I’m at the gym this morning, and I put on a podcast, as one does, and chose to start Radiolab’s series on reproduction and human development. Just my sort of thing, I thought.
And oh my god it is awful.
To personalize it and appeal to the masses, it resorts to rampant anthropomorphization and mischaracterization of the environment. Germ cells start out in the allantois, which is a “wasteland”. They migrate “pugnaciously” to the embryo proper, “looking for” the genital ridge, which is like a “cathedral” filled with somatic cells that are like “monks”, who then “care for” the germ line. They ask deep questions, like “does the cell know where it’s going?”, and no one says no, that’s a stupid question, it’s a single cell with no cognitive abilities at all. And it goes on and on.
I only listened to the end of that episode because I could not believe how much misinformation was being spread in order to make developmental biology ‘entertaining’. I’m not going to listen to the rest of the series, because I can’t afford to smash my phone.
If you must listen, there is a tiny bit of factual information in there, but it’s all been slathered in the goop of humanizing individual cells, and it is totally detestable in the way it tries to make happy cartoon people of developmental processes. Not recommended at all. Listen with extreme caution and skepticism.