Death by Hyperbole

Posted .

OK, this is getting out of hand now. I mean, it was out of hand before, but it just got passed the point where even I can stay quiet about it. It’s like we’ve just passed the event-horizon of some new kind of publicity black hole and are now tumbling helplessly towards a singularity of overstatement where, rather than the laws of physics, it’s our sense of proportion that breaks down.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, take a look at this YouTube clip, and see if you can guess.

Edit: Unfortunately, YouTube have removed the video in question for ‘terms of use violation.’ It was a trailer that described a TV program on the History Channel as the most important event in 47 million years. It was utterly over the top.

Seen it? Any ideas?

It’s a TV show about a fossil. Seriously. Granted, it’s a pretty interesting, particularly complete fossil of a 47 million year-old transitive primate called Ida (who was a member of a species we’ve called Darwinius masillae), which is something you don’t exactly see every day. But still: a fossil.

It’s not going to change the world, it’s not going to revolutionise the way we think about ourselves and it most certainly is not the missing link (which is — as I understand it — a term no serious palaeontologist would use anyway.) But somehow, the media have got hold of it as some kind of world-changing event and are running with it, reality be damned. The hype machine has been in full swing for about a week now and, if this video is to be believed, is showing no signs of slowing down. If it wasn’t quite so depressing, it’d be quite amazing how much they can make of so little.

Hat tip to Carl Zimmer over at The Loom for this and other sensible writing about Darwinius.

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