Mermaids – nothing really found

mermaids, mythology, Mrs Morgan's Florilegium, Natalie Waddell, transit of Venus,

Animal Planet has set Sunday, May 27 as the date it will air its two-hour special Mermaids: The Body Found in the US. The programme, which has been in the works for the past few years, promises to paint a “wildly convincing picture of the existence of mermaids.”

Animal Planet bills the show like this:

Once upon a time, there lived a little mermaid in an underwater kingdom. She ventured to surface, longing to communicate with people on land…

This is a fairytale told and retold to children everywhere; it’s a beloved story about a legendary creature that’s described in the mythologies of nearly every human culture in history. People across all continents who’ve had no communications with other societies have described the same half-man, half-fish anomaly – they’ve spoken about the same mythic animal.

What if there’s a kernel of truth that lives beneath the legend of the mythic mermaid?

The press release includes an editor’s note making clear, however, that the film is “science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory.”

Mermaids: The Body Found is a story about evolutionary possibility grounded in scientific theory, which blends real-life events and phenomena with a first-hand account of a team of government scientists who testify they found the remains of a never-before-identified sea creature with ties to human origins – a mermaid.

Stunning computer animation, eyewitness video and photographic evidence shows us what the mermaid looks like, and questions are raised about whether the government is involved in a massive cover-up, hiding information about the possible survival of these creatures and if they exist today.

It was all sounding quite interesting till that last part about the conspiracy. The Discovery Channel sister network goes on to outline what it calls the “scientific theory beneath the narrative”.

In most people’s minds, mermaids are purely fantastical creatures of fairytales and mythology. Mermaids: The Body Found challenges this mainstream belief and brings to life the possibility that mermaids may be as real as you and I. The program examines a scientific theory – the aquatic ape theory – which supports the feasible existence of mermaids and that they’ve evolved from apes as we did.

A unique melding of narrative, science and dissected human history, Mermaid: The Body Found forces us to open our minds to question the barriers of our beliefs and the possibilities of what may be.

Animal Planet can’t seem to quite make up its mind whether it’s presenting the show as fact or fiction but goes on to suggest it might favour the former when it says, “There are certain established facts that may help us question the unbelievable… that mermaids might be real.” The argument is laid out below.

If…

It’s a fact that polar bears evolved from the brown bear, categorized now as full-fledged marine mammals…

Then…

Is it possible that apes split off from terrestrial apes millions of years ago (due to coastal flooding) and retreated into the water, evolving into aquatic creatures somewhat related to humans?

If…

Human babies instinctively hold their breath when placed under water before they walk – something baby primates can’t do…

Then…

Were humans ever capable of having an aquatic state?

If…

Dolphins seem to have a unique kinship with humans and possess a learned trait of cooperatively hunting with humans…

Then…

Is it possible dolphins learned to hunt with humans because they have a memory of cooperatively hunting with mermaids, a species that closely resembles us?

If…

New species of whales (the largest sea mammals) have only been detected within the past two decades…

Then…

Is it possible that we haven’t discovered every creature and that if massive whales haven’t been discovered until recently, it answers why we haven’t been able to detect mermaids yet?

If…

Ancient, disparate civilizations have described the mermaid without having any communication with other cultures…

Then…

Isn’t there a kernel of truth beneath the legend?

Some have criticised the channel for practising “bad science” and the Aquatic ape theory has been widely rejected by the scientific establishment but some proponents, notably Welsh author Elaine Morgan, continue to make the case for the hypothesis. You can watch her giving a TED talk on the subject here.

Mermaids: The Body Found is on Animal Planet (US) on Sunday, May 27, at 9pm ET/PT.

Mermaid: The Body Found, mermaids, mermarabilia, Mrs Morgan's Florilegium, Natalie Waddell, Venus,

UPDATE: It’s worth reading this review of the programme from Wired, particularly on the point about its references to the Aquatic ape theory.

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