07.27.2016

James Clerk Maxwell. Engraving by G. J. Stodart, via Wikimedia Commons

In part 1, I began trying to verify a quotation supposedly from James Clerk Maxwell (right), who, according to George Frederick Wright’s “The Passing of Evolution,” said of all systems of evolution, “I have examined all that have come within my reach, and have found that every one must have a God to make it work.” Previous invocations of Maxwell by Wright suggested that it might have occurred along with a discussion of atoms as “manufactured articles,” which points to Maxwell’s article on “Atom” for the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1875). (Also a possible candidate is Maxwell’s “Molecules,” a public lecture published in Nature in 1873; it prefigures and is reflected in the encyclopedia article, so it requires no special treatment here.)

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07.18.2016

James Clerk Maxwell. Engraving by G. J. Stodart, via Wikimedia Commons

I was recently reading through “The Passing of Evolution,” George Frederick Wright’s contribution to The Fundamentals (1910–1915). Wright (1838–1921) was a minister and self-educated geologist who, under the tutelage of the botanist Asa Gray, became (as Ronald Numbers describes him in The Creationists [1992]) “one of Darwin’s most enthusiastic advocates.” But in the 1880s, when he was a professor at Oberlin College, “the thrust of his efforts shifted from defending evolution and the scientific enterprise against biblical literalists to defending the historical accuracy of the Bible against critics who applied evolution to the making of the Bible itself,” and by the time that A. C. Dixon was recruiting authors for The Fundamentals, he was a natural choice to be asked to contribute a screed against evolution.

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07.13.2016

David Starr Jordan via Wikimedia Commons

In writing Fossil Friday/Answer Monday posts for the Science League of America, I don’t usually expect to discover fodder for historical posts. So it was a bit of a surprise to find, while composing a recent post asking readers to identify the provenance of a lovely specimen of Vinctifer comptoni from the Santana Formation of Brazil, a widely circulating mistake about David Starr Jordan’s involvement with the Scopes trial. V. comptoni, you see, was originally described as Aspidorhynchus comptoni by Louis Agassiz; it was relocated to Vinctifer by Jordan, a leading ichthyologist of his day, when, as I wrote, “he wasn’t frittering away his time as president of Indiana University or Stanford University.” As I was writing, I was sure that he served as president of Stanford University, but I wasn’t positive offhand about where his previous university presidency was, so I checked the entry for David Starr Jordan (right; 1851–1931) at Wikipedia.

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The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.

— Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994)

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Leslie Orgel, via the Salk Institute

A favorite passage of the Islamic creationist enterprise that publishes under the name Harun Yahya is taken from “The Origin of Life on Earth,” by the chemist and origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel (right; 1927–2007), which appeared in Scientific American in 1994. There Orgel wrote:

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