In August of 1924, Maynard Shipley—a science communicator and formerly a shoe salesman, music teacher, and criminologist—feared a creationist onslaught. A year before the Scopes monkey trial, Shipley saw that antievolutionists like William Jennings Bryan "have started their campaign against the theory of evolution with the avowed intent of putting in the place of science the Book of Genesis."* He sent forth a call to friends and compatriots who shared his concern, urging them to join him in establishing "The Science League of America."
The League ran out of Shipley's office in the Bay Area for over a decade, pursuing a mission eerily similar to that of today's National Center for Science Education. From our offices in Oakland, we too "go directly to the people by distribution of literature and by illustrated lectures, to make them acquainted with part at least of the vast accumulation of facts upon which the theory of evolution is based; and to oppose by every legitimate means the campaign to substitute the Book of Genesis for the Book of Nature."* Many of Shipley's essays and speeches sound not too different from NCSE's writings about evolution today. And if Shipley were working today, we have no doubt that he would join us in defending climate change education against denialist attacks.
We can think of no better way to honor Shipley's pioneering work than to resurrect his group's name (and artist Paula Spence's brilliant illustrations of the League at work). This blog's writers—NCSE staff and our friends and allies from the field—carry forward the dream of honest and thorough science education which motivated the founders of the Science League in the '20s and NCSE's founders in the '80s. We look forward to conversations with our readers and commenters about science, education, and attacks on science education around the world.
While we won't be bound by all of the rules governing Shipley's Science League of America (for instance, NCSE's membership is $35, not the $3 Shipley charged), I've pasted some of their by-laws below (from Shipley's scrapbook at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill library). Like its namesake, this blog's discussion is open to all, regardless of religion and politics. We expect a vigorous and respectful discussion, guided by an eye to the future we wish to see and the memory of those who came before us.
* Quoted from a fundraising letter in Shipley's scrapbook.