BOOK: Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth

A new book of interest:

James Lawrence Powell, Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 384 pp.

Publisher’s description Over the course of the twentieth century, scientists came to accept four counterintuitive yet fundamental facts about the Earth: deep time, continental drift, meteorite impact, and global warming. When first suggested, each proposition violated scientific orthodoxy and was quickly denounced as scientific–and sometimes religious–heresy. Nevertheless, after decades of rejection, scientists came to accept each theory. The stories behind these four discoveries reflect more than the fascinating push and pull of scientific work. They reveal the provocative nature of science and how it raises profound and sometimes uncomfortable truths as it advances. For example, counter to common sense, the Earth and the solar system are older than all of human existence; the interactions among the moving plates and the continents they carry account for nearly all of the Earth’s surface features; and nearly every important feature of our solar system results from the chance collision of objects in space. Most surprising of all, we humans have altered the climate of an entire planet and now threaten the future of civilization. This absorbing scientific history is the only book to describe the evolution of these four ideas from heresy to truth, showing how science works in practice and how it inevitably corrects the mistakes of its practitioners. Scientists can be wrong, but they do not stay wrong. In the process, astonishing ideas are born, tested, and over time take root.

BOOK: The Labyrinth: God, Darwin, and the Meaning of Life

A new book of interest:

Philip Appleman, The Labyrinth: God, Darwin, and the Meaning of Life (New York: Quantuck Lane Press, 2014), 72 pp.

Publisher’s description Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Philip Appleman sagely and eloquently addresses the questions that humans have pondered for ages, putting them in the illuminating context of our evolutionary development and cultural history. Twenty-first century thinkers reflecting on the long and horrendous history of religious wars and atrocities, are no longer willing to pay the traditional deference to religious authority, preferring instead to seek inside their own lives, thoughts, and actions for the “meaning of life.” Science, especially Darwinian biology, has been helpful to moralists in many ways, and has been the source of some of our firmest social understandings.

“CW Prepping Charles Darwin Drama,” perfect opportunity for a Darwin facepalm

From The Hollywood Reporter:

CW Prepping Charles Darwin Drama, CBS Readying Gothic Horror Show

Hot writer Adam Karp is prepping two big-swing dramas for The CW and CBS. First, Karp — who won the 2012 Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Award — is readying Unnatural Selection, a drama set to explore Charles Darwin and Captain Robert FitzRoy’s journey through the Amazon.

The CW has handed out a script commitment for the drama that focuses on a 21-year-old Darwin, and his childhood friend Capt. Fitzroy’s journey through the Amazon to return the woman they both love to her native home. During the journey, they encounter a land ripe with political conflict, mysterious creatures, mythical cities and dangerous foes beyond their wildest imagination. The drama is based on Darwin and FitzRoy’s five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, which established the former ahead of his Origin of the Species.

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BOOK: Darwin-Inspired Learning

A new book of interest, and not just because a friend of mine has a chapter in it (Karen James):

Carolyn J. Boulter, Michael J. Reiss, and Dawn L. Sanders, eds. Darwin-Inspired Learning (Boston, MA: Sense Publishers, 2014), 450 pp.

Publisher’s description Charles Darwin has been extensively analysed and written about as a scientist, Victorian, father and husband. However, this is the first book to present a carefully thought out pedagogical approach to learning that is centered on Darwin’s life and scientific practice. The ways in which Darwin developed his scientific ideas, and their far reaching effects, continue to challenge and provoke contemporary teachers and learners, inspiring them to consider both how scientists work and how individual humans ‘read nature’. Darwin-inspired learning, as proposed in this international collection of essays, is an enquiry-based pedagogy, that takes the professional practice of Charles Darwin as its source. Without seeking to idealise the man, Darwin-inspired learning places importance on: • active learning • hands-on enquiry • critical thinking • creativity • argumentation • interdisciplinarity. In an increasingly urbanised world, first-hand observations of living plants and animals are becoming rarer. Indeed, some commentators suggest that such encounters are under threat and children are living in a time of ‘nature-deficit’. Darwin-inspired learning, with its focus on close observation and hands-on enquiry, seeks to re-engage children and young people with the living world through critical and creative thinking modeled on Darwin’s life and science.

The publisher has made freely available the introduction and first two chapters, here.

GUEST POST: Charles Darwin Infographic: The Voyage of the Beagle

This guest post comes from the life insurance company Beagle Street:

Charles Darwin Infographic: The Voyage of the Beagle

From the legendary Voyage of the Beagle to bringing us the On the Origin of Species, it goes without saying that Charles Darwin spent his life exploring and doing the things that he loved most. At Beagle Street, we believe that everybody should be doing more of the things that we love and so we thought we’d turn to the legendary Charles Darwin for a little inspiration, as we believe that there’s nobody who embodies that sentiment more.

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So, we’ve put together an interactive infographic charting Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle. The infographic tells the incredible story of an adventure that started in Plymouth in 1831 and by 1836 had taken Darwin all over the world.

View the full infographic here.

The infographic is a great introduction to Darwin and features lots of interesting facts and details about the famous trip, charting some of his more noteworthy experiences. Scroll down and follow the HMS Beagle on the historic journey that would offer Darwin the opportunity of a lifetime and lead him to write one of the most influential books of all time.

Darwin Day 2015 is approaching; Darwin lecture in Portland

It’s that time again, when fans of Darwin, science, and reason celebrate Darwin’s birth on February 12th. This year marks the 206th anniversary of his birth.

The Darwin Day website from the American Humanist Association has been revamped, and of course is the place to check for any events planned for your area:

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Another way to find events in your area is to check with the biology or history departments at local universities as well as science centers or natural history museums, and to inquire with any humanist or freethought groups.

And like the Darwin Day Facebook page!

Here in Portland, I hope to attend this lecture on January 26, put on by the local chapter of the FFRF: Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin. It is open to the public!

Children at Nature Play – my t-shirt fundraising campaign

Some of you may know that I also blog at Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas. I get my two kids outside and exploring in nature as much as possible, and love to share information for other parents, mentors, and educators.

Right now I have a Teespring t-shirt fundraising campaign to raise funds to order and then sell signs with my Children at Nature Play design (David Orr was my graphic designer). The t-shirts for sale have the same design!

sign and shirt

To learn more about this project of mine, check out this blog post.

To order a t-shirt (or more!), click here.

Even better, share the Teespring link with anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you!