We have been reviewing a recent podcast by VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, and his co-hosts. Recall, Phil had made a number of false claims about Ken Ham and the history of biblical creation. We will continue our analysis of his claims here. The comments of Phil and other co-hosts are in purple text, with my response in black.
Phil: In 1695, a guy named John Woodward came up with a more specific theory which was that the Genesis Flood… created, like melted all of the rocks into a slurry, and this big slurry of melted rocks, like dissolved rocks, then covered up all the living things, and then hardened, and that’s where all the fossils came from.
Lisle: I don’t think Woodward believed that the flood “melted all of the rocks.” But he did seem to understand that the global flood killed land animals and then covered them in sediment which hardened into rock. Hence, the global flood is responsible for the majority of fossils we see on earth today. Although most modern creation scientists would not agree with some of the details of Woodward’s model, the basic premise is sound.
Christian: Okay, that sounds a little bit more crazy or far-fetched than the one before.
Lisle: Why? Even secular geologists would agree that the sedimentary rock layers in which fossils are found resulted from sediment deposited primarily by water; the sediment then hardened into rock. The only difference between the creationist view and the secular view is whether this happened relatively quickly or slowly over millions of years. But if the rock layers were deposited slowly over millions of years, how could they have fossils in them? How could a dead organism avoid decay if it were exposed to environmental forces for millions of years, taking that long to eventually be covered by sediment?
There is nothing far-fetched about sediment hardening into rock. In fact, we can repeat this process today. Concrete is basically artificial sedimentary rock. It is deposited as a quasi-liquid slurry and then hardens, trapping anything that is caught within it.
Christian: Well was there any science behind that theory?
Phil: No. No, this is the 1600s.
Lisle: Although we have much more scientific evidence today in support of Woodward’s basic idea (that fossils formed as a result of sediment deposited by flood waters which hardened into rock), there was considerable scientific evidence even at that time, despite Phil’s claim to the contrary. For example, the vast majority of fossils are of water-dwelling organisms, and yet they are found on land far away from any sea. Fossilized seashells have even been found on mountains. That is certainly consistent with a global flood, and this was well known even in the 1600s. In studying the differences between ordinary wood and petrified wood, Robert Hooke proposed the hypothesis that petrified wood began as ordinary wood that had been soaked with water impregnated with stony particles. He then proposed that fossil sea shells were formed from ordinary sea shells by a similar mechanism. So, even the process of fossilization was beginning to be scientifically understood. So, yes, even in the late 1600s, there was scientific support for the global flood as the explanation for the majority of fossiliferous sedimentary rock layers.
Phil: Now in the 1700s, modern science of geology starts developing. The word ‘geology’ is used for the first time. People are still, and again these are largely clergy that are doing this work.
Lisle: Some were clergy. Some were not. Woodward, for example, wasn’t. However, most of the founding fathers of the various disciplines of science were Christians. This is not a coincidence. The Christian worldview makes sense of science, justifying the scientific method on the basis that God upholds His creation in a rational and orderly way, provides the moral framework for conducting ethical research, and provides the motivation to do science as the study of God’s creation and in order to more effectively fulfill the dominion mandate. This is why science developed so quickly, largely in the Christian West.
Phil: People [in the 1700s] are still using the Genesis flood as something that reshaped the earth.
Lisle: That’s true, for many of them. Wouldn’t it be foolish to do otherwise? Imagine you wanted to learn all that you could about the American Civil War. But then, for some strange reason, you decide that you will not consult any history books in your research. You examine only physical evidence available in the present, but no written records. Is it likely that your reconstruction of the past will be highly accurate? The Bible states that the flood did indeed reshape the earth, utterly destroying all air-breathing land animals (Genesis 7:20-23), and pushing up mountains and opening up valleys (Psalm 104:8). A rational person does not dismiss a reliable source of information. And there is no source of information more reliable than God’s Word.
Phil: But as they’re looking at the layers and the layers upon layers, many are concluding one flood couldn’t do all of this. So maybe it was a series of cataclysmic events, that the Noah flood was the last one.
