consequence") says

    Elves are totally real.

    I’ve got the character sheets to prove it!
    -

  14. Brownian says

    I always thought the gender-neutral term was Merfolk.

    The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.

  15. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.

    If it carries the implication that the mer-hominins are of a particular race, then I can see why.

  16. says

    No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found

    But you can’t prove they don’t exist!

    Checkmate, ichthyologists!

  17. kp71 says

    Is it any surprise NOAA had to do this in a country where a substantial proportion of the population things that 1) the Loch Ness Monster is real and 2) it disproves evolution????

  18. Gregory in Seattle says

    But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples?

    Very good questions to be asked about gods, angels and demons.

  19. robro says

    I wonder if this is a response to those stupid textbooks used by fundamentalist church schools in LA, PA, and elsewhere. IIRC they speak of “mermaids” (or whatever the appropriate nomenclature is).

    NOAA is a bit off. Odysseus didn’t encounter mermaids, but the Sirens who were not sea deities and did not live in the sea. They lived on an island, luring sailors into the rocks with their songs. Odysseus only survives because of the help of the witch goddess Circe. It’s quite a story, let me tell you, and at the end there’s a blood bath…two actually…a lot like the Bible.

  20. says

    This is probably about that fictional documentary on Discovery, actually. The only good thing I can say about it is that you can only sell your soul credibility for ratings once.

  21. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    At least we know that the Moon landings were real.

    Next you’ll be saying that Alan Shepard found a mermaid in the Sea of Tranquility who played off a lower handicap than he did.

  22. robro says

    ChristineRose — Ah, yes, I forgot about that as I don’t watch TV. But one wonders if NOAA is going to dispute every dumb thing that TV does. Over the years there have been any number of “documentaries” about the Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, etc. Refuting all that rubbish could keep NOAA busy.

  23. Trebuchet says

    This is probably about that fictional documentary on Discovery, actually. The only good thing I can say about it is that you can only sell your soul credibility for ratings once.

    Right, except it was actually on Animal Planet. Different name, same company, same crappy content. They even went so far as to put up a fake webpage saying that they’d been blocked by Homeland Security.

  24. Shplane says

    The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.

    Really? I wasn’t aware that it had any racial connotation.

    I’ve only really seen it used that way in D&D manuals, though.

  25. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.

    Humm. Never heard of it used in any racist way.

    I use folk all the time to refer to groups of people designated by all maters of things.

    Those folks at the brewery.

    The folks that fixed my car.

    My friend Dave’s folks (as in parents).

  26. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found

    Somebody notify Elaine Morgan.

  27. truthspeaker says

    “Folk” meaning people ethnic group is a cognate with the German word “Volk”, which has almost the same meaning, but can also mean a tribe or nation. Hitler used the phrase “Ein Volk” to talk about people of German ethnicity as “One People”. As far as I know that’s the closest to a racist connotation it has. I would hate to lose such an old word from the English language. The replacement, “people” comes from Old French. I like having an Anglo-Saxon and a Norman word for almost every concept, but if we have to ditch one, it should be the Norman one.

  28. nonny says

    I have a feeling that the questions section is designed for kids or maybe teenagers. As well as the mermaid thing, there are questions like ‘are dolphins fish’? and ‘do sharks eat people?’

    Maybe I’m too optimistic.

  29. dannicoy says

    ahhh just give me some primates a really really big fish tank and a looot of time. Given that we have had two different groups of mammals adapt themselves to life in the ocean inside the last 60 million years it can’t be that hard to set up selective pressures that will give us some form of aquatic primate. If they have to look human then fine – give me some humans.

  30. DLC says

    Merfolk exist in the same sense that Leprechauns, Trolls, Unicorns and Jesus/Yaweh exist.

    as for Folk and racist connotations — Uh? Huh what?
    In which context ? I haven’t seen it used like that.
    Oh, except for those Elfophobics, who sneer and spit when they say “The Faire Folk!” No doubt there’s some Unseelie Court fans around here somewhere . . .

