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Catastrophe on Channel 4

Channel 4 TV is currently broadcasting a series, presented by Tony Robinson, on various catastrophes that are supposed to have had a dramatic effect on evolution. Last week we had the Snowball Earth hypothesis -- the idea that the earth was completely covered in ice some 600 million years ago. The hypothesis was presented as if it were established scientific orthodoxy; no mention of any dissenting opinions.

Robinson also came out with the rather surprising statement that atmospheric oxygen had been produced by this event. No indication of the prevailing orthodox view that it was due to photosynthesis by cyanobacteria.

This series seems to me a good example of TV's substituting sensationalism for scientific balance and disagreement. They are doing the end-Permian extinction tonight; I think we will be given a firm statement of why it happened, with little indication of the uncertainty that exists about the cause.

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