Last week my colleague Mark and I were shipped off to Washington DC for the National Climate Assessment Engagement meeting. DC is one of my favorite towns. Wandering through the National Portrait Museum and the National Archives during the free evenings, I got chills down my spine being surrounded by some of America's fantastic and intriguing history.
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the hosts of the NonTheology podcast, and that recording is now online. We spoke for a little over an hour on three topics: the Bill Nye-Ken Ham “debate” (which had taken place two days before), the nature of creationist opposition to evolution education, and ideas about human uniqueness. Check it out!
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, after he complained about the local school board’s decision to prohibit the teaching of evolution. In part 2, I explained that the most ready source of information about the incident is in a paper by A. G. Cock published in the Journal of Heredity in 1989. Cock relied on material—a memorandum attached to Curtis’s letter to Bateson and the front page of three issues of the Fort Sumner Leader (the local newspaper) sent by Curtis—from the archive of the biologist William Bateson, whom Curtis also consulted about the Dean incident. But naturally I wanted to see it for myself.
It’s hard to believe that Bob Schadewald would have been 71 today, had he not died much too young in 2000 from cancer. He was on the board of NCSE when I was hired, served as president of the board, and edited our publications. He was a good friend, and I’ve often thought of him over the years, especially when someone mentions something especially arcane from deep in the weeds of “creation science.” Usually I think, “I wonder what Bob would have made of that.”
The topic is still Noah Berlatsky’s “The Intelligent Design Theory That Inspired Darwin,” published at The Atlantic’s website on February 8, 2014, written with the intention of placing the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham in a broad historical context.
Over at Buzzfeed, Matt Stopera has an interesting post originating from the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. He asked self-identified creationists at this debate to write a question to “the other side,” and have their picture taken while holding their question.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is running a clever Presidents’ Day contest asking which US president was the most science-friendly. The first round featured pairings between Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter, Abe Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and George H. W. Bush, and John F. Kennedy and Dick Nixon.
Last Wednesday was Darwin’s 205th birthday! Happy (belated) birthday, Chuck! It should come as no surprise that all of us here at the National Center for Science Education had our party hats on last week. But you might be surprised to learn that while we were toasting Darwin, we were also lifting our glasses to Abraham Lincoln, who was born on the Very Same Day—February 12, 1809. And today, Presidents’ Day, we get to celebrate Lincoln again.
Last week on the Fossil Friday, I gave you a delicate crinoid that looked more like a doodle than anything that might have once lived! This week's fossil is similarly deceiving: it looks like a little footprint, but no, it was actually an animal.