  31. says

    Sea monsters, Bigfoot, mermaids, elves, leprechauns, fire-breathing dragons, unicorns…there is no end to the idiocy humans are willing to believe in, without the slightest evidence in their favor. And that’s all fairly harmless stuff, unlike religion, which has screwed up the entire human race for millennia and shows no sign of stopping. At least the mermaidists aren’t fighting the leprechaunists over whose imaginary humanoid creature is the best.

  32. Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters says

    At least the mermaidists aren’t fighting the leprechaunists over whose imaginary humanoid creature is the best.

    And neither should they, given that the best imaginary humanoid creature is clearly the troglodyte.

  33. says

    Of course mermaids are real. Or at least, one is. Here are the pictures of her swimming.

    @Brownian, how is “folk” racist? To me it implies folk music, folk dancing, folklore, folk stories, folk festivals etc etc. Is there something regional? Google didn’t help. It didn’t even get me to the relevant bit of Tom Lehrer. Naaaational brotherhood week…

  34. McC2lu iz not nu. says

    Every time one of these ‘you gotta be freakin’ kidding me’ stories comes along it reminds me of the video link PZ once posted about Terrence McKenna on relativism.

    The school system has been so thoroughly hatchet-jobbed by yahoos mistaking idiocy for conservatism that there is zero attempt to teach people critical thinking, skepticism and rational thought. There are no longer bullshit filters being fitted in kid’s minds to keep them from becoming the docile sheeple* career politicians and career evangelists love. People believing in mermaids is similar to people believing in the b&w photos of fairies. They had a better excuse – it was 110 years ago and fewer people had a decent education, let alone a scientific one. There is no excuse now, except for a segment of society that delights in being ignorant that wants to drag everyone down into the zero-enlightenment sewers with them.

    McKenna may have been a poster boy for ‘High Times’ magazine, but when the smoke cleared he understood what ‘clarity’ actually meant (at least at the moment this was taped). The vid may be old hat for FtB regulars, but it’s worth a viewing if you’re new here.

    Linky:http://youtu.be/7OX77Qv66qw

    *I know ‘sheeple’ is an un-word, but it is the word with the best fit.

  35. zb24601 says

    I see those Mermaids (but no Mermen) all over Norfolk. Virginia Beach has the same thing but with dolphins, and I know that dolphins are real. Therefore the Mermaids must be real. Q.E.D. Plus there was that documentary called Splash. Am I supposed to believe it’s ALL fake?

  36. sonofrojblake says

    “The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.”

    Time to recalibrate that alarm. It’s a bad thing to ignore racism when it’s present… but calling “racism” on a word as neutral as “folk”, and rushing to be seen to act all brittle and indignant about it, just reinforces a stereotype of political correctness “gone mad”.

  37. says

    It’s Merpeople. ‘Mermaid’ is sexist AND elitist – one would assume that only about half of them are female.

    Not necessarily. They might reproduce through parthenogenesis, with no need of males.

  38. imthegenieicandoanything says

    The thread title, in bold, really matches up with the banner ad on my computer: rhetorical questions as fine as I’ve ever seen!

    “Are Mermaids real?” Fuck no!

    “Is Jesus God?” Double-fuck no!

    Some people’ll believe ANY shit, and pay good money for it. But at least the mermaid-believers are unlikely to discriminate and even kill people who laugh at them. Give me Mermaidians, or Trekkies, or even crystal-powerists any day over the “religious”.

  39. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Ok, ok, all joking and “ironic” commentary aside. Just to be totally clear – can you just for a second cut it out, and give a serious answer?

    DO Mermaids exist or DON’T they?

    Sometimes, when I read all of you giving your oh so witty and edgy commentary, I really just get the feeling that you don’t know yourselves and are just hiding the uncomfortable fact behind your snarky remarks and little in-jokes. But when push comes to shove, you don’t dare give a definitive answer. That’s typical atheist behavior.

    I have bet I running that won’t get a serious answer to this post, either.

  40. embertine says

    Of course mermaids exist, but just not for humans.

    Seals are dog mermaids.

  41. StevoR says

    @ ^ Tyrant al-Kalām : NO. Mermaids are mythical creatures that are certain do NOT exist.

    It is true that some people will pretend they’re real either for fun or for exploiting the guillible but they aren’t.

    There’s your serious answer.

