Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A few answers to my questions

In a post yesterday, I mentioned a story from the BBC about the Discovery Channel's upcoming documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus. The article mentioned DNA testing, but gave no explanation of what DNA was tested and what it was compared to. A story in today's NYT gives a little more information. Crypt Held Bodies of Jesus and Family, Film Says
However, the documentary’s director and its driving force, Simcha Jacobovici, an Israeli-born Canadian, said there was enough mitochondrial DNA for a laboratory in Ontario to conclude that the bodies in the “Jesus” and “Mary Magdalene” ossuaries were not related on their mothers’ side. From this, Mr. Jacobovici deduced that they were a couple, because otherwise they would not have been buried together in a family tomb.

In an interview, Mr. Jacobovici was asked why the filmmakers did not conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus” was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes; or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary.

“We’re not scientists. At the end of the day we can’t wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA,” he said. “We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done my job as a journalist.’ ”
I find that very interesting. They want to make it sound like it is scientific, but then he plainly states "We're not scientists." It doesn't even sound to me like good journalism. If you are not going to wait for all the facts before you start making grand hypotheses, then you are just taking part in sensationalism, not real scientific documentary work.

I personally tend not to watch Discovery Channel documentaries anymore for that very reason. All of the ones that I've taken time to watch seem to follow that same formula. Hype something up like they really know something about it, and then when the show is over, you really have very few facts and a lot of speculation repeated over and over.

My guess is that all devout Christians that watch the show will realize that it is not scientific and won't allow it to affect their beliefs at all. However, many who regularly watch documentaries or shows on that same channel will continue to swear by the accuracy of their other stories. It seems to me, if you can't trust one of their documentaries, you should at least be skeptical of them all? Maybe that's just me.


Steven said...

One would like to think that even the anti-religious would see the shoddy reasoning here.

Jan said...

Well, yeah, them too. I just meant, and probably wasn't clear about, that many of the stories that 'prove' biblical stories to be true, many Christian love to point to as great and wonderful illustrations of science varifying religious beliefs. (Something that I generally find to be unnecessary, personally.) Even if those stories use just as faulty a logic as Cameron is using in this "documentary". That's all I was meaning with that comment.