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PBS vs. Creationists: A fight over our fishy ancestors

PBS vs. Creationists: A fight over our fishy ancestors

If you think Neil deGrasse Tyson’s discussion of the Big Bang, the origins of life, and scientific method in Fox’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has pissed off creationists, just wait for the inevitable uproar over a taxpayer-funded documentary miniseries that asks viewers to contemplate their own evolution.

Your Inner Fish, based on the eponymous bestselling book by paleontologist and anatomy professor Neil Shubin, aims to answer one question: Why do we look the way we do? Shubin, who also narrates the series, is the discoverer of the Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old “fish with hands” that many paleontologists cite as a crucial snapshot of Earth evolution. According to Shubin in the trailer for the series, which premieres tonight on PBS, “If you really want to see why you’re built the way you are, it’s time to meet your inner fish.”

By examining long-dead fossils and human DNA, Shubin aims to show viewers that our anatomy isn’t so different from that of our ocean-dwelling ancestors: human hands actually resemble fish fins, our inner ears aren’t that dissimilar from gills, and some of our genomes are no more complex than those of ancient worms. Shubin’s professorial exuberance about his subject, paired with the show’s lavish 3-D animations of long-dead creatures from the deep, may offer slick competition to Fox’s Cosmos reboot, but at least one audience may prove resistant to Shubin’s bookish charms: creationists.

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