Do you ever think about where science denial comes from? I know I had various ideas about the sources of science denial when I started working for NCSE. Science denial, I thought, was in part a product of certain corporate and religious interests. And perhaps I also thought of science denial as a product of an educational problem. I have spent many years studying science education, trying to understand how and why a fairly large percentage of people are turned off by the discipline. I figured that if I could understand this, I could develop new ways to show them how beautiful and exciting I find science.
Still on the agenda is Henshaw Ward’s Evolution for John Doe (1925), a popular exposition of evolution from the Scopes era, by a teacher of English turned science popularizer, who claimed that for twenty years he sought a popular treatment of evolution to recommend to the curious, but without success. “Apparently biologists know so much of the details that they can not [sic] write a brief account of the whole theory.” I am particularly interested in its distinctive first chapter, “What John Doe Thinks about Evolution,” which not only lists what Ward takes to be prevalent misconceptions about evolution but also explains how the book attempts to defuse them. I described the book in general in part 1, and discussed the first two misconceptions—that “evolution is ‘the doctrine that man is descended from monkeys’” and that “evolution explains the origin of life”—in part 2. Ward chose to omit both the topic of human evolution and the topic of the origin of life. What about the remaining six misconceptions?
Hats off to Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times, whose article “So Will Processed Meat Give You Cancer?” does a nice job putting into perspective the IARC announcement that processed meats probably cause cancer. In a nutshell, his conclusion is that processed meats probably do cause cancer—but the increase in risk is so small as to be not worth worrying about.
Returning to our specimen from last week, this time with appropriate scale:
Doesn’t it look familiar? If any of you like flyfishing I’m sure it looks familiar. As you might have cleverly deduced from the picture, this specimen is an Ephemeropsis trisetalis; a type of mayfly.
Hope you don’t have too many weekend plans, because NCSE found a lot of interesting articles this week. Here are some of them. Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen in the comment section, or e-mail us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.
This week on Fossil Friday, another lovely specimen from Dan Phelps, from which I have removed a certain amount of both scale and context.
What do you think? Even though it’s one of my posts, this probably isn’t a plant, right? The first person to identify it wins bragging rights for the week!
In part 1, I introduced Henshaw Ward’s Evolution for John Doe (1925). Ward, a teacher of English turned science popularizer, claimed that for twenty years he sought a popular treatment of evolution to recommend to the curious, but without success. “Apparently biologists know so much of the details that they can not [sic] write a brief account of the whole theory.” Eventually, “I grew so desperate as to read a number of the standard works of evolution,” and his book attempts to present a digest of them, “as if I were telling a friend about the knowledge that is so new and imperfect in my mind.” The book was praised at the time—the New York Times Book Review described the book as “an interestingly sketchy and delightful ‘talk’ on evolution, written in a popular manner for John Doe, and as such is a real achievement”—but I’m interested in it on account of the first chapter, which not only lists what Ward takes to be misconceptions about evolution but also explains how the book attempts to defuse them. I want to work through Ward’s list in order.
A recent survey by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment found that only 16% Americans believe there is no solid evidence for global warming. Though good news for the public at large, there are still questions about how global warming is being addressed with students, the next generation of science-savvy citizens, particularly in the classroom and with the texts used there.
Last week I gave you a task: to identify this snail and tell me why it’s important. The task was made easier because I gave you a complete and straightforward photo. As I expected with such a savvy audience, you all got in the ballpark pretty darn quickly.
Here are some of the stories that caught NCSE’s eye this week. Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen in the comment section, or e-mail us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.