Great science teachers don't just inspire some kids to become scientists. They also inspire legions of future non-scientists—bankers and writers and ballerinas—to embrace the joy of discovery, to grasp how science works and understand how to ask critical questions and evaluate evidence.
I apologize for missing a Monday post. Last week, I was in Cleveland* for the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting and just didn’t have time to write anything up. So it’s only fitting that I pull from that meeting my inspiration for this misconception post, however belated.
Misconception: Fossils are everywhere. Just dig.
Correction: Fossils are very rare. And you don’t dig; you look.
Some say climate change is too hard to teach to kids because it's so depressing...or too controversial...but here’s one school district that has turned that idea on its ear!
In part 1, I looked at the phenomenon of the Great Unconformity, a gap between Grand Canyon layers that spans more than a quarter of Earth’s history. Though geologists understand how unconformities like this occur, creationists have a rather different view about what formed the Great Unconformity.
Steve Austin, the dean of Grand Canyon creationist geologists, writes in the book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe:
In part 1, I was discussing a passage attributed to Charles Lyell by Luther Tracy Townsend, whose Collapse of Evolution (1905), as Ronald L. Numbers notes in The Creationists (1992), “assembled one of the earliest—and most frequently cribbed—lists in order to prove that ‘the most thorough scholars, the world’s ablest philosophers and scientists, with few exceptions, are not supporters, but assailants of evolution.’” According to Townsend, Lyell wrote, “In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated not less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures; but not one of those theories is held to-day.” The passage appears not anywhere in Lyell’s work, however, but instead (more or less) in Albert Barnes’s The Progress and Tendencies of Science (1840). So how did Townsend form the idea that it was from Lyell?
On Friday, I was happy to report that climate change denial was removed from the social studies textbook Pearson proposed to sell in Texas. And I was sad to say that McGraw-Hill hadn’t gone far enough in addressing climate change denial in their Texas geography textbook. I’m pleased to be able to update that report and say that both publishers have now agreed to correct their coverage of climate change.
Last week on Fossil Friday, we departed our Nevada-centric fossilizing to head east to Kentucky. Fossil Fan Dan Phelps brought us this lovely fossil, from the Strodes Creek Formation, hailing from the Upper Ordovician. What was it? Why, a bryozoan, of course, and Dan suspects it was Constellaria florida. Congratulations to Dan Coleman, who nailed the genus.
When Presidents Obama and Xi met for dinner recently to discuss the new climate change agreement between their two nations, the Chinese president used the metaphor “a pool begins with many drops of water” to describe the potential for the two nations to collaborate in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest battle over Texas textbooks is coming to a head. Next week, the state board of education will vote to adopt social studies textbooks, setting the list of books approved for use in history, geography, social studies, economics, and other classes for next decade. Normally we at NCSE don’t spend much time looking at social studies textbooks, but climate change comes up in several of the books and we looked them over to make sure the science was right.
I realize that most of my Fossil Fridays lately have been a little focused on the West—in fact Nevada in particular seems to keep coming up a lot lately. No, it’s not because I’m planning a trip to Las Vegas this winter—I just got trapped in the Nevada section of the archives recently and the only way out was to photograph everything I could find there. I’m sure this happens to you all the time!