1. Kirk says

    Imagine the uproar if that was shown over here. The evangelicals would be positively apoplectic!

  2. Steve says

    Wow, what a wunderbar little show. It was nice to see for once a kid turned on an teacher for teaching crap. It has the familiar ring of what creationist do with their cute little comic books showing a kid turning on a teacher and dispelling evolution. I wish it was in english so I could just watch the show and not the subtitles.

  3. Dean Malandris says

    Thinking about it, this is a perfect candidate for posting onto GodTube :)

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    A literal translation of “Neinmalklug” would be “nine times clever.”

  5. Raiko says

    My first reaction was a bit … shocked that we need this in Germany (apparently). I guess I shouldn’t be in so much denial about my own country.

    I would assume that the books/comic character came before the actress and that the book/comic goes into more detail. It might be my own bias, but I think the words are put into her mouth by the script writer and that she is rather unlikely to have read the Origin of Species just yet… unless she REALLY likes pigeons. :)

    Since she’s just the embodiment of a comic character and sort-of commercial, I guess it’s alright, but else the fact that this doesn’t really seem like her own opinion would bother me. Or maybe it’s just too short and quick for me to enjoy it – because I think this way you couldn’t even convince an agnostic.

    But hey – good start. If I wasn’t worried for the child actress’ safety, I’d say start making something similar in the USA.

  6. Goldenmane says

    I’m a little worried about using kids for this… but then I also realise that my kid has the capacity to call bullshit on me if I bullshit, so it’s all good.

  7. Raiko says

    Addon: I think “Susie Smartypants” is a good translation – whoever wrote the subs did a great job. It seems to have the same connotation (a little smart-assy), unless I am mistaken about the English. I wonder whether this is also supposed to imply she’s about 9 years old?

  8. tony says

    Loved this – reminds me of the reaction my son had when he first went to school here in Georgia after europe at age 9 (“they believe this stuff?” quoth he).

    He was immediately identified as someone needing to be saved, giving him immense joy – at being given free reign to be completely utterly sarky while being completely honest and above board. He has great fun!

    I especially like the background image at 1:31 (when she’s talking about Adam & Eve – The God dude is putting a penis on a GI Joe) woot!

    Fabulous stuff.

    When can we get this on Disney?

  9. says

    Well, that made me feel a little better about my comprehension of German. Apparently I can keep up ok with grade-school kids. :)

  10. Matt says

    Great. This is fodder for the creationist rebuttal to the argument of religious indoctrination at a very young age as child abuse.

    Now they have something to point to when making the claim that atheism is just like religion.


  11. says

    My god, she’s already fluent in German! Klug indeed.

    Anyway, pretty cute, all in all.

    Trouble is, most kids would eat up what is immediately comprehensible, the ancient myth. Saves a lot of study. I would not wish the IDiots to get hold of this as some sort of example of how “debating the controversy” in class is just fine.

    It’ll probably be a good thing in Germany, and would be more problematic here.

    Glen D

  12. says

    @ Matt:
    “This is fodder for the creationist rebuttal to the argument of religious indoctrination at a very young age as child abuse.”

    How do you know that the actress was atheistically indoctrinated? To the contrary: She is quite fond of having played this role and always urges people to buy the book with “her” in it. She became skeptical of god’s existence on her own. You could only argue that children just shouldn’t be thinking and shouldn’t be debating their own viewpoints in public. Which, however, I wouldn’t agree with.

    Also, there is quite some relativism in this view, isn’t it? Being in favor of evolution would be “just as bad” as being in favor of creationism.

