Evacuate Earth - National Geographic
    By Gerhard Adam | December 29th 2012 12:09 AM | 13 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    I recently watched the full two hours of this presentation [Evacuate Earth] and was disappointed in the fact that speculation rapidly degenerated into silliness, and ultimately pseudoscientific nonsense.

    In virtually all the elements, the problem was simplistically framed within the context of physics, as if energy and travel in space were the only problems.  There were certainly token references to genetic screening [despite the fact that it was largely incorrect and based on some fantasy assumptions].  Surprisingly there was mention of bacteria and then it simply got stupid.  Just when I thought there would be a recognition about the difficulties in the microbiome, they concluded that bacteria "travel easy" because they can be kept frozen in a small container.

    I guess it just never occurred to them that the bacteria already existed in a "container"; their own bodies.  However, there wasn't even the illusion of an attempt to address the difficulties that such biological companions would present.  Even daunting problems like the food supply were largely dismissed as if it were a temporary problem during space travel that would be readily resolved upon arrival on the new planet.  The real silliness came from presuming to transport 250,000 humans, but no means to handle food plants/animals. 

    In short, programs like this are an embarrassment to science and simply promote the idea that idle speculation based on little more than wishful thinking are valid pursuits.

    I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if it were presented as a speculative discussion, but when serious problems are under-stated.  When huge gaps in our knowledge are glossed over as something we can readily solve if we simply focus on it.  Perhaps the most disturbing undercurrent in the entire disaster scenario was that it didn't seem to occur to these scientists that their notion of a viable second Earth was little more than childish fantasy.  The unmitigated arrogance of their scientific presumptions was as eye-opening as their ignorance.



    Hello Gerhard. I didn't notice this National Geo show and won't comment further on the odd notions the National Geographic Society has endorsed in recent TV history. I have no idea who is in charge and why. Maybe you and Hank can hash it out.

    The History Channel also has its odd and unscientific ways. I recently stumbled upon their Mankind, The Story of All of Us series. Visually, it is quite entertaining, although one does tire of seeing people run in by a sword and heads being lopped and cleaved. I think it should be called Man-Unkind. A trove of interesting guns … and germs. I hope you like it ....

    Gerhard Adam
    It is interesting to read comments about this program around the web, where one can quickly realize just how much damage popularized concepts have done.  Most people simply assume that DNA is just a digital code that can easily be stored on a DVD for transport.  There seem to be some vague ideas regarding how it can readily be reassembled with a computer program and inserted into a cell.

    In short, we have almost successfully transitioned into a full-fledged 21st century mythology where our faith is now given over to digital technologies.  There are no complex problems, or lack of understanding, there is only the problem of digital storage [which results in several people being impressed at the idea of several terra-bytes]. 

    I agree that these programs can be visually stunning, they also increasingly blur the line between science, science fiction, and simple fantasy. 

    A small supplementary book is available, for free, as a companion to the docu-drama:
    Mundus vult decipi
    National Geographic is basically lots of pretty pictures with so-so reading content, reminiscent of a well-known bunny magazine.
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, but unlike the Playboy channel, this is presented as scientific, and it does include real scientists.  One can only wonder what was necessary to persuade them to participate in this nonsense.
    Mundus vult decipi

    what was necessary to persuade them to participate in this nonsense.
    Gerhard Adam
    You said it, not me.  I guess so much for the arguments about ethics and objectivity, eh?
    Mundus vult decipi
    No - we scientists are much cheaper than that.  We prostitute for the mere exposure.
    My favorite part is the scene when "The Rich" get their Karmic comeuppance as the rocket explodes on the pad.

    My second-favorite is when the leftover debris of planet Earth circle the Neutron Star, and amid all the rubble are recognizable shreds of Civilization: the Empire State Building; the Golden Gate Bridge...

    Third-fav is the scene with the two youngsters aboard the Ark who dash into the street for a quick round of basketball, and just happen to notice Earth being torn asunder. The really is primo stuff!!!

    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, "fast and loose" doesn't even begin to describe the scientific integrity of the CGI effects. :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    A bit disappointing by National Geographic. I could expect something like this from Discovery channel. I guess making money is the key.

    When I wrote my story about how bad things could go if several natural catastrophes happened at the same time, I deliberately did not use the word 'Doomsday' in the title. I probably would have generated more traffic if I had...

    Back to evacuating Earth - why do they not learn from Mars500 - or perhaps they did?  I guess that is the closest experiment that we could learn from. That and ISS.

    Oh, well. People want to dream non-realistic dreams. Not for me. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    A bit disappointing by National Geographic. I could expect something like this from Discovery channel. I guess making money is the key.
    You should read their blog site sometime. Science 2.0 is not perfect but it remains better than every corporate media effort.
    Gerhard Adam
    In part, the most disturbing aspect of these docu-dramas, is that it portrays scientists as being the saviors of humanity.  While there's no question that more knowledge can't be anything but helpful, it sends entirely the wrong message when it is presumed that whatever problems we encounter, scientists will be there to fix it for us [even when there are no answers].

    Philosophically it's based on the false assumption that everything is ultimately reducible to a fixable set of problems.  Failure to recognize that some information is potentially unknowable or that problems may be intractable is never considered in these presentations.

    At that point, science becomes a mythology rather than a discipline.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I agree completely. These fake 'what-if' shows are out of control. Their standards are abysmal, and they teach almost nothing. What kills me is that they could be really good in the right hands, and really get into everything cool about the universe. But they don't; they feel like they have to be all dumb and gimmicky. It's terrible.