The Georgia Aquarium opened in 2005 and is the biggest aquarium in the world (eat it Chattanooga!). Housing over a million creatures in over eight million gallons of water, it was an immediate attraction in Georgia and across the country. In fact, it was hard to even get into the aquarium initially – for over a year, the museum was busier than an Ikea on opening day. As a local Atlantan, I am thrilled to have this cool venue in my city, particularly when the aquarium’s mission is:
To be an entertaining, educational, and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging guest experiences, and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world.
Yep, science and education hand-in-hand with entertainment. Certainly this simple mission statement won’t end up dripping with irony.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Aquarium wants to focus more on the ‘entertainment’ part of that mission and less on the ‘science and education.’
A few months back, the aquarium opened a new exhibit of Titanic artifacts. Some of these artifacts have never been on display before but that’s not important. What’s important is that the exhibit is HAUNTED. You heard me HAUNTED. Read more beyond the fold… IF YOU DARE…. oooOoooOooOooo….
It started when museum workers started reporting “strange encounters” when in the exhibit. The museum, seeing an opportunity for science shameless self-promotion, decided to bring in the Roswell Georgia Paranormal Investigators to ‘scientifically’ investigate what was going on. I’m familiar with RGPI because my husband and some other members of the Atlanta Skeptics went on their Roswell Ghost Tour last year. Anyway, I won’t go into all the details – you can read their findingshere (Spoiler: it involves someone whispering “Iceberg” and “Who’s there.” OOoOOOoooooOOOOh!). What are the odds that people who make their money convincing people that ghosts exist and that they can track them down would find some there?
Apparently pretty darn good. It got the attention of the ‘big guns’ of ghost investigation. The Ghost HuntersÂ Sci Fi TV show decided to show up and do an entire show on the ‘haunted’ exhibit. It’ll be on tonight.
Last night and today, a bunch of us on Twitter sent in our opinions to the Georgia Aquarium twitter feed. You can see all the relevant tweets herebut the only response we’ve received from them so far is this:
Re: Ghost Hunters, we know it isn’t “hard science,” just something fun to share. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but some think it’s fun!
Where to begin? I’m so annoyed that I could just bullet:
- “Some think it’s fun” – First of all, over 1,500 people died when the Titanic sank. Pretending there are ghosties and ghoulies running around the silverware that they left behind is an insult to them and their memories. Isn’t there enough drama in this story without making it up? Not cool, people.
- “We know it isn’t ‘hard science'” – The Ghost Hunters and Paranormal investigators are looking for ghosts. They’re not doing ‘hard science’; they’re not doing any science at all. They’re running around in the dark with infrared lights and squealing when their machines go PING. They’re trying to invent a story on top of the compelling real story, and they have nothing to do with science. But the Georgia Aquarium is promoting what the Ghost Hunters and RGPI are doing as science. In their explanation of their special event this week that featured the RGPIs, they say:
The Roswell Georgia Paranormal Investigators will give an overview of how their group attempts to scientifically study and document cases of authentic paranormal activity. Then, small groups will test their ghost-hunting ability as they walk through Titanic Aquatic, escorted by paranormal researchers.
This means that they are promoting pseudoscience as real science. The problem with many of these paranormal investigators is that they tend to use the cloak of real science by using hi-tech devices and a vague semblance of scientific lingo. In actuality, they don’t have a good understanding of the scientific method at all. Check out the SAPS Skeptical Analysis site for much more information than I can provide about the methods and missteps of various ghost hunters.
- I understand that getting on a syndicated cable TV show will mean additional publicity and revenue for the Georgia Aquarium. In an economy where people are staying home more and spending less, I do understand the temptation to get a quick fix like this. But if you say that ghosts are more entertaining, you imply that real science is less entertaining. In a world where we just discovered a fish with an entirely transparent head and eyes inside its face, I simply don’t buy it. Screw ghosts – can we get to the real science?
Interested in speaking out?