Richard B. Hoppe III dies


Richard B. HoppeRichard B. Hoppe III, a psychologist and pro-evolution education activist, died on January 3, 2018, at the age of 76, according to a notice from Kenyon College. The notice quoted a colleague who described him as "a problem-solver, a person of deep intellectual curiosity in a variety of areas, and a dedicated member of the community," and noted, "Hoppe was widely published in professional journals, with articles on subjects ranging from parapsychology to statistics, from aircraft control designs to the battles between creationism and evolution in the nation’s schools."

Hoppe was active in defending evolution in the Ohio state science standards during a protracted dispute from 2002 to 2006 and was also a cofounder of The Panda's Thumb blog, bringing his extensive experience and excellent judgment to both endeavors. In 2008 he found himself with a front-row seat to a local controversy in Mount Vernon, Ohio, when a middle school science teacher was accused of inappropriately bringing his religion into the school — including by branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, and teaching creationism. Hoppe carefully and thoughtfully chronicled the ensuing fracas — which stretched over six years and included no fewer than three lawsuits — in a series of posts at The Panda's Thumb and a 2012 article (PDF) for Reports of the NCSE. Ultimately, the teacher was dismissed and his lawsuits over his dismissal were unavailing. When the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the teacher's final appeal in 2014, Hoppe exclaimed, "I'm simply glad that the damned thing is over."

Hoppe was born in Winona, Minnesota, on May 19, 1941. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1960 to 1964, and then attended the University of Minnesota, receiving his B.A. in anthropology and psychology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1972. He taught psychology at Kenyon College from 1971 to 1991, returning occasionally as a visiting faculty member in the biology department. In 1993, he co-founded Intellitrade, a firm using artificial intelligence methods to model financial markets. He was active in his community, especially with the volunteer fire department.