We covered the Burgess Shale in my last Fossil Friday, and this week keeps up the theme of famous localities.
In part 1, I described how I responded to an interesting question about the extinction of the Neanderthals. My correspondent was perplexed. Although he could see how competition, disease, interbreeding, and hunting might have reduced the population of the Neanderthals appreciably, he didn’t see how any of these forces could have driven them to extinction. It’s a big planet, after all, and various hominids had managed to coexist on it for a long time.
Lindsay Miller was an intern in spring 2014 at NCSE, where she worked with Minda Berbeco on the Understanding Global Change project. She is a student at Colorado College.
This month’s evolution resource comes from a marvelous site full of great stuff and with deep ties to NCSE: the Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI). Who wants to “dig” for “fossils”?
I return at last to “And Thereby Hangs a Tail,” a sketch based on the Scopes trial that appeared in The Garrick Gaieties, a revue that originally ran in 1925. (There were sequels of the same name in 1926 and in 1930.) The lyrics in the sketch are by Lorenz Hart (1895–1943), while the libretto is by Morris Ryskind (1895–1985) and the revue’s director Philip Loeb (1891–1955). The sketch takes place in a courtroom in the jungle, where “[t]he defendant, Abbadaba Darwin, is charged with spreading the pernicious doctrine of evolution, which teaches that that stupid animal, man, is our grandchild.” William Jennings Bryan, played by Loeb (see above), is serving as the prosecutor. After he enters, singing a song praising his importance and betraying his avarice, he examines the defendant. Deciding, after a perfunctory questioning, that the defendant is unquestionably guilty as charged, Bryan turns to orate to the jury, composed of monkeys, about his respect and admiration for their kind.
One of the joys of working at NCSE is the chance to explore and explain cool science to interested members of the public. Such a chance happened recently when I got a note asking why the Neanderthals went extinct.
In part 1, I was describing how Kanawha County, West Virginia, almost anticipated Dover, Pennsylvania, in provoking the first legal case over the constitutionality of teaching “intelligent design” in the public schools. After a proposed equal-time-for-creation-science policy was unsuccessful in 1999, local Kanawha creationists regrouped with a campaign to press for the purchase of copies of the creationist textbook Of Pandas and People. NCSE was asked to inform the school district about what was wrong with the textbook, and complied, with Molleen Matsumura sending a superb detailed letter and plenty of supporting information to the superintendent of schools. What was the upshot?
Let’s take another look at last week’s fossil, this time with its original specimen card.
Yes, it’s true—we’re coming to the end of our month of trees here at Misconception Monday. This week brings three more misconceptions to tackle, including the one that needles me the most as a paleontologist. I’m saving that one for last.