Posted on November 24, 2014 * Comments

In last week’s somewhat belated post, I gave a long introduction to this question: What does it take to become a fossil, and what does it take to be found? I made the claim, too, that if you can understand how rare quality fossil finds are, you can begin to appreciate all that we do know and get excited about what we have yet to discover. So let’s get cracking!

Posted on November 24, 2014 * Comments

Last week's Fossil Friday was a beachcomber's delight. According to our fossil friend Gerald Wilgus, these fossils apparently wash up on Lake Michigan to this day.

What is it? Well, I’ll let Gerald supply the answer:

Posted on November 21, 2014 * Comments

This week on Fossil Friday, we are relying on our Fossil Friends once again to keep us out of the gambling hells of Nevada and on the road to fossil salvation. This week’s fossil comes from Gerald Wilgus, who says that size might not matter, but shape is everything when it comes to this fossil! Coming from Michigan but originating in the Devonian, this species is a favorite among beachcombers, Gerald says, as it still washes up on the shores of Lake Michigan to this day.

Posted on November 21, 2014 * Comments

Bust of Georges Cuvier by David d'Angers, via Wikimedia CommonsBust of Georges Cuvier by David d’Angers

I’ve been discussing the following claim, “In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated not less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures; but not one of those theories is held to-day.” I explained in part 1 that Luther Tracy Townsend’s Collapse of Evolution (1905) attributes it to “the eminent geologist, Professor Charles Lyell,” that I was unable to find it in Lyell’s work, and that I was able to find it, more or less, in Albert Barnes’s The Progress and Tendencies of Science (1840). In part 2, I added that Barnes included a footnote to Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830, although Barnes cited the 1837 Philadelphia edition) later in the same paragraph, which probably misled Townsend into thinking that Lyell was the authority for the claim about the eighty-plus geological theories. But there’s still a loose end. If not from Lyell, then from whom? 

Posted on November 20, 2014 * Comments

Great science teachers don't just inspire some kids to become scientists. They also inspire legions of future non-scientists—bankers and writers and ballerinas—to embrace the joy of discovery, to grasp how science works and understand how to ask critical questions and evaluate evidence.

Posted on November 20, 2014 * Comments

I apologize for missing a Monday post. Last week, I was in Cleveland* for the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting and just didn’t have time to write anything up. So it’s only fitting that I pull from that meeting my inspiration for this misconception post, however belated.

Misconception: Fossils are everywhere. Just dig.

Correction: Fossils are very rare. And you don’t dig; you look.

Posted on November 20, 2014 * Comments

Photo of LEED Gold Great Neck Middle School courtesy of Virginia Beach City Public SchoolsSome say climate change is too hard to teach to kids because it's so depressing...or too controversial...but here’s one school district that has turned that idea on its ear!

Posted on November 18, 2014 * Comments

In part 1, I looked at the phenomenon of the Great Unconformity, a gap between Grand Canyon layers that spans more than a quarter of Earth’s history. Though geologists understand how unconformities like this occur, creationists have a rather different view about what formed the Great Unconformity.

Steve Austin, the dean of Grand Canyon creationist geologists, writes in the book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe:

Posted on November 18, 2014 * Comments

Charles Lyell, via Wikimedia CommonsCharles Lyell

In part 1, I was discussing a passage attributed to Charles Lyell by Luther Tracy Townsend, whose Collapse of Evolution (1905), as Ronald L. Numbers notes in The Creationists (1992), “assembled one of the earliest—and most frequently cribbed—lists in order to prove that ‘the most thorough scholars, the world’s ablest philosophers and scientists, with few exceptions, are not supporters, but assailants of evolution.’” According to Townsend, Lyell wrote, “In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated not less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures; but not one of those theories is held to-day.” The passage appears not anywhere in Lyell’s work, however, but instead (more or less) in Albert Barnes’s The Progress and Tendencies of Science (1840). So how did Townsend form the idea that it was from Lyell?

Posted on November 17, 2014 * Comments

On Friday, I was happy to report that climate change denial was removed from the social studies textbook Pearson proposed to sell in Texas. And I was sad to say that McGraw-Hill hadn’t gone far enough in addressing climate change denial in their Texas geography textbook. I’m pleased to be able to update that report and say that both publishers have now agreed to correct their coverage of climate change.