Posted on February 24, 2017 * Comments

1001 Quotations coverA while ago, I wrote a blog post about a chunky volume entitled 1001 Ideas that Changed the Way We Think (2013), edited by Robert Arp. Although I contributed thirty-one brief articles on various scientific, philosophical, and cultural topics to the volume, nothing relevant to creationism and evolution was among them. But there was plenty in the book that was, from “Creation Myth” and “Miracles” and “Flat Earth Myth” through “Uniformitarianism” and “Geological Deep Time” and “Gradualism” to “Natural Selection,” “Last Universal Ancestor,” and “Sexual Selection” (all of which were credited to Darwin). As for the competition, “Christian Fundamentalism,” “The Genesis Flood,” and “Darwin’s Black Box” appeared as well. So a discussion of those articles seemed fitting for NCSE’s blog.

Posted on February 17, 2017 * Comments

A Global Warming Primer coverI’d like to invite you to take a moment to peruse the NCSE staff directory. One thing you’ll notice (after you note what an interesting bunch we are) is that there aren’t very many of us.

Posted on February 09, 2017 * Comments

Warren Overton

When it comes to modern young-earth creationist literature, there is, to coin a phrase, no new thing under the sun. The same old long-ago-debunked claims appear and reappear. I couldn’t be more jaded if I were a greenish metamorphic silicate. So when a colleague in North Carolina offered to send a copy of Kent Hovind’s booklet Help! I’m Being Taught Evolution in My Earth Science Class! (2008), I was willing to take a look, but I wasn’t expecting to find anything interesting. How wrong I was! The foreword to the book is by a Warren Overton (above)—who identifies himself as a son of the judge, William R. Overton (1939–1987), who presided over the trial in McLean v. Arkansas, the 1982 case in which Arkansas’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act was found to be unconstitutional.

Posted on February 01, 2017 * Comments
Let me tell you a story.
There is a little girl named Dora who is a member of my community. She likes me because I am not particularly strict, and because I am a reliable source of snacks. I teach her preschool class in our religious school. We play with letters from the aleph-bet and talk about the holidays and read stories. Last week I found a book I thought Dora would like, so I brought it to class.
Posted on January 24, 2017 * Comments

Do you remember the map I showed you in my last post, about how many states had volunteers interested in starting Science Booster Clubs? Spoiler alert! I received emails from people in 18 states interested in starting clubs. The first wave of volunteer-led clubs is getting off to a formal start at the end of January.

Posted on January 20, 2017 * Comments

Image of Darwin from The Book of Knowledge

The Butler Act, outlawing the teaching in Tennessee’s public schools of “any theory that denies the divine creation of man and teaches instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals,” became law on March 21, 1925. But it really wasn’t a matter of national interest until May 1925, when, in short order, John Thomas Scopes agreed to become the defendant in a case testing the law’s constitutionality, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow agreed to join the legal teams representing the prosecution and the defense (respectively), and Scopes was duly indicted. That was enough to kindle interest in the issue of teaching evolution around the country. And my choice of the particular verb “kindle” is deliberate.

Posted on January 13, 2017 * Comments

Happy New Year from NCSEteach, NCSE’s teacher outreach program! We are excited to be back in action for another year packed with climate change and evolution education.

Thirty-six scientist-teacher pairs across the country participated last semester in NCSEteach’s Scientist in the Classroom program, reaching several hundred students in all. As you know, after a first introductory visit, the scientist returns for a visit to work with the teacher to implement a hands-on activity.

There was a great diversity in the activities last semester! For example:

Posted on January 05, 2017 * Comments

The example of the watch in William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) is famous. A stone found on a heath, Paley explains, seems not to require any explanation, but a watch, with its component parts apparently designed to perform a function, demands to be explained, and explained, moreover, in terms of a designer. And the same is true, he argues at length, of living things. Although Paley is sometimes credited with the example of the watch, it is, I think, generally recognized that he was only the latest in a long string of writers to use horology in the service of natural theology: Cicero, in the first century BCE, similarly appealed to sundials and water-clocks in De natura deorum. So Paley wasn’t original. But was he a plagiarist?

Posted on December 28, 2016 * Comments

Title of Allem's thesisIn “Evolution in the Back Seat,” I mentioned Warren Allem’s 1959 University of Tennessee, Knoxville master’s thesis, “Backgrounds of the Scopes Trial at Dayton, Tennessee.” Allem’s thesis is well worth a read, I think, if you’re interested in the Scopes trial, especially because it’s freely available on-line. The main attraction is the interviews he conducted with various residents of Dayton who witnessed the events surrounding the trial. These interviews are frequently cited in the scholarly and popular literature—Edward J. Larson in “The Scopes Trial in History and Legend” (in David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers’s edited volume When Science and Christianity Meet, 2008), Michael Lienesch in In the Beginning (2007), and Randy Moore in Evolution in the Courtroom (2002), for example, all cite Allem’s thesis.