Don Prothero discusses fossils with the Thinking Atheist

This was just put up: an audio discussion between Seth “The Thinking Atheist” Andrews and Don Prothero, a prolific paleobiologist and author of one of my favorite evolution books, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. The introduction begins at about 6:30, and the show continues for about an hour and five minutes after that.

Prothero talks not only about fossils, but about cryptozoology, punctuated equilibrium and, of course, his continuing battles with creationists. It’s a very nice program, and Don is quite eloquent. You could do worse than listening for an hour.

The Q&A from listeners begins at 42:40.

By the way, you can find the video of the debate between Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ten Bruggencate here.


  1. Posted June 4, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Prothero references a BBC documentary he appeared on a few years ago discussing geological formations with a group of YEC Brit tourists along the Colorado R. through the Grand Canyon. Is this the same program Jerry Coyne also appeared on?

    • Posted June 4, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Yes it was. Big fun!

      • Posted June 4, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        This kitty cartoon is all about the same kind of fun as trying to communicate about reality with YEC’s and other godly types (plus I can’t remember how to email JAC from here, so this is the best way I can think of to send the cartoon along).

        Check out Basic Instructions on GoComics!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 5, 2014 at 2:05 am | Permalink

          Check out Basic Instructions on GoComics!

          [Tourist, walking through the Irish countryside, lost, spies a local leaning against a gate.] “Excuse me, sir, but could you tell me how to get to $TARGET CITY$?”
          [Local, leans on fence, fiddles with pipe, scratches bum, checks the wind. Then starts the procrastination.][ Eventually.]”Well, begorra, you’re going to $TARGET CITY$ are you.”
          [Sucks pipe. Procrastinates further.] “Well, if you’re wanting to go to $TARGET CITY$ …”
          [further procrastination] “… I wouldn’t start from here.”

      • Posted June 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        It’s available on Youtube

        • Hypatias Daughter
          Posted June 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

          If you ever want to see the Authoritarian personality in action, watch this video.
          Phil is a classic authoritarian – rigid, suspicious, punitive and bullying (but all in most formally polite manner), and projecting his failures onto others.
          For example: He goes on a road trip to learn why scientists accept evolution then gets mad at the director for not interviewing any creationist scientists when he (Phil) cannot rebut the evolutionary scientists evidence. He asks if the church they are taken to might be a “gay” church then insults the director for bringing up other issues besides evolution. Then he tries to tell the other participants they shouldn’t discuss anything about their beliefs except creationism.
          Phil’s way is the only way – but not because Phil is an arrogant control freak. Oh, no. It’s because Phil, and only Phil, is doing God’s way right.
          Then check out Sam – a perfect example of the Authoritarian follower.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 5, 2014 at 1:56 am | Permalink

        ISTR that it wasn’t so much fun for the YECs, who schismed between the open-to-evidence and the real-YEC camps.
        Jihad and inter-Necine fighting – two great contributions of Religion to debate. Pass the popcorn. Or something edible.

  2. wonderer
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I heard about the Bruggencate/Dillahunty debate a bit earlier, and watched just the very beginning, to where Bruggencate presents an utterly transparently question begging syllogism.

    I doubt Dillahunty even needed to show up for Bruggencate to lose the debate. Someone let me know if watching the rest of the debate would be preferable to shoving an ice pick into my ear.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I just watched the whole thing. Several good philosophical points were made. Dillahunty was patient. His closing argument – 3 minutes – nicely encapsulates Bruggencate’s main fallacies.

  3. mikespeir
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Just finished reading Prothero’s book. Yes, it’s excellent. Wish there were some way to make it required reading for Creationists.

  4. Edward Hessler
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Neil Shubin discusses Tiktaalik with his daughter’s first grade class–short, sweet and as he says “they get it.”

    ( )

    I couldn’t help but notice, too, the bookshelves in this classroom. Some great books. Richly provisioned. It reminded me of an observation the late philosopher David Hawkins made about elementary classrooms in which science is taught. One part workshop/laboratory (atelier), one part library and one part classroom.

    Now, having written that I’m not sure I got it right but I think the aim is.

  5. Kiwi Dave
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I managed to watch half the Dillahunty/Bruggencate debate – what a depressing experience.

    When your principal argument is “You can’t know if you are a brain in a vat or not, but I know there is a god and also know that you and others who say they have no experience of god are suppressing your knowledge of the truth”… wow! An amazing combination of epistemological double standards and desperation.

  6. Stephen Pilotte
    Posted June 5, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Interesting interview,

    I hope he’s right when he said that younger people were more open to listen to arguments against creationism. I also think that climate-deniers and anti-vaccins use the same strategy of telling anecdotes and debunked myths over and over again. I wish I could find a list of these anecdotes & debunked myth for each group. I’d keep them in my wallet for every time someone said : you know (evolution, global warming or vaccins) are not proven blah, blah, blah

%d bloggers like this: