10.10.2016

For the last 18 months, the National Center for Science Education has been conducting an experiment in Iowa City. Our question: Can a grassroots community effort improve understanding and acceptance of topics such as climate change and evolution that are societally, but not scientifically, controversial? We’ve been writing about the results on the NCSE blog, but if you missed them, here are a few recent highlights.

 “you can’t do evolution outreach here”

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Verdt and Wundt

If you spend any time looking through creationist literature, you will become accustomed to lists of scientists who supposedly reject evolution, doubt Darwin, and the like, although the exact complement of the lists changes over time, of course. A famous example is from Luther Tracy Townsend’s Collapse of Evolution (1905), which mentions:

scientists who have devoted their lives to the investigation of nature’s phenomena and who have taken rank in the past and who take rank to-day with those who stand the highest in their departments of study—such men as Agassiz, Beale, Carpenter, Dana, Davy, Dawson, Faraday, Forbes, Gray, Helmholtz, Herschel, Lord Kelvin, Leibnitz, Lotze, Maury, Pasteur, Romanes, Verdt[,] and hundreds of others …

Townsend, as Ronald L. Numbers notes in The Creationists (1992), “assembled one of the earliest—and most frequently cribbed—lists in order to prove that ‘the most thorough scholars, the world’s ablest philosophers and scientists, with few exceptions, are not supporters, but assailants of evolution.’”

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Thomas Henry Huxley

I have a number of lawyers among my friends and family, so I usually try not to indulge in jokes that broadly impugn the legal profession. (What’s that? Well, if you insist. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a slimy, scum-sucking, bottom-dwelling scavenger—while the other is a fish.) And in fact, I have a lot of respect for the legal profession, instilled, in part, by interacting with the lawyers—Eric Rothschild, Steve Harvey, Vic Walczak, Richard Katskee, and all their colleagues—who so effectively represented the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover. But I am willing to complain about lawyers who abuse their skills in the service of attacking evolution—like Phillip Johnson, Norman Macbeth, or, in the Scopes era, Philip Mauro (1859–1952). Here, from Mauro’s Evolution at the Bar (1922), is a blatant distortion.

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09.27.2016

For months now, we’ve been telling you about the fun events that NCSE's Science Booster Clubs have been bringing to farmers markets, Halloween haunts, and county fairs. The Booster Clubs have reached more than 50,000 people in the last 18 months. That’s a feel-good story, right? But do these efforts actually change anything? Could they possibly have any effect on the notoriously low level of science literacy among U.S. adults?

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NCSE's annual raft trip down the Grand Canyon just returned, and Teacher Scholarship winner Crystal Davis offered to describe her experience on the river with us. Enjoy, and consider donating to the scholarship fund to support future trips like this.

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