  13. TrineDK says

    This is just a small example of European TV for kids, that educates the young ones. There is a long history of TV-productions that try to influence kids to THINK on a lot of various subjects (Icelandic ‘Sportacus’, and a long line of Scandinavian programmes about or against pollution, cutting down rainforest, animal-welfare etc. etc.) I think being used to this kind of educating/not talking down to kids is one of the reasons why I – and other Danes – cannot bear the Disney maltreatment of The Little Mermaid and the Disneyfication of Pippi Longstocking in that Canadian tv-series :-(
    It is SO FAR from what we normally see. That being said both these examples are hits in Europe as well, so I guess I belong to a minority… I like Susie Neunmalklug, though.
    (and my English-skill apparently left me for this response. I think I’ll go look for it in my kitchen whilst making greek-meatballs)

  14. says

    I love it! Very cool. And, like Dan B. (#13) I was pretty happy that I know enough German to keep up with much of what she said.

  15. JJR says

    “Neinmal” would also be a grammatical error.

    Negation would be “Keinmal”.

    / former German teacher pedantry]

    I think in Germany they still have religion classes in some schools; In Bavaria they used to put up crucifixes on the wall, even in public schools.

    I’m lucky to have had a Science teacher for a Dad, because my reaction was the same as Suzi’s when I was exposed to religious narratives when my mom still insisted on taking me to church. I finally declined to go anymore when I had reached middle school age.

    I had a lot more fun watching COSMOS with my Dad than I ever did singing in church.

  16. daveau says

    That book goes on the gift list for my niece and nephew in Texas. I love to torture my brother.

  17. Shane says

    She should debate Ray Comfort. It would be work raising $10,000 to see that. Ray would never do it though. How could he live it down when he lost?

    Ich bin Ray. Ray Dummkopfpants.

  18. Confused says

    I may be failing to understand how google works these days, but after about two hours, you’re the top hit for “Neunmalklug”.

  19. Wildflower says

    “I think in Germany they still have religion classes in some schools”

    Yes, there are. One could argue though that they teach about religion and ethics and aren’t indoctrination for the most part. There is however a fairly large movement to add Qua’an classes (in Turkish and German) among the Muslim immigrants.

  20. Yvonne says

    “Yes, there are. One could argue though that they teach about religion and ethics and aren’t indoctrination for the most part. ”

    I’d argue against that. At least in the lower classes (1-7), they are pretty much ‘let us read stories about God and Jesus and how God created the world’ from my experience.

  21. Wildflower says

    “Is Mr. Hempleman a real person?”

    No, it’s a slightly more ‘serious’ variation of “Joe Bloggs”, “John Smith” and the likes. Might also be a feint reference to Wilhelm Busch’s character “Teacher Lempel”.

  22. Sili says

    (der/die/das?) “Urknall”!! Ich liebe’s! Kein mehr “Big Bang” für mich!

    Well, that made me feel a little better about my comprehension of German. Apparently I can keep up ok with grade-school kids. :)
    Posted by: Dan B. | March 4, 2009 11:02 AM

    That reminds me (Offffffff topic): does anyone know of podcasts at the nine-year-old level? In ‘foreign’ languages, I mean. Something to help stupid gits like me to learn French and German. For instance discussing the news, so that the subject is likely to be already familiar, in five minute segments with simple vocabulary.

  23. Wildflower says

    “(der/die/das?) “Urknall”!! Ich liebe’s! Kein mehr “Big Bang” für mich!”

    Hehe :)

    It’s a composite of “der Knall” (the bang) and the prefix “ur” indicating “primordial” or “ancestral”. Like all composite words in German, it gets the gender of the last noun, thus: Der Urknall. :P

  24. says

    That video is great. Further proof that when not raised brainwashed by their parents dogmas, kids readily accept the right answer without any fuss.

  25. Devysciple says

    Sadly, one of the few times I’m proud to be a German…

    Sadly twice, why we would need something like that…

    But very happy that it was produced, because it ain’t important where you’re from, but it _is_ important what you KNOW!

    Evolution and Atheism forever!!!!!

  26. tony says

    Sili: O/T… for language ‘starters’ visit – they have a bunch of resources for language learning – including stuff for absolute beginners.

