ARTICLES: Disciplining and Popularizing: Evolution and its Publics from the Modern Synthesis to the Present

The journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences has a set of articles in its March 2014 issue that all stem from a conference session for the History of Science Society in 2012:

Disciplining and popularizing: Evolution and its publics from the modern synthesis to the present (Introduction)
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis

Darwin’s foil: The evolving uses of William Paley’s Natural Theology 1802–2005
Adam R. Shapiro

Making the case for orthogenesis: The popularization of definitely directed evolution (1890–1926)
Mark A. Ulett

Paleontology at the “high table”? Popularization and disciplinary status in recent paleontology
David Sepkoski

Claiming Darwin: Stephen Jay Gould in contests over evolutionary orthodoxy and public perception, 1977–2002
Myrna Perez Sheldon

BOOK REVIEW: Plesiosaur Peril

About a year ago I posted about two children’s books that combine interesting stories, beautiful illustrations, and factual information about dinosaurs and other extinct animals: Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble. Moving on to another group of extinct reptile, Daniel Loxton rounds out this trilogy in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series: Plesiosaur Peril (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2014, 32 pp.).

Plesiosaur Peril

Again combining beautiful digital illustrations with landscape photography (or should I say, seascape photography) by Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith, this book recounts the “day in the life” of a family of ocean-dwelling Cryptoclidus as they evade the hungry jaws of a much larger plesiosaur, Liopleurodon. Young readers will enjoy the action, while parents will appreciate the theme of family bonds. Educators will enjoy the current paleontological information (paleontologist Darren Naish was a consultant, and he posted on his blog a lot of information about plesiosaurs and the process of working on the book), while everyone will enjoy the beautiful rendering of plesiosaurs, ammonites, ichthyosaurs, and belemnites (squid-like creatures). This trilogy is perfect for science-minded kids, and would be great set of books to have on elementary school library shelves.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.

Spread from Plesiosaur Peril, from Kids Can Press. Art by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith. All rights reserved.


BOOK REVIEW: The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs

I’ve posted before about a some great books about prehistoric creatures. For adults, there’s The Complete Dinosaur and Pterosaurs (reviews here and here). For kids, I reviewed Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble (here). Add to these a new book:

Robert T. Bakker, The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs (New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books, 2013), 64 pp. Illustrated by Luis Rey.

Dinosaurs. No other creatures are more exciting – or mysterious. Some were as big as tow dozen elephants duct-taped together. Others were as tiny as kittens. Some had jaws so strong they could bite through a school bus. There were even dinosaurs that could fly. Join renowned paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker on a safari through time and watch the evolution of dinosaurs and the animals that lived beside them – including our own distant ancestors! With stops along the way to look at monster bugs, ferocious fin-backs, fluffy dinosaurs, sea monsters, and much more, this is a journey readers will never forget!

Many current paleontologists had as children the 1960 book, Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles (A Giant Golden Book), by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Rudolph Zallinger (whose mural of dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum remains a classic piece of paleo art). But our understanding of the lives of dinosaurs has changed dramatically over the last half-century. So, this new edition is a remake, intended to update young readers on the science of dinosaur paleontology. Luis Rey posted on his blog a comparison of the covers, old and new:


From swamp-dwelling to self-supporting sauropods to feathered theropods, this book covers the entire span of dinosaur time, from the rise of dinosaurs from their reptilian ancestors to their extinction. Toward the end of the book, a very neat tree of life shows where dinosaurs and humans both fit in the evolution of life, stressing that without the demise of dinosaurs, we would not have evolved. Pterosaurs and sea-going reptiles are included, too, as well as a section on the history of the discovery of dinosaurs and changes in the field over the last two centuries. Bakker’s text is active and appropraite for a younger audience, and Luis Rey’s artwork, a combination of traditional paintings and digital illustration, is vibrant, action-packed, and wonderfully brings to life these exciting and mysterious creatures. I highly recommend The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs not only for younger readers, but adults as well!

Subscription service for new evolution toys: would you sign up?

Palm Kids is seeking interest for a subscription for a new series of evolution toys. Working on this is biologist Kate Miller, who designed and sold the Charlie’s Playhouse Giant Evolution Timeline, which we’re very fond of. The new toys are 2-in-1 Evolvems, critters that evolve into another by reversing them – a transitional plush! Here’s a bunch of info regarding the new toys, and be sure to click on the image if you’re interested. There would be a free first shipment, and then a monthly shipment that you’d pay for, which can be cancelled at any time. I think it’s a great idea for introducing evolution and paleontology to children and keeping it fresh and exciting.

Evolution B   Palm Kids

Updates will be posted at Evolution for Kids!

BOOK: Pterosaurs

Ever since I first saw this pterosaur illustration, my perception of these Mesozoic flying reptiles was changed from how I viewed them since childhood. They were not just rulers of the sky, but suitably adapted to getting around on land.

Palaeoart - markwittonThe illustration above is from Mark Witton, pictured at left, a paleontologist and paleoartist. He has just published a beautifully constructed guide to pterosaurs: Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy.

For 150 million years, the skies didn’t belong to birds–they belonged to the pterosaurs. These flying reptiles, which include the pterodactyls, shared the world with the nonavian dinosaurs until their extinction 65 million years ago. Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding thirty feet and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes. This richly illustrated book takes an unprecedented look at these astonishing creatures, presenting the latest findings on their anatomy, ecology, and extinction.

Pterosaurs features some 200 stunning illustrations, including original paintings by Mark Witton and photos of rarely seen fossils. After decades of mystery, paleontologists have finally begun to understand how pterosaurs are related to other reptiles, how they functioned as living animals, and, despite dwarfing all other flying animals, how they managed to become airborne. Here you can explore the fossil evidence of pterosaur behavior and ecology, learn about the skeletal and soft-tissue anatomy of pterosaurs, and consider the newest theories about their cryptic origins. This one-of-a-kind book covers the discovery history, paleobiogeography, anatomy, and behaviors of more than 130 species of pterosaur, and also discusses their demise at the end of the Mesozoic.

Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy will go nicely next to The Complete Dinosaur (Life of the Past). Brian Switek reviewed it in The Great Pterosaur Makeover, the publisher offers some free sneak beak – I mean peek – into the book here, and at his blog Witton shares a little about his book.

BOOK REVIEW: Ankylosaur Attack and Pterosaur Trouble

In a previous post today, I shared a new book that is described as instilling in the reader a “childlike sense of wonder” about dinosaurs. While My Beloved Brontosaurus is for older readers, there is a new series of children’s books about those ancient creatures. Written by Daniel Loxton (Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be) and illustrated by Loxton and W.W. Smith, the Tales of Prehistoric Life series is sure to delight young dinosaur fans and, a more hopeful goal, to create new ones. The first in the series, Ankylosaur Attack (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2011, 32 pp.), follows an Ankylosaurus (the iconic “armored” dinosaur of North America) one morning as he searches for food in his habitat, experiences a grumpy older individual of his own species, watches pterosaurs in the sky, and defends himself – with a little help – against a fierce Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ankylosaur Attack

The narrative is simple, yet through it comes out a lot of what it must have been like to live millions of years ago. On the final page, Loxton gives extra information about the dinosaur species highlighted in the story. Subtle but right there at the beginning just might be the most important sentence in the book: “It was a morning long, long ago – millions of years before humans walked the Earth.” The illustrations in the book are beautiful, looking almost like photographs. Of course, they are not, since Loxton tells us this story is happening long before humans appeared on Earth. They are digital illustrations superimposed on landscape photography.

Spread of Ankylosaur Attack

Photo-realistic images perhaps serve to reinforce to readers that these animals did in fact exist and live on our planet. They are not fictional and simply an artist’s imagination, although some guess work has to be made to flesh out dinosaurs.


Dinosaurs were real, and the illustrations show kids what paleontologists thought they looked like and how they behaved. Loxton had expert advice from paleontologists Kenneth Carpenter and Donald Prothero, so the information is accurate and up-to-date.

Spread of Ankylosaur Attack

The second in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series was just published. Pterosaur Trouble (Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2013, 32 pp.) likewise follows an individual animal.

Pterosaur Trouble

This time, it is not a dinosaur, but another critter from the Mesozoic Era, Quetzalcoatlus. This is another “day in the life” story, also featuring Triceratops and a pack of Saurornitholestes hell bent on having some pterosaur meat for breakfast.

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Spread of Pterosaur Trouble

Loxton got paleontologist Darren Naish, an authority on pterosaur fossils, to provide advice for Pterosaur Trouble. And the book includes the same, if not better, digital illustrations as Ankylosaur Attack. I certainly hope Loxton and his publisher continue this series. I came to be interested in Darwin, evolution, and the history of science through a love of paleontology (sparked by Jurassic Park). Keeping my young son engaged in thinking about the history of life on earth not only occurs through visiting museums, providing him with scientifically-accurate dinosaur toys, and watching a variety of science programming online, but through reading books. And anyone familiar with children’s books about dinosaurs knows, some shine and others lack with regard to keeping up to date with dinosaur paleontology. The Tales of Prehistoric Life series shines brightly. All images, except the one below, are from Kids Can Press website.


BOOK: My Beloved Brontosaurus

Two and a half years ago I posted a review of a new book – his first – from science blogger Brian Switek (Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature). While his blog Laelaps has moved around a bit (now at National Geographic), he’s still my go to source for analysis for new studies in paleontology. I am happy to share that Brian has published a second book:

My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, by Brian Switek (New York: Scientific American, 2013), 272 pp.

Dinosaurs, with their awe-inspiring size, terrifying claws and teeth, and otherworldly abilities, occupy a sacred place in our childhoods. They loom over museum halls, thunder through movies, and are a fundamental part of our collective imagination. In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us. Investigating the latest discoveries in paleontology, he breathes new life into old bones.

Switek reunites us with these mysterious creatures as he visits desolate excavation sites and hallowed museum vaults, exploring everything from the sex life of Apatosaurus and T. rex’s feather-laden body to just why dinosaurs vanished. (And of course, on his journey, he celebrates the book’s titular hero, “Brontosaurus”—who suffered a second extinction when we learned he never existed at all—as a symbol of scientific progress.)

With infectious enthusiasm, Switek questions what we’ve long held to be true about these beasts, weaving in stories from his obsession with dinosaurs, which started when he was just knee-high to a Stegosaurus. Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is a book that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.

Read can read some reviews from Chad Orzel and scicurious, read pieces by Brian about the book at Slate and io9, read chapter 7 “Birds with Feathers” in a free excerpt from the NCSE, or listen to Brian read an excerpt:

Brian will be at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR on May 22, 7:30pm (info). I look forward to attending his book talk with my son, who, like Brian and myself, loves dinosaurs.

BOOK: Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline

Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline, by David Sepkoski (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 432 pp.

Although fossils have provided some of the most important evidence for evolution, the discipline of paleontology has not always had a central place in evolutionary biology. Beginning in Darwin’s day, and for much of the twentieth century, paleontologists were often regarded as mere fossil collectors by many evolutionary biologists, their attempts to contribute to evolutionary theory ignored or regarded with scorn. In the 1950s, however, paleontologists began mounting a counter-movement that insisted on the valid, important, and original contribution of paleontology to evolutionary theory. This movement, called “paleobiology” by its proponents, advocated for an approach to the fossil record that was theoretical, quantitative, and oriented towards explaining the broad patterns of evolution and extinction in the history of life.

Rereading the Fossil Record provides, as never before, a historical account of the origin, rise, and importance of paleobiology, from the mid-nineteenth century to the late 1980s. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, David Sepkoski shows how the movement was conceived and promoted by a small but influential group of paleontologists—including Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, among others—and examines the intellectual, disciplinary, and political dynamics involved in the ascendency of paleobiology. By emphasizing the close relationship between paleobiology and other evolutionary disciplines, this book writes a new chapter in the history of evolutionary biology, while also offering insights into the dynamics of disciplinary change in modern science.

