Adventures in Ethics and Science

This came up when I was making dinner.

“Pasta primavera?” I asked.

“I think that jumped the shark in about 1972,” Uncle Fishy replied.

“Yeah, but would you eat it?” I asked.

“Sure. It’s yummy, and vegetables are always good,” he said.

But then, as we were eating, it occurred to us that the Happy Days episode that spawned the concept of jumping the shark was broadcast in 1977 (premiering on September 20th, to be precise).

In light of this fact, is there any X for which X can be said to have jumped the shark prior to 20 September, 1977?

No fair using a time machine,


  1. #1 jc
    June 4, 2009

    oh geez, looks like you and Fishy found the Jameson. pace yourselves.

  2. I don’t think there should be any general problem with this. Lots of phenomena precede the names for such phenomena, or the particular events that caused us to form the names. A theory that didn’t make room for this would impoverish our discourse about things like the times before humans existed.

  3. #3 blf
    June 4, 2009

    Religious beliefs as a explanation for the natural world; e.g., flat Earth, geocentralism, and creationism, to take three notorious examples.

    Ignorance of environmental impacts. Silent Spring was published in the 1960s, albeit just who or when first jumped the shark after that is not known to me.

    Selecting for slow stupid grounded visible gastropods. Your efforts to enhance gastropodry has left the boring kind in my yard looking like they’ve done a lot of shark jumping.

  4. #4 Matthew Herper
    June 4, 2009

    Lassie clearly jumped the shark when the dog went to live with a park ranger, not a kid. That was 1964. It doesn’t matter that the case the condition was named for a later case. If a caveman tore his meniscus, he tore his meniscus, even if he called it “oochie-oochie-ouchie knee.”

  5. #5 Jared
    June 4, 2009

    blf: invisible flying gastropods?

  6. #6 padraig
    June 4, 2009

    “Jumped the shark” is especially valid retroactively when judging classic TV shows. “The Flintstones” j’d the s either when Pebbles was born or with the Great Gazoo, depending on your ideology. I’m sure one could identify such a moment on “Leave it to Beaver.” “Password” might be a bit tougher…

    Never heard it applied to a pasta recipe before, though.

  7. #7 Barry Leiba
    June 4, 2009

    In general, and, oh, so philosophically, we can’t confuse a concept with its name. Sufficiently young sprogs do that, with comical results: “Mommy, you can’t be Janet. The red haired girl at the playground is Janet!”

    And, after all, what’s in a name? That which we call a snail, by any other name would eat our petunias.

  8. #8 blf
    June 4, 2009

    Jared: Dr Freeride, our bloggermad scientist, is on c.27 day (to-date) campaign to breed very mighty gastropods. She’s been giving a fatal bath to the snails and slugs who are too stupid or slow to escape her each morning; i.e., she’s been selecting for the fast and the smart.

    In the course of her campaign, she’s also been selecting for flight, invisibility, slimeing waterproof-superglue, invisibility, salt-resistant, and various other attributes, such as being big, heavy, and very nasty.

    This breeding and artifical selection has obviously been having successful results. She’s finding fewer and fewer of the slow, stupid, visible boring old snark-jumping gastropods.

    A true, heroic, mad scientist!

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