Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts on "How Life Began"

Last night, the History Channel aired a show called "How Life Began." It's been talked about on the blogosphere at Pharyngula (and probably a bunch of other blogs, too) and the general consensus before the release of the show was that it had the potential to really stink; and by that I mean it had the potential to be inaccurate.

I wasn't very impressed with the show, but that mostly had to do with the fact that it just barely skimmed the concept of abiogenesis and had really cheesy analogies. The factory of life (where all the atoms necessary to life are mixed to produce cells) analogy was pretty annoying and the factory ended up being the backdrop for the numerous talking heads that popped up. Little blips of computer-generated lights flew behind their heads as they spoke and it was hard to pay attention.

The show built up the appearance of multicellular life, but then failed to mention theories on how it came to be. I thought this was one of the most unfortunate parts of the show because, in my own experience, learning about how life may have become multicellular was one of those pivotal moments when I thought well, crap, this really does make a lot of sense.

There was a brief segment on the Burgess Shale, which got me all excited (and yelling "J! Come see this...it's the Burgess Shaaaaaaale!!!!") because I'm reading Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life right now and I recognized the name "Walcott."

There was mention of the idea that science and religion don't have to clash over origins of life in the beginning of the show and it showed up several times throughout. Also, in the factory of life, there was a red curtain that hid whatever it was that made the first cell, so there was the implication that it could have been anything.

After I finished watching the show, I headed over to Pharyngula to read PZ's take on it. I think I must have missed about half of the show because I don't recognize the second half that he talks about (and considered to be the best part).

Oh well.

1 comment:

Zach said...

I didn't care to watch it. Anything on the History or Discovery channels these days are so watered down in the hopes of not offending anyone that they're kind of neutered and sucky.

I mean, have you seen some of the dinosaur stuff on Discovery? It's cringe-inducing.