BOOK: Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls: Science at the Margins in the Victorian Age

Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls: Science at the Margins in the Victorian Age, by Sherrie Lynne Lyons (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010), 245 pp.

Science permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, and yet, as current debates over intelligent design, the causes of global warming, and alternative health practices indicate, the question of how to distinguish science from pseudoscience remains a difficult one. To address this question, Sherrie Lynne Lyons draws on four examples from the nineteenth century—sea serpent investigations, spiritualism, phrenology, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each attracted the interest of prominent scientists as well as the general public, yet three remained at the edges of scientific respectability while the fourth, evolutionary theory, although initially regarded as scientific heresy, ultimately became the new scientific orthodoxy. Taking a serious look at the science behind these examples, Lyons argues that distinguishing between science and pseudoscience, particularly in the midst of discovery, is not as easy as the popular image of science tends to suggest. Two examples of present-day controversies surrounding evolutionary psychology and the meaning of fossils confirm this assertion. She concludes that although the boundaries of what constitutes science are not always clear-cut, the very intimate relationship between science and society, rather than being a hindrance, contributes to the richness and diversity of scientific ideas. Taken together, these entertaining and accessible examples illuminate important issues concerning the theory, practice, and content of science.

ARTICLE: A bridge-builder: Wolf-Ernst Reif and the Darwinisation of German paleontology

From Historical Biology: A Journal of Paleobiology:

A bridge-builder: Wolf-Ernst Reif and the Darwinisation of German paleontology

Georgy S. Levit and Uwe Hoßfeld

Abstract Wolf-Ernst Reif was an outstanding German paleontologist, who, along with his empirical studies (biomechanics, functional and constructional morphology, etc.), paid significant attention to theoretical issues and the history of his discipline. Reif was a bridge-builder, skillfully synthesising history, theory and empirical studies within German-language paleontology. This paper briefly discusses sophisticated relationships between German paleontology and Darwinism based on the historical studies of Wolf-Ernst Reif. German paleontology did not fully embrace Darwinism until the 1970s. There are several reasons for this. First, alternative evolutionary theories (saltationism, neo-Lamarckism, orthogenesis) occupied a significant segment of the theoretical landscape in the German life sciences. Second, typological thinking persisted in German paleontology after the Second World War. Third, German paleontologists were relatively uninterested in discussing mechanisms of evolution, concentrating instead on reconstructing phylogenetic history.

BOOK REVIEW: The Complete Dinosaur

In 1993, the movie Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name sent me into a dinosaur frenzy. Over the next decade I visited most of the museums in southern California that had dinosaur displays, and attended many museum lectures with paleontologists. I checked out scores of books on dinosaurs from public libraries, and read through them like a mad man. I cherished a 1993 issue of National Geographic about changing theories in dinosaur science and eagerly awaited new issues of AMNH’s Natural History. I recorded episodes of PaleoWorld from The Learning Channel onto VHS (you know, when you could actually “learn” something from that station). And I joined the now defunct Dinosaur Society. I was a dinosaur nerd, in high school. It is through this concentrated must-read everything-I-can-about-dinosaurs-as-soon-as-possible phase that I became familiar with Charles Darwin and evolution. Many of the dinosaur books I read gave at least passing mention to them, if not a more devoted section about how times were changing in the nineteenth century, and how dinosaurs and other fossil remains fit in with this new evolutionary perspective. A decade later, I abandoned my plans to major in paleontology at Montana State University in Bozeman and was convinced to switch over to the history department. I majored in history, focusing on the history of science, especially Darwin and evolution. But living in Bozeman always afforded me a closeness to dinosaurs. On campus was the Museum of the Rockies, and while going to school there I was able to see the museum move on from older displays to a new dinosaur hall. And I took my son there – many times (many). He has scores of dinosaur figurines and books, talks about different species of dinosaurs, and we’re big fans of Dinosaur Train on PBS (thank you, Dr. Scott). While I did not become a paleontologist like I thought I would – but perhaps Patrick might – dinosaurs had not gone extinct in my life. Perhaps this is why I find value in the release of a second edition of The Complete Dinosaur. It is the perfect guide to dinosaurs for someone like me. I am not a trained paleontologist, so the mostly non-technical language in the book works nicely (unlike that of another large dinosaur reference book, The Dinosauria); but I am not foreign to some anatomical jargon (I did take several science courses, including one on dinosaur paleontology), so when some of the authors refer to fossae and trochanters, I am not in the dark.

The Complete Dinosaur

The Complete Dinosaur, edited by M.K. Brett Surman, Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., and James O. Farlow (and published by Indiana University Press, 2012), consists of 45 chapters by different authors in five parts: The Discovery of Dinosaurs, the Study of Dinosaurs, the Clades of Dinosaurs (think different groups), the Paleobiology of Dinosaurs, and Dinosaur Evolution in the Mesozoic. That first section on discovery attracts me the most, as a history buff and major. Chapters discuss early discoveries (it’s great to see reference to work from Adrienne Mayor on ancient civilizations’ perceptions of fossil bones), the anatomist Richard Owen and his creation of the term and group “dinosaur,” and four chapters on dinosaur discoveries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the southern continents. In the study section are chapters on bones, muscles, classification, geologic time, how technology advances the study of dinosaurs, museum exhibits, and how artists reconstruct dinosaurs. The middle section on different dinosaur groups is pretty straight forward. Choose a chapter to learn about dinosaurian ancestors, early dinosaurs, theropods (the meat-eaters), birds (yes, they get their own chapter!), prosauropods, sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), stegosaurs, ankylosaurs, Marginocephalia (pachycephalosaurs and ceratopsians like Triceratops), and ornithopods (including the duck-billed dinosaurs). In the paleobiology section, one can brush up on dinosaur food and dung, sex, eggs, growth, disease, movement (as evidenced through trackways), metabolic physiology, among other topics – essentially, how dinosaurs lived.

