Friday, April 15, 2005

Penn and Teller's Bullshit!

I finished up the second season of Bullshit! a while back. It's funny and provides a skeptical POV that needs a voice but sometimes I wished they'd tighten their focus.

One of the episodes looked into the historic and scientific accuracy of the Bible. Penn began by claiming that there are two conflicting stories of creation in the Bible, something fundamentalists argue is completely wrong.

Surprisingly, the fundies are right--there's not two conflicting creation stories in the Bible: there's three.

Psalm 74 tells the story of how Jehova killed the Leviathan (New Internation Version translation) or dragon (most others) and used its body to make the world. Greek, Sumerian, Babylonian, Norse, and even Central American myths have similar stories but for some reason, backers of Intelligent Design keep silent on the scientific and historic infallibility of God using a dragon's head to make the world.

They also left out that the Bible claims the value of pi is 3.0 exactly (I Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2). If the Bible is scientifically accurate, shouldn't fundamentalists demand cars made with tires conforming to this measure of pi?

Penn spent a while on the issue of if Jesus even existed. Robert Silverberg once suggested (not to seriously) that Socrates was just a character made up by Plato. As unlikely as that may be, I think it's more probable than Jesus being simply a story. The show admitted that two ancient historians wrote about Jesus (I'm aware of at least three others) without even hinting that he wasn't an existing person. Yes, it's possible that Jesus wasn't real (just as it's possible that Socrates or George Washington were simply constructs) but even if I did believe that, I wouldn't spend time on it during an hour long program when I could get to topics that could be proven one way or the other.

That episode offended my wife but not nearly as much as their look at exercise and fitness. Earlier this morning UPS dropped off an $80 box of vitamin/energizer pills. P&T pretty much showed these to be worthless but I don't expect my wife to stop buying them.

Another episode that was good but could have been stronger was their look at "Death Inc." (the business of funeral homes and undertakers). They exposed many of the scams used to sell people expensive caskets (including pillows in caskets used for cremations) and talked to a Catholic priest who is battling the funeral home industry (as Penn put it, "How pissed does a priest have to be to team up with us?") However, they spent a lot of time focused on trivial issues like a couple of self-proclaimed vampires, one of which sucked the other's blood. (What are the grammar rules for vampires? Should it be "one of which" or "one of whom"? I'm betting nobody cares.)

Other than The Sopranos and Simpsons, this is the only show I think is worth watching but I they'd get a little edgier. I know that's a lot to ask--most of the country is shocked to hear Jesus probably didn't have blue eyes.

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