Lisle: Indeed, some people moved to that position. And here is a question I would ask Phil and everyone else to ponder. Why did some people conclude that “one flood couldn’t do all this?” Hint: it was not for scientific reasons. This is an important question because we need to understand the underlying reasons why the Church began to drift away from the clear teaching of Scripture. Many people today have the impression that it was because of scientific evidence. But that is not so.
And what about the science? If each layer of strata was the result of a cataclysm, with millions of years between cataclysms, then how could we account for polystratic fossils? These are fossils that span multiple strata. Polystratic trees for example pass through two or more layers of strata. Now, if the upper layer of strata had been deposited millions of years after the lower layer, then the top of the tree would have been exposed to the environment for eons, and would not have been preserved. Polystratic fossils are consistent with the position that the bulk of fossiliferous geological strata were deposited within a relatively short time – as in the global flood.
Phil: So a lot of Christian scientific thinkers moved away in the late 1700s to early 1800s, moved away from thinking the world was literally as young as, you know, …
Lisle: As the Bible teaches?
Phil: …a surface reading of Genesis says so. We need more time or more cataclysms.
Lisle: Ah, a “surface” reading of Genesis. What about an exegetical reading of Genesis? Phil seems to be implying that only a superficial reading of Genesis would lead us to believe in a young earth, but that a more careful and rigorous analysis would suggest otherwise. If so, I challenge him to produce such an analysis. I have read many, many articles and books by people who want to make Genesis allow for long ages, but their arguments always contain logical fallacies and hermeneutical errors. See, for example, my book Understanding Genesis, where I deal with many of these claims especially in chapters 11 and 12. In reality, a careful, exegetical study of Genesis reveals that the text really does mean what it says! See for example, Dr. Steven Boyd’s research on this topic.
Please note that Phil has conceded that at least a surface reading of Genesis indicates a young earth. One of the most important rules of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) is that the text means precisely what it states (it is literal) unless there are grammatical or contextual reasons to take it otherwise. Apart from this principle, communication would be impossible! Think about it. If the literal meaning is not the default position, then how could we correctly interpret anything? When Phil says, “It’s a recent movement”, perhaps we should interpret him to mean “Put broccoli in your ears!” Nor will it help for Phil to clarify by saying, “No I meant what I said literally,” because we could interpret this second statement to mean “the gorilla flies backward at night.”
Please also note that Phil mentions that in the late 1700s to early 1800s “a lot of Christian scientific thinkers moved away” from the young earth position. This shows that he recognizes young earth creation as the older / original position of the Church. But wasn’t he earlier attempting to argue that this whole young earth creation thing is “surprisingly recent?” He can’t have it both ways.
Phil: “This was, uh, flood geology said now you need multiple floods, and the Noah flood was just the last one.
Lisle: Actually, this view is normally called catastrophism, not flood geology. The term flood geology is generally reserved for the interpretation that virtually all Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata (and perhaps some Cenozoic) were deposited during the one global flood described in Genesis 6-8, or during its recession. Some of the catastrophists, however, did indeed believe that Noah’s flood was merely the last of several global catastrophes, which may have been separated by ages, implying an earth that is older than the biblical record allows.
An important question to ponder is, “what is the reason that some academics began to think that the Genesis flood couldn’t possibly deposit all those rock layers?” What kind of testable, repeatable, scientific experiment had been done to establish this? Well, of course, there is none. It was based on worldly philosophy. Not on science. Certainly not on Scripture. It was the philosophy that drove the interpretation of the evidence.
In any case, today we know better. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it laid down many new layers of sediment, some of which are now rock. The same volcano produced a massive displacement of water in the nearby Spirit Lake, and cut through these sediment layers, forming a canyon about 1/50 to 1/40 the scale of the Grand Canyon. And yet this was just one rather small volcano. Whereas the Bible says of the global flood that all the fountains of the great deep burst forth (Genesis 7:11) – perhaps a reference to all underwater volcanos erupting. There was more than enough energy to move continents, to raise mountains (Psalm 104:8), and to produce the bulk of fossiliferous strata.