The final section on evolution covers biogeography, faunas, extinction, and in the final chapter, “Dinosaurs and Evolutionary Theory,” the authors of which show how dinosaurs have not been utilized in evolutionary theories. Although Darwin surely knew of new fossil discoveries and Owen’s work on forming the new group of animals, there does not seem to be any significant mention of dinosaurs in his correspondence. While Padian and Burton suggest that Darwin steered clear of discussing dinosaurs as not to ruffle Owen’s feathers (for he thought differently than Darwin on evolutionary mechanisms), they are wrong to state that “Darwin does not mention dinosaurs in his published work, the watershed of evolutionary theory in Victorian times” (p. 1063). In later editions of On the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin refers to “dinosaurians” twice while discussing extinction in his chapter “On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings” (the first mention is in his third edition of 1861 and the second mention is his fifth edition of 1869). Historical quibble aside, the final chapter is an interesting overview of the role that dinosaurs as a group of extinct animals have played – or not played – in evolutionary thinking. For such a large book devoted to mostly science, it’s nice to see that science embedded by appreciation for the history of the field of dinosaur paleontology on both ends.

Throughout the book are scientific illustrations and other images, as well as a central section of colored plates of dinosaur art. Throw in individual chapter reference lists, an appendix on dinosaur websites, a glossary, and a very detailed 30 page 3-columned index, and you have a rather “complete dinosaur” book. May my son and I reference it often!

Recent articles of interest

From the journal The Plant Cell:

Charles Darwin and the Origins of Plant Evolutionary Developmental Biology

William E. Friedman and Pamela K. Diggle

Abstract Much has been written of the early history of comparative embryology and its influence on the emergence of an evolutionary developmental perspective. However, this literature, which dates back nearly a century, has been focused on metazoans, without acknowledgment of the contributions of comparative plant morphologists to the creation of a developmental view of biodiversity. We trace the origin of comparative plant developmental morphology from its inception in the eighteenth century works of Wolff and Goethe, through the mid nineteenth century discoveries of the general principles of leaf and floral organ morphogenesis. Much like the stimulus that von Baer provided as a nonevolutionary comparative embryologist to the creation of an evolutionary developmental view of animals, the comparative developmental studies of plant morphologists were the basis for the first articulation of the concept that plant (namely floral) evolution results from successive modifications of ontogeny. Perhaps most surprisingly, we show that the first person to carefully read and internalize the remarkable advances in the understanding of plant morphogenesis in the 1840s and 1850s is none other than Charles Darwin, whose notebooks, correspondence, and (then) unpublished manuscripts clearly demonstrate that he had discovered the developmental basis for the evolutionary transformation of plant form.

From Earth Sciences History:

Religious assumptions in Lord Kelvin’s estimates of the Earth’s age

Leonard G. Wilson

Abstract Lord Kelvin’s estimates of the Earth’s age were not necessary consequences of his physics. Religion influenced his physics and his arguments for a limited age of the Earth. Kelvin’s primary aim was to destroy Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection by attacking the uniformitarian geology on which Darwin’s theory was founded. His calculations of the age of the Earth contained a fundamental contradiction. He assumed that the Earth began as a hot liquid sphere, but Fourier’s mathematics, which he used to calculate the rate of cooling, applied only to heat conducted through a solid. Kelvin’s assumption of an initially hot liquid Earth was a necessary consequence of his thermodynamics. Energy could neither be created nor destroyed. The heat within the Earth must, therefore, be derived from its first creation by God. Kelvin never admitted the contradiction between the original hot liquid Earth and his calculation of its cooling on the assumption that the Earth was solid throughout, but in 1897 his imagined account of the initial Earth was a search for a solid Earth amenable to his calculations. The heat flow through the solid crust was very small in proportion to the total internal heat of the Earth. If Kelvin had included the total internal heat in his calculations, he would have arrived at much higher figures for the age of the Earth.

From the Journal of the History of Biology:

Karl Beurlen (1901–1985), Nature Mysticism, and Aryan Paleontology

Olivier Rieppel

Abstract The relatively late acceptance of Darwinism in German biology and paleontology is frequently attributed to a lingering of Lamarckism, a persisting influence of German idealistic Naturphilosophie and Goethean romanticism. These factors are largely held responsible for the vitalism underlying theories of saltational and orthogenetic evolutionary change that characterize the writings of many German paleontologists during the first half of the 20th century. A prominent exponent of that tradition was Karl Beurlen, who is credited with having been the first German paleontologist to present a full-fledged theory of saltational evolution and orthogenetic change. A review of Beurlen’s writings reveals motives and concerns far more complex, however, and firmly rooted in contemporary völkisch thought and Aryan Science. Beurlen’s mature theory of evolution can indeed be understood as his own contribution to Aryan Geology and Biology, tainted as it was with National-Socialist ideology. Evolutionary biologists of the time who opposed the theories of Beurlen and like-minded authors, i.e., idealistic morphology, typology, saltational change, orthogenesis and cyclism did so on Darwinian principles, which ultimately prevailed. But at the time when the battle was fought, their adherence to the principle of natural selection was likewise ideologically tainted, namely in terms of racial theory. National-Socialist ideology was unable to forge a unity of evolutionary theory in Germany even amongst those of its proponents who endorsed this ideology.

