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Animal Planet too intimidated for another 'Monster Week,' can't see the REAL origin of mermaids

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Animal Planet too intimidated for another ‘Monster Week,’ can’t see the REAL origin of mermaids

You’re gonna need a bigger ape.

Okay, so I screwed up.

We at AiPT! Science had such a great time running “counter-programming” to Animal Planet’s “Monster Week” last year, with articles on the Van Meter Visitor, Gef the Talking Mongoose and yes, of course, Bigfoot, that I was itching to do it all again at the end of this month.

Except, Animal Planet didn’t want to play along. Maybe they got scurred?

And yet, when I Googled around to see if Animal Planet was running another Monster Week, I definitely found material promoting something starting May 20. That was this Monday! As it turns out, though, the days and dates for 2019 are the same as those for 2013, which was when those promos were actually made. Calendars are weird, huh?

One of the promos was for Mermaids: The New Evidence, a pseudo-documentary that was actually a sequel to Mermaids:  The Body Found, both ratings records-shattering successes for the far-down-the-dial cable channel. The pair of programs treated mermaids like real, recently discovered animals, complete with discussions from fake scientists. They were shockingly, frustratingly taken as truth by more people than you’d like to consider.

Animal Planet too intimidated for another 'Monster Week,' can't see the REAL origin of mermaids

We live in a world where this story had to be written.

The Mermaid shows were based on the old “aquatic ape” hypothesis, an idea suggesting modern humans descended from hominids that took to the seas to fill ecological niches, feasting on shellfish while our former competitors continued to take down wild game on the plains. This led to our relative hairlessness and reduced sense of smell, you see.

It’s not necessarily a crazy idea, on the face of it. We now know that our cousins the Neandertals were seafarers who ate shellfish and even used the remnants for jewelry (when it was originally thought they didn’t make art or have much capacity for abstract thought). And of course cetaceans, the whales and dolphins, are mammals that returned to the water to take advantage of alternate food sources.

But there’s a mountain of fossil and molecular evidence depicting that transition, step by step. None of the aquatic ape proponents really showed their work, and a lot of the people who did voice criticisms (when most professionals just ignored it) said the hypothesis was unfalsifiable, with Eugenie Scott even calling it pseudoscience and “crank anthropology,” on par with Bigfoot “research.”

Which leads me to this.

Animal Planet too intimidated for another 'Monster Week,' can't see the REAL origin of mermaids

Okay, not an aquatic Bigfoot, but a “Chewbaquaman” custom figure made by toy artists Junk Fed and Geeky Vixen. But hey, maybe our ancient primate relatives, the Gigantopithecus (who some think also gave rise to modern Sasquatches) were the ones who really went swimming???  Slipping beneath the waves is probably a better explanation for why we can’t find Bigfoot than him being an alien or whatever. And why there’s never a body!

Fodder for a threequel, Animal Planet? It’s okay, you can owe me.

AiPT! Science is co-presented by AiPT! Comics and the New York City Skeptics.

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