Posted on July 10, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m still happily kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. (Look, I don’t give you a hard time about your idea of fun, do I?) You’ll recall that in 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. Of the criticisms of Everitt’s I’ve addressed so far (part 1, part 2), the most important is that Midgley wrongly denies that young-earth creationism was “once the mainstream Christian position, endorsed by both intellectuals and the layperson in the pew” (p. 5). But a position held by Christians in the pulpit and in the pew is not necessarily a Christian position as such, and the fact that Christians have not generally regarded young-earth creationism as definitive of or central to their faith seems to show at least that Everitt fails to establish his case. Now to the consequences for the classroom.

Posted on July 09, 2014 * Comments

We at the Science League of America and our host institution, the National Center for Science Education, are proud to be among the founders of the Climate Science Students Bill of Rights, which states that:

Posted on July 08, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Popcorn in hand, I’m kibitzing on a dispute between two philosophers, Mary Midgley and Nicholas Everitt. In 2007, Midgley published a pamphlet entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems” (PDF), which Everitt is now criticizing in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) in the Journal of Philosophy of Education. In part 1, I managed to address just two of Everitt’s criticisms. The first was about the definition of “creationism”; although Everitt prefers a definition on which all Christians are creationists, I noted that there’s ample precedent for a more restrictive definition such as Midgley presupposes. The second, more important, criticism was about the connection between creationism (in the more restrictive sense) and Christianity. Everitt claimed that young-earth creationism is the “traditional position of Christianity,” as opposed to Midgley’s claim that it is a latter-day aberration, but his claim seems to me either to involve a fallacy or to be unsupported. Now read on…

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

Last week, I presented you with a set of mammal molars that were neither mastodon nor mammoth. Dan Phelps was the first to identify it as one of the Gomphotheriidaea four-tusked relative of the elephant. 

From the UCMP:

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

We covered genetic drift in Part 1 this morning. Next up in our run-down of evolutionary mechanisms: gene flow and mutation.

Posted on July 07, 2014 * Comments

This perhaps should have been the first up in my exploration of common misconceptions, since it is arguably more fundamental than what “survival of the fittest” means (or doesn’t mean). But all of these misunderstandings and ideas are so entangled that there really can’t be a “right way” to present them, can there? So let’s get to it! Misconception #2, come on down!

Posted on July 04, 2014 * Comments

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! This week on Fossil Friday, I’m bringing you a special request from last week’s winner—a mammal. This genus is found everywhere, except for Antarctica and Australia, but this fossil in particular comes from Nebraska. Go USA!

Posted on July 03, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 2007, the philosopher Mary Midgley published a pamphlet entitled Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems (PDF) with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Prompted by controversies over the teaching of evolution in both the United States and Britain, she sought, as she explains, to address problems “about the current promotion of Intelligent Design Theory,” to consider them in a broader historical context, and to offer a few suggestions “about the best way for schools to handle problems such as those presented by Intelligent Design Theory” (p. 2). Now, in a forthcoming review (PDF; subscription required) of Midgley’s pamphlet in the Journal of Philosophy of Education, the philosopher Nicholas Everitt writes that although “I expected to find myself in substantial agreement with what Midgley says … having examined [the pamphlet], I find that I disagree with much that it claims” (p. 1). What could be more blogworthy than a philosophical kerfuffle over creationism?

Posted on July 02, 2014 * Comments

Buzz Aldrin paused and looked out over the audience.

buzz aldrin

It was July 25, 2009, just five days after the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On that day four decades earlier, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became, with one small thud on the lunar surface, the first humans ever to land on something that wasn’t Earth.

Posted on July 01, 2014 * Comments

From Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1524 via Wikimedia Commons

There was a minor anniversary recently: June 19, 2014, was the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in the public schools. I opened the box of materials in NCSE’s archives on the Edwards case to see if there was anything interesting, and what should I find but a list of prospective witnesses ... from McLean v. Arkansas, a similar case decided by a federal district court in 1982. Whoops. But the list was interesting anyhow.