Last Friday evening, I moderated a discussion at Chapman University. Speaking on the panel were Eugenie C. Scott, recently retired executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Ben Santer, research scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and member of NCSE’s board of directors, and Brian Alters, Professor at Chapman University in Orange, California, and president of the board of NCSE.
As I listened to the panelists talk about ongoing challenges to evolution and climate change education, I was struck by how important NCSE is, and what a privilege it is to be the new executive director.
(In 2012, I was asked to write a Darwin Day post for Alternet. Since it’s no longer available on-line, I think that it’s okay for me to publish it again here at the Science League of America blog in 2014. This is the version I submitted; there were a few edits, including the substitution of a vastly inferior dek for the original “There’ll Be Cake.”)
Over at The Atlantic recently (February 8, 2014), reacting to the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, Noah Berlatsky offered to set the controversy in historical perspective, writing, “The ferocity of the debate makes it difficult to remember that, at one point not so long ago in geological time”—the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—“religion and science weren’t all that distinct,” and contending that intelligent design, sensu lato, “wasn’t something invented after Darwin to oppose him; rather it was the context for, and a building block of, his work.”
Last week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a fossil that looked more like embroidery. But in fact, it was a sea creature from the Jurassic—Saccocoma pectinata, aka, a floating crinoid.
What neighborhood? Mine? Yours? I’m actually referring to both of our neighborhoods and a good deal more. I’m talking about the Solar System, and not just out to Neptune or Pluto but a thousand times farther–out to the Oort cloud of would-be comets.
This week's Fossil Friday is so delicate and lovely, it looks almost like I drew it on parchment. But no, these squiggles were left by a sea creature during the late Jurassic. It was found more recently in modern day Germany. There are many relatives of this fellow around today, but who was this ancestral beauty?
Post your answers in the comments section below. Person to identify it first wins bragging rights for the week.
In a two-part post on “The Two Woodrows” (part 1, part 2), I used Woodrow Wilson’s famous comment “of course, like every other man of intelligence and education, I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised” as a pretext to recount the story of James Woodrow, Wilson’s uncle, a leading Presbyterian theologian of his time whose acceptance of evolution was a cause célèbre in the 1880s. But actually it was a (lengthy) digression. What I really wanted to talk about was the context of the comment.
In tonight’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the Science Guy went on stage equipped with the most vital tool of all in any oral debate over evolution and creationism: a showman's flair, developed over three decades of experience explaining science to the broad public.
Of course, he also had the science on his side, which doesn't hurt. But it isn’t a guarantee of anything in a stage debate: competitive debaters are judged by their ability to argue either side of a question. Debate is a tool for showing who's a better orator, not necessarily who's right.
Tonight at 4 p.m. for us in Oakland, 7 p.m. in Cincinnati, I plan to tune in and watch the debate between Ken Ham the Answers in Genesis frontman and Bill Nye the Science Guy.