VIDEO: James Moore on “Darwin’s Sacred Cause”

“In his lecture at Oregon State University on October 29th, James Moore questioned the established view of Darwin as an objective scientist and showed how passionate opposition to slavery motivated his research and gave him courage to challenge the scientific and religious establishment of his day.”

PODCAST: Charles Darwin and the practice of science

The Royal Society of London has posted the audio from an October lecture with Alison Pearn of the Darwin Correspondence Project, “‘We are arriving at very curious results’: Charles Darwin and the practice of science”:

He never wore a lab coat, and is famous principally for a theory, yet Charles Darwin’s contribution to scientific method is considerable and often overlooked. Working surrounded by his family in an ordinary Victorian country house he devised ingenious experiments on everything from human expression to insectivorous plants, worked out the taxonomy of barnacles, and observed unsuspected behaviours in organisms from ants to earthworms. In devising some of the most influential ideas ever formulated, he used everything that came to hand from the vegetables in the kitchen garden, to the drugs prescribed for his stomach complaints, and, along the way, he pioneered the use of the scientific questionnaire, and conducted perhaps the first ever recorded ‘single blind’ experiment.


BOOK: Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything

Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, by Philip Ball (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 465 pp.

With the recent landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, it seems safe to assume that the idea of being curious is alive and well in modern science—that it’s not merely encouraged but is seen as an essential component of the scientific mission. Yet there was a time when curiosity was condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve could resist the dangerous allure of unanswered questions, and all knowledge wasn’t equal—for millennia it was believed that there were some things we should not try to know. In the late sixteenth century this attitude began to change dramatically, and in Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Philip Ball investigates how curiosity first became sanctioned—when it changed from a vice to a virtue and how it became permissible to ask any and every question about the world.

Looking closely at the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to life the age when modern science began, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. In this entertaining and illuminating account of the rise of science as we know it, Ball tells of scientists both legendary and lesser known, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, as well as the inventions and technologies that were inspired by curiosity itself, such as the telescope and the microscope. The so-called Scientific Revolution is often told as a story of great geniuses illuminating the world with flashes of inspiration. But Curiosity reveals a more complex story, in which the liberation—and subsequent taming—of curiosity was linked to magic, religion, literature, travel, trade, and empire. Ball also asks what has become of curiosity today: how it functions in science, how it is spun and packaged for consumption, how well it is being sustained, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may continue to ask.

Though proverbial wisdom tell us that it was through curiosity that our innocence was lost, that has not deterred us. Instead, it has been completely the contrary: today we spend vast sums trying to reconstruct the first instants of creation in particle accelerators, out of a pure desire to know. Ball refuses to let us take this desire for granted, and this book is a perfect homage to such an inquisitive attitude.

The author gave a talk based on his book for Big Ideas:

VIDEO: A Brief History of Climate Science

I don’t think I have mentioned on this blog that the National Center for Science Education, an organization I have long supported for its efforts in defending evolution education in public schools and ceasing efforts to push creationism, has branced out to doing the same regarding the education of climate change science. There are lots of great videos on their YouTube page, including this latest one on “A Brief History of Climate Science”:

BOOK: The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

Paleontologist Neil Shubin, author of the bestseller Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (2008) has published his second book, The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People (New York: Pantheon Books, 2013):

From one of our finest and most popular science writers, and the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery as big as the world itself: How are the events that formed our solar system billions of years ago embedded inside each of us?

In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connections between human bodies—our hands, heads, and jaws—and the structures in fish and worms that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. In The Universe Within, with his trademark clarity and exuberance, Shubin takes an even more expansive approach to the question of why we look the way we do. Starting once again with fossils, he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.

Donald Prothero reviewed The Universe Within for Skeptic, here.

Secular Parenting Seminar with Dale McGowan in Portland, April 21st

UPDATE (4/23): The seminar went very well! I’ll share a brief write-up I did for the CFI newsletter:

Parenting Beyond Belief seminar

On April 21st, CFI-Portland hosted author and educator Dale McGowan for a seminar about secular parenting. Since coediting and writing for the books Parenting Beyond Belief (2007) and Raising Freethinkers (2009), Dale has built an online network revolved around the idea of how best to raise children in a nonreligious family – within a religious world. The four-hour seminar covered “Our Stone Age inheritance,” different parenting styles, being a secular family in a religious world, the religious extended family, raising powerfully ethical kids, evolution for kids, and death and life. As one participant remarked, “The seminar was great! I got so much useful information. Dale was down to earth and presented the information in an engaging way. I’m so glad to have programs like this available to atheist families.”

