Posted on October 16, 2014 * Comments

Scene from Majomszínház (1925), via Wikimedia Commons

Yes, it’s true: I really ordered a used copy of a Hungarian play, Ferenc Herczeg’s Majomszínház (1925, although what I ordered was volume 11 of his selected works, also containing Árva László Király, published in 1934) from a used bookstore in Szeged, Hungary. (Köszönöm a segítséget to all at Antikvarium.hu!) And I did so just because—as I explained in part 1The New York Times for January 2, 1927, claimed that Herczeg “is probably the first playwright to utilize the celebrated Dayton trial as the theme for a play.”

Posted on October 14, 2014 * Comments

A few weeks back, blog-reader Anson Kennedy sent me an idea for a Well Said/Say What? The article in question, “Evolution’s Random Paths Lead To One Place,” describes the work of Dr. Michael Desai at Harvard University to perform large-scale evolution experiments on baker’s yeast. I re-read it today, and realized it would make a great companion to my Misconception Monday post on randomness (or lack thereof) in evolution.

Posted on October 14, 2014 * Comments

Ferenc Herczeg (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you were asked to provide a single adjective to describe the Scopes trial of 1925, you could do worse than to select dramatic.

Posted on October 13, 2014 * Comments

Last week, we started talking about a common misconception:

Misconception: Evolution is random.

for which I earlier offered a correction:

Correction: Evolution is neither entirely random nor entirely non-random.

This week, we'll look at other reasons why the course of evolution is far from a predetermined given and we'll discuss some strategies for tackling these concepts in the classroom.

Posted on October 13, 2014 * Comments

Last week I presented you with a pretty easy fossil, but in my defense you haven’t been the quickest in identifying plants in the past…

Posted on October 13, 2014 * Comments

Recently, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made news (briefly) when she endorsed climate change education.

Posted on October 10, 2014 * Comments

This week’s fossil may be way too easy to identify. It looks identical to something we see today—a winged samara (that is a fruit) from some…mystery…tree. The shape of the samara today helps the wind carry the seeds further, which one could guess was the purpose of this fossil back in the day as well. Dating from the Miocene, and found in what today is Nevada, can you tell me the genus AND species of this fossil?

Posted on October 09, 2014 * Comments

Working at NCSE inevitably leads to lots of discussion about the nature of science literacy. All of us, and just about all of our supporters and allies, are pretty passionate about promoting science literacy. And yet, when you start digging around, the whole question of what science literacy even is gets fuzzy.

Posted on October 09, 2014 * Comments

W. N. P. Barbellion, via Wikimedia Commons

In his pamphlet “Monkeyshines: Fakes, Fables, Facts Concerning Evolution” (1926), the creationist Harry Rimmer claims that he studied “under men who were strong believers in the theory of monkey ancestry of man,” yet “it is quite common today to meet folks who will say that the evolutionists never claimed that man was descended from the monkey family at all.” To refute these folks, as I explained in part 1, he cites “a noted authority, W. P. Barbellion,” who in fact is W. N. P. (for Wilhelm Nero Pilate) Barbellion, born Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889–1919), famous for his authorship of a diary he kept from the age of thirteen, eventually published as The Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919). What he was disappointed by was the fact that his early death loomed.

Posted on October 07, 2014 * Comments

W. N. P. Barbellion, via Wikimedia Commons

Not so long ago, when I was writing about the original Science League of America’s essay contest in 1925, I digressed in order to discuss a lawsuit launched in 1940 by William Floyd, the freethought writer who proposed the topic of the contest (“Why Evolution Should Be Taught in Our Schools Instead of the Book of Genesis”) and provided a prize of $50 for the best essay. The creationist Harry Rimmer, I explained, had offered first $100, and later $1,000, to anyone who could demonstrate a scientific error in the Bible. Floyd tried to claim the prize, citing five or fifty-one (accounts vary) such errors, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that Floyd had failed to prove that the advertisement with the challenge to which he responded was placed or approved by Rimmer.