From the British Journal for the History of Science:

Charles Darwin’s use of theology in the Origin of Species

Stephen Dilley

Abstract This essay examines Darwin’s positiva (or positive) use of theology in the first edition of the Origin of Species in three steps. First, the essay analyses the Origin‘s theological language about God’s accessibility, honesty, methods of creating, relationship to natural laws and lack of responsibility for natural suffering; the essay contends that Darwin utilized positiva theology in order to help justify (and inform) descent with modification and to attack special creation. Second, the essay offers critical analysis of this theology, drawing in part on Darwin’s mature ruminations to suggest that, from an epistemic point of view, the Origin‘s positiva theology manifests several internal tensions. Finally, the essay reflects on the relative epistemic importance of positiva theology in the Origin‘s overall case for evolution. The essay concludes that this theology served as a handmaiden and accomplice to Darwin’s science.

Also from the British Journal for the History of Science:

By design: James Clerk Maxwell and the evangelical unification of science

Matthew Stanley

Abstract James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory famously unified many of the Victorian laws of physics. This essay argues that Maxwell saw a deep theological significance in the unification of physical laws. He postulated a variation on the design argument that focused on the unity of phenomena rather than Paley’s emphasis on complexity. This argument of Maxwell’s is shown to be connected to his particular evangelical religious views. His evangelical perspective provided encouragement for him to pursue a unified physics that supplemented his other philosophical, technical and social influences. Maxwell’s version of the argument from design is also contrasted with modern ‘intelligent-design’ theory.

BOOK REVIEW: Brian Switek’s “Written in Stone”

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature. By Brian Switek. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pp. Illustrations, notes, references, index. $16.95 (paper).

It’s Monday, and many of you are probably getting back to school or work from a nice holiday vacation. Did you enjoy your turkey? Did you think about evolution while you feasted? Check out this clip of paleontologist Robert T. Bakker from the TLC show Paleoworld (you know, back when they had shows worth watching):

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a Bakker to make our Thanksgiving meal a science education opportunity? (If you wish to explore Thanksgiving dinosaurs further, try this activity from the University of California Museum of Paleontology.)

Two parts to cover: background image of nautiloids represents the material fossils themselves; foreground image of a label represents human understanding of fossils, i.e., a specimen card

Birds are descended from dinosaurs. But there is a lot of history to that idea. Paleontologists did not simply uncover fossils of dinosaurs and realize that living birds are a surviving lineage of theropods. Where can one turn to learn of all this? Brian Switek, whose blog Laelaps (in its current evolutionary stage with Wired) I have been reading for several years now, has just published his first book, Written in Stone. Each chapter focuses on a particular group of animals that we now have great fossil evidence showing their evolutionary history: birds, whales, early rodent-like mammals, elephants, horses, and humans, to name a few. We come away with a full understanding of the branching nature of the evolution of life on Earth, as Switek dispels the notion of progressive, ladder-like, and human-oriented evolution. He also gives us the sense of the vast amount of extinct vertebrates (relatives of ours included), for some of what we see on the planet today – horses, for example –  are just a peek of the diversity of forms in the groups in which they are nested. “To focus solely upon our ancestors is to blind ourselvves to our own evolutionary context” (21).

Brian Switek

Photo credit: Tracey Switek

Wielding a wealth of science information while attending to historical detail, Written in Stone offers a very-readable narrative of how European and American scientists have understood fossils over the centuries. While not an academic historian – he is a freelance science writer and a Research Associate in paleontology at the New Jersey State Museum – Switek gives importance to the historical development of ideas in paleontology. Here we are introduced to not only various species of vertebrate animals and the myriad of transitional forms bridging them, but also to their discoverers and the thoughts of those who have studied them (in some cases, this includes indigenous peoples, with a nod to the work of Adrienne Mayor).

One of the criticisms Darwin knew he would receive on publishing On the Origin of Species was that the fossil record was incomplete. Maybe so, but move ahead in time a century and a half, and the amount of material evidence for past life on earth is remarkable, thousands upon thousands of specimens across the kingdoms packed away or lining cabinet drawers in museum collections worldwide, a minute percentage on view to the public. Despite what we do have, it will never be complete, and the answers to paleontologists’ questions about what animal is related to another, and how are those in turn related to this group will never be, well, set in stone. Like any field of science, paleontology is an ongoing human process. Ideas are constantly refined based on new evidence or someone coming along and looking at things differently. In Written in Stone, Switek shows us that in paleontology, this is definitely the case.

There are generally two ways we could look at the history of paleontology. One, as Switek does, is to tell the story of those involved (we get Darwin, Huxley, Owen, Marsh, and Cope, but we also learn about a lot of relatively unknowns, too, such as Albert Gaudry; and there’s a female paleontologist as well, Jennifer Clack), their ideas, conflicts and competition between figures, and the contingent nature of history – this happened, so therefore this happened; or, this only happened because this happened. We receive such history for the early nineteenth century all the way up to, well, now. Just as evolution is contingent (what say you, Gould?), certain events can happen that change the course of paleontological history. For example, Switek tells us about how only when a graduate student dropped a specimen did that act help to understand the evolutionary history of whales. Today, CT scanning is the norm in paleontology for peering into the insides of bones. Before, such were chance opportunities, or, deliberative slicing of specimens.

The other, which Switek acknowledges but does to a lesser degree (but he does get some in there!), is to show how factors seemingly beyond the purview of science actually inform it, and vice versa (how culture, politics, economics, geography, etc. play a role in the conduct of science). “The places paleontologists looked for fossils and how those fossils have been interpreted have been influenced by politics and culture, reminding us that while there is a reality that science allows us to approach the process of science is a human endeavour” (23). Covering so much about geology, the age of the earth, and fossils of animals, Switek shows how religion affected the ideas of some naturalists or paleontologists. We learn how politics enabled naturalists to travel, “natural science, pressed into the service of empire” (69, 181, 183); of the public’s thirst for spectacles (145); how national pride pitted Thomas Jefferson against the Comte de Buffon concerning large mammals in North America; and how Philip Henry Gosse attacked evolution because of personal reasons (204-5).

