Fringe Science on TV
Tomorrow (Wednesday 1/07/09) is the NZ premiere of Fringe on TV2 8.30pm. As a keen science fiction fan I have already seen the entire first season and highly recommend it, with one caveat, and I can not stress this enough, Do Not Think about the SCIENCE on this show. Seriously, it took me quite a few episodes to take this advice myself, there are concepts and statements in the show that just make you want to stick your head in the microwave a la “The Happening” if you don’t just let it flow over you, like a refreshing breeze of nonsense. One particularly egregious pronouncement from Walter, the main “Scientist” on the show was something like “Applying Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is that the boy is telepathic”, these simple words had me trying to claw my way out of my own brain to escape the stupid
Those familiar with arguments in pseudoscience, including but not limited to: UFOs, Cryptozoology, faith healing and evolution denial, recognize that one of the most misapplied principles of critical thinking is “Occam’s Razor”. The trouble is that it seems so reasonable to those putting the argument forward that they carry along with them the otherwise reasonable people that hear it. If someone claims to be hearing voices and subsequently seems to know things that under normal circumstances they couldn’t know, the simplest explanation is not telepathy. Unfortunately inserting a fantastic and unsupported claim into a problem does not “simplify” things.
The simplest explanation of lights in the sky is not alien spacecraft, it is much more likely that the observer has failed to identify a mundane phenomena than it is that aliens have crossed the unimaginable distances between the stars using exotic physics that allow them faster than light speeds and are wandering around the countryside in our lower atmosphere cruising for a good time. It certainly takes less thought to arrive at aliens than it does to exhaust every other possible source for the lights but this in and of itself does not make it simpler
All that being said, if you can withstand the intellect destroying abuse of science as portrayed in Fringe then do by all means watch it. The interaction between Walter Bishop, brilliant scientist and one time psychiatric patient, and his son Peter is alone a large part of the enjoyment to be had from the show and well worth the many gaffs made by the writers in an attempt to string together a plot. I won’t attempt to dissect the show and point out the many inconsistencies with reality and how the world really works, this exercise has been done in much more depth than I would be able to muster for the project. I’ll simply point you there instead.