Posted on January 01, 2015 * Comments

John T. ScopesJohn T. Scopes

As I realized in responding to a comment from John Harshman, my discussion of the appeal in the Scopes case (“Flubbing the Appeal in Scopes” part 1 and part 2) neglected to describe the legal arguments of Scopes’s brief. Harshman asked, “Wasn’t it foolish of the appellants to present any argument other than a constitutional one? The goal, after all, was to reach the Supreme Court. If the appeal were granted for any other reason (as it was), they’re screwed.” I replied, “the route to the Supreme Court wasn’t clear … [R]emember that this is two decades before Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision establishing that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is binding on the states. The appellant’s brief therefore focused on Tennessee constitutional law—although not exclusively; the federal constitution was invoked at least twice.” I added, “Now I may have to write a piece about the details of the brief itself, which I neglected somewhat here.” So it would seem!

Posted on December 31, 2014 * Comments

“Six Little Snails” by E. GrisetSnips and snails? Sugar and spice? What drives some people to creationism, and others to accept evolution?

Posted on December 30, 2014 * Comments

My older daughter’s birthday is right before Christmas, and my younger daughter’s birthday just after. Last year, there was such a glut of gifts that we never even got around to getting some out of their boxes (which was actually quite handy since I was able to re-gift some back to the girls this year in addition to making big donations to local toy drives). Determined not to have a repeat this time around, the majority of the gifts under our tree took the form of the one thing you can’t have enough of: books.

Posted on December 29, 2014 * Comments

This past week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a present from our Fossil Friend, Dan Coleman. As you recall, Dan had this to say about the Fossil...

Posted on December 26, 2014 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you a gift(!) from our Fossil Friend, Dan Coleman! According to Dan:

Posted on December 25, 2014 * Comments

Nathaniel Shaler, via Wikimedia CommonsNathaniel Shaler

I’ve been investigating a pseudo-Darwin quotation, “Not one change of species into another is on record … we cannot prove that a single species has been changed.” As I explained in part 1, and as the Talk.Origins Archive Quote Mine Project already disclosed, the second half is from The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), although the words are not Darwin’s but his son’s gloss. The first half, however, seems to have originated in Theodore Graebner’s Evolution: An Investigation and a Criticism (1921), which asserts, “Now, as a matter of fact, we cannot prove that a single species has changed” and then misquotes Darwin as saying, “There are two or three millions of species on earth, sufficient field, one might think, for observation. But it must be said to-day, that in spite of all the efforts of trained observers, not one change of species into another is on record.” The source of the first assertion is already known, but what about the passage misattributed to Darwin?

Posted on December 24, 2014 * Comments

Last Tuesday afternoon, NCSE’s intrepid (but at the time, flu-ridden) communications director forwarded me an urgent request for assistance. Slate science editor Laura Helmuth was moderating a panel at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, and one of her panelists had bailed. Could I step in tomorrow, to talk about opinion journalism for scientists and science journalists?

Posted on December 23, 2014 * Comments

Charles Darwin, via Wikimedia CommonsCharles Darwin

Over at the Talk.Origins Archive Quote Mine Project, there’s a brief discussion of a quotation supposedly from Darwin: “Not one change of species into another is on record … we cannot prove that a single species has been changed,” credited to My Life and Letters. Mike Hopkins and Mark VandeWettering correctly observe that Darwin never wrote such a book—although there is a book, assembled by his son Francis Darwin, with the similar title The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887). They also correctly observe that the quotation appears on a plethora of creationist websites, to which I’ll add that it appears in a plethora of creationist books as well, the most recent of which (excluding self-published books) seems to be Robert Jeffress’s Outrageous Truths: 7 Absolutes You Can Still Believe (2008). (The sixth of the title’s purported truths is that evolution is a myth.) And they correctly observe that the second half of the quotation actually appears in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, although the words aren’t Darwin’s.

Posted on December 22, 2014 * Comments

I want to start this week’s entry by saying that I really hadn’t intended this topic to take up three posts! It’s just that I kept adding and adding to make it all make more sense and before I knew it, I had 3000 words on dating fossils! Words fly when you’re geeking out…

Posted on December 22, 2014 * Comments

A fossil!

This past week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a fossil and posed the question: animal, vegetable, or mineral? It turns out it was totally animal...indeed, an animal that we see even today. What was it? A locust from the Santana Formation in northeastern Brazil.