Thursday, April 14, 2011

And 2012 doomsday crap reaches Pakistan...

by Salman Hameed


It is unfortunate that bad science gets transferred across continents so easily. ARY News, a major news channel in Pakistan is now producing documentaries that promote superstition (for example bad things can happen to women who go out with uncovered or open hair...) and conspiracy theories (freemasons, illuminati, and other mixtures from Dan Brown and National Treasure). Now they also have one on doomsday scenarios associated with 2012. Too bad - instead of this crap, they did not think of producing a quality science program in Urdu.

I have post on this issue at the USC Trans/Missions blog on Media, Culture, Religion, and Society. Here is the beginning of the post, and you can read the full post there:

Doomsday in 2012: A Bad Idea Goes Global
Next year is going to be an ordeal for astronomers. We regularly field (or at least endure) questions and claims about astrology, alien abductions, UFOs, crop-circles and beings from other dimensions. But we're bracing ourselves for a bumper crop of pseudoscience over the course of 2012, the end point of the cycle charted by one of the Mesoamerican calendars. Which means...well, probably nothing much.

But if you turn to the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or the National Geographic Channel--or link to one of the thousands of 2012-related posts on the Internet--you'll find that destruction will visit us next year as a consequence of: a) Earth's collision with a black hole, b) extreme solar flares, c) an asteroid strike, d) sudden climate change due to a shift in the planet's magnetic poles, e) our alignment with the black hole at the center our galaxy, or f) a collision or a near-miss with Planet X, sometimes also referred to as Nibiru. If you have a more optimistic personality, you may believe we are headed for a consciousness-transformation event in 2012. Or perhaps all of the above. 

I'm already irked by the propagation of super-bad science on the Discovery and National Geographic channels, but I was even more dismayed last month when I was in Pakistan, where there has been an explosion in the number of cable channels. There are countless talk-show programs on more than ten 24-hour news channels. There are eight music channels and three devoted to fashion and lifestyle. Then there are six 24-hour religious channels, along with three that focus on food and cooking! This is not counting at least ten other stations that only run soaps (see the list of Pakistani cable stations here).

But it seems science is largely missing from the mix. If Americans suffer from a glut of pseudoscience, Pakistanis are in the midst of a science-media famine. Or so I thought.

Just this past Sunday, I saw a locally produced documentary in Pakistan that focused on doomsday scenarios associated with 2012--but with a distinctly Pakistani twist. The program had the same tone, music and pacing of the 2012-related content produced in the U.S., except that it featured Pakistani experts. [Here is a segment that talks about the Mayan calendar. The documentary is in Urdu, but I think you get the sense that it is trying to convey]. 
Read rest of the post here.

And in case, you are interested, here is the segment about 2012, and below that is the one that talks about women's hair and other superstitions:



and here is the one on the dangers of going out with uncovered hair and other superstitions. Please also note the infusion of religion to justify some of these:

3 comments:

obreption said...

The doomsday scenario comes up regularly. I think the problem often occurs when pseudoscience gets in the way of communication. To some extent many scientists have proved to be less articulate than some of the softer science promoters. In some ways communication by twitter can be virtuous as it cuts out metaphor, adjectives and adverbs.

While one often takes some joy in the fall of certain teleevangelists, there is also a worrying trend for some of the harder sciences to be made more 'accessible'. This usually leads to 'fashionable' science - or even coffee-table science. I'm not sure my blog will be seen in fashionable coffee houses - certainly not in some European capitals!

Ali Kazim Gardezi said...

ARY is a gone case. It's the same Chanel which showed Dr Shahid Masood's End of Times (heavily borrowed from Harun Yahya) and The Arrivals (the most absurd documentary series I've ever seen).

I so wish we could have science programs. Even PTV in 80s used to show Comos in Urdu dubbing.

If we can have a program on astrology, why not on science. Is anyone listening...

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Salman:
I wrote in my comments several posts ago that media is business, not service. It is there to make money...nothing else. It will only show what people like to see. If people and society has an infrastructure that is conducive for the propagation of science, media will follow suit. It is sorry state of affairs that scientific thought is in shambles in Pakistan. Completly ignoring science and rationality in their lives, muslims initiated their self destruction mode a couple of centuries ago and is following an accelerated course. We are a small group of people who seek change but are vastly outnumbered by antagonists.

A. K. Gardezi:
Totally agreed!