The great flood was far more devastating than many people imagine. In fact, the Bible does not use the normal word for “flood” (shetef) to describe what happened in Noah’s day. Rather, it uses the Hebrew word “mabbul” which indicates a devastating cataclysm. Many Bibles translate “mabbul” here as “flood,” which of course was the form of the cataclysm. And this is why many English Bibles contain the seemingly redundant phrase “flood of water” (Genesis 6:17, 7:6). It was in fact a cataclysm of water, which covered all the high mountains under the sky (Genesis 7:19-20), and will never be repeated (Genesis 8:21-22, 9:11-13).
Phil: So by the 1800s… the idea of a young earth was largely rejected.
Lisle: That is false. The biblical timescale had certainly been challenged by this time in history, and many academics had abandoned it. But, as I mentioned previously, there were a number of geologists in the early 1800s that defended the biblical timescale, and interpreted the bulk of fossil-bearing strata as being the result of the one-and-only global flood of Genesis 6-8. These are sometimes called the Scriptural geologists. It would not be until around 1850 that old-earthism would become virtually unopposed in academia.
But the reason for this shift away from the biblical timescale had nothing to do with better exegesis, or better science. It was due to a change from biblical philosophy to deistic and secular philosophies. Many old-earth supporters were even open about their anti-biblical agenda. They did not believe that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and they were attempting to explain earth’s history without it, and in a way that openly contradicted the Bible. (Many Christians failed to see this agenda and uncritically accepted the secular/deist philosophies and interpreted the evidence and the Scriptures accordingly.)
Charles Lyell (1797-1875) maintained that his goal was to “free the science [of geology] from Moses.” Lyell further said, “the physical part of geological inquiry ought to be conducted as if the Scriptures were not in existence.” This philosophy is called methodological naturalism. It is anti-biblical, since Christians are to live by God’s Word (Matthew 4:4), and take captive all thoughts into obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Why would anyone ignore recorded history in their investigations in favor of speculation, particularly historical information recorded in the infallible Word of God? This wasn’t because Lyell took Genesis to be poetic. Rather, he took it to be wrong. He was a deist who promoted the unbiblical philosophies of uniformitarianism and methodological naturalism to justify his own unbelief and perhaps to persuade others. But it had nothing to do with scientific evidence. Lyell was not a trained scientist. He was a lawyer. And his philosophical speculations had no basis in actual fact or logic.
James Hutton (1726-1797) was likewise a deist, and the influence of his writings on Lyell is obvious. Hutton rejected the Bible, and instead proposed a cyclic view of earth’s past, in which continents were always eroding into the ocean, whose floor was constantly uplifted to produce new continents. He claimed, “The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning, – no prospect of an end.” But what scientific evidence was this view based on? Nothing! We cannot, by observation of present processes, conclude scientifically that they have always been that way or will always be that way. Even Steven J Gould (who is certainly not a creationist) can see this. He states, “Hutton did not draw his fundamental inferences from more astute observations in the field, but by imposing on the earth, à priori, the most pure and rigid concept of time’s cycle ever presented in geology…”
And there were others. These deists and secularists knew exactly what they were doing. They rejected the Bible, and began challenging the history recorded in Scripture by proposing alternative speculations based on their philosophies. But they presented their speculations as science, and this intimidated many Christians, even those who were knowledgeable of geology. Thus, even many Christian geologists began to compromise with such anti-biblical philosophies. They found unorthodox (and non-exegetical) ways to read Genesis so that they could justify not believing the text as written, and eventually the gap theory and day-age theory became popular. And the young earth creation that had been a staple of the Church throughout its long history, was largely abandoned by academics in the 1850s.
Phil: 1820s that started, the notion of flood geology started to become criticized for example by Pastor John Fleming of the Church of Scotland who said, “Why do we find tropical animals and plants, that we only find in the tropics day, fossilized in the north? Way, way up in the north?”
Lisle: Actually, that’s perfectly consistent with flood geology, and any rational person knows the answer to this question. “Because the north wasn’t cold when those fossils were deposited!” The Genesis flood destroyed the world, and therefore the conditions after the flood were not the same as they were prior to the flood. The Bible teaches that environmental conditions have not always been what they are now. Recall that the land in and around Sodom was lush and well-watered at the time of Abraham (Genesis 13:10-12), whereas today it is a desert.
