Are Mermaids Our Evolutionary Cousins? [Excerpts]
A new television program filmed as a documentary recently aired on the Animal Planet cable channel. Viewers of Mermaids: The Body Found are introduced to several lines of evidence that supposedly demonstrate the existence of mermen and mermaids. Through dramatic “re-enactments” portraying scientists and eyewitnesses studying videos, audio recordings, cave paintings, and a mysterious body discovered in South Africa, along with computer-animated scenes showing the evolutionary development of these creatures, the program treats the subject with the same seriousness as we would expect in a documentary of a known animal. The press release on the Discovery Channel’s website (a sister network of Animal Planet) promises that the program is “so compelling” and the evidence for mermaids is “so credible.”
Mermaids advanced an idea known as the “aquatic ape hypothesis” (AAH), called the “aquatic ape theory” in the program. First proposed by a German pathologist in 1942, the idea has been met with much skepticism in the scientific community, although it is supported by a respectable number of laypeople. This view claims that our alleged ancestors went through a watery stage in our evolutionary development where, according to the show, “our ability to walk fully upright first evolved, wading in the shallows where food was easily found.”
The website for the show acknowledges that “the film is science fiction,” but it adds that it is “using science as a springboard into imagination.” At the same time, the press release is carefully worded so that it sounds like the evidence in the program is entirely legitimate, but the producers left enough “wiggle room” to claim they were up front about the show being make-believe.
Finally, there was one line near the end of the program that needs attention. The main character said, “Nature doesn’t lie, so look to nature.” In context, he was talking about how dolphins have worked synergistically to help fishermen catch fish. He argued that they must have learned how to do this from the mermaids. However, look at the quote again—it captures the thinking of secular people and even of many old-earth creationists in certain areas of study. “Nature doesn’t lie, so look to nature.” This is reminiscent of statements made by progressive creationist Hugh Ross, who regularly argues that nature can be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible.