Pharyngula

A video contest!

Discover Magazine is running a contest: make a video that explains evolution in two minutes or less.

Can you communicate the most important idea in biology, and one of the most controversial ideas in our society, in a mere 120 seconds? Think you can convince even the most hard-headed creationist that Darwin was right? If so, show us–and that creationist–how it’s done.

Your task is to create a video of no more than two minutes that will get the idea and significance of evolution across to an educated lay audience. Along the way, you can touch on points like how evolution works, how we know it to be true, the evolution of humanity, and the future of evolution.

They’ve done this before, with string theory, so you can see examples. You’ve got until 1 June to come up with a scintillating and creative lesson in evolution, so get cracking!

Comments

  1. #1 DAVE
    April 3, 2009

    I’m just sending in the “How to not be seen” sketch by M. Python et.al

  2. #2 cervantes
    April 3, 2009

    Well okay, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could instead assume that the average person has an attention span of, oh, 4 minutes?

  3. #3 David Raikow
    April 3, 2009

    They should have chose 140 seconds and called it a Finch Tweet.

  4. #4 www.10ch.org
    April 3, 2009

    “an educated lay audience” – how educated is the average creationist anyways?

  5. #5 JD
    April 3, 2009

    How about in less than 2 seconds? Goddidit!

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    April 3, 2009

    Watch for IDiots saying that this proves that Darwinism doesn’t even need 15 minutes to learn, it only takes two.

    I am wondering what the point is, even if it’s an interesting challenge.

    Of course, the evidence of taxonomy, genetics, and the many fossils demonstrating evolution won’t convince most creationists, since they have thinking processes that block the necessary synthesis.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  7. #7 Hoonser
    April 3, 2009

    I’m throwin’ my hat in the ring.

  8. #8 Qwerty
    April 3, 2009

    “the necessary synthesis” GlenD – that sounds like a book title. What blocks “the necessary synthesis” is their unwavering belief in the Genesis myth.

  9. #9 Christopher
    April 3, 2009

    “Your task is to create a video of no more than two minutes that will get the idea and significance of evolution across to an educated lay audience. Along the way, you can touch on points like how evolution works, how we know it to be true, the evolution of humanity, and the future of evolution.”

    Shouldn’t “how evolution works” be the video, not something to be touched on? And do they really expect people to be able to explain how evolution works to creationists in two minutes, and still have time to show the evolution of humanity and where evolution science can lead us?

    I know it’s simple to say, “The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is inerrant,” and be done. But science just doesn’t work that way.

  10. #10 NewEnglandBob
    April 3, 2009

    Once again, the dumbing down of America by pandering to short videos instead of comprehensive scholarly works.

    The winning string theory video is garbage. The images add nothing to the audio. Little explanation behind the theory was given.

    Next will be the 6 second description of how the world works.

    At this rate, Americans will be specialist at the sound bite: “Want fries with that?”

  11. #11 J-Dog
    April 3, 2009

    And in other news..

    The Discovery Inastitute is having the SAME contest – but they have a winner already. It’s Lying Liar Casey Luskin for his approved reading of Genesis into the camera from the Secret ID Science Lair.

  12. #12 terrylong
    April 3, 2009

    Many monkeys banging the rocks together.

  13. #13 Randy Randy
    April 3, 2009

    I think a single video may be the wrong sort of media for this.

    How about a video mashup (to use one of those buzzwords) service, where everyone enters a two minute video. People then take the parts they like, and using a few simple fixed rules, construct new videos to enter into the population of videos.

    Over time, the best video will… um, what’s that word?

  14. #14 James F
    April 3, 2009

    Florida Citizens for Science is also sponsoring a stickman-style drawing contest, Stick Science.

    The basic concept here is to draw a cartoon that educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about science (or for the 12-year-old and under folks, a cartoon about ?why understanding science is important?).

  15. #15 uppity cracka
    April 3, 2009

    two minutes? hell, i can do it in two words: bull and shit.

    how ’bout this: evolution is a vast liberal conspiracy to turn perfect little aryan children gay by telling them there is no god. ‘sall you need to know.

  16. #16 Randy Randy
    April 3, 2009

    Oh, and I forgot to specify a few other constraints:
    1. Videos have short generations of a day or so.
    2. The fitness function should specify informative, not just entertaining. Actually, though, if there is a big enough population of reviewers, the video population will maintain several lineages (not quite species, since interbreeding is not controlled).

  17. #17 Randy Randy
    April 3, 2009

    To finish my train of thought.

    This would be a more interesting demonstration of evolution that a 2 minute video would be. Show how videos can evolve with a few simple rules, to produce a better video that any of the intelligent designers were able to.

  18. #18 zaardvark
    April 3, 2009

    Aw, no prize. Couldn’t they get Phil Plait to sign a pair of his boxers, or something?

    Ehh, that might actually be worse. I’ll probably enter anyway, but only because I know I could win. Trash-talking the losers will be my reward.

    Wow, ever stop and realize that you’re a complete jerk? Me neither!

    Good luck, all.

  19. #19 Desert Son
    April 3, 2009

    My hope is that the short previews will inspire further delving into the subject. Obviously evolution (and string theory, certainly!) are vaster in scope and complexity than two minutes can adequately define.

    At the risk of sounding concern-troll-ish, I do worry that, as NewEnglandBob points out, the “sound byte” world of modern marketing may reinforce the idea of knowledge as sufficient at superficial levels, and I agree that the winning string theory video was not particularly effective, in my opinion.

    Still, I remain hopeful that many people, recognizing that their own day-to-day lives are complex, will also conclude evolution is also complex and that two minutes does not encapsulate its explanation (two minutes better serves supernatural gap explanations of things, it seems to me). Whether they seek to learn more is always a challenge, especially if so many other things are competing for attention.

    One risk with marketing is if it tells consumers how easy things are, when in fact, so few things in life are easy at all.

    No kings,

    Robert

  20. #20 Randy Randy
    April 3, 2009

    James F #14 wrote

    Florida Citizens for Science is also sponsoring a stickman-style drawing contest, Stick Science.

    So why don’t they just read xkcd?

    Oh, and to whore my previous posts more…
    Evolve the evolution video, no need to design it.

  21. #21 James F
    April 3, 2009

    Then there’s the Summarize Proust Competition, only 15 seconds!

  22. #22 Marc Abian
    April 3, 2009

    I can’t make videos, but I think this would be easy to write at least.

  23. #23 Hoonser
    April 3, 2009

    Changed my mind about entering this thing. Why is it these contests always require entrants to hand over the rights to their hard work over to the people running the contest? I’d rather make a free video and put it on youtube than hand over the rights to my work to anybody.

    That’s a real scumbag move on Discovery Magazine’s part.

  24. #24 KemaTheAtheist
    April 3, 2009

    I’m definitely doing this. I’ve been meaning to make a collaborative video listing all the evidences for evolution anyways. This will be fun. :-)

    As for a reward, being recognized by PZ is a big enough honor for me… maybe I could get him to give me a letter of recommendation too after I finish my Master’s.

    Do you know a lot of people in the bioinformatics field, PZ? :-)

  25. #25 Naughtius Maximus
    April 3, 2009

    Tonight on cnn, Jenny McCarthy
    http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/larry.king.live/

  26. #26 Rachel I.
    April 3, 2009

    Dang, I wanna do this, but I’d be afraid of messing up the mechanics.

    Eh, it’s an excuse to figure out how to model and animate DNA and a frog and stuff… if that goes well then I guess I’ll put it in a video.

  27. #27 TigerHunter
    April 3, 2009

    I will be participating.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with compressing the idea into a two-minute video. The bare basics of natural selection aren’t really that hard to understand, and can encourage people to delve further into the subject. (I’m considering ending my video with a list of books they can read for more on the subject.)

  28. #28 Hakobus
    April 3, 2009

    Damn, the contest is only open for residents of the US and Canada :(

  29. #29 Alex
    April 3, 2009

    I think thunderf00t needs to know of this. He’s got some pretty good material, and the experience with scripting these things.

  30. #30 Steve
    April 3, 2009

    “Can you communicate the most important idea in biology, and one of the most controversial ideas in our society, in a mere 120 seconds?”

    Well, first I would point out that evolution isn’t an idea..

  31. #31 Woody
    April 3, 2009

    Posted by: Hakobus | April 3, 2009 2:51 PM

    Damn, the contest is only open for residents of the US and Canada :(

    you can send yours to me and I’ll front you my address…New Mexico IS a state, iirc,…

  32. #32 Bill Dauphin
    April 3, 2009

    NewEnglandBob (@10):

    Once again, the dumbing down of America by pandering to short videos instead of comprehensive scholarly works.

    What is this “instead of” of which you speak?

    zaardvark (@18):

    Aw, no prize.

    I see KemaTheAtheist has beaten me to this, but it bears repeating: Being chosen by PZ should be prize enough.

  33. #33 Christopher
    April 3, 2009

    @32:

    “I see KemaTheAtheist has beaten me to this, but it bears repeating: Being chosen by PZ should be prize enough.”

    It depends. Is being chosen by PZ the designation that the winner shall be first or last to be the victim of the cepholapod overlords?

  34. #34 Rosie Redfield
    April 3, 2009

    The Vancouver Evolution Festival is running a similar contest, but open only to undergraduate students. We haven’t had many submissions yet, so if you’re in college in British Columbia we’d love to hear from you.

  35. #36 kryptonic
    April 3, 2009

    Off Topic, but have you seen the awesome Barack Hussein Action Figures over at HuffingtonPost?

  36. #37 JackC
    April 3, 2009

    If I can figure out the Video software (I am NOT a video wiz here, more like a video whizz…), I just might take a crack at this. Here is my plan

    120 seconds
    30 fps
    3600 total frames
    One frame per text “presentation”
    yeah – I just might be able to make it fit…

    Won’t be much to watch though. Probably make you sick.

    Hey! Maybe that is a “feature” :-)

    JC

  37. #38 Left_Wing_Fox
    April 3, 2009

    Hmm, I have some time to kill while waiting for work to start again, maybe I can animate this. :)

  38. #39 bobxxxx
    April 3, 2009

    Think you can convince even the most hard-headed creationist that Darwin was right?

    That’s impossible. If a creationist was able to understand anything, he or she would have thrown out magical creation a long time ago. Stupid can’t be fixed.

  39. #40 Bruce Gee
    April 3, 2009

    Here’s how I would do it if I had the means, a degree in biology, and access to good pictures.

    I wouldn’t even use any words.

    The whole anti-evo argument hinges on one point: that one of what they call “kinds” could not be related to another “kind.”

    Just show a fossil recreation of the skeleton of an early mammal. Then show two sequences, side by side, of two different sets of descendents of that skeleton — say, from different areas. Each fossil should clearly show kinship to the one before it and the one after it, so that any idiot can see the direct descent.

    Finally, at the end, are two obviously different species, like squirrels and racoons or horses and camels. Wouldn’t that do it?

  40. #41 Bruce Gee
    April 3, 2009

    Here’s how I would do it if I had the means, a degree in biology, and access to good pictures.

    I wouldn’t even use any words.

    The whole anti-evo argument hinges on one point: that one of what they call “kinds” could not be related to another “kind.”

    Just show a fossil recreation of the skeleton of an early mammal. Then show two sequences, side by side, of two different sets of descendents of that skeleton — say, from different areas. Each fossil should clearly show kinship to the one before it and the one after it, so that any idiot can see the direct descent.

    Finally, at the end, are two obviously different species, like squirrels and racoons or horses and camels. Wouldn’t that do it?

  41. #42 zaardvark
    April 3, 2009

    @Bill Dauphin, #32

    Where does it say PZ is judging? Or are you assuming he’ll name his favourite, and everyone will flock to vote for it? Doesn’t seem likely…

    Priiiiiiiizes please.

  42. #43 NewEnglandBob
    April 3, 2009

    Bill Dauphin @32:

    I can cite a dozen books that superbly represent evolution:

    Why Evolution Is True By Jerry A. Coyne

    Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body By Neil Shubin

    The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design By Richard Dawkins

    The Selfish Gene By Richard Dawkins

    Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life By Daniel Dennett

    Those are at the top of my list.

  43. #44 Kel
    April 3, 2009

    I just might do this, it should be an interesting challenge.

  44. #45 Bill Dauphin
    April 3, 2009

    zaardvark:

    Where does it say PZ is judging?

    Did you click through to the actual contest announcement? I assume PZ didn’t mention it only because of his well known excessive modesty.

    NewEnglandBob:

    I can cite a dozen books that superbly represent evolution:

    Well, that was pretty much my point: These short videos you seem to decry won’t be “instead of” anything, but rather in addition to the “superb” works you mention.

  45. #46 Riman Butterbur
    April 3, 2009

    If anyone takes up P. M. Magazin on its P.M.-DARWIN-Rätsel offer, please let me know how it turned out.

    (I’m not going to try, myself; German is my 4th language.)

  46. #47 Mikael Seamus
    April 3, 2009

    Hi guys, and mr Myers. I just wanted to point out a small error in your post.

    “most controversial ideas in our society”

    Was the line that disturbed me. You see,I do not live in a Third World Country like you do Mr Myers (United States), but a highly advanced and civilized society (European one), and there is no “controversial” thing about the fact about evolution….

    Only in United States and some other, rare, third world backwards nations. Reason I am pointing this out? Well, please, make a distinction between your pathetic, violent and backwards nation, and the rest of the world. Actually, I have been to third world countries where they are aware of evolution very well, Americans, on the other hand, are way waaaay behind.

    Education education education, thats whats needed. Other then that, enjoy your blog.

  47. #48 NewEnglandBob
    April 3, 2009

    Bill Dauphin @ 45:

    Don’t kid yourself, most people have the attention span of a fruit fly. If they have a 2 minute video then that is all they will watch.

    How many people read a computer manual when there is short online help available? Even when they know the better information is available.

    Maybe the video should be a talking head listing the deep scholarly treatises on the topic.

  48. #49 bobxxxx
    April 3, 2009

    #47:

    Well, please, make a distinction between your pathetic, violent and backwards nation, and the rest of the world.

    Mikael Seamus, as an American I have to agree with you. Most of our population believes in angels, devils, and other childish nonsense, while only 14% of our population accepts evolution without invoking a magic fairy to guide it. We really are one of the most backward countries in the world.

  49. #50 Defaithed
    April 3, 2009

    “Think you can convince even the most hard-headed creationist that Darwin was right? ”

    But… Darwin was *wrong*! New Scientist magazine said so!

    : /

  50. #51 Bill Dauphin
    April 4, 2009

    NewEnglandBob (@48):

    Well, hell, Bob… if your going-in position is basically “people suck,” then it hardly matters how you talk to them, does it?

    I’m not quite that cynical, though. The people who would never pick up a book because there was a 2-minute video available would’ve never picked up the book in the first place… but some of the people who see the video might get inspired to pick up a book afterwards.

    There’ve been fears that “new media” would wipe out reading ever since Marconi, but it hasn’t happened yet. If you walk into a Borders or Barnes & Noble sometime and take a look at all the new product on their shelves… and the lines at the cash registers… you’ll know it isn’t happening now, either.

    Ahh, but it’s always going to be easier for some people to believe that “people suck,” isn’t it?

  51. #52 blf
    April 4, 2009

    Video? Video? What’s with this new-fangled transient crap? It’s got no staying power, the noise disturbs the neighbours, and you can’t even clean up the dog mess with it. The contest should be using proper multimedia. Papyrus. With coloured inks. Practical, hard-wearing, quiet, and environmentally friendly.

  52. #53 rufustfirefly
    April 4, 2009

    When creationists say things like “there is no evidence that would make me accept evolution because it would make my God a liar”; or they’re on a mission trip to Kenya and see a “monkey” with its face in another monkey’s ass and say “I’m not related to that”, what’s the use of a two minute video?

  53. #54 blf
    April 4, 2009

    ?what’s the use of a two minute video?

     * Sharpen the edges on the CD and honourably disembowel yourself?

     * Job creation for unemployed electrons?

     * Keeps filmmakers and other dangerous critters off the streets?

  54. #55 Theropod-X
    April 4, 2009

    This mostly guarantees professionals won’t enter:

    “you will not post your submission on any other website, or otherwise publicly perform, distribute or display your submission, without the express permission of Sponsor”

  55. #56 JMk2
    April 4, 2009

    I almost agree with some of the other commentators here that this is a pointless task – the man-in-the-street creationists I’ve met seem to think that the response “Evolution is a lie of your father the Devil” is an end to any attempt at instruction. (Guess it’s just a theological way of saying “La, la, la, I’m not listening”!) They then ask you to read some verses or a chapter of the Bible. I’ve never known quite what to do in this situation. I’ve tried “I’ve read that [true] – what evidence do you have that this is not simply mythology?” The usual response is an impassioned evidence-free plea for the safety of my “immortal soul”, accompanied by much emotional blackmail – a hand being placed on my shoulder, much use of my forename, offers of emotional security in their church etc, and finally threats of “hell” when that has no effect. Their technique would often make an espionage interrogator proud. The whole “heaven” or “hell” thing seems simply to be a game of “good cop/bad cop”, in fact.

    The only response that I’ve found that works (or, at least, causes doubt-seeding confusion!) is to demonstrate that some particular just-presented point of their belief is an easily-verifiable misrepresentation – in a couple of cases, a demonstration that one of their preacher/antievolutionist heros has managed to misunderstand some point of science which they had been using to support their evangelism. I think that more such instructional videos would be of great use if well enough done and widely propagated. (There are some I’ve seen aired here already.) The creationists I’ve met have been very righteous – show them that they’ve been lied to, and their world-view takes a big hit. You’ll never get a creationist to spend a relatively long time reading a “devilish” book, but you might just catch them with a short video.

  56. #57 Alec
    April 4, 2009

    I don’t know about a 2-minute video, but it can be explained in a 2-sentence comment:
    1. All animals have parents.
    2. The animals that lived on the earth in the past were different to the ones that live here now.

  57. #58 Dentroman
    April 6, 2009

    I’m on it! Sounds fun actually!
    DENTROMAN

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