    Also – if you can pick up a decent computer-based language course – most come with online resources (journals, ‘newspapers’, etc) specifically tailored to learners. I’m not anything like an authority, so I would never presume to recommend any particular product. Especially since everyone has different learning behaviors: good for me may be terrible for you!

    bon chance!

  27. says

    It may be said to be a little heavy on the “red in tooth and claw,” where she’s says nature is “eat or be eaten.” Not a bad rejoinder to all of the teleological nonsense thrown at us, but of course there’s a lot more to evolution than that. Both intraspecies and interspecies cooperation play important roles in the story of evolution.

    Overall, though, it gets a great deal right in such a short presentation.

    Glen D

  28. Hank Bones says

    Nice animation.

    Esp when God is finishing Adam (~1:30) by attaching his penis. Silly Germans. Well done.

  29. noodles says

    It’s classic that teacher Hempleman stormed out of the room. It’s the same peevish reaction a small child has when told there is no Santa.

    By the way, why do Christians think it’s appropriate to persistently annoy complete strangers? I was at a bus stop and a woman started a conversation with me but within a few minutes asked, “Do you have Jesus in your heart?” I told her to not bother me but she persisted and again asked, “No really, do you have Jesus in your heart?” Interrogating a complete stranger about there religious beliefs is pretty dame rude. Christians constantly do this and for some demented reason think it’s completely acceptable.

  30. Marc Abian says

    This is fodder for the creationist rebuttal to the argument of religious indoctrination at a very young age as child abuse

    Yes indeed, and let’s not forget, it was the Germans who invented Nazism too.

  31. Macron says

    This video comes off as an argument from authority. This isn’t a good way to present ideas to people, even for things that are true.

  32. 'Tis Himself says


    Both Susi and Hempleman were doing arguments from authority. What do you want for a three minute video?

  33. Brownian says

    Oh yes! It’s like a Jack Chick tract, only true!

    I noticed they somehow quoted the Bible correctly, without distorting, putting words in Moses’s mouth, or spinning strawmen, and still managed to point out the absurdity of Genesis.

    You might want to take some notes on how to follow “Thou Shalt Not Lie”, Discovery Institute charlatan fuckfaces.

  34. JakeTheMush says

    Did anyone else immediately think of Groucho Marx demanding a 4 year old to provide an explanation?

  35. says

    Yes it is a cute video. But the real danger of this vid in the US of A would be that t would teach kids to challenge teachers.

  36. says

    The message was of course quite correct and I have no problems with it, but I do object using kids of this age to further any ideas.
    Anybody can see that this girl in the video in not airing her own ideas, but ideas given to her by somebody else, as she is clearly too young to make her own decisions.
    I know that the theists do this all the time, but I just hope that the atheist crowd would allow kids to grow to being fully established human beings before making this kinds of statements.

  37. Agricola says

    “Is Mr. Hempleman a real person?”

    A “well-known” theologian, the head of the “Center for the Evangelical Philosophical Questions” in Berlin, carries the same name. Perhaps a coincidence. Perhaps.

  38. Bacopa says

    I don’t speak German, but I did notice one translation error. “Would a Dear God” whould have been translated as “Would a loving God…”.

    Yesterday i discovered a new method for constructing a heptagon. I cannot share this joy with my gf. I need a new gf. Maybe Susie’s mother is available.

  39. A. Noyd says

    Jaakko Wallenius (#62)

    Anybody can see that this girl in the video in not airing her own ideas, but ideas given to her by somebody else, as she is clearly too young to make her own decisions.

    Too young? Don’t be silly. She might be a bit young to understand evolution without someone to translate the literature and concepts into something more comprehensible, but children are deft little creatures when it comes not only to sorting out existing theories (in the weak and strong senses both), but inventing and testing them as well!