And, so what? Does it matter if we understand how life on Earth evolved? Yes, it surely does, since we are part of that story. In the last two pages of the penultimate chapter and in the short final chapter, Switek pulls his thoughts together and unpretentiously puts us in our place. “We are merely a shivering twig that is the last vestige of a richer family tree.” If that saddens you, then: “Life is most precious when its unity and rarity are recognized, and we are among the rarest of things.” Humans are just like any other organism on the planet, and all should be appreciated together.

There have been several books over the last few years that look at the evidence for evolution (particularly, Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution and Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True, and another to be published next June, The Evidence for Evolution by Alan R. Rogers). What value, then, is Written in Stone? One, because it is so very well-written by a young writer. And two, for its coverage of the history of science, however limited. Three, it is the perfect antidote to the ignorance of some members of our society [largely creationists; however, Switek does not explicity engage with anti-evolutionists in his book, rather, his text works as "letting the evidence speak for itself," or, as Switek states, "the bones of our distant ancestors... should speak to us from the earth" (18)]. For example, I think someone needs to send this woman a copy of Written in Stone for the holidays:

That said, Mr. Switek, congratulations on writing a fantastic book about evolution, which I think could be titled Strange Beings à la Darwin (see this 1863 letter from Hugh Falconer to Darwin, which Switek quotes in the book). I look forward to meeting you at Science Online 2011 in January! (Switek also blogs for Smithsonian’s Dinosaur Tracking Blog.)

Some links…

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs: Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Gishosaurs

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution wins the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize

VIDEO – The Poetry of Science: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson:

Sandwalk: Dispatches from the Evolution Wars

Sandwalk: The National Science Foundation Version of “Understanding Evolution”

Galapagos Live: Introducing Galapagos 2.0 & The Beagle Project Blog: In Galapagos!

The Red Notebook: People want to see the Beagle

Two interviews with Laelaps’ Brian Switek, author of the soon-to-be-released Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature

Clips from the new documentary First Life from David Attenborough, plus:

History of geology: Dragons and Geology

BBC Audio Slideshow: Jurassic woman (Mary Anning)

History of Science Centre’s blog: A note on transactions and Ubi Crookes Ibi Lux

The Bubble Chamber: Can History and Philosophy of Science be Applied in Socially Relevant Ways? and Planet Earth through Disney’s Lens

From the Hands of Quacks: For the Maker of the Stars: The Cultural Reception of Print

Whewell’s Ghost: Mr. X

History of science blog: Evocative objects

Darwin and Gender: The Blog: The Reluctant Bride Groom?

Darwin Correspondence Project: Alison Pearn to discuss ‘Darwin’s Women’ at Wesleyan University

Charlie’s Playhouse blog: Irresistible contest entry

Natural History @ 100: The Smithsonian/Roosevelt African Expedition 1909-1910

Ptak Science Books: Phantom in the Opera: Questions about Darwin and Einstein and Music

Robert Kohler reviews Steven Shapin’s Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority for Science

Melanie Keene reviews Peter Bowler’s Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain in Centaurus

ARTICLES: Darwin and Brocchi


Two articles about the Italian geologist Giambattista Brocchi (1771–1826) in Evolution: Education and Outreach:

Brocchi, Darwin, and Transmutation: Phylogenetics and Paleontology at the Dawn of Evolutionary Biology

Stefano Dominici and Niles Eldredge

Abstract Giambattista Brocchi’s (1814) monograph (see Dominici, Evo Edu Outreach, this issue, 2010) on the Tertiary fossils of the Subappenines in Italy—and their relation to the living molluscan fauna—contains a theoretical, transmutational perspective (“Brocchian transmutation”). Unlike Lamarck (1809), Brocchi saw species as discrete and fundamentally stable entities. Explicitly analogizing the births and deaths of species with those of individual organisms (“Brocchi’s analogy”), Brocchi proposed that species have inherent longevities, eventually dying of old age unless driven to extinction by external forces. As for individuals, births and deaths of species are understood to have natural causes; sequences of births and deaths of species produce genealogical lineages of descent, and faunas become increasingly modernized through time. Brocchi calculated that over 50% of his fossil species are still alive in the modern fauna. Brocchi’s work was reviewed by Horner (1816) in Edinburgh. Brocchi’s influence as a transmutational thinker is clear in Jameson’s (1827) “geological illustrations” in his fifth edition of his translation of Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth (read by his student Charles Darwin) and in the anonymous essays of 1826 and 1827 published in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal—which also carried a notice of Brocchi’s death in 1827. The notion that new species replace older, extinct ones—in what today would be called an explicitly phylogenetic context—permeates these essays. Herschel’s (1830) discussion of temporal replacement of species and the modernization of faunas closely mirrors these prior discussions. His book, dedicated to the search for natural causes of natural phenomena, was read by Charles Darwin while a student at Cambridge. Darwin’s work on HMS Beagle was in large measure an exploration of replacement patterns of “allied forms” of endemic species in time and in space. His earliest discussions of transmutation, in his essay February 1835, as well as the Red Notebook and the early pages of Notebook B (the latter two written in 1837 back in England), contain Brocchi’s analogy, including the idea of inherent species longevities. Darwin’s first theory of the origin of species was explicitly saltational, invoking geographic isolation as the main cause of the abrupt appearance of new species. We conclude that Darwin was testing the predicted patterns of both Brocchian and Lamarckian transmutation as early as 1832 at the outset of his work on the Beagle.


Brocchi’s Subapennine Fossil Conchology

Stefano Dominici

Abstract The Italian geologist Giambattista Brocchi (1771–1826) is presented as a key figure in the historical period preceding young Charles Darwin’s first work on transmutational theory while on the Beagle. The brief biographical account focuses on Brocchi’s writings related to his analogy that species have births and deaths like individuals, and culminates in his most important work, Subapennine Fossil Conchology of 1814. Brocchi’s analogy as an original and fertile way to approach the fossil record was to influence Darwin’s first evolutionary thinking. Relevant passages of the book are presented for the first time in an English translation.

Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective

Cover Figure

The Geological Society, London has published a volume of papers on the history of dinosaur (or phylogenetically-related) paleontology, Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, edited by R.T.J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish (blog), and D.M. Martill:

The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.

And the papers:

About this title – Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective [Abstract] [PDF] FREE

Richard T. J. Moody, Eric Buffetaut, Darren Naish and David M. Martill, Dinosaurs and other extinct saurians: a historical perspective – introduction [Extract] [Full Text] [PDF] FREE

Mark Evans, The roles played by museums, collections and collectors in the early history of reptile palaeontology [Abstract]

H. S. Torrens, William Perceval Hunter (1812–1878), forgotten English student of dinosaurs-to-be and of Wealden rocks [Abstract]

Leslie F. Noè, Jeff J. Liston and Sandra D. Chapman, ‘Old bones, dry subject’: the dinosaurs and pterosaur collected by Alfred Nicholson Leeds of Peterborough, England [Abstract]

Federico Fanti, Life and ideas of Giovanni Capellini (1833–1922): a palaeontological revolution in Italy [Abstract]

Richard T. J. Moody and Darren Naish, Alan Jack Charig (1927–1997): an overview of his academic accomplishments and role in the world of fossil reptile research [Abstract]

Susan Turner, Cynthia V. Burek and Richard T. J. Moody, Forgotten women in an extinct saurian (man’s) world [Abstract]

Xabier Pereda Suberbiola, José-Ignacio Ruiz-Omeñaca, Nathalie Bardet, Laura Piñuela and José-Carlos García-Ramos, Wilhelm (Guillermo) Schulz and the earliest discoveries of dinosaurs and marine reptiles in Spain [Abstract]

Matthew T. Carrano, Jeffrey A. Wilson and Paul M. Barrett, The history of dinosaur collecting in central India, 1828–1947 [Abstract]

Eric Buffetaut, Spinosaurs before Stromer: early finds of spinosaurid dinosaurs and their interpretations [Abstract]

Martin A. Whyte, Mike Romano and Will Watts, Yorkshire dinosaurs: a history in two parts [Abstract]

A. J. Bowden, G. R. Tresise and W. Simkiss, Chirotherium, the Liverpool footprint hunters and their interpretation of the Middle Trias environment [Abstract]

Darren Naish, Pneumaticity, the early years: Wealden Supergroup dinosaurs and the hypothesis of saurischian pneumaticity [Abstract]

Peter Wellnhofer, A short history of research on Archaeopteryx and its relationship with dinosaurs [Abstract]

Brian Switek (congrats to Laelaps!), Thomas Henry Huxley and the reptile to bird transition [Abstract]

Kasper Lykke Hansen, A history of digit identification in the manus of theropods (including Aves) [Abstract]

Attila Osi, Edina Prondvai and Barnabás Géczy, The history of Late Jurassic pterosaurs housed in Hungarian collections and the revision of the holotype of Pterodactylus micronyx Meyer 1856 (a ‘Pester Exemplar’) [Abstract]

David M. Martill, The early history of pterosaur discovery in Great Britain [Abstract]

Mark P. Witton, Pteranodon and beyond: the history of giant pterosaurs from 1870 onwards [Abstract]

Jean Le Loeuff, Art and palaeontology in German-occupied France: Les Diplodocus by Mathurin Méheut (1943) [Abstract]

J. J. Liston, 2000 A.D. and the new ‘Flesh’: first to report the dinosaur renaissance in ‘moving’ pictures [Abstract]

Michael P. Taylor, Sauropod dinosaur research: a historical review [Abstract]

Link 182 (actually, about 40)

Now that I’m back from Texas (sister-in-law’s wedding)…

… let’s see what I’ve missed. Here are some links:

National Fossil Day is tomorrow, October 13th. Check here for events.

For the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, get your entries in by October 15th!

Homologous Legs: This Week in Intelligent Design – 12/10/10

Point of Inquiry (podcast): PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney – New Atheism or Accommodation?

USA Today/Jerry Coyne: Science and religion aren’t friends

Bad Astronomy: Creationists still can’t seem to evolve

Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:

Evangelism at the Richard Dawkins event (The Wortham Center)

Dawkins was on Bill Maher

The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Discovery Institute Targets African Americans & Discovery Institute Demands Accurate Quotes

Sandwalk: The Casey Luskin Lesson Plan on Teaching the Controversy

Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Damed by their own words

Carnival of Evolution #28 – Featuring Sandwalk

Playing Chess with Pigeons: The Rush to ignorance tour continues

Laelaps: When Pseudo-Crocs Walked Tall

So Simple a Beginning: 150 years of Darwin, from UCI Libraries

From the Hands of Quacks: Mind & Body: The Philosopher’s Body as a Subject

The beauty of Darwin

Did you know that Noah himself went out to catch birds? From a church in Texas on my trip:

NYT/Natalie Angier: Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals

Ether Wave Propaganda: Is There a Conflict of Interest between STS and History of Science?

AHA: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson at Howard University

History of Science Centre’s blog: The Forgotten

Whewell’s Ghost/Evolving Thoughts: The historical way to do science

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Yes, histories of science are worth reading! & David Willetts and the history of science

@beckyfh: Chronometer from HMS Beagle (91st object in British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects) info/podcast

PACHSmörgåsbord: Popular History of Science for the American G.I.

The Species Seekers: This is the Great Age of Discovery

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Great minds gloomy about humans’ future

American Scientist: The 95% Solution (about informal science education). Also, from Physics Today: The evolution of the science museum

Why Evolution Is True: The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and here.)

Periodic Tabloid: Making Connections: “The Big Picture” and the History of Science

Charlie’s Playhouse: Does Steven Pinker have kids? He should. & New podcast with Kate at Parenting Within Reason!

Quodlibeta: Doubting Darwin’s Doubt

Times Archive Blog (from 2009): Did Charles Darwin stick pins into babies?

Creationist quote-mining occurs in games, too!

