Posted on November 11, 2014 * Comments

William Jennings Bryan (1902)

Continuing my desultory study of Clarence Darrow, I read Donald McRae’s The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow (2009) over the past weekend. As the title suggests, McRae focuses on Darrow’s later career, including not only the Scopes trial but also the Leopold and Loeb case (in which Darrow successfully argued against the death penalty for the teenage murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb) and the Sweet case (in which Darrow secured first a hung jury and then acquittal for a group of blacks accused of murder after shots were fired into a racist mob menacing them in their new house in Detroit). It was a enjoyable book, not least because it prompted me to revisit, and research, a 1923 clash between Darrow and William Jennings Bryan that prefigured their duel during the Scopes trial when Bryan took the stand to testify.

Posted on November 10, 2014 * Comments

After three weeks of slogging through epigenetics, I am feeling almost giddy sitting down to write this post. This week’s topic is a reader request and dovetails with many previous posts. It’s also in the news pretty much every week, so you might say it’s a favorite of journalists—which is a big part of the problem.

Misconception: Scientists frequently find “missing links” of evolution that fill in the gaps between known forms.

Posted on November 10, 2014 * Comments

In my previous post about Pope Francis’s remarks about evolution, I quoted the quick translation used by news reports, and some folks in the comments raised questions about what some of the remarks actually meant. Fortunately, there’s now a more thorough translation available, which appears to address some of the questions.

Posted on November 10, 2014 * Comments

Last week we examined fossil teeth from an animal we've seen before on Fossil Friday–and recently, too! What was it? Why it was from the Camelidae family, featured on a Fossil Friday several weeks ago.

Posted on November 07, 2014 * Comments

In the conclusion of this 3-parter, we'll finally answer the question, Does epigenetics mean natural selection requires a makeover? Short answer: no. Long answer: read on!

Posted on November 07, 2014 * Comments

Posted on November 06, 2014 * Comments

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NCSE can’t try to change the outcome of elections, which means we keep mum about candidates who attack climate science and evolution from the hustings. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep watch: candidates become policymakers, and it’s valuable to know what our future leaders are saying.

Posted on November 06, 2014 * Comments

Visitors to Grand Canyon gaze awestruck at vermillion rock layers stacked like plates, one after another from rim to gorge, an endless parade of Earth’s history basking in the fierce Arizona sun. Beholding Grand Canyon can really make you stop and think. You think of how the expanse of time represented by those layers dwarfs the pitiful few score years we are privileged to meander the surface.

Posted on November 05, 2014 * Comments

St. George Jackson Mivart, via Wikimedia CommonsSt. George Jackson Mivart

In various posts here, I’ve mentioned Luther Tracy Townsend’s Collapse of Evolution (1905), which, 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.’” It wasn’t until I was eating lunch yesterday, though, that I actually read the book—as reprinted in Antievolutionism Before World War I (1995), edited by Numbers—cover to cover. There weren’t a lot of surprises in it, but I was interested to note, toward the conclusion, the claim that “every leading naturalist is echoing the words of … St. George Mivart: ‘I cannot call it [Darwin’s theory] anything but a puerile hypothesis” (brackets substituted for parentheses).

Posted on November 04, 2014 * Comments

Just a quick note to say goodbye and thank you to Tom Magliozzi, one half of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and co-host, with his brother Ray, of the popular NPR call-in show "Car Talk". Tom’s death from complications of Alzheimer’s disease was announced yesterday.