So, there is no problem there. However, the detailed answer would not occur until the late 1850’s when the creationist Antonio Snider-Pellegrini proposed that the continents had moved during the Genesis flood. He supposed that since, in Genesis 1, God gathered the water together into one place (Genesis 1:9), that the land must also be in one place; that is, all the continents were connected, forming a single supercontinent. Snider-Pellegrini also recognized that the awesome power of the Genesis flood would be sufficient to push the land apart into separate continents. This explains why the pre-flood climate was so different from today’s climate, as reflected in the fossil record. It also explains similar fossils being found in certain strata correlating on different continents. Plate tectonics is an important aspect of flood geology. Incidentally, the secular geologists largely rejected plate tectonics and continental drift until the latter half of the 20th century, and only after slowing the rates to be compatible with deep time.
Phil: The Genesis flood could not possibly have moved tropical plants from the tropics to the north and then reburied them there.
Lisle: That’s not the creationist claim. Actually, the flood moved entire continents, and their new configuration produced a different climate. The basic mechanism for this was understood by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini in the late 1850s, and today we have detailed computer simulations demonstrating that this is indeed possible. See, for example, the research of Dr. John Baumgardner. Therefore, creation scientists today recognize that the landmass of the earth before the flood had a largely tropical and sub-tropical climate throughout. By the way, since the latter half of the 20th century, secular geologists have come to accept (a slowed-down version of) plate tectonics, and therefore now agree with the creationists’ explanation of tropical fossils in non-tropical locations; they just disagree with the timescale.
Phil: He pointed out things like, like, things like woolly mammoths. We never find their fossils in the tropics.
Lisle: That’s what biblical creationists would expect since woolly mammoth fossils are post-flood. The continents already had approximately their current configuration by the time of the ice age that followed for several centuries after the global flood. We now understand in great detail why woolly mammoth fossils are found where they are, how these creatures went extinct, and how this follows naturally from the aftermath of the global flood. In fact, it is the deep-time advocates that have no feasible model for the cause and end of the ice age. The global flood of Genesis 6-8 naturally accounts for the ice age that followed, as demonstrated in Mike Oard’s treatise on this topic: An Ice Age caused by the Genesis Flood.
So none of these objections are actually problems for flood geology. They might have seemed that way in the early to mid-1800s, but that’s the point! Whenever people make arguments based on ignorance (e.g., “I don’t see how the global flood could do this or that”), advances in science often refute such arguments. This is always the case when people argue against the Bible. The collective knowledge of human beings is absolutely infinitesimal compared to God’s. And yet we have the audacity to say, “based on my (extremely limited) understanding of the (extremely limited) available evidence, the Bible (the inerrant Word of God) can’t possibly be right about this or that!” If you disagree with something that the Bible clearly teaches, you will have egg on your face. It’s just a question of when. We need to do as Job did: repent of our sins, fall on our knees, and admit that we cannot contend with the Almighty! (Job 40:2, 42:1-6).
Phil: Fleming, who was the Church of Scotland pastor, said, “The Genesis account of the flood is just too gentle to explain all of this.”
Lisle: I don’t know where he got the idea of the Genesis flood being too gentle, but it certainly wasn’t from the Bible! The Genesis flood involved the bursting forth of all the fountains of the great deep (Genesis 7:11). It covered the tallest mountains everywhere under the sky (Genesis 7:19-20). It destroyed all air-breathing land animals and people who were not on the ark (Genesis 7:21-23). It raised mountains and deepened valleys (Psalm 104:8). It utterly destroyed the world that then existed (2 Peter 3:6)! It was so cataclysmic that the Bible uses a different word (mabbul – meaning cataclysm) than what is normally used to describe a flood (shetef). The flood was not gentle.
Phil: Because as the flood waters receded, a dove could fly out and find an olive tree, and come back with a branch. And if the Genesis flood was so violent… how on earth would olive trees survive through that cataclysm to still be there for the dove?
