miley cyrusAlmost every day, I take time out to think about both Miley Cyrus and Ken Ham, usually in the same context.

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chopraI’ve never done anything to Deepak Chopra. At least, not in this lifetime. Perhaps I’ve mocked his surrealistically bizarre anti-science pronouncements among my friends a few times, or a few thousand times.

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The Discovery Institute is usually a reliable source of humorous “breathtaking inanity,” and this Darwin Day I wasn’t disappointed by its seasonal contribution to the festivities. neil degrasse tyson with president obama and bill nye

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Headline: Bill Deny: Science GuyNow, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that. So, if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process[…] So the atmospheric conditions as well as the true equilibrium of the football is critical to the measurement. …

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I don’t know how to say this word, so I’m just going to pretend that I know how to say it.

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The issue of whether Sherlock Holmes is science literate led to some fascinating discussion in the comments section, though not, I fear, to a consensus. But let’s turn to a matter closer to my own heart and examine what we can learn about someone’s science literacy based on whether they reject evolution.

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A creationist group is organizing an event at a major university (unnamed, since I certainly don’t want to promote the event), and some scientists there wanted advice on how to respond. One approach we discussed was using humor to push back. I love the idea, but it's not as simple as you'd think. How can satire and humor work? And how can they backfire? Read on.

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T. T. Martin's stand in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925

What was I maundering about? Oh yes, the Science League of America’s essay contest in 1925, on the evergreen topic, “Why Evolution Should Be Taught in Our Schools Instead of the Book of Genesis,” with a top prize of $50. In part 1, I discussed the contest, its funder the freethought writer William Floyd (who, fifteen years later, attempted to collect $1,000 from the creationist Harry Rimmer for finding scientific errors in the Bible), its judges (including Miriam Allen deFord, the third wife of the Science League of America’s founder Maynard Shipley), and the three winning entries. A fourth entry, which cleverly appealed to the precedent of Jesus’s rejection of tradition to argue for the rejection of the Genesis account, taken literally, in favor of evolution, was published in Shipley’s The War on Modern Science (1927)—but not because it won. Why, then?

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