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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From Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1524 via Wikimedia Commons

There was a minor anniversary recently: June 19, 2014, was the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in the public schools. I opened the box of materials in NCSE’s archives on the Edwards case to see if there was anything interesting, and what should I find but a list of prospective witnesses ... from McLean v. Arkansas, a similar case decided by a federal district court in 1982. Whoops. But the list was interesting anyhow.

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The Garden of Eden, from Les très riches heures du duc de Berry

A friend recently drew my attention to a newly reposted essay from Answers in Genesis’s Ken Ham, asking, “Where was the Garden of Eden located?” No answers, alas: according to Ham, Noah’s Flood so transformed the geography of the earth that there’s no telling where the Temptation of Eve and the Fall of Adam occurred. Faced with the fact that the Bible identifies two of the rivers of Eden as the Tigris and the Euphrates, Ham asserts—without evidence—that the present rivers were named after antediluvian rivers, just as the Thames in Connecticut is named after the Thames in England.

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I have no expectation that televangelist Pat Robertson cares what I think. It’s even possible that, when it comes to creationism, his interests and mine may not be in full alignment.

But I think he should take Answers in Genesis and noted Ark enthusiast Ken Ham up on this offer:

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THERE’S TOO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT LAST SUNDAY'S EPISODE OF COSMOS.

Steve Newton and I have shared Cosmos reviewing duties, and this week Neil deGrasse Tyson and his team served us an overflowing plate.

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Ah, California living. Land of fruits and nuts. And fungi. Impressed one day by the unusually high number of kinds of mushrooms at my local produce store (I stopped counting at 25), I posted a picture of the array on my Facebook page. Whereupon Jim Strickland waggishly warned me about using the term “kinds”, a taxonomic term of creationists that fails to map onto any actual scientific taxonomic system.

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Tauriel: Wood elves love best the light of the stars.
Fili: I always thought it is a cold light, remote and far away.
Tauriel: It is memory, precious and pure.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Comet ISONWhat neighborhood? Mine? Yours? I’m actually referring to both of our neighborhoods and a good deal more. I’m talking about the Solar System, and not just out to Neptune or Pluto but a thousand times farther–out to the Oort cloud of would-be comets.

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In tonight’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the Science Guy went on stage equipped with the most vital tool of all in any oral debate over evolution and creationism: a showman's flair, developed over three decades of experience explaining science to the broad public.

Of course, he also had the science on his side, which doesn't hurt. But it isn’t a guarantee of anything in a stage debate: competitive debaters are judged by their ability to argue either side of a question. Debate is a tool for showing who's a better orator, not necessarily who's right.

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Tonight at 4 p.m. for us in Oakland, 7 p.m. in Cincinnati, I plan to tune in and watch the debate between Ken Ham the Answers in Genesis frontman and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

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