    Now question for you : Are you actually serious and not doing a Poe?

    @50. sonofrojblake :

    “The word ‘folk’ as applied to people sets off my racist alarms.”
    Time to recalibrate that alarm. It’s a bad thing to ignore racism when it’s present… but calling “racism” on a word as neutral as “folk”, and rushing to be seen to act all brittle and indignant about it, just reinforces a stereotype of political correctness “gone mad”.

    I agree that “folk” sets off no racist alarms and is fine touse. I us eit myself alot as ageneric plural for sets of people and specifically for my own family but I’d very strongly advise you against using the term ‘Political Correctness’ or PC here as it is really unpopular and associated with a lot of MRA’s and frequently taken as a sign of bad arguments and arguers.

    @

  42. StevoR says

    That was @ # 54. Tyrant al-Kalām.

    @ Agent Silversmith, Vendor of +5 Vorpal Feather Dusters :

    And neither should they, given that the best imaginary humanoid creature is clearly the troglodyte.

    Not so sure of that. Apart from anything else, troglodytes seem to be real and are often found commenting on blogs like this one as well as being prominent in ruining politics!

  43. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    StevoR,

    I’m not saying I’m not a Poe because I can never remember whether being a Poe means being mistaken for a fundamentalist but actually being a satirist, or being mistaken for a satirist whilst actually being a fundamentalist.

  44. embertine says

    Tyrant, sadly not, because airmaids are not a thing.

    Bats are actually the Creators way of telling us how wonderful cats are; He created a creature specifically to please them by giving it all of their favourite characteristics. Mice that fly! What could be better.

  45. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    When did that bats=mice meme get so pervasive (or is it part of the poe-ing?)?

  46. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Tyrant, sadly not, because airmaids are not a thing.

    You mean, as opposed to… MERMAIDS! Hah I knew it. You let the mercat out of the bag with this one!

  47. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    <You mean, as opposed to… MERMAIDS! Hah I knew it. You let the mercat out of the bag with this one!And of course the flabbercat!

  48. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Gnumann,

    because I am German, where etymologically, bats are “fluttering mice” as you know

  49. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    because I am German, where etymologically, bats are “fluttering mice” as you know

    Doh! (since my language has got the same construct) – but it seems shrews are mice to in germanic languages – so it makes some perverse sense.

    Not that much in English though.

  50. embertine says

    Because they are little and squeaky and furry, I suppose.

    Of course, bats are really shrew Airmaids unless my knowledge of the habits and evolutionary history of little squeakies is completely wrong*.

    *entirely possible

  51. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Hm you’re right, shrews are “pointy mice” in German. Are shrews more closely related to bats? I wouldn’t be surprised if they would be, as insectivora.

  52. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    IANAB – but as far as I can hazily remember from my collection of ear porn (Also known as BBC wildlife series narrated by David Attenborough) – shrews are the closest non-winged relations.

    I might be wrong though.

  53. embertine says

    Yes, they are. They are of the same order, I think, and are both principally insectivorous. Also, don’t some shrews use echo-location?

  54. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Also, don’t some shrews use echo-location?

    Wikipedia says yes. How shrewd!

  55. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    Wikipedia says yes. How shrewd!

    Does this mean that dolphins are gigant mershrews?

  56. puppygod says

    @dannicoy

    ahhh just give me some primates a really really big fish tank and a looot of time. Given that we have had two different groups of mammals adapt themselves to life in the ocean inside the last 60 million years it can’t be that hard to set up selective pressures that will give us some form of aquatic primate. If they have to look human then fine – give me some humans.

    Two groups? You mean Sirenia and Cetacea, right? Because there are pinnipeds and sea otters and… though, not as adapted as the former two.

    Regarding primates, while not exactly seafaring species, but Allen’s Swamp Monkey can swim and even dive. Give’em couple of millions years in an environment promoting aquatic lifestyle and we’ll see.

  57. says

    The dugong or sea-cow is rocked by the motion
    Of gentle warm waves in the Indian Ocean
    And clasps to her hideous breast with one flipper
    The horrible face of her terrible nipper.
    Thus in anthropomorphic position
    She gives rise to the sailors’ tradition
    Of beautiful mermaids: a just compensation
    For being the ugliest beast in creation.

