Thursday, August 28, 2008

Under the Microscope: Into the Unknown With Josh Bernstein: Noah's Ark

Well, I'm getting up my nerve. The last time I reviewed a program in depth like I'm about to do here, it was that Crystal Skulls thing. I hate network decay, and I've been seeing a lot more of it. Might be me paying more attention as a skeptical blogger and occasional geekdom commenter. Having a couple hours of Star Trek: TNG cut out in favor of wrestling on Sci Fi is one thing. But having deep, deep woo on the Discovery and History channels is another. That's what this show is shaping up to, just based on the description. Drop me reminders to complain in their feedback sections.

So, firing up my DVR. Deep breaths...

Okay, weird ending clip of the show before with a black woman talking about washing out some white dress as if it were possessed. Wonder what that was about. Apparently the BBC made that show, whatever it was.

Anyway, onto the show proper. Josh starts introducing himself and showing off where he'll be going on the show. Fair bit of extreme editing I'm a bit sensitive to right now. Probably would let it pass elsewhere, but I just know this is going to be a carnival of lame. Presented by Chevy. Ugh.

Location: Armenia, mountains of Ararat, where the ark supposedly landed. Drama bomb editing as they summarize the tall, tall tail. "But is it all true?" I think us rational people can agree on an answer. Josh starts with dividing up the aspects of the story, possibly to make convenient chunks of show: The ark, the flood, Noah, and the animals. I wonder if he's going to quote some old bogus math that's going to be described as the 'new theory' mentioned in the show description.

Talks about the flood wiping out all civilization, thus "making the ark the only connection between us and the pre-flood world." Uh, shouldn't he have started with pointing out how ridiculous the whole worldwide flood thing is, thus negating the need to look for the ark? Oh, wait, padding. Right.

Talks about how high a rank the ark has with the other magic artifacts Indiana Jones found. Talks about all the claims being made and the lack of evidence. Mentions he's got the exception with some Cathedral with some guy claiming to have an actual piece. Right. We've never heard that one before. And you can carpet Deep Space 9 with all the True Shouds of the Sword of Kahless, from what I hear.

Church is old, yeah. Back has a bunch of relics in back. Fancy gold case for the piece of wood. Allegedly a bishop found it. Tried climbing to the top of the mountain. Fell asleep. Had a dream of Sky Daddy telling him he won't make it to the top, but his efforts will be rewarded with a piece of the ark. He woke up with a piece of wood under his head. Much more likely story: He gave up, grabbed some random piece of wood and made the dream up.

I've got it paused. My guess: Josh will try to sate us skeptics by expressing doubt and then proceed on as if the authenticity was proven. *Play...* Mention of other people finding pieces. Asking how he knows. Priest says faith. Josh claims he respects that in appeaser mode and then claims to be a man of science and mentions carbon dating. Priest refuses, citing faith as the basis.

Moving onto looking for other evidence. Request to carbon date the wood is tied up. Whole thing was as pointless as asking some random yokel about his piece. Of course, he's probably banking on the beliebers accepting the authority of the guy because he wears a fancy dress, works in a fancy building, and has a fancy set of display cases. Of course, even if he did find the right date with carbon dating, that wouldn't exactly be meaningful, since one would think there'd be plenty of other wooden objects around that time.

Drama bomb as they talk about the rain and flood. "Leading archaeologist" is mentioned with a "radical new theory," usually meaning a crank with a recycled chunk of blatant assertions. Sean Kingsley. Doctorate from Oxford, to throw out big credentials from a big name. Some mention of new evidence he's found but doesn't yet describe. Says the flood was earlier than thought, in the stone age. Oldest story, talks about the Epic of Gilgamesh. Says the two stories are based on the same person from Neolithic. Says it's not rain, but geological event. Says the top of a mountain fell into the Mediterranian, causing a tsunami and limited flood. Mount Etna. Active volcano. I'm no geologist, but this sounds like a tall tale, and a little beyond an archaeologist's usual fare.

Commercials. One featuring a guy doing 'offroad unicycling' which looks kind of fun.

Back to the tsunami, going to Mount Etna, which is apparently quite active. Got a volcanologist involved named Sonja. Hope she's sensibile. Buildup of layers of lava until the weight causes a landslide. Apparently a big one 8,000 years ago. Apparently having one really big landslide is good enough for him to think it'd cause a sufficiently big tsunami, since he isn't talking about how it'd get to the water. All the stuff they showed was dry land. I hope I hear qualifiers when I press play again. Moving onto talking about how the flood story talked about a global flood. Somehow, he's now talking about a "Manhattan-sized" landslide. Uh, wouldn't you measure it in tons, rather than area? You can plug tons into physics equations.

