“Six Little Snails” by E. GrisetSnips and snails? Sugar and spice? What drives some people to creationism, and others to accept evolution?

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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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Climate change deniers often fancy themselves “skeptics.” For those of us active in movement skepticism, it’s flattering to see others try to ride our coat tails, but it’s also frustrating. Skeptics are known for debunking bogus claims (from ghosts to psychics to the Loch Ness Monster), for operating at the intersection of science and consumer protection, for standing up for the role of evidence and the rational in public discourse. Skepticism means something specific, and deniers just do not do the things that a skeptic does.

That’s what makes it so gratifying that dozens of the leaders of the skeptical movement joined together to state clearly: “Deniers are not skeptics.” Deniers are not Skeptics

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As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NCSE can’t try to change the outcome of elections, which means we keep mum about candidates who attack climate science and evolution from the hustings. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep watch: candidates become policymakers, and it’s valuable to know what our future leaders are saying.

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Alabama state coat of arms, 1876

In 1995, the governor of Alabama, Fob James, spoke before the state board of education, which was then considering a proposal to insert a disclaimer about evolution in all biology textbooks used in the state. In The Creationists (2006), Ronald L. Numbers primly writes, “The Republican governor, Fob James, who presided over the board, strongly backed the disclaimer, saying that he personally believed the biblical account of the origin of life to be true.” Randy Moore, Mark Decker, and Sehoya H. Cotner’s Chronology of the Evolution–Creationism Controversy (2009) is a little more vivid, writing, “During an appearance before the Alabama State Board of Education, Forrest Hood ‘Fob’ James ... ridicules evolution by slowly crossing the stage, beginning in a crouch and then ending erect.” By these accounts, it seems that historians have taken the speech in stride.

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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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When someone says, “the science isn’t settled yet—it’s too soon to make a decision,” why are we suspicious?

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Josh, Steve, and I just returned from spending 8 days with a group of 21 NCSE members on NCSE’s Grand Canyon raft trip. Steve regaled us with the actual geological history of Grand Canyon, and Josh supplemented with a tongue-in-cheek presentation of the creationist view – with me helping a bit around the edges. Josh also kept up the natural history side of things as he introduced us to a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate varmints along the trail.

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