Hey, this Joachim Bublath guy is good!

A reader pointed me to this German documentary (with English subtitles) on evolution and creationism—it has a nice 10 minute primer on mechanisms and evidence for evolution (with evo-devo, especially of fruit flies and zebrafish, prominently mentioned, appropriately enough for the country of Christiane Nusslein-Volhard).

There’s also a segment on creationism that is a bit lacking in nuance—they are all lumped together as young earth creationists—which is the kind of opening creationists use to disavow association with those other kooks, while glossing over the foolishness they do believe. Never mind the theological hairsplitting, though, YECs and IDist are fundamentally identical in their rejection of science for dogma.

Aside from that, it’s a simple introduction to evolution that emphasizes the molecular evidence (yay!), has eye-catching graphics and animations, and scathingly dismisses creationism and the general descent into mystical thinking. Do any of my German readers know of this fellow? Was this broadcast on German television?


  1. TheJerrylander says

    Yes, Bublath is one of the most prominent faces on TV as far as science goes; as far as I know, he’s got a phd in physics. This show is part of a series on German network television, and offers the audience glimpses into different fields of science, from earthquakes to evolutation…

    Well, that was my turn de–lurking, all the best from Jerryland

  2. TheJerrylander says

    Whatever evolutation is ;) It’s late here, and I have been reading too many papers today… evaluation and evolution doesn’t seem to mix to good in my head…

  3. MikeG says

    That was great. We need a prime time voice of reason like that here in the states.
    Damn, I miss Sagan.


  4. haffax says

    Indeed, Joachim Bublath is a big name here in Germany, when it comes to popular science shows, another one being Rangar Yogeshwar (dunno if this yields something in youtube)

    Eitherway, both Bublath and Yogeshwar stick out of the mass of “knowledge shows” in German TV, in that they tackle more complex topics in a 45 minute show (without commercials, which are not found in public TV) that don’t fit into the assorted 3 minute records of other such shows.

    And I like his voice. So soothing. ^^

  5. haffax says

    Sorry for double posting, but an addon and a correction:
    The other guy is spelled correctly Ranga Yogeshwar.

    And to answer the second question, yes this specific show aired around 10 p.m. one or two years ago in ZDF, a first tier network in Germany.

  6. zoeific says

    Yes, it was aired on German state television. I was pleasantly surprised that Bublath didn’t beat around the ‘holy bush’ in that piece, as evidenced by the flood of creationist uproar that inundated the zdf.de feedback forum tacked to this show.

  7. Paguroidea says

    Double Wow! I wish we had an equivalent to Joachim Bublath in the US. We definitely need someone like him.

  8. says

    hehehe When he started talking about what Creationists believe (~15 minutes left) I was reminded of South Parks Scientology episode: “This is what Creationists actually believe”

    I know we all are lamenting the loss of Sagan, but any of us could do something exactly like this. Get a budget, get a script, get some producers, get a network, and Id do it.

  9. says

    “Half of Americans are strongly convinced that the theory of evolution is nonsense and Darwin a charlatan.”

    jeeez, that was embarrassing. is it really that high? we come off looking like The Gambia. and i’m not so sure it’s completely undeserved… :-

  10. AndreasB says

    Yup, that guy is pretty well known in Germany (enough to be parodied, certainly). He has been on TV for quite some time now, although as far as I remember on an older show his coverage of technology hasn’t been as good as the science (pretty awkward to watch if you know the stuff).

    Fun trivia: Bublath’s son was a class mate of a friend and wasn’t quite the hot shot in the science subjects in school. He related that he didn’t like to ask his father science questions because the responses always started somewhere around the big bang. :-P

    Also, if we’re mentioning other science communicators on German TV I’ll add professor Harald Lesch, who makes a cool series on physics (mostly astronomy and astrophysics). Besides that he also makes a series together with a professor of philosophy (interesting, somewhat) and another with a Catholic theologian (fluffy, but well, Lesch is a believer).

  11. Hank Fox says

    I watched the whole thing. Wonderful! So great to see a viewpoint from outside the U.S., and how simple the conflict becomes, away from the turbulence of the creationists and political morons.

    That final sequence on Lysenko, with the picture of a starving Russian child eating insects, shows the type of thing we face here: Destroy science, and real people suffer in real ways.

  12. Ahriman says

    I have watched this guy’s science shows ever since elementary school. His main claim to fame was a show that made sexy chemical or physical experiments and though I don’t remember any of the functional mechanisms he explained or what roughly was being demonstrated, I do have the memory of being amazed by the show.

  13. says

    Yes, this has been on german TV. Bublath is very well-known, and respected, for his science shows on TV.

    Thankfully we’re not inundated (yet?) with this creationist BS in Europe!

  14. Jennifer says

    I, too, grew up watching Joachim Bublath and later added Rangar Yogeshwar and Harald Lesch to the mix :) They usually guarantee excellent science shows and good entertainment.

  15. tom says

    Well Harald Lesch is one of the major reasons that drove me into advancing my physical studies. That and later on “the mechanical universe” – which really gave me one of the most intuitive understandings of basic physics ever since. Of course i am now much more advanced in my studies but it is the initial semesters that are the most troubling for students afaik all around the world.

