Biology professor faces off with Colbert—again

Shubin promotes his latest book on the Comedy Central program.

By Adam Shuboy

Associate Dean of the Biological Sciences Neil Shubin appeared on The Colbert Report for the second time on Wednesday night and delivered a lecture the next evening at the Seminary Co-Op to promote his latest popular science book, The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People.

In his first book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, Shubin drew on the relationship between fish and human anatomies in order to illuminate the phenomenon of evolution to readers. At the Co-Op, Shubin said that in The Universe Within, he wanted to go even deeper than he had in his previous book and delineate the relationship between living creatures and stardust.

Shubin first appeared on The Colbert Report to promote his first book five years ago. The publication date of his newest book, The Universe Within, was moved up one week to coincide with his latest appearance on the show.

Shubin planned his appearance carefully. “I wanted to get science across and not just be a guest,” he said.

Drawing an analogy between the experience of conversing with Colbert and playing a chess game, Shubin explained that a degree of strategy and preparation was necessary in order to get key points across about the science behind his book. Prepared with “20-second sound bites,” he acted on the lessons he learned the first time around.

Appearing on The Colbert Report provides the kind of opportunity Shubin cites as his motivation for penning the books he does. He said that writing popular science books lets him address “the disconnect between what I and my colleagues take for granted and what many people in the general public take as utterly bizarre,” he said.