Lisle: Did you catch the false assumption? “How would olive trees survive?” They didn’t! This is another argument from ignorance that is easily answered by anyone who knows anything about biology. Many trees have the capacity to sprout a new tree from a cutting of the original, and olive trees are particularly good at this. The wood from olive trees is especially tough and resistant to rot. The global flood ripped up many trees and plants which have a tendency to collect into floating mats. So a branch from an olive tree can easily survive on one of these mats until it is deposited on soil after the flood. At that point it takes root, and olive trees grow quickly for the first few years before slowing. Given their hardiness, their resistance to rot, and their ability to grow relatively quickly from a cutting, olive trees would be among the first trees to repopulate the earth after the global flood.
Therefore, if the Genesis flood was indeed global, and a dove was sent out afterwards, we might expect the first leaf/branch of a new sapling tree would be that of an olive tree. When you understand science, you see that such evidence confirms the Bible.
Phil: So, by 1830 everyone had abandoned flood geology…
Lisle: That is false. There were still Scriptural geologists at that time who defended the literal history of Genesis including the global flood.
Phil: …because we were also now learning about ice ages and glaciation.
Lisle: So? The ice age and glaciation are perfectly consistent with flood geology; in fact, they require it! Conversely, it is the secular geologists who have no consistent, feasible, physical mechanism for producing an ice age. They tend to appeal to the now debunked Milankovitch cycles., The only way to get an ice age that is consistent with known principles of physics and meteorology is a global flood. We have covered this before. But let’s briefly revisit why an ice age can only occur in the aftermath of a global flood.
First, what exactly was the ice age? Many people have the false impression that the entire earth was a frozen snowball during the ice age. But that is not so. There were places on the earth that had tropical temperatures even during the peak of the ice age. So what do we mean when we talk about an ice age? We refer to a time when the earth was far more covered in glaciers than it is today. Today, the earth is about 10% covered in ice. During the ice age, it was 30% covered with ice. So, how did the earth attain such conditions?
Many people have the impression that if the earth were sufficiently cooled, you would get an ice age. But that isn’t the case; you would simply get a cold earth. To have an ice age you need ice! However, colder global temperatures reduce precipitation, and therefore you get less snowfall, and less ice. Warmer global temperatures won’t do the trick either because of course more of the ice melts. How do you get increased snowfall, and retain the ice more efficiently than earth does today? The answer is the aftermath of the global flood.
During the flood, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth (Genesis 7:11). We think this is a reference to oceanic volcanos that were triggered as plate tectonics began to split the original supercontinent into the separate continents we have today. As the plates moved, this generated extremely high temperatures on the ocean floor, warming the ocean. At some hot spots, the water may have vaporized in jets which then fell back to earth as rain. The volcanos ejected aerosols into the atmosphere, blocking a fraction of the sunlight. So, when the flood ended, the ocean would have been very warm. On the other hand, aerosols in the atmosphere block a small fraction of sunlight; this reduces the temperature of the land. Since water has a much higher specific heat than land, it is less affected. The overall result: warm oceans and cool continents.
The warm ocean water evaporates efficiently. The warm, moist air then moves over the cooler continents. As the air cools, it cannot retain as much moisture. And precipitation occurs. Glaciers would build up rapidly. Furthermore, these effects combined to produce very mild seasons – relatively cool summers and relatively warm winters. Cool summers give less time for glaciers to melt, and warm winters result in greater snowfall, resulting in an ice age. These conditions would have persisted for several centuries after the global flood, well into the time of Abraham, Lot, and Job.
Note that this explains why the climate was different at that time period. The land around Sodom was lush and well-watered at the time (Genesis 13:10-12), although it is a desert today. The book of Job contains more references to snow and ice than any other. And this is likely because Job was alive during the peak of the ice age.
Phil: Maybe it was actually glaciers that moved all those boulders and carved things, and not the draining of the water from the Genesis flood.
Lisle: No. Some features are a result of glaciers, and others are not. Many lines of evidence for catastrophic flooding occur in parts of the world that never experienced glaciation. And many features produced by the flood cannot have been produced by glaciers, such as the geologic column, or the Grand Canyon. Moreover, only a global flood can produce the conditions necessary for the glaciation that occurred during the ice age. Hence, glaciers are themselves evidence of the global flood.
