Full disclosure: I ran the four-part (newly renamed!) natural selection misconception diagnostic because my idea well had run dry. I was hoping that by retreading some old misconception tropes, I would get inspired. Imagine my delight, then, when Larry Moran gave me an idea for this post in the comments.
“I has told you five or six times,” he said, “and the third will be the last.”
The BFG, from Roald Dahl’s book of the same name
The Discovery Institute is usually a reliable source of humorous “breathtaking inanity,” and this Darwin Day I wasn’t disappointed by its seasonal contribution to the festivities.
It wasn’t that long ago that I took to this blog to nominate the Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Wade for having “the worst idea ever” about evolution education, namely to somehow appease creationists with the ol’ “don’t worry, evolution is just a theory” trick. To be honest, I was still scratching my head over that one, when I was forced to redirect my incredulity to another humdinger in the pages of the WSJ.
If you followed along in the comments to Part 1 and Part 2, you will have noticed that a few readers, particularly John Harshman, brought up a very good point: that the “Evolution Misconceptions Diagnostic” should really be called the “Natural Selection Misconceptions Diagnostic.” As Harshman pointed out, using “evolution” in the stead of “natural selection” is itself a misconception, one I covered early on in this blog. I relayed this comment (as well as another about a particular question on the diagnostic, which I will cover below) to the folks at UCMP, which hosts the diagnostic on its site. They agreed and will be changing the name. Hooray! Well done, readers.
Jack Kirkley is a member of NCSE and a biology professor at the University of Montana Western. He testified at the Montana House Education Committee hearing on House Bill 321—which, according to the Billings Gazette (January 29, 2015), "would encourage high school teachers to present evolutionary biology as disputed theory rather than sound science and protect those who teach viewpoints like creationism in the classroom"—on February 6, 2015. The committee subsequently tabled the bill. The following is a lightly edited version of his testimony, published here with his kind permission.
It’s hard to imagine that tree twigs could change someone’s life, but this week’s Thank a Teacher started with just that. And not just twigs, but leafless winter twigs that might seem to shed little light on a tree’s identity. Such were the tools that one teacher used to intrigue a small group of students who would grow up to change the world.
I was asked to give a Darwin Day talk in Manteca, California, on February 7, and with my habitual foresightedness I began to draft the talk on the afternoon of February 6. Still, since I was covering familiar territory—under the title “Ninety Years after Scopes”—it wasn’t especially difficult to write the talk. And to make matters a little easier for myself, I began with two famous lines about evolution: Daniel Dennett’s “If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin,” from his Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995), and Theodosius Dobzhansky’s “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” from his famous essay of the same name in The American Biology Teacher (1973). (After quoting the former line, I added, “I was once inclined to agree with Dennett. Then Trader Joe’s started selling sweet sriracha uncured bacon jerky.” At least two people in the audience made a point of writing it down.)