Ronald L. Numbers

Strange to say, but it wasn’t until May 2012, when he spoke at a conference marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Edwards v. Aguillard that the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and NCSE organized, that I met Ron Numbers in person for the first time.

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02.12.2015

Title page of On Growth and Form. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I was asked to give a Darwin Day talk in Manteca, California, on February 7, and with my habitual foresightedness I began to draft the talk on the afternoon of February 6. Still, since I was covering familiar territory—under the title “Ninety Years after Scopes”—it wasn’t especially difficult to write the talk. And to make matters a little easier for myself, I began with two famous lines about evolution: Daniel Dennett’s “If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin,” from his Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995), and Theodosius Dobzhansky’s “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” from his famous essay of the same name in The American Biology Teacher (1973). (After quoting the former line, I added, “I was once inclined to agree with Dennett. Then Trader Joe’s started selling sweet sriracha uncured bacon jerky.” At least two people in the audience made a point of writing it down.)

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Rafters ponder their fate at Lava FallsRafters ponder their doom before rafting Lava Falls
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You can’t say we didn’t try.

As Stephen Colbert ends his long run as the bombastic, willfully ignorant television talk show host of The Colbert Report, I’m wistful that we never landed him as a Steve.

stephen colbert

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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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Denial: a big word loaded with emotion. But, like many things in life, denial is a continuum: from full blown outright dismissal to more subtle avoidance, like looking the other way. 

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I’ve just returned from NCSE’s annual rafting trip down Grand Canyon, where Josh Rosenau, Genie Scott, and I regaled our fellow rafters with our unique “two model” approach.

nankoweap

There are all kinds of Grand Canyon rafting charters that specialize in everything you can think of: yoga, en plein air painting, bluegrass music, nudism—and, I imagine, trips combining all of these.

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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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