Posted on March 21, 2014 * Comments

These past few weeks on Fossil Friday, I have focused on bone crushers, biters, and scratchers—but have completely ignored the noble little animals that had their bones crushed...namely, food! 

Posted on March 20, 2014 * Comments

In part 1, I was discussing a well-known but ill-sourced quotation from a “Dr. Etheridge, Fossilologist of the British Museum,” according to which, “Nine-tenths of the talk of evolutionists is sheer nonsense, not founded on observation and wholly unsupported by fact. This museum is full of proofs of the utter falsity of their views.”

Posted on March 19, 2014 * Comments

In part 4 of my marathon post on “Searching for F. E. Dean,” I mentioned a letter published in the August 18, 1922, issue of the New Mexico weekly Fort Sumner Leader, by someone with the surname of Smith (the initials are unclear). Attacking the superintendent of the Fort Sumner schools, F. E. Dean, Smith invoked a number of authorities in the service of claiming that evolution was scientifically bankrupt. Winterton Curtis, a friend of Dean from his student days at the University of Missouri, wrote to at least two of those authorities, William Bateson (discussed in part 2) and Woodrow Wilson (discussed in part 1), and used their indignant responses in his undelivered testimony at the Scopes trial in 1925. Also cited by Smith was a “Dr. Etheridge, Fossi[l]ologist of the British Museum”; the Oxford English Dictionary vouches for “fossilologist,” although “paleontologist” is of course the more usual term.

Posted on March 18, 2014 * Comments

In 1990, Carl Sagan led a group of scientists in drafting and signing an open letter urging action on the various environmental crises facing the world, including the threat of nuclear war and the reality of nuclear pollution, as well as climate change, ozone depletion, and acid rain.

Posted on March 17, 2014 * Comments

Last Sunday the second episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new Cosmos series aired. From the perspective of the evolution-creationism controversy, it was a doozy.


Posted on March 17, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I challenged you with a real head-scratcher whose modern relatives are still chasing people around and cornering them in their homes!

What was this fearsome creature? A prehistoric cat, Pseudaelurus stouti. This fossil was found in modern day Nevada and dates to the Miocene, the Barstovian Stage to be exact.

From Brittanica:

Posted on March 14, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I diverted from my promise of bone-crushers to give you a sweet coral that couldn't crush a fly (or sea fly!). But I quickly heard howls from the peanut gallery, "We want more toothy creatures!" 

Posted on March 14, 2014 * Comments

It is odd that a great scientific series on the cosmos should open with an attempt to single out one victim of the Inquisition and hold him up as a martyr to science. For inexplicable reasons, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey begins not with Copernicus confidently proposing his heliocentric hypothesis or Galileo excitedly proclaiming his telescopic discoveries.

Posted on March 13, 2014 * Comments

William Jennings Bryan (1902)

In part 1, I was talking about Henry F. Lutz, mentioned by Ronald L. Numbers in The Creationists (1992) as a mysterious “unidentified resident of Cincinnati” approached by William Jennings Bryan (right) as a prospective expert witness for the prosecution in the Scopes trial. Lutz was the author of To Infidelity and Back (1911), but there’s not a lot about the book that would explain why Bryan thought that Lutz would be helpful. And there’s not much in his life that would explain it, either. Born on April 30, 1868, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Lutz attended Millersville State Normal School from 1885 to 1889, and taught school for a year after graduating. He then attended Meadville Theological Seminary—which was then teeming with Unitarians, judging from To Infidelity and Back—from 1890 to 1893, and then graduated with the degree of A.B. from Hiram College in 1894 and with a B.D. from Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1896.

Posted on March 13, 2014 * Comments

I recently returned from a trip to Australia, where I was lucky enough to get to visit the Great Barrier Reef. My partner and I spent 3 days on tiny Heron Island on the southern end of the reef. I’m not kidding about the tiny part; you can walk around the entire island in less than half an hour. The island is essentially a pile of sand (made of crushed coral) that rises above the surrounding ocean by, oh, maybe 20 feet at its highest point. It takes two hours to get there by boat from the coast of mainland Australia–about 45 miles.