Here’s another look at our specimen from last Friday.
In addition to staying on top of efforts to interfere with the teaching of evolution and climate change, we here at NCSE HQ try to follow the latest developments in evolutionary biology and climate change, and keep our eye on how scientific evidence is being represented in the media, public pronouncements, political campaigns, and elsewhere. It’s all part of trying to be as well-informed as we can about how challenges to established science may directly or indirectly trickle down into what students are being taught in school.
We have a habit of shooting e-mails around when something catches our eye: “hey, bloggers, did you see this? Someone should write about it!” But with fewer than a dozen people, we can’t cover everything in depth. So we thought we’d try something new. Every week, we’ll try to share with you some of the stories that caught our eyes. We’ll provide the links and a couple sentences about why we thought the story was cool. If someone did end up writing a whole post, we’ll link to that too.
Feel free to share articles that crossed your screen this week in the comment section, or to email us directly during the week with things that caught your eye. We’ll add the best to our weekly posts.
When is a charitable donation not a charitable donation? Well, I suppose all money comes with strings. But at what point do such strings—or maybe even the appearance of strings— nudge a donation out of the category of charity and into that of undue influence?
In an interesting article in The New York Times science section this week, “Coke Spends Lavishly to Sugar-Coat Science,” Anahad O’Connor explored the sticky implications of the $120 million that the Coca-Cola company recently reported donating to a series of extremely reputable non-profit organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American Cancer Society, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both the soda maker and the recipients firmly declare that the donations do not influence the policies or recommendations of the organizations that get the money. But no one can miss the disconnect between the rapidly accumulating scientific evidence that sugary sodas contribute significantly to the nation’s rising obesity rates and donations from the pre-eminent marketer of those sodas to organizations that people trust to give them objective information about health and diet.
This week on Fossil Friday, I’m sharing the first of a series of specimens from one of our top fossil commenters, Dan Phelps. There are a lot of exciting fossils to explore in his collection. For the first, I’m going in a much different direction from my recent posts. I promise you, this is not a plant! Check it out, I left the scale marker next to it and everything. What is it? Two clues: Pleistocene; something common to most mammals.
When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be? I tell you what I didn’t want to be. A “lady” scientist. Yesterday, I saw another example of a long line of things that tick me off: EDF Energy’s #PrettyCurious campaign. This is a program designed to promote science to teenage girls. You might ask why something so innocuous would make me angry. It’s because I hate this presumption that STEM stuff needs to be girlified to appeal to female people. Historically and perhaps presently, this has been a way of pushing women scientists into a corner.
When I was writing “Dixon, Not Darwin,” about a viciously racist passage sometimes misattributed to Darwin but actually taken from Thomas F. Dixon Jr.’s novel The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905), I was going to invoke a further consideration to demonstrate that Darwin was not the source. It was hardly necessary, of course: the passage clearly appears in Dixon’s novel and not in any of Darwin’s works or letters, the passage is more overwrought and purple than anything in Darwin, and anyhow Darwin was remarkably progressive for his time on matters of race, as Adrian Desmond and James Moore document extensively in their Darwin’s Sacred Cause (2009). In the event, I decided that the consideration wasn’t conclusive and omitted any mention of it. But I hate to waste the research, so I’m writing about it now.
In part 1 of this Q&A, I asked John Mead, a Dallas teacher who befriended Lee Berger, the discoverer of Homo naledi, about how he came to know about the new hominid species in advance, and he answered in detail. Now I’ve got a simple request for him…
Stephanie Keep: Sum up the importance of Homo naledi in one sentence.
It should be pretty obvious by now that I’m pretty excited about the discovery of Homo naledi announced on September 10. Sure, there are some known unknowns, but it’s just such a cool story!