In part 1, I introduced Henshaw Ward’s Evolution for John Doe (1925). Ward, a teacher of English turned science popularizer, claimed that for twenty years he sought a popular treatment of evolution to recommend to the curious, but without success. “Apparently biologists know so much of the details that they can not [sic] write a brief account of the whole theory.” Eventually, “I grew so desperate as to read a number of the standard works of evolution,” and his book attempts to present a digest of them, “as if I were telling a friend about the knowledge that is so new and imperfect in my mind.” The book was praised at the time—the New York Times Book Review described the book as “an interestingly sketchy and delightful ‘talk’ on evolution, written in a popular manner for John Doe, and as such is a real achievement”—but I’m interested in it on account of the first chapter, which not only lists what Ward takes to be misconceptions about evolution but also explains how the book attempts to defuse them. I want to work through Ward’s list in order.
A recent survey by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment found that only 16% Americans believe there is no solid evidence for global warming. Though good news for the public at large, there are still questions about how global warming is being addressed with students, the next generation of science-savvy citizens, particularly in the classroom and with the texts used there.
Last week I gave you a task: to identify this snail and tell me why it’s important. The task was made easier because I gave you a complete and straightforward photo. As I expected with such a savvy audience, you all got in the ballpark pretty darn quickly.
Here are some of the stories that caught NCSE’s eye this week. Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen in the comment section, or e-mail us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.
I’ve got a different kind of Fossil Friday for you this week—it’s different in that I’m not trying to hide anything. Here it is. All of it! It’s clearly a snail. But so what? Your mission: identify the genus and species, and explain why I went out of my way to photograph this particular specimen.
Recently, I was invited to the White House’s Back-to-School Climate Education Event. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), encouraged us educators to help our students understand the “dynamics of our planet”. Teaching climate science does just that.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I was visiting a used bookstore in Jackson, California, which happened to be having a sale. The sale induced me to buy a copy of Henshaw Ward’s popular exposition of evolution Evolution for John Doe (1925). John Doe, of course, is a common placeholder name in legal documents in the United States: Ward might have aimed his book at Joe Bloggs or John Q. Public or Joe Sixpack. But who was Henshaw Ward? According to the brief obituary in The New York Times for October 9, 1935, Charles Henshaw Ward was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1872. After attending Pomona College and Yale University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1899, Ward taught English in the Thacher School in Ojai, California, and then at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, from 1903 to 1922. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley after leaving the Taft School, according to the obituary; it’s not clear to me in what capacity, although I found evidence that he was teaching a summer session class to English teachers in 1924. He died in 1935.
Each year, in May, I have the distinct pleasure of serving as a volunteer judge for the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF). This year’s fair, which took place on May 1, was the most outstanding one yet for me. Each of the six projects I judged were stellar—one both figuratively and literally. I got a chance to chat with the student that knocked my dorky science socks off.
Pandemics make for great drama. No TV or movie season is complete without at least one viral apocalypse—preferably involving zombies—sweeping the globe. But pandemics aren’t just science fiction. They have happened—and perhaps will happen again. (For more, see “Breakthrough: Fighting Pandemics” November 1 at 9 p.m. (ET) on the National Geographic Channel.)