    I remember clearly how, as a child of Susi’s age, I thought there was a hierarchy to swear words–some swear words were “worse” than others and some were more acceptable to utter. (Now, this is generally true, by my theory imagined the hierarchy to be much more strict.) My friends and I would share new swear words we’d learned and attempt to place them into this hierarchy based on how we’d learned them, the reaction we’d get by using them ourselves, the reaction adults would have when one of them “slipped up” around us, etc. We’d determined “shit” was below “fuck” and “damn” was below “shit,” and so on. I was so excited the day I thought I’d found a word worse than “fuck”: “asshole.” When I visited a friend, I immediately took her out of adult hearing range so I could share it with her and we could discuss it.

    So I disagree that children that young can’t make their own decisions; even provided no direct information at all, children will work to make up their own theories and explanations for how the world works. If they are provided information directly, they will decide which is the more robust explanation, same as an adult would. The particular danger for children is that they might be exposed (on purpose or otherwise) to dishonest information which, being more naive, they will not recognize as such. So we should seek to protect our children not from having to make decisions (which they will anyways), but from dishonesty.

  40. sir_russ says

    For those who think that a video such as this is simply an act of putting words in a child’s mouth, let me say that I strongly disagree. My own son asked for “On the Origin of Species” for his ninth birthday.

    To further emphasize that youngsters can and do make outstanding contributions of their own let me point you to Emily Rosa. From Wikipedia:

    Emily Rosa (born February 6, 1987), an American from Loveland, Colorado, became the youngest person ever to have a research paper published in a peer-reviewed medical journal — the Journal of the American Medical Association at the age of 11.

    Or from the site, look at Sirena Huang.

    Sirena Huang started taking violin lessons at age 4 and made her professional solo debut at 9 with the Taiwan Symphony Orchestra.

    Both of these preteen children have credits to their names that are envied by adults with advanced degrees in those same subject areas. Should we delude ourselves to think that no such child could demonstrate outstanding talents in biology at such a young age?

    Contending that a young person accurately voicing an opinion concerning a controversial issue is a matter of words having been put in her mouth by others, highlights part of how our US education system fails: parents and teachers, far too often, don’t take the artistic and intellectual capacities of our young people seriously. We do these developing minds a grave disservice when they show exceptional promise if we respond by showing in so many ways that we expected so much less of them.

    Dismissing what could easily have been the brainchild of a nine or ten year old reared with a naturalistic understanding of the world tells that child that we expect her to keep what she has been taught in the classroom when bringing it out and sharing it is precisely what we need. What she needs to know more than anything else, what she needs to have others help emphasize is this: her education is a powerful tool for understanding and benefiting the world; it is not a toy; it is not an empty academic exercise.

  41. Elwood Herring says

    noodles #51: I would probably have said something along the lines of “Sorry, but I never discuss religion with strangers”, and possibly added “And I suggest neither should you” if she persisted (and I was feeling cruel). I agree, it is rude to interrogate strangers about their beliefs (which goes for the door-to-door type too), and I always make my first comment a polite one with the warning that my second one will not be.

  42. Jens says

    I think in Germany they still have religion classes in some schools; In Bavaria they used to put up crucifixes on the wall, even in public schools.

    Here (can’t speak for all of Germany, since school curriculums differ between states), you (resp. your parents) get to pick between either “Religion” or “Ethics” classes, where ethics actually also covers religion, but from a more neutral point of view than the heavily Christian leaning religion classes.

  43. Utakata says

    Hmmm…my first reaction is that I thought only freaky kids like this existed in anime…

    …but gaging the reaction to this video, I tend err on the side of caution…since it appears to be recited by a child actor. Which is okay…but it does get close to putting ideas into her head instead of her independently coming to her own conclusion. Not to say it’s not possible for a child to do this as someone already cited Emily Rosa above me. But I have my doubts. And Wiki comes up blank when I typed in Susi Neunmalklug’s name. Perhaps more research is needs to be done on this character/show to come to the conclusion of the child’s disposition.