In my previous post I shared a link to NCSE’s images of an intelligent design vs. evolution from the banana-toting, Darwin-bashing creationist Ray Comfort. Here’s one of the images, showing a card from the game that uses this quote:

“Scientists conced that their most cherished theories are based on embarassingly few fossil fragments and that huge gaps exst in the fossil record.”

A citation is given, that’s a good step: Time magazine, November 7, 1977. So, what is this quote in reference to? What’s the context. The quote comes from an article titled “Puzzling Out Man’s Ascent” (all online, thanks Rob Igo, for the link) and here is where it falls:

These developments, probably more than any others, hastened the differentiation between man and earlier hominids. Explains Anthropologist Charles Kimberlin (“Bob”) Brain of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa: “Meat eating and hunting were important factors. If you remained a vegetarian, the necessity for culture was not nearly as great.” Richard Leakey too believes that hunting helped to make emerging man a social creature. Says he: “The hominids that thrived best were those able to restrain their immediate impulses and manipulate the impulses of others into cooperative efforts. They were the vanguard of the human race.”

Still, doubts about the sequence of man’s emergence remain.

Scientists concede that even their most cherished theories are based on embarrassingly few fossil fragments, and that huge gaps exist in the fossil record. Anthropologists, ruefully says Alan Mann of the University of Pennsylvania, “are like the blind men looking at the elephant, each sampling only a small part of the total reality.” His colleagues agree that the picture of man’s origins is far from complete.

Perhaps no one is trying harder to fill in the blanks than Richard Leakey. Picking up where his father Louis left off at his death in 1972, Richard—with his Lake Turkana discoveries —has already moved to the forefront of modern anthropology. Now he is reaching out to coordinate research throughout East Africa and taking the lead in sorting and assembling the thousands of fragments of evidence that may someday reveal the secrets of man’s origins.

Oh, the article discusses human evolution, not evolution of life on earth generally. Gee, Ray, do you think you could have clarified that? And, it’s not like any work in paleoanthropology has occurred over the last three decades.

Beware, quote-mining occurs in games, too! More important, do I have to give up my brain?


New book of interest, The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff, comes out in November. Richard has a blog for the book, and he tweets @RichardConniff

Rush Limbaugh “tackles evolution” – here’s a sneak peek:

RUSH: Of course creationism is — but Darwinism is faith, too. That’s my whole point. Darwinism is presented as absolute science, inarguable science, and it’s faith as well. CALLER: It is science. It is science, Rush. There’s a lot of evidence — RUSH: Well, then I’m going to say creationism is a science, intelligent design is a science. If you say my faith isn’t a science, I’m going to say yours isn’t.

And again!

Niles Eldredge: How Systematics Became “Phylogenetic” [pdf]

Nature: The Lost Correspondence of Francis Crick (review)

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Government funding for ‘pure’ research: an extremely brief and gappy history

Whewell’s Ghost (Will Thomas): Good History and the Virtue of Sisyphus

All You Need to Know About Dinosaurs, courtesy of the ICR

NCSE shares: images of an intelligent design vs. evolution board game from Ray Comfort – go to their Facebook page; Darwin and Scopes in new poll on knowledge of religion; and a Blast From the Past video, “The Case of the Texas Footprints”:

Dinosaur Tracking: The Dinosaurs of Industry

Laelaps: Giraffes – Necks for food or necks for sex?

Paleontology and history of science blogger Mike Bertasso looks like he’s back to blogging since summer is over…

Kele’s Science Blog: Personal Beliefs’ Impact Upon the Synthesis

Read More

Darwin and Gender: Darwin, Henrietta and Tennyson & Female Censorship?

David Quammen: Being Jane Goodall

Info on a (potentially free) book about the postal Darwin (stamps, that is), here

Down the Cellar: Shoehorning science: Darwin and group selection

Darwin has “manly notebooks”

JF Derry: Rich Pickings (about Darwin and whether or not he had Victorian sensibility) & Wars of the Words

The Bubble Chamber: Is Sam Harris on to something? Can science answer moral questions?

Another video, “About the British Geological Survey | 175 years of geoscience”:

And to end, I thoroughly enjoyed this tweet from @theselflessmeme:


VIDEO: Stephen Jay Gould on the fossil record (2001)

Stephen Jay Gould‘s collections of Natural History essays were some of the first books about evolution I explored in high school. It’s nice to hear his voice. The NCSE posted this video of Gould discussing creationism & fossils while reminsicing on his involvement in McLean v. Arkansas (1981):

He also has with him a few really old books. When seeing him interviewed from his office in various documentaries, I always thought his library would be awesome to look through:

Chicago Darwin videos

Videos of some talks from the University of Chicago’s Darwin celebration have been put online:

Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago): “Speciation: Problems and Prospects”

Paul Sereno (University of Chicago): “Dinosaurs: Phylogenetic Reconstruction from Darwin to the Present”

David Jablonski (University of Chicago): “Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology: The Revitalized Partnership”

Neil Shubin (University of Chicago): “Great Transformations in Life: Insights from Genes & Fossils”

Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago): “Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design”

Via Why Evolution Is True.

Evolution Game: Evolve or Perish

Evolve or Perish boardgame

From the ETE Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History comes “Evolve or Perish,” an evolution-based version of Chutes & Ladders:

you use chips and a die to reach the finish. Evolve or Perish, however, also takes you through 630 million years of evolution from life in the sea to life on land. A glossary explains important events. Evolve or Perish can be played at two levels, beginner and advanced.

You can print the board and instructions from the website. The artist is Hannah Bonner. Hat-tip to Brian Switek‘s twitter feed (@Laelaps).

Palaeobet Bookmark

Palaeobet Bookmark

Palaeobet Bookmark (click to view larger)

I like Palaeobet, cool paleontological renditions of your ABCs. Although all the letters are contained in one image file, I separated particular letters, put them together, printed it out, and made a little bookmark for Patrick:








You can also get a poster of the Palaeobet!