Posted on October 09, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, another exciting specimen from one of our top fossil commenters, Dan Phelps! Check it out:

Two clues again: this fossil is from the late Cretaceous, and its kind of smashed appearance is worth noting. Be the first to identify it in the comments, and win bragging rights for the week!

Posted on October 08, 2015 * Comments

Nobel Prize medal. (Via Wikimedia Commons, public domain in the US)On Monday, Tu Youyou, Satoshi Omura, and William Campbell were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, for their discoveries of the antimalarial artemisinin, and avermectin, a key part of treatment for the parasitic diseases river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

Posted on October 07, 2015 * Comments

Banksy, The Elephant in the Room (2006). Photograph: Bit Boy, via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license,, The Elephant in the Room (2006). Photograph: Bit Boy, via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license,

I was reading through Paul Johnson’s Darwin: Portrait of a Genius (2012) recently—not, I admit, with particularly high expectations. The reason was not just that there are plenty of excellent biographies of Darwin already, including Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (1992) and Janet Browne’s Charles Darwin: Voyaging (1995) and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002). The reason was also that knowledgeable historians of science panned the book as shoddy and tendentious. In The Historian, for example, John van Wyhe complained of Johnson’s retelling “traditional legends” and inventing new ones, noting that, in discussing Darwin’s supposed influence on eugenicism and imperialism, he offered “a guilt-by-association argument … normally made by creationists,” while in Reports of the NCSE, John M. Lynch similarly complained (PDF) of “strange things” claimed by Johnson and noted the “not very subtle attempt to engage in polemic and guilt by association.”

Posted on October 05, 2015 * Comments


Here’s another look at our specimen from last Friday.



Posted on October 02, 2015 * Comments

Official NCSE attire: lace jabot optional on Fridays In addition to staying on top of efforts to interfere with the teaching of evolution and climate change, we here at NCSE HQ try to follow the latest developments in evolutionary biology and climate change, and keep our eye on how scientific evidence is being represented in the media, public pronouncements, political campaigns, and elsewhere. It’s all part of trying to be as well-informed as we can about how challenges to established science may directly or indirectly trickle down into what students are being taught in school.

We have a habit of shooting e-mails around when something catches our eye: “hey, bloggers, did you see this? Someone should write about it!” But with fewer than a dozen people, we can’t cover everything in depth. So we thought we’d try something new. Every week, we’ll try to share with you some of the stories that caught our eyes. We’ll provide the links and a couple sentences about why we thought the story was cool. If someone did end up writing a whole post, we’ll link to that too.

Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen this week in the comment section, or to email us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.

Posted on October 02, 2015 * Comments

My NCSE colleagues insist that I disclose that I drink Diet Coke on a daily basis.

When is a charitable donation not a charitable donation? Well, I suppose all money comes with strings. But at what point do such strings—or maybe even the appearance of strings— nudge a donation out of the category of charity and into that of undue influence?

In an interesting article in The New York Times science section this week, “Coke Spends Lavishly to Sugar-Coat Science,” Anahad O’Connor explored the sticky implications of the $120 million that the Coca-Cola company recently reported donating to a series of extremely reputable non-profit organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American Cancer Society, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both the soda maker and the recipients firmly declare that the donations do not influence the policies or recommendations of the organizations that get the money. But no one can miss the disconnect between the rapidly accumulating scientific evidence that sugary sodas contribute significantly to the nation’s rising obesity rates and donations from the pre-eminent marketer of those sodas to organizations that people trust to give them objective information about health and diet.

Posted on October 02, 2015 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, I’m sharing the first of a series of specimens from one of our top fossil commenters, Dan Phelps. There are a lot of exciting fossils to explore in his collection. For the first, I’m going in a much different direction from my recent posts. I promise you, this is not a plant! Check it out, I left the scale marker next to it and everything. What is it? Two clues: Pleistocene; something common to most mammals.


Posted on October 01, 2015 * Comments

When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be? I tell you what I didn’t want to be. A “lady” scientist. Yesterday, I saw another example of a long line of things that tick me off: EDF Energy’s #PrettyCurious campaign. This is a program designed to promote science to teenage girls. You might ask why something so innocuous would make me angry. It’s because I hate this presumption that STEM stuff needs to be girlified to appeal to female people. Historically and perhaps presently, this has been a way of pushing women scientists into a corner.