Posted on March 06, 2014 * Comments

Record of Finis E. Dean in the 1940 U.S. Census

What do we know about F. E. Dean? He studied under Winterton Curtis at the University of Missouri; he was the superintendent of the Fort Sumner, New Mexico, public schools for a few years until he was forced to resign in 1922 when he challenged the school board’s adoption of a policy prohibiting the teaching of evolution (see part 4), and he had something of a gift for invective (see part 3). His plight occasioned statements from both William Bateson (see part 2) and Woodrow Wilson (see part 1), thanks to Curtis, who then thriftly used them in the Scopes trial in 1925. In November 1922, when he sought Bateson’s help, Curtis told him that Dean hadn’t found a new position yet. As A. G. Cock wrote in his 1989 article in the Journal of Heredity, which heralded Dean as a hero who deserves to be remembered along with John Thomas Scopes, “at least as far as the sources available to me disclose, he disappears from the record.”

Posted on March 04, 2014 * Comments

Honoré Daumier, Le Ventre Législatif  (1834)

I’m sometimes asked, even by my colleagues, what it takes for a bill to be counted as antiscience at NCSE. Precisely what is it about a piece of legislation that makes our flesh crawl, our brows furrow, and our hackles rise—and, less physiologically, impels us to summon defenders of the integrity of science education in the affected state to the ramparts?

Posted on March 03, 2014 * Comments

Last week, I shared a mandible and tooth fragment from an animal that I thought many of you would recognize. Many of you quickly surmised it was a canine of some sort, but which one?

This was a Tomarctus sp. in the Canidae family from the Miocene, found in what is now Nevada. From

Posted on February 28, 2014 * Comments

This week on the Fossil Friday, I bring you a fossil that might be a little too easy! No, it's not a sloth, but it is a relative of an animal many of you might actually have sitting at your feet right now.

Posted on February 27, 2014 * Comments

Fort Sumner Leader masthead

Recall that in part 1, I began with Woodrow Wilson’s famous endorsement of evolution, which Winterton Curtis quoted in his unheard testimony in the Scopes trial. Curtis solicited Wilson’s opinion in 1922, because a former student of his, F. E. Dean, lost his job as the superintendent of schools in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, over evolution. In part 2, I related my search for further information about Dean, culminating when I received, from the William Bateson archive at Queen’s University, the front page of three issues of the Fort Sumner Leader (the local newspaper) sent by Curtis to Bateson, whom he also consulted about the Dean incident. In part 3, I quoted from the newspaper a long letter from Dean himself, in which he gave his side of the story: after protesting the Fort Sumner school board’s adoption of a policy prohibiting the teaching of evolution and soliciting the view of the attorney general of New Mexico, he was pressured to resign, and did so.

Posted on February 26, 2014 * Comments

When we launched our online training sessions for science education advocates last fall, we started by surveying NCSE members about what they wanted to hear about. The most-requested topic was media training. I’m glad to say we’ll be doing a media training workshop tomorrow, February 27, at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST.

Posted on February 25, 2014 * Comments

I recently took umbrage at Richard McNider and John Christy’s claims, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, to being like the “scientific skeptics” who “dared question” a “scientific consensus” of a flat Earth.

Posted on February 25, 2014 * Comments

Richard McNider and John Christy, atmospheric scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, recently wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending their climate-change-denying views.

Posted on February 25, 2014 * Comments

Enrico Fermi

Once in a while, a journalist will ask a question that really makes me think. Such a question arose recently, when I was asked whether Missouri’s House Bill 1472—which I earlier said “would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri”—was the worst antievolution bill to come down the pike in a long time. At first, I was inclined to respond by saying that they’re all horrible, which indeed they are. But pondering it further, I realized that there was enough survey data available for me to make a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the expected effect—measured in lost student-hours of effective evolution education—of the two antievolution bills currently before the Missouri General Assembly.

Posted on February 24, 2014 * Comments

Coming soon to a mobile device, desktop, or conversation near you: the National Climate Assessment, or NCA, "an 
important resource 
for understanding 
and communicating 
climate change
science and impacts in the United States."