    (from distant memory of IIRR R G King-Smith)

  58. says

    Questions over mammal relationships: check out this recently published phylogeny. Bats (from Myzopodidae down to Rhinopomatidae) are most closely related to the hoofed mammals (odd-toed Perissodactyla such as horses, rhinos, and tapirs plus even-toed Artiodactyla such as camels, pigs, antelopes, deer, giraffes, hippos, and whales). Shrews [Soricidae] are in fairly far removed, in a clade with other traditional “insectivores”/eulipotyphlans such as true moles, true hedgehogs, and solenodons.

    However, shrews and bats share a more recent common ancestor with each other (in the “green” cluster on this phylogeny: the Laurasiatheria) than either are to rodents, who are over in the navy blue branches (and close to tree shrews, flying lemurs, and primates).

    No mermaid genetic material was available for inclusion in this study.

  59. julietdefarge says

    If scientists had kept quiet about global warming when they first discovered it, and then introduced it as a conspiracy theory in the 1980s, we’d be a green nation now.

  60. eric says

    Are there any government agencies that would like to take a stand on elves, leprechauns, pixies, and Bigfoot?

    A few lines of e-text on a web page is a trivial waste of government resources. If it corrects a few young person’s misconceptions, its probably worth it. I’d support more of this. Maybe not about stuff like elves, but homeopathy, bigfoot, area 51 aliens, that sort of crap? By all means, spend a few pixels telling the US public that no evidence supporting these things exists!

    PZ, if government agencies did regularly post statements on their website like “No evidence for [entity] has ever been found,” consider what other entities we might suggest would fit within those brackets. :) It might not be a bad thing.

  61. says

    @dannicoy:

    Yes, mammals (and other land vertebrates) have produced aquatic descendants: cetaceans, sirenians and pinnipeds among mammals; penguins, flightless auks, flightless cormorants, and hesperornithiforms among birds; mosasaurs among lizards; sea turtles among sea turtles; euryapsids among archosauromorphs; etc.

    But in these cases the forelimb becomes flipper-ized. It seems highly unlikely you could generate a truly mermaid-like marine primate (particularly one with either no hindlimbs [cetacean/sirenian style] or with the hindlimbs transformed into true seal-like paddles) that retained a fully grasping slender primate-like forelimb.

    So basically take a primate and adapt it for life at the open sea and you get something a lot more like a manatee or dugong than Ariel.

  62. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    @ Thomas Holtz:

    Oooh! Actual knowledge! Thanks for sharing :D

  63. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    @Thomas,

    you don’t see the big picture! We simply need an environment where ordinary hands are needed above ground as well as tail fins. I’m thinking of a shallow lake with apple trees standing in it. Wait a few million years and collect your mermaids and misters!

  64. sonofrojblake says

    @StevoR

    I’d very strongly advise you against using the term ‘Political Correctness’ or PC here as it is really unpopular and associated with a lot of MRA’s and frequently taken as a sign of bad arguments and arguers

    I’d very strongly advise you to read my post one more time, because you appear to be rudely and patronisingly agreeing with me.

    My point was that bleating that “folk” has racist connotations merely confirms the prejudices of the sort of person who routinely complains that “political correctness has gone mad”. I am not one of those people (somewhat baffled you’d think I was, given what I actually said), but am rather saying don’t give those idiots ammunition.

    See also this, which I heartily recommend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmkHLiZMJeU&feature=related

  65. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    pentatomid,

    That was a pretty good primeval episode, although they should have left the creature less exposed. The first appearance of its face in the water was such a gorgeous horror movie moment, and they kind of spoiled it by making it to explicit later.

  66. Gnumann, quisling of the MRA nation says

    The first appearance of its face in the water was such a gorgeous horror movie moment, and they kind of spoiled it by making it to explicit later.

    Makes you miss the days before cheap CGI – doesn’t it?

  67. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Hmm, yeah, in a sense. Although some of the other creatures really weren’t that bad. The Mammoth on the Highway for example :D

  68. andyo says

    That airkick was almost as funny as that Samuel L Jackson shark scene in Deep Blue Sea.