    Joachim Bublath, Quarks, Nano et al are fancy shows but Harald Lesch is fascinating to listen to since he is such an excellent speaker conveying even the most complex of physical topics into an intuitive human understanding.

    And yes the reason why schoenberg et al, constantly try to connect to the US or give speeches there is because no one really listens to them in their own countries.

    It is also very troubling that Harun Yahya (an islamic propagandist with about the same financial resources as the propagandists in the US) blends science with religious propaganda in a more profound fashion than the creationists in the US do, in order to target his intended audience.
    And it is indeed so that the islamic community in many parts of the world is already better educated than most folks are in the US. That should really worry at least some in the US.

  16. Thony C. says

    Joachim Bublath is head of department for science and technology of the ZDF television channel. This is a German state television channel. He has a Diplom (masters degree) in chemistry from the University of Frankfurt and a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Munich but has worked as a science reporter in television since he was a student in the 1970’s. He is regarded as the Grand Master of German science reporting and is a no nonsense hard science promoter.

    Harald Lesch who various other posters have justifiably praised is Professor for Astrophysics at the Technical University of Munich but is also Professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit University of Munich!He has a daily 15 minute show on Bayern Alpha which is a Bavarian State televion educational channel.

  17. Sebastian Weinberg says

    I’ve watched the whole thing, reading the English subtitles alongside the German speech, and the translation is pretty good. What errors I found were usually literally correct, but used the wrong meaning of a word for the given context.

    Here are the corrections I would make:

    4:48 – Others were subject to gigantic upheavals (That is, changes in their own makeup, in reaction to the aforementioned changes in environment)

    5:38 – As incredible as it seems, evolution is based on random changes and relentless selection.

    7:09 – Some animals have succeeded in adapting to different climate extremes (Implying different regions, not seasonal change, as with the rabbit), such as the fox (Referring to foxes in general, though grammatically singular). For this, its shape changed. (“It” again referring to “the fox” as an encompassing group, not a single animal.)

    8:00 – In the example of the fly, researchers have tried to track down/get to the bottom of the mystery of development.

    8:05 – Hardly any other animal has been so intensively studied for this/in this respect.

    8:45 – In these zebra fish for example, the development seems, at first glance, to progress completely differently than with the insects.

    9:21 – Thus it is possible to adapt to changing environmental conditions, in which process completely different body shapes can develop.

    13:24 – Literal quotes from the bible are supposed to replace biology books. (Implying school books.)

    16:13 – Dinosaur bones, in reality unequivocal evidence for evolution, are changed into witnesses of the Flood.

    18:47 – In this animal one can clearly recognize the new limbs, which made the move to the land possible.

    19:57 – The killer whales are said to be the wolves of the oceans. (Since the squids are obviously the kings…)

    20:22 – The appearance of killer whales and dolphins, as they are today, hardly allows one to intuit the eventful past of these animals.

    23:48 – He negated the at that time emerging field of genetics, something in accordance with the motto: place one sack of grain into the cold and immediately all grains are chill resistant.

    28:01 – This is a dramatic example of the results that ensue when political goals try to influence scientific results. (It’s certainly traumatic, but that’s not what he says.)

    28:40 – Let us hope that the freedom of natural sciences is upheld and we won’t fall back into the darkness of arbitrarily established world views…

    There were other differences, such as small omissions, where the subtitles would otherwise have become too long, or slightly awkward phrasings, but I didn’t want to point those out, unless they changed the meaning or implications of the sentence.

  18. David Marjanović says

    There’s also a segment on creationism that is a bit lacking in nuance–they are all lumped together as young earth creationists–

    You see, your average German doesn’t know anything about what kinds of cre_ti_nists there are…

    I watched Bublath’s and Yogeshwar’s shows for years (most German public channels can be received in Austria by cable) and always enjoyed them.

  19. David Marjanović says

    There’s also a segment on creationism that is a bit lacking in nuance–they are all lumped together as young earth creationists–

    You see, your average German doesn’t know anything about what kinds of cre_ti_nists there are…

    I watched Bublath’s and Yogeshwar’s shows for years (most German public channels can be received in Austria by cable) and always enjoyed them.

  20. Ginger Yellow says

    I don’t think you’d ever see this on an American TV show:

    The media is an effective means for manipulation: google “mirror neurons”!

  21. Sebastian Weinberg says

    The parenthetical parts of the subtitles, such as the bit about media manipulation and mirror neurons, are comments by the translator, not part of the actual program. He says so at the beginning.

  22. tom says

    Thanks Seb i will soon merge them with the subs on mvgroup.

    Omg, are…? are…? can it be… are those subs really evolving?

  23. Corn says

    the only downside of Bublath is his style of presenting and moderation. He’s got the charisma of a bag of flour, speaks with lots of illogical pauses and dazing accentuation and is doing exactly one hand gesture all the time, like a cheap, trashy robot from the 80ies.
    I really like him being a scientist, I appreciate his scientific integrity and I’d like having him write and counsel the shows but please let someone else do the actual presentation.
    This would keep a lot more people in front of their TV.

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