Geologist Maria. Room full of monitors. 130 foot high tsunami with their numbers, whatever they are. Mentions Atlit Yam, an old Neolithic settlement that's underwater, now. Assuming they're just being very bad communicators about how the landslide gets dumped into the water to form the tsunami, I suppose this isn't unreasonable. Of course, this hardly proves Noah's flood anymore than finding a tall woodcutter named Paul Bunyan proves the Rockies were formed by a wrestling match between a giant lumberjack and equally large blue ox.

I'm getting cake. Commercials are good for that. Old spice commercials by that pretend doctor. Is that Doogie Howser grown up or something? "Brought to you by TomTom." I think I'll stick with borrowing my dad's GPS.

Back to bludgeoning us with "oldest story." General description of the city, underwater because sea levels rose 30 feet since then. Evidence they're looking for to prove destruction by tsunami: wrecked buildings and broken human bones. The former sounds sufficiently vague. Mentions that a tsunami wouldn't have damaged a well. Found a bone. Not human. Found some stones they claim to be a stone age temple. Drama editing makes it hard for me to see them as anything more than a vaguely circular arrangement of rocks, and I wasn't even able to get a good look at how circular.

More commercials. Seeing some race car driver with an antagonistic relationship with a talking koala eating Little Debbie products.

Past the halfway mark. Recaps after every commercial is getting annoying. Come on, camera guys, give us a good shot of the whole semi-circle, not drifting closeups. Mention of the guy he's with already having two skeletons he dug up. Doing the jigsaw work of putting bones back together. Anthropologists say all the skeletons so far were raised from graves and the ones focused on died of natural causes. No evidence for tsunami deaths. So, naturally, they get them to say that it's still possible a tsunami happened and they haven't found evidence, yet. Technically true, but I just know someone's going to treat that as probable. Says he knew it'd be hard to find evidence and talks about "interpretation." Pre-commercial teaser apparently suggesting the animal bone he found is going to be a big deal.

More commercials. Wish that cake didn't top off my stomach. I could use another piece.

Now talking about the tsunami as if he's established it as fact. No, he found evidence for an already known landslide. Onto the animal bone and talk about the animals allegedly on the ark. Lower leg of an auroch, now extinct ancestor of the cow. Now talking about how his story is so different from Noah's flood, and going towards Gilgamesh, which had a farm animal slant. Now going on whether Noah could have built the ark. Island of Cyprus built animal transport boats. They go there to look at a stone age well with animal bones in it. Food scraps, apparently. Yeah... building boats for animals is just so amazing evidence for the flood story. My mind wandered for a bit, and I don't feel like rewinding. Teaser about some guy claiming to have found Noah and some kind of good evidence.

Commercials. About 7 minutes to go. Thank Ammy.

Saying Noah's stone age, from Alit Yam, and located some distance away from that, now. Our "archaeologist" bashes the Hollywood Noah, describing his version as a shaman who told the story of how he survived the tsunami Josh admits he's found no evidence for. Talk about shaman head sculptures made of skulls with plaster faces. Talk of shaman rituals doing the same thing with plaster human faces put on skulls. Misuse of "theory" to finally reject this guy's crap as "just a theory" and goes on to say he "appreciates that [Sean] believes Noah was a real person..." and other appeaser crap. Just horrible. At least the crank is not stupid enough to believe the Genesis version and say so bluntly.

So, his wrap-up: Yeah, amazing discovery that people could transport animals by boat. Says he found evidence of the tsunami from the landslide, though I missed that. I'll rewind to that part to make sure. And he jumps to a quote that's gotten very easy to abuse. He should read about the Modus Tollens Exception.

Heading back to that landslide-tsunami link... Okay. I missed the volcanologist saying it went into the sea. But given that he didn't find evidence of the tsunami else where, apparently it wasn't as big as the simulation said.

Can't recall ever hearing about this Josh Bernstein guy before. He's got a lot of things in common with woos, but he ultimately ended up rejecting the whole thing, which was surprising. If he claims to be a skeptic, he's the most craptacular one I've ever seen.


Don said...

He hosted some show years back where he went in search of the Ark of the Covenant, trying to pretend that he wasn't dressed as Indiana Jones. It looked interesting, but it turned out to be him going around and asking questions to which he already knew the answers, talking to random people, and eventually ending up at some church in Ethiopia, which apparently everyone who worried about dumb shit like that knows that said church has been claiming to have the Ark for decades, making his entire "investigation" even more pointless.

The best part was that nobody is allowed to see the Ark, he said, so he just stood outside with the crowds and talked about how awesome it was to have found it.


Anonymous said...

There is very good evidence that the Bronze Age Minoan civilisation was destroyed by the eruption of Thera in the second millennium BCE. However, that's a heck of a long way from the Noachian flood myth... Yes, many civilisation have been destroyed by natural disasters. None of them are evidence for a global flood.

I keep expecting some tool to assert that the "mega El Nino" believed to have triggered the collapse of the Moche civilisation was Noah's flood...

Don said...

Well, El Nino is dangerous, like all things Spanish. It kills people and burns down trees.

AndySocial said...

Bernstein has a double-major (Bachelor) in Anthropology and Psychology. He's also a big survival training guy. His most important credential to host these shows is his rugged looks, I'm betting.

Clint Bourgeois said...

Akusai, I saw the episode that you are talking about. It did strike me as an incredible waste of time. The could sum up the whole story in about 5 minutes. The shows are too big on flashiness and not enough on content. Well really, I could say that about 99% of TV. Even Mythbusters could solve a few more myths per episode if they weren't constantly recapping.

I love the idea of offroad unicycling.

Anonymous said...

You have missed the "Point" of seeing Josh Bernstein...this guy is incredibly good-looking, speaks well, has charisma, and is a "dream" for every woman who watches his new series and his three seasons from the History Channel called "Digging for the Truth". You are obviously some geek who sits around watching TV, just to criticize any guy who could get a "woman". I don't watch Josh for the "credentials"...I Know how to read, and am smart. I watch him for the dreams I have after I've recorded the show!!! DUH! Do you "get it" now? Forget about television, if you truly want to Learn something; we have libraries for that, and you obviously can read and write well.

Bronze Dog said...

Friendly note: Remember that I've got the very new comment policy about deleting completely anonymous comments. I'll leave this one up since I'm going to be merciful for the first few days.

Remember to leave a name or something to make yourself identifiable against other anonnies.

Don said...

Just turn off anonymous comments in your comment options tab. It'll stop 'em before they start.

Bronze Dog said...

Yeah, but that also disables Name/URL.

Der Geis said...

Yes, it's Doogie Howser all grown up.

Anonymous said...

This is kind of unrelated but a few days ago I watched a massively overhyped special on the science channel about nuclear fusion. They kept playing up the "if this worked, our energy needs would be solved forever" angle, which is like, well yeah (not quite forever) but there's that "if" in there.

The show did a pretty good job explaining why both methods they looked into failed the scientific test, but they didn't really defend the scientific method too much. Before explaining how each one failed, they kept playing up the whole "one man against the establishment" thing which really worked against a solid pro-scientific method message. I'm of mixed opinions about that show as a whole.

Also, is it just me or is that one kinda-asian looking guy with the grey hair in EVERYTHING these days?

eastydie said...

I think the recaps are for the purpose of mid-show viewers. So, if anyone just turned on their tv, they could easily catch up what're they up to. So, it's sort of a necessary. I guess if you watch Discovery Channel, or the likes, all the time (kinda like me) you'll get used to it and in some time, it'll be helpful for you too.

And yeah, I'm pretty pissed when they didn't show the half circle under water stone hedge. But I didn't find the show a bit waste of time. Since, I was leisurely watching tv and doing nothing, so, nothing to waste there. I guess the show simply wants to have their own version of the quest of Noah's Ark. I like the part where he boldly tells his interviewees - saying that it could just some mere theory like that of Noah's until proven otherwise. Which kinda like puts them in an awkward situation. And just so anyone knows, I am not a fan of Josh. And at the same time, I don't hate the guy. The only host I like is Mike Rowe. I just like Documentaries.

Anonymous said...

I think the recaps are for the purpose of mid-show viewers. So, if anyone just turned on their tv, they could easily catch up what're they up to. So, it's sort of a necessary.

Yeah, that's what they're for, but it doesn't make it any less annoying...

A while back I was re-watching the David Attenborough classic "Life on Earth". At the beginning of the first episode, he introduces an analogy between the length of time life has existed and a single calendar year, to give a sense of scale - so he can say stuff like "The dinosaurs became extinct in late December". This analogy was then used throughout the entire series, but it wasn't "re-introduced" ever again. They just expected you to (a) have watched the first part, and (b) remember it.

Personally, I like it when TV assumes I've got an attention span of more than 15 minutes.

Don said...

It's also possible that they are just filler for a weak show that needs to fill 44 minutes, like the recaps on Dragonball Z that take half the episode.

Bronze Dog said...

Heh. I remember my first run through DBZ. When I first started getting into anime, I thought along the lines of "Okay, not too bad so far" and when it got past Frieza, my suspension of disbelief broke down that there'd always be more powerful villains. Ended up finishing it for the sake of watching a train wreck.

(Dangit. Remembered finding a webcomic that spoofed the cyclical plot. Can't find it again.)

Anyway, definitely agree on the attitude about recapping.

eastydie said...

Yeah, that's what they're for, but it doesn't make it any less annoying...

Point taken. And I also like it when TV assumes I've got an attention span of 15 minutes or even less. So, they have got to keep that interest rolling.