Posted on July 03, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 2007, the philosopher Mary Midgley published a pamphlet entitled Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems (PDF) with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Prompted by controversies over the teaching of evolution in both the United States and Britain, she sought, as she explains, to address problems “about the current promotion of Intelligent Design Theory,” to consider them in a broader historical context, and to offer a few suggestions “about the best way for schools to handle problems such as those presented by Intelligent Design Theory” (p. 2). Now, in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) of Midgley’s pamphlet in the Journal of Philosophy of Education, the philosopher Nicholas Everitt writes that although “I expected to find myself in substantial agreement with what Midgley says … having examined [the pamphlet], I find that I disagree with much that it claims” (p. 1). What could be more blogworthy than a philosophical kerfuffle over creationism?

Posted on July 02, 2014 * Comments

Buzz Aldrin paused and looked out over the audience.

buzz aldrin

It was July 25, 2009, just five days after the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On that day four decades earlier, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became, with one small thud on the lunar surface, the first humans ever to land on something that wasn’t Earth.

Posted on July 01, 2014 * Comments

From Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1524 via Wikimedia Commons

There was a minor anniversary recently: June 19, 2014, was the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in the public schools. I opened the box of materials in NCSE’s archives on the Edwards case to see if there was anything interesting, and what should I find but a list of prospective witnesses ... from McLean v. Arkansas, a similar case decided by a federal district court in 1982. Whoops. But the list was interesting anyhow.

Posted on June 30, 2014 * Comments

In Part 1 of this post, I introduced this new series, Misconception Monday, and let you in on the secret to my misconception know-how: student test papers. In this conclusion, I want to get into some ways that this misconception, that natural selection eliminates all bad variations, could be tackled, or even headed-off, in the classroom.

Posted on June 30, 2014 * Comments

This is going to be the first in what I hope will be a series of posts devoted to common misconceptions about evolution, climate change, and the nature of science. I’ve already talked about one of the most pervasive evolution misconceptions, that evolution occurs to serve a particular purpose, but there are oh so many more out there that I thought it’d be worth the electrons to dig into a few.

Posted on June 30, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I presented you with a tricky identification task. This egg-shaped rock was far afield from the jaws, spines and shells you've been used to.

So what was this unique rock? It was a dinosaur gastrolith from the late Jurassic!

What is a gastrolith?

From the UCMP:

Posted on June 27, 2014 * Comments

Last week’s winner of Fossil Friday, GrizzlyD, requested that we do a pseudofossil this week.

“I work at a museum and have to crush many hopes of ‘dinosaur eggs’ that are just round rocks,” he said.

But why would I give you a pseudofossil, when I have a giant archive of real fossils to work from?

Posted on June 26, 2014 * Comments

Historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, authors of Merchants of Doubt, have written a new book as ambitious as it is concise. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future is told from the perspective of a Chinese historian several centuries in the future, looking back at our current time and attempting to explain to readers the irrationality of our behavior. In the manner of Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale—a novel that explores a future world overrun with religious fundamentalism—Collapse uses fiction to deliver serious, thought-provoking insight that should spark much discussion.

Posted on June 26, 2014 * Comments

William Jennings Bryan (1902)

In a so far successful effort to avoid having to unpack a bunch of boxes that are cluttering my office at the moment, I’m talking about four scientists cited in a footnote in William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922), evidently to support Bryan’s assertion, “If Darwin had described his doctrine as a guess instead of calling it an hypothesis, it would not have lived a year.”

Posted on June 24, 2014 * Comments

Did former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, and retired hedge fund-turned climate action advocate Tom Styer–the three musketeers behind the just-published Risky Business report–ever see the 1983 movie Risky Business?