Posted on July 24, 2017 * Comments

Henry DrummondFor quite a while now, I have been on the lookout for “The Last Word of Great Scientists on Evolution,” a 1925 antievolution pamphlet by J. J. Sims. I was pleased, then, to find a copy recently. Sims was apparently a “World-Known Lecturer on ‘The Bible and Science’” as well as the author of “Pearls from the Deep,” “The History of Satan,” “We Drew the Fire,” etc., according to the title page. The pamphlet isn’t entirely unknown—writing in The American Mercury in 1928, Maynard Shipley took a swipe at it, and Ronald L. Numbers mentions it in a footnote in The Creationists (1992) on account of its “inconsistent” response to George McCready Price—but it’s not exactly famous, either. Nor is Sims, although later in 1925 he was serving as the Field Secretary of the Bryan Bible League, founded in memory of the fallen William Jennings Bryan.

Posted on July 13, 2017 * Comments

If you haven’t read the recent New York magazine article by David Wallace-Wells on climate change, you probably should. I read this viral (and absolutely terrifying) article on July 10, 2017, under somewhat unusual circumstances. As I had it open on my phone, my family and I were driving on the I-15 through Las Vegas.

Posted on July 11, 2017 * Comments

There is a particular feeling that arises when you see something very grand and beautiful in the natural world. Or, at least, I thought there was a particular feeling, but in the past week I have had an opportunity to see many people have this kind of striking encounter, and I noticed some more variation than I expected.

Posted on July 07, 2017 * Comments

Passage from James Park's A Text-Book of Geology (1925)

Looking for something else, I stumbled across the following quotation, reproduced on a young-earth creationist ministry’s website under the heading “Quotes to Note” and credited to Creation 2(1):4, which appeared in January 1979:

The obvious lesson from the study of fossils is the elementary truth that life even in the earliest times, differed in no way from life today. Further, we observe that the lower types of life that appear in the oldest rocks have persisted through all geological times up to the present day.

The passage is attributed to James Park’s Textbook of Geology. Neither a publisher nor a place of publication nor even a year is provided, although such information is provided for other quotations appearing under the same heading.

Posted on June 26, 2017 * Comments

William Pepperell Montague (1937; painted by Winifred Smith Rieber)

A few years ago, in the introduction to a special issue of the philosophy journal Synthese focusing on creationism, I wrote:

In the first wave of antievolution activity—the attempts during the 1920s to remove evolution from the classroom—philosophers were all but uninvolved in the debate. Although the impresario of the Scopes trial, George Rappelyea, hoped to get John Dewey to testify for the defense (de Camp 1968, p. 80), only experts in science and religion were selected, and in the event they were not permitted to testify (Larson 1997, pp. 170–193). Only [Alfred North] Whitehead, of the leading American philosophers of the day, reacted to the trial, according to a study of American intellectuals and Darwinism (Conkin 1998, p. 145). And his muted reaction took the form of a piece in the Atlantic Monthly, published after the trial, which mentioned evolution just once and Scopes, the law under which he was prosecuted, and the trial itself not at all (Whitehead 1925).

Well, I accurately reported what Paul K. Conkin said in When All the Gods Trembled, but both he and I seem to have overlooked someone!

Posted on June 21, 2017 * Comments

This past month in my new role as the SBC Operations Manager, I’ve been working with Emily Schoerning and our Science Booster Club leaders around the country. SBC leaders receive kits with materials to run activities that we have developed. You might remember Emily’s January post about sending out the Ocean Carbon Crisis activity: mailing tubes galore!  

Posted on June 19, 2017 * Comments

John Augustine Zahm, via Wikimedia Commons

There are memorable lines aplenty in the beloved film The Princess Bride (1987), thanks to the screenwriter William Goldman, on whose 1973 novel it was based. Among them is the following, addressed to the villainous Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) by the fencer Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin): “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The word in question is “inconceivable,” which Vizzini uses so freely that his henchman is eventually forced to protest, and I was reminded of it when browsing through John Augustine Zahm’s The Catholic Church and Modern Science: A Lecture (1886). Zahm (right; 1851–1921) was a priest as well as a professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Notre Dame.

Posted on June 13, 2017 * Comments
We often share stories about what NCSE is doing to promote evolution education across the country, whether we’re working to defeat anti-science legislation, support science teachers, or build community support for science education. But here’s a story about how NCSE helps to support evolution education in our own backyard.
For years, schools near our home office in Oakland, California, have been able to borrow materials on human evolution designed by our former executive director Eugenie C. Scott and former staffers Louise S. Mead and Eric Meikle.
Posted on June 09, 2017 * Comments
James Tissot, The Farewell, via Wikimedia CommonsOn May 19, 2017, a little more than two years after I started building what would become the Science Booster Club program here in Iowa, I participated in my last local event. At the Iowa City Public Library’s STEAM fest, we interacted with around two thousand people on the topic of climate change.
Posted on June 05, 2017 * Comments

Thomas Hawk, Heartbreak Hotel Restaurant, 2010

Summertime, in the words of the familiar song, and the livin’ is easy. It’s not as easy for science teachers as you might think, though. Sure, with schools out of session, they’re no longer spending their days in lecture and lab and their nights grading and in prep. But that doesn’t mean that they’re relaxing on the beach with a tall cool beverage of their choice—not that they wouldn’t be entitled to do so! No, diligent science teachers are updating their curricula and lesson plans, participating in professional development, and catching up on the latest science. Unfortunately, the Heartland Institute is continuing to inflict its climate change denial literature on science teachers across the country. (See “Don’t Let Heartland Fool Teachers!” and “A Perfect Storm of Silver Linings” for background.) Fortunately, the Heartland mailing continues to be greeted with skepticism and dismissed with scorn. Here’s a chronological summary of the highlights over the last month or so.