    Good video though. <3

    /lurking mode back on

  44. mr P says

    Cute, but does she know her hair looks like that?

    @70 how can you possibly have ethics without religion…

    /sarcasm off

  45. Radwaste says

    I urge you all to consider that the infantilization of American youth is externally applied.

    There are lots of smart and sensible kids. But we make a spectacle of the losers.

  46. Heraclides says

    PZ will want to dig his teeth into this: (“Vatican cardinal: Atheists’ claims on evolution “absurd””)

    Seems as if this guy wants to pre-empt the Vatican-sponsored conference…

  47. JD says

    What is it with German youth programming and nasty hair?

    I can totally get behind the message, though.

  48. says

    Just a heartfelt thanks for putting the video in the blog, and thus making it visible to us all.

    I am going to spread it around a bit!!!

  49. Older says

    I love Susie Smartypants! She’s just like my kids! Absolutely not creepy nor unbelievable.

    I remember my third grader (eight years old) explaining the facts of the solar system to his teacher, and how disappointed he was when she told him he was wrong on all counts, and how we put together a letter to her, giving citations for all of his facts. (An example of her Hempelmannishness: she told our little scientist that atomic fusion was not what powered the sun; fusion, she said, had taken place only on Earth, in scientists’ laboratories. Whooaah!)

  50. catta says

    Let’s clarify a few things.

    -This is a video based on a (not exactly bestselling) children’s book. It was not produced for television, nor is it likely to ever be shown on television (at least not in children’s programming. Political debate shows, maybe). It was produced to be shown at a ceremony celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday. So, sadly, no reason to get all excited about what can be shown on German TV.

    Of course Susi Neunmalklug isn’t the girl’s real name – that’s about as likely as finding someone who really is called “Smartypants”. Susi Neunmalklug is a comic book character. The actress is Lilias Baumhögger, the daughter of a friend of the comic book’s author. The character is not based on her. In an interview about the production, the author states that she has “similarities” to her though: “She is nine years old, very gifted artistically and surprisingly far in her intellectual development. Lilias immediately understood the character of Susi Neunmalklug, and so it only took a few takes in the studio to wrap up the production.”

    Here’s the interview, explaining background and comic book and production and thought process and all of that, at the German Humanist Press Service:

    Slight hitch: It’s in German. If anyone’s interested, though, I’ll translate that thing from beginning to end.

  51. Asherot says

    Hi all, first time poster, been reading for a while and I love your work.

    I think some of you guys are missing the point regarding the indoctrination issue.

    Teaching children religion or politics in school is wrong because there’s no accepted “true” religion or political stance. All you get is somebody’s opinion and we all know the maxim about opinions.

    This is not the case with evolution.
    Evolution is hard science, just like physics or geology and there is nothing wrong with teaching it to children.

    Furthermore, the teaching of evolution does not coerce children into becoming atheists.
    Absolutely nothing in evolutionary theory actually requires atheism. It certainly precludes literal belief in the bible but it does not say anything about god(s) at all, one way or another.

    Accusations of indoctrination by ID proponents are nothing more than poorly veiled objections to accepted science contradicting unsupported biblical mythology.

  52. Azkyroth says

    I just keep thinking this must be what ERV was like as a kid….

    Needs more cussing and a dog. Other than that, yes. :3

  53. Leigh Williams says

    That child is adorable. The hair, well, that appears to be an anime-style ‘do. At least it’s not electric blue or dead white. In my experience, a large proportion of the ‘tweens to mid-teens are totally into anime and manga. I’ve seen some peculiar-looking hair with colors and random bits twirling here and there in my own household, though both Girl Twin and Boy Twin have now settled down to a sensible ponytails.

  54. Leigh Williams says

    Whoops, edit FAIL. Either “to a sensible ponytail” or “to sensible ponytails”, take your pick.

  55. Azkyroth says

    Anybody can see that this girl in the video in not airing her own ideas, but ideas given to her by somebody else, as she is clearly too young to make her own decisions.

