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By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/29/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hoax draws in record viewers on Animal Planet, goes viral.

A show about mermaids has taken the top spot on Animal Planet as the channel's most viewed program. Sunday's show garnered 3.6 million viewers, a record for the channel.

The government insists mermaids are not real. Promise.

The government insists mermaids are not real. Promise.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/29/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in TV


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The documentary "Mermaids: The New Evidence" drew 3.6 million viewers on Sunday, who were eager to be served a watery hoax because some people have a deep-seated need to believe.

The reality of course, is that the show was a hoax. Scientists were played by actors, as demonstrated by the credits, and the program suggested that mermaids exist, but the evidence is being suppressed by the government. This makes it difficult to explain why the best evidence, ever, is being aired on Sunday prime time.

The closing credits of the program also disclose the program is a work of "science fiction." Scenes in the film are obviously CGI sequences.

Despite these subtle disclaimers, and more obvious realities, millions have already been taken in by the hoax, Orson Welles-style. Twitter is alight with the topic as people share their thoughts on the program.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the program isn't that so many people have been fooled. What's most ironic is that Animal Planet, a channel devoted to science and nature documentaries about real animals, would have its best day ever, running a show about fake humanoid creatures.

To be clear, no evidence of the existence of mermaids has ever been found, ever. All claims to date, including claims highlighted in the current show, have been hoaxes, or the product of illusions.

Still, people like to believe irrational things because they have a need to believe. Culture, social reinforcement, the seeking of purpose and meaning, the natural tendency to see patterns where none exist, the hunger for wonderment, all conspire to make people believe in that which is not.

It is perhaps a byproduct of our society, now very much grounded in reason and science, that people turn towards the paranormal and mythical to satiate their natural desire for wonderment and amazement. It's boring to think we have unlocked all the mysteries, that we know for a fact creatures and UFOs don't exist. Even very intelligent and rational people enjoy believing in these things despite an absolute lack of evidence.

We enjoy being fooled, and sometimes, we believe the lies. Simply put, it's more fun to believe in mermaids than not to, especially when everybody else is doing it too.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the world and universe is still filled with wonder. Although science has provided the answers to most of the basic questions about our world, many new questions and mysteries have arisen. To appreciate those mysteries however, requires some education and thinking. Sometimes that's more work than we are ready to do, given the hectic nature of our lives.

Sometimes, it's just easier to flip on the television and wonder in amazement without thinking too much on a Sunday.

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
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That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
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