Evolution road show

2 minute read

Don Prothero and Jerry Coyne are evolutionary biologists, who appeared recently in the BBC film, “Conspiracy road trip: creationism”. The film followed a group of five British creationists as they encounter a group of five scientists presenting evidence of the age of the Earth and evolution of life. After the film’s broadcast in the UK, Coyne and Prothero have written some reminiscences of their experiences with the production.

Coyne is the author of the book, Why Evolution Is True, and the eponymous website. In his earlier post about the program, he includes an embedded video. Yesterday he pointed (“Don Prothero recounts his experience with the creationist road trip”) to Prothero’s account. Coyne:

Despite the fact that each scientist spent several hours with the creationistsall in vain except, perhaps, for the slightly open-minded JoJoour participation was edited down to only a few minutes, as I knew it would be. What I didnt expect was that the program would be mostly about the sociology of the creationist group, including a double schism between Christians/the Muslim and gay-friendly Christians/homophobic Christians. But that drama makes for good t.v., I guess, and I thought the final program was pretty good, if not so enlightening about science.

Prothero recounts his efforts putting together fossils and charts to use on the program, and some of his experiences confounding them with evidence from the Colorado Plateau. He gives a nice account of the meandering course of the Colorado and its impossibility by Flood geology. By both accounts, the highlight of the film was the paleoanthropological stylings of Tim White:

The most effective segment of all was with paleoanthropologist Tim White at U.C. Berkeley, who laid out casts of a bunch of hominid skulls and had them sort them by their anatomy. Once they had done so, he pointed out that this was the exact sequence that these skulls were found in a single place in Ethiopia, and that primitive ones were never found on the level with the advanced ones, and vice versa. It was a remarkable bit of scientific theater, and they were unable to respond coherently to it, since there IS no creationist response. The most primitive skulls look like apes to them, the most advanced ones are clearly humanand there are all the intermediates in between.

Go hominins! Prothero is the author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, which is on sale right now on the Kindle in the U.S. for only $3.99.