I was reading Edward Caudill’s Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign against Evolution (2013) recently. I won’t say a lot about it here, because I’ve just sent a review of it to a magazine, but I’ll quote my description of it: “Edward Caudill contends that his Intelligently Designed distinctively emphasizes ‘the use of enduring cultural myths and the dexterous employment of mass media’ ... in explaining the success of the creationist movement, and further proposes that the Scopes trial of 1925 established a template for the ensuing developments.” Caudill is a former journalist, now professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, so the emphasis on media is unsurprising. But I was surprised to see him writing, on p. 17, “In 1922, the U.S. Senate went so far as to debate, but eventually reject, legislation to outlaw proevolution radio broadcasts.” Really?
I don’t spend all of my time working at NCSE. Once in a while, I moonlight. The fruits of a moonlighting stint recently arrived: a chunky volume entitled 1001 Ideas that Changed the Way We Think (2013), edited by Robert Arp.
Last Friday was the eighth anniversary of “Kitzmas,” the December, 20, 2005 ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case involving “intelligent design” creationism. Unless you’ve just stepped off the Beagle from your epic eight-year round-the-world expedition, you know that this ruling was an unequivocal victory for science.
’Twas the night before Kitzmas and all through the land,
No creationist was stirring, not even Ken Ham;
The briefs had been drafted and filed with great care,
In hopes that Judge Jones’s decision’d be fair;
The plaintiffs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While Bill of Rights visions ran round in their heads;
And Nick blogged for PT, and Vic played The Boss,
And fretted and fussed o’er the chance of a loss,
I encountered this week's fossil at the AGU conference in San Francisco. I love this peculiar specimen! Is it a plant? A seed? An animal? A fungus? Can you guess which era it dates from?
When you take a good look at it, the answer is so obvious it might sting! As always, the first person to identify it wins bragging rights for the week!
In mid-October three hundred people drowned when an overcrowded fishing boat sank offshore from the small Italian island of Lampedusa, midway between Malta and the North African coast of Tunisia. These were emigrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa seeking a better life in Europe. Living conditions in parts of Africa—already challenging because of overpopulation, drought, famine, disease, and warfare—are being made even more tenuous by climate change.
This past Sunday, my favorite advice columnist, The Ethicist (whose column appears in The New York Times), considered an intriguing question. A parent from Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote in, concerned that her daughter’s biology class had been asked to take a public action on climate change. The mother asked: “Is it ethical for the school to require students to speak publicly on a specific issue? Or even to give extra credit for doing so?
With the news that an expert review panel unanimously approved Pearson’s Biology textbook and rejected creationist criticisms of it, there was one last nagging mystery in the Texas textbook saga. I expected the book to be approved as written, having said it would take five minutes for reviewers to see that the complaints against the book were bogus.