Posted on June 30, 2014 * Comments

This is going to be the first in what I hope will be a series of posts devoted to common misconceptions about evolution, climate change, and the nature of science. I’ve already talked about one of the most pervasive evolution misconceptions, that evolution occurs to serve a particular purpose, but there are oh so many more out there that I thought it’d be worth the electrons to dig into a few.

Posted on June 30, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I presented you with a tricky identification task. This egg-shaped rock was far afield from the jaws, spines and shells you've been used to.

So what was this unique rock? It was a dinosaur gastrolith from the late Jurassic!

What is a gastrolith?

From the UCMP:

Posted on June 27, 2014 * Comments

Last week’s winner of Fossil Friday, GrizzlyD, requested that we do a pseudofossil this week.

“I work at a museum and have to crush many hopes of ‘dinosaur eggs’ that are just round rocks,” he said.

But why would I give you a pseudofossil, when I have a giant archive of real fossils to work from?

Posted on June 26, 2014 * Comments

Historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, authors of Merchants of Doubt, have written a new book as ambitious as it is concise. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future is told from the perspective of a Chinese historian several centuries in the future, looking back at our current time and attempting to explain to readers the irrationality of our behavior. In the manner of Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale—a novel that explores a future world overrun with religious fundamentalism—Collapse uses fiction to deliver serious, thought-provoking insight that should spark much discussion.

Posted on June 26, 2014 * Comments

William Jennings Bryan (1902)

In a so far successful effort to avoid having to unpack a bunch of boxes that are cluttering my office at the moment, I’m talking about four scientists cited in a footnote in William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922), evidently to support Bryan’s assertion, “If Darwin had described his doctrine as a guess instead of calling it an hypothesis, it would not have lived a year.”

Posted on June 24, 2014 * Comments

Did former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, and retired hedge fund-turned climate action advocate Tom Styer–the three musketeers behind the just-published Risky Business report–ever see the 1983 movie Risky Business?

Posted on June 24, 2014 * Comments

William Jennings Bryan (1902)

Recall, from part 1, that I’m discussing four scientists cited in a footnote in William Jennings Bryan’s In His Image (1922), evidently to support Bryan’s assertion, “If Darwin had described his doctrine as a guess instead of calling it an hypothesis, it would not have lived a year.” Three of them were reasonably familiar to me.

Posted on June 24, 2014 * Comments

Illustration by Karen Lewis. Copyright Grandmother Fish, used by permission. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to review and comment on what seems to be a very unusual if not unique venture—a “first book of evolution” designed for children in the toddler to preschool age range. This is Grandmother Fish (referred to NCSE by Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer), which you can read about here

Posted on June 23, 2014 * Comments

Last week on Fossil Friday, I presented some not-so-tiny toes with some pretty big hints. I said that the fossil was found in what is now Utah, and it dates back to the Jurassic. There was a lot of debate in the comments section, including a  discussion of dinosaur gang colors (I don't want to know...)

Posted on June 23, 2014 * Comments

With Cosmos’ thirteenth episode, “Unafraid of the Dark,” Neil deGrasse Tyson brings to conclusion his extraordinary re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking series. Tyson’s brilliant presentations, rich in detail while always clear and comprehensible, have done a great service to the public understanding of science. Over the last few months, the intellectual wasteland of American popular culture was briefly illuminated with this surprising display of science.