There shouldn’t be anything shocking about the fact that William Jennings Bryan, the leader of the antievolution movement in the United States in the 1920s, misquoted Darwin.
When I had my first daughter, my good friend biologist and writer Joe Levine wrote me an email congratulating me on my fitness. He wasn’t the only one. With colleagues and friends gathered over a career in evolutionary biology, notes commenting on my successful passing on of my genes were pretty commonplace. (Note to Hallmark: There is a niche market here.) Now, carrying and birthing a child are definitely physical feats, but I can promise you, I was not at the time, nor am I now, nor will I ever be, someone that evokes pats on the back for embodying the classic, everyday definition of “fit.” So what gives? Well, like so many terms in evolution, there’s a special scientific meaning for “fitness,” and confusion between the common and scientific meanings causes a lot of misunderstanding. So let’s try to clear it up, shall we?
I was reading Clarence Darrow’s autobiography, The Story of My Life (1932), recently. It was engaging, although no doubt all of the obvious caveats about the objectivity and accuracy of autobiography apply. Three chapters are devoted to the Scopes case: chapter 29, “The Evolution Case,” which discusses the preparations for the trial; chapter 30, “Science versus Fundamentalism,” which runs from the beginning of the trial to Darrow’s calling William Jennings Bryan to the stand to testify on religion; and chapter 31, “The Bryan Foundation,” which discusses Bryan’s testimony, the verdict, and the appeal. None of that contained anything that was particularly novel to me. At the beginning of chapter 45, though, I found a further reference to Darrow’s interest in evolution that I hadn’t expected to see, although I should have remembered it from Ray Ginger’s Six Days or Forever? (1958), which mentions it briefly.
This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you another fossil from our Fossil Fan, Gerald Wilgus. Gerald photographed this fossil while on his motorcycle adventure across the West. I felt like I could really relate to this fossil in particular—not because of its vegetarian lifestyle or love of water, but being eight months pregnant, I feel about as big as this fellow, lugging its unwieldy body across the Miocene plains. Ugh!
Last week, the Dallas Morning News wrote a report on the continuing efforts of the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) to demonstrate the scientific accuracy of the Bible, as the ICR understands it. But surprisingly, it wasn’t the description of ICR’s work to push a completely unscientific and religiously motivated agenda that got my hackles up, it was the reporter’s description of evolution.
What do ISO 14000 and 4-ESS3-1 have in common? Both are standards. The first is a family of standards from the International Organization for Standardization developed in 1996 to “help organizations…minimize how their operations (processes etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land)…”
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I used to work for a textbook company. When I first started, there was a wonderful woman who was the departmental expert on anything related to the nature and process of science. She was the go-to person for all our introductory “this is science, kids!” chapters. When she retired, everyone panicked because we knew that she left behind a tremendous void that, frankly, no one was interested in touching since introductory chapters tend to be both pretty dry and full of pitfalls.