While discussion of Israeli elections has largely (and reasonably) focused on the different parties’ views on the occupation of Palestine and the prospect of war with Iran, the ongoing effort to craft a coalition government may carry risks for science education, too.

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A Crystal disco ball for the Disco. ‘tuteFor whatever reason, there’s a new edition of Darwin Day in America, written by John West, who runs the Discovery Institute’s creationist wing, the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

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BioLogos, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting evolution within evangelical circles, recently released a large survey examining how and why people develop their views on evolution. There’s a lot to mine there, though you can read the highlights in NCSE’s news item. I’m especially fascinated by the survey’s work to separate out different stances in the public conversation on how evolution and religion intersect.

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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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Ernst HaeckelErnst Haeckel

I’ve been meaning to write about William Bell Riley (1861–1947), a Baptist preacher who was as responsible for the flourishing of the antievolution crusade of the 1920s as anyone.

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W. N. P. Barbellion, via Wikimedia Commons

In his pamphlet “Monkeyshines: Fakes, Fables, Facts Concerning Evolution” (1926), the creationist Harry Rimmer claims that he studied “under men who were strong believers in the theory of monkey ancestry of man,” yet “it is quite common today to meet folks who will say that the evolutionists never claimed that man was descended from the monkey family at all.” To refute these folks, as I explained in part 1, he cites “a noted authority, W. P. Barbellion,” who in fact is W. N. P. (for Wilhelm Nero Pilate) Barbellion, born Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889–1919), famous for his authorship of a diary he kept from the age of thirteen, eventually published as The Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919). What he was disappointed by was the fact that his early death loomed.

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