We’re big fans of Adam Ruins Everything around here, a show that strives to dispel myths and challenge ideas that we commonly take for granted, whether they be historical, social, or scientific. However, as with anything, Adam Ruins can get things wrong. In a new clip the host turns the target towards himself, and with transparency, promotes the idea that we should be thrilled to find new information—not defensive or angry.
Conover checks himself instead of wrecking himself in a correctional video led by Emily Axford, where the two address previous episodes that included facts that were were straight up wrong, either because of new information, overlooked research, or simple human error. This includes rejecting the idea that DNA is foolproof evidence (“Adam Ruins Forensic Science”), the un-helpfulness of air marshals (“Adam Ruins Security”), and small flubs like adding an extra zero to the height of the Empire State Building.
The segment varies from other Adam Ruins episodes, where the individual being corrected is often upset and furious at being told they’re wrong. It works because it allows Conover respond to a “What about ____?” or “Everyone knows that ____!” by relaying more information, but in this bit Conover reacts to each correction with absolute glee—much to the dismay of Axford and his co-workers who are afraid this ruins his credibility.
While it’s easier to correct yourself on concrete numbers, it can be much harder when you feel like you were misconstrued. In one segment on electric cars (“Adam Ruins Going Green”), Conover explains that people were unhappy with the arguments despite including a lot of nuance. However, he also admits, “if that many people misread our argument, that means we should have done a better job explaining it. Doing nuance on TV is hard, but that’s my job so in the future I’ll try to be better.”
“Adam Ruins Himself” is a perfect fit to his segment on the Backfire Effect, and how being proven wrong can often cause someone to further retreat into their position. Being challenged on things you hold to be true doesn’t feel good, and it’s easy to react to this with fear and hostility. But what if, instead of holding onto these ideas and notions, we shift our position into one that values curiosity and honesty over being right? What if we reacted to being corrected, as Conover does here, with the excitement that we learned something new? The segment also shows that being wrong can be embarrassing, but it’s also an inevitable part of being human.
The clip is a scripted and seamless version of someone being proven wrong. Applying this mindset in real life is much tougher, but it’s a valuable message from a show that many look to as informative and truthful. It reminds me a bit of the mission statement of Bill Nye Saves the World, which is not to give viewers every answer or opinion, but to give them a step into critical thinking and fostering a scientific mindset.
“It wouldn’t be truthful to claim we’re infallible. The intellectually honest thing to do is to be transparent about our process and public about our mistakes. That’s why we put our sources on screen and admit when we can do better. The point of our show isn’t to be right every time, it’s to encourage the audience to question what they think they know and if we’re lucky, to change a few minds.”
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