I want to start this week’s entry by saying that I really hadn’t intended this topic to take up three posts! It’s just that I kept adding and adding to make it all make more sense and before I knew it, I had 3000 words on dating fossils! Words fly when you’re geeking out…

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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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James Watson speakingIn a recent interview with the Financial Times, James Watson explained his decision to auction off his Nobel Prize medallion (won, with Francis Crick, for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA). He claimed that since his controversial comments about race in 2007, “I was an ‘unperson,’ I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income.” In that 2007 interview, he said he was “gloomy” about the prospects of Africa because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really,” and attributed that difference to genetic differences. Nonetheless, in his latest interview, FT reports that Watson “insisted he was ‘not a racist in a conventional way.’”

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When Presidents Obama and Xi met for dinner recently to discuss the new climate change agreement between their two nations, the Chinese president used the metaphor “a pool begins with many drops of water” to describe the potential for the two nations to collaborate in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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I spent the first few hours today in an uncanny glow. On opposite sides of the planet, in utterly different realms, scientists and political leaders had, in two very different ways, accomplished the unthinkable.

The first instance actually hit just before I went to bed. News broke late yesterday that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had come to a binational agreement on targets for climate pollution reduction. Scratch that; it sounds too dull for what it means.

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A few weeks back, blog-reader Anson Kennedy sent me an idea for a Well Said/Say What? The article in question, “Evolution’s Random Paths Lead To One Place,” describes the work of Dr. Michael Desai at Harvard University to perform large-scale evolution experiments on baker’s yeast. I re-read it today, and realized it would make a great companion to my Misconception Monday post on randomness (or lack thereof) in evolution.

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Working at NCSE inevitably leads to lots of discussion about the nature of science literacy. All of us, and just about all of our supporters and allies, are pretty passionate about promoting science literacy. And yet, when you start digging around, the whole question of what science literacy even is gets fuzzy.

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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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It may be possible to teach about energy without ever digging into the dynamics of human-caused climate change. (Quick note: I don’t  endorse that tack, but it’s possible.) Indeed, many energy education programs sidestep or avoid climate change altogether.

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08.28.2014

In my last post, “The Curious Incident of the Fly in the Night,” I told a story about Mimi Shirasu-Hiza as an example of how scientists sometimes find that—in Shirasu-Hiza’s words—“what might look like ‘noise’ is potentially ‘signal’.’” Noting that her fruit flies were more likely to get sick and die if they were infected at nighttime led her to important discoveries about the effects of circadian rhythm on immune response.

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