Phil: So, by, basically by 1840, flood geology had disappeared.
Lisle: Previously Phil had claimed that by 1830 everyone had abandoned flood geology. Here he says 1840. This too is wrong. There were still Scriptural geologists at that time, as Dr. Terry Mortenson has demonstrated in his doctoral research. It wasn’t until around 1850 that flood geology was largely abandoned, at least in academia. That’s not to say that all Christians had abandoned the idea. God always retains a number of believers who will not bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4). But young earth creation as described in Genesis was no longer acceptable in the university. What most people fail to recognize is the reason why.
Many people have the false impression that scientific discoveries were responsible for the shift away from a literal, historical Genesis. Even Phil seems to have this impression. But as we have seen, the scientific discoveries regarding fossils, glaciers, and the ice age only serve to confirm biblical creation, and challenge the secular view. Of course, our knowledge of these lines of evidence is much greater today than it was then. But there was not then (nor is there now) any actual evidence for deep time, or evidence against the global flood. The shift away from biblical thinking had nothing to do with science.
It had everything to do with philosophy. Uniformitarianism was catching on. This is the belief that most of earth’s features were produced under the relatively slow, gradual processes we observe today. Methodological naturalism was becoming fashionable; this is the belief that we should pretend the Bible doesn’t exist when doing science. Remember Lyell’s goal was to free the science of geology from Moses. He did not believe the Bible and his goal was to convince people of an alternative history of earth. He produced a story of earth’s history that attempted to explain geological evidence in light of his anti-biblical philosophies of uniformitarianism and naturalism.
But many Christians began to believe these deistic/naturalistic stories of earth’s past, without recognizing the underlying false assumptions. Not wanting to abandon the Bible entirely, they invented non-exegetical readings of the text in order to reconcile the Bible with these new popular deistic/naturalistic stories. This is how compromise occurs. Little by little, the Church began to abandon the authority of God’s Word, in favor of secular speculations about the past based on secular philosophy. The Bible warns us of the danger of embracing secular philosophy. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). What would come of this compromise?
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 Woodward believed that God initiated the flood by reducing the gravitational constant. Very few, if any, creationists today would agree with that idea.
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 Boyd, S., Statistical Determination of Genre in Biblical Hebrew: Evidence for an Historical Reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Vol II, 2005.
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 Lyell, Charles, in a letter written to George Poulett Scrope, June 14, 1830.
 Hutton, J., Theory of the Earth, 1788
 If we could, then I must be immortal and eternal. After all, I’ve never died before! Can we conclude, “therefore, I never will die in the future!” The processes in my body – the exchange of air in my lungs, the pumping of blood through my arteries and veins – can be observed in the present. But we cannot conclude that such processes have always existed. Nor can we conclude on the basis of science that they will continue forever into the future. For what possible repeatable experiment can be conducted in the present to test the past or future?
 Gould, S.J., Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time, 1987, p. 63
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 The reasons for this involve the ice age which happened after (and as a result of) the worldwide flood.
 I am not convinced that the text requires this explanation. But it certainly allows for it.
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 Students of logic will recognize that as the fallacy of the complex question. Namely, the question assumes a claim that is not established, e.g., “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
 We know this happens because a similar event (on a much smaller scale) occurred when Mount St. Helens erupted in the 1980s. The explosive force of the eruption uprooted trees and many of them were deposited in the nearby Spirit Lake. Vegetation tended to form into mats that floated on the lake.
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 Even today when a major volcano erupts, the global temperature of earth is reduced slightly in the months that follow due to reflection of sunlight by aerosols. We can reasonably conclude that this effect would have been much stronger during and after the flood if essentially all volcanos on earth had erupted.
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 It is sometimes possible to distinguish deposits that resulted from glaciers from deposits generated by moving water. The way particles fall out of suspension in moving water can result in sorted debris, whereas melting glaciers produce unsorted debris. However, unsorted debris can also form underwater, so careful examination and analysis are needed.
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