  69. ChasCPeterson says

    Yes, mammals (and other land vertebrates) have produced aquatic descendants: cetaceans, sirenians and pinnipeds among mammals; penguins, flightless auks, flightless cormorants, and hesperornithiforms among birds; mosasaurs among lizards; sea turtles among sea turtles; euryapsids among archosauromorphs; etc.
    But in these cases the forelimb becomes flipper-ized. It seems highly unlikely you could generate a truly mermaid-like marine primate (particularly one with either no hindlimbs [cetacean/sirenian style] or with the hindlimbs transformed into true seal-like paddles) that retained a fully grasping slender primate-like forelimb.

    hmm. This is merely a plausibility argument and I’m not so sure.
    First, there are two functionally different kinds of ‘flippers’ in your list: in penguins and sea turtles, the flippers are the major organs of propulsion via underwater flying; in cetaceans, sirenians, and pinnipeds most of the work of swimming is done elsewhere and the ‘flippers’ are mostly for stabilization against roll and for steering (yaw control).
    Second, not everything in your list has a flipperized forelimb anyway. All cormorants, flightless or no, swim with their large webbed feet and tuck the wings (functional or not) to their sides to streamline.
    Third, your list leaves out a number of other aquatic forelimb adaptations in tetrapods. Many seabirds fly underwater just fine with full-on wings that also fly in air. Platypuses, aquatic turtles (other than sea turtles and Carettochelys), beavers, and otters all derive at least some of their propulsion from perfectly good forelimbs with (webbed) digits. Many birds, like the cormorants, use web-digited hindlimbs alone. Swimming snakes, lizards and crocs are all about the tail at any but the slowest speeds. etc.
    Forelimb flpperization is not an ineluctable result of amniotes returning to the water.
    Instead, it depends on a) how the swimming gait of the animal involves the forelimb and b) what else the animal uses the forelimb for.
    Now I don’t know how swamp monkeys swim, but in my youthful work as a lifeguard I had occasion to observe a lot of humans do it. Except for the ones with kickboards or diving fins, all them obtained some of their propulsion from the forelimbs. I never saw anybody swim in any way for which flipperization would be a reasonable extrapolation. And it doesn’t seem to me that even forelimb reduction would be helpful for aquatic primates, certainly humanoids, unless they first had evolved swimming gaits and bodies that emphasized the feet.
    Actually, evolution of the fish- or cetacean-like tail seems even less likely to me than flipperization. Most human swimming gaits involve independent use of the legs; only the dolphin kick of the kind used in the so-called butterfly stroke involves any dorso-ventral undulation (and it’s very inefficient at slow speeds) and none of them involve lateral undulation.

  70. Brownian says

    Time to recalibrate that alarm. It’s a bad thing to ignore racism when it’s present… but calling “racism” on a word as neutral as “folk”, and rushing to be seen to act all brittle and indignant about it, just reinforces a stereotype of political correctness “gone mad”.

    Whoops, I made a mess here and didn’t clean it up. I was (mostly) kidding, as of course ‘folk’ is innocuously used as a modifier to music, art, and all of that.

    I was not entirely kidding in that the word isn’t as commonly used here (Chigau, correct me if I’m wrong) to refer to people as, say, ‘people’ is, and I’m most familiar with its use in that context following the word ‘white’, as in ‘white folk sure are getting scarce around here’, but that may be a particular affectation of certain members of my family.

    As far as PC gone mad though, anything that might conceivably cause a conservative to have an apoplectic heart attack and keel over is aces in my book. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what we call them, because should they ever be found to exist off North American coasts they’ll immediately be denounced as illegal mermigrants. If there’s anything gone mad in our contemporary political discourse, it sure as fuck ain’t PC.

    (Honestly, how did we get to this place? “Please use People of Colour.” “You’re just an example of Political Correctness gone mad! By the way, we want to repeal the Voting Rights Act Of 1965.”)

  71. Sili says

    Has that guy seen little sea cows? They are adorable!

    Yeah, but I wouldn’t wanna fuck one.

  72. embertine says

    Having asked around, I have been informed that bats are actually mouse angels. Apologies for the previous misinformation.