    Speaking as someone who actually REMEMBERS being that age, I wouldn’t have been nearly that articulate without coaching, but I was reading books comparable in length and complexity to the Origin at a significantly earlier age, and I’d figured out a lot of these things for myself.

  56. forti says

    She didn’t really prove anything and did sound a bit anvilicious, but I love the idea.

    Also, I bet money that someone will eventually compare the cute German girl to the oddball Nazi boy in that one Chick tract. Sigh.

    Also, I want her hair.

  57. says

    I have a bone to pick with this video. My problem with it is nothing whatsoever to do with creationism or evolution, or with its substantive themes.

    My problem is with the fact that “Herr Hemplemann”, the villain of the piece, is portrayed as a fat, bespectacled, double-chinned, ugly man. This is the problem with most children’s television. The villains are so often ugly. And this raises the perceived importance of physical beauty and elegance. What effect do you think it has on those of us who – through no fault of our own – are ugly?

    Being ugly doesn’t make a person evil or stupid. Rationally, everyone knows this. But children are indoctrinated with stereotypes at an early age, and never quite shake off this pernicious idea that outward ugliness is a manifestation of inward foolishness or malice.

    Discrimination against the ugly is one of the few forms of bigotry that remain socially acceptable. A good illustration is the Facebook group “Dudes who are ‘Very Conservative’ are generally fat and unfuckable.” People who are ostentatiously tolerant and liberal-minded when it comes to race, gender and sexual preference are, by and large, perfectly happy to poke fun at those who are ugly.

  58. RedGreenInBlue says

    noodles said:

    I was at a bus stop and a woman started a conversation with me but within a few minutes asked, “Do you have Jesus in your heart?”

    Being the sarky git I am, the response which came immediately to mind was, “Well since the average stroke volume of the human heart is about 70 mL, and assuming that Jesus was 70 kg or about 70,000 mL – he’d probably cause a rather serious outflow tract obstruction and I’d be lying on the ground, dead. So in summary, no.”

  59. Beelzebub says

    Good point. In my experience, beautiful people are as often nasty and dumb as anyone else. It’s a blatant appeal to physical beauty = healthy = smart = correct, which is generally, however, false — and the inverse, ugly = sick = dumb = incorrect, which is equally false.

  60. DM says

    I keep reading how smart this girl is and how when left to their own devices children come to the “right” conclusion… Does anybody really believe that this was not staged and written by an adult? I am not saying it is right or wrong-only that people need to think and stop making their wishes (in this case the idea that Sussie came home from school and recorded this on her own using her own ideas and reasoning) into their realities.

  61. A. Noyd says

    @ DM (#89)

    I keep reading … how when left to their own devices children come to the “right” conclusion

    Care to quote someone who’s saying that? I talked a bit about how, even without direct input, children naturally build and analyze theories, but I did not mean to give the impression they automatically arrive at correct conclusions. (Boy, wouldn’t that have saved humanity a lot of trouble.) But thanks to this drive to understand, if given accurate information about evolution and religion, they’re perfectly capable of deciding which one provides a better understanding of the world. A child like Susi is entirely plausible.

    Does anybody really believe that this was not staged and written by an adult?

    She’s a fictional character, sure, but she represents children who are real, such as the actress. Does it matter who wrote the words? If the actress understands and agrees with what she’s saying, is that the same as putting words in her mouth?

    [P]eople need to think and stop making their wishes (in this case the idea that Sussie came home from school and recorded this on her own using her own ideas and reasoning) into their realities.

    Oh, yes, because that’s totally what people were doing here.

  62. says

    How exactly is teaching your kids about a supernatural god and creation not putting words in their mouth; and teaching your kids about science, research and logic is?

    How is producing a video of a child questioning accepted myths in favor of scientific evidence abuse?

    Let the religious ones teach their children religion and let the fact-minded teach their children science.

    There is no controversy.