Parenting Beyond Belief seminar

It was great to bring Dale back to Portland, as he was out here (from Atlanta) three years ago for the same seminar. The 17 participants who came to the recent seminar, myself included, were completely new attendees – so it was a worthwhile event! Some folks even came all the way from Salem, Camas (WA), and Battleground (WA). If you are interested in learning more about Dale, visit his website:, and his blog The Meming of Life: He also started a nonprofit, charitable organization, Foundation Beyond Belief:


On April 21st, CFI-Portland will be hosting author Dale McGowan for a seminar on secular parenting. McGowan, author and editor of Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion and Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief did a secular parenting workshop in Portland in April 2009. Three years later, our community has grown and there are more secular families involved. Also, this workshop will provide an opportunity for those who were unable to attend the previous one.

The seminar, from 1:00 to 5:00pm at Friendly House (Keeston Room) in NW Portland, will cover the following:

Over nine million parents in the U.S. are raising children without theistic religion. The PARENTING BEYOND BELIEF WORKSHOP, a unique half-day event with author and educator Dale McGowan, offers encouragement and practical solutions for secular parenting in a religious world. Based on the freethinking philosophy of the book Newsweek called “a compelling read,” the PARENTING BEYOND BELIEF WORKSHOP is empowering secular parents across the country to raise ethical, caring, confident kids without religion.

Participants will learn effective ways to:
– Encourage religious literacy without indoctrination
– Help kids interact productively with a religious world
– Help kids develop active moral reasoning
– Weigh church-state issues in the public sphere
– Address sensitive issues with religious relatives using the principles of nonviolent communication
– Help children develop a healthy understanding of death and a joyful love of life
– Build a family atmosphere of fearless questioning and boundless wonder
…and much more.

The cost to attend is $35 ($65 for couples and $25 if you are a friend of CFI-Portland). Tickets can be purchased now here. If you know of anyone you think might be interested in attending the seminar, please let them know!

Happy Darwin Day!

Happy Darwin Day!

Apologies that this here blog of mine has been less and less utilized by myself as of late. Patrick and I attended CFI-Portland’s Secular Sunday School today, and while the lesson was about Valentine’s Day, I got in a bit about Darwin at the end. Talked to 20 kids or so about Darwin Day, read The Humblebee Hunter (hands down by favorite children’s book about Darwin), and passed out Darwin coloring pages. Next class later this month will be all about evolution!

We then headed to Pioneer Square in downtown Portland to, like we did last year, hand out birthday cake for passersby for Darwin Day! Thanks to CFI-Portland and Humanists of Greater Portland for setting this up. Lots of nice folks and the weather cooperated, so we had a great time. Also, played Evolve or Perish, a fun version of Chutes & Ladders, evolution-style!

Thanks Sarah for the photo!

More photos from this Darwin Day event here. I’ll leave you with these videos:

More creationism in the Northwest

If you’re in Portland or nearby, here are two events to look forward to. I won’t be going to either, but if you do, let me know!


Sunday, January 26, 2012 Meeting
5:00 to 7:00 PM

“Metamorphosis – the Beauty & Design of Butterflies”

The creation is filled with uncountable fascinating examples of life that defy the secular paradigm of evolution over millions of years. The special case of butterflies is a miraculous illustration that could be explained as God saying to us, “here is one instance that is impossible for you to explain by evolution.”

At the January meeting of ICS we will enjoy a “doubleheader” of information on the butterfly. First will be a showing of the spectacular hour-long video, “Metamorphosis – the Beauty and Design of Butterflies” by Illustra Media; an unforgettable documentary filled with the joys of discovery and wonder. Then Mr. John Hergenrather of Creation Encounter Tours will provide a local perspective from his long study of the Monarch Butterfly and its west coast life cycle.

We invite you to come on January 26 for a perspective not often available in your experience. Biologists have called the butterfly life cycle “butterfly magic.” Come prepared to be amazed!

This meeting of ICS will be held at Rivercrest Community Church located at 3201 NE 148th Avenue in Portland, OR 97230. Doors open at 4:30 PM to allow your access to the creation science book and DVD tables. For more information on this meeting, please access the website where you can also find a map to Rivercrest Community Church


The 26th Annual Northwest Creation Conference 2012
Saturday February 11th
Columbia Conference Center, Holiday Inn at the Portland Airport

For more details, here’s the brochure as a PDF.

Son of incarcerated creationist Kent Hovind, Eric, is their headline speaker. An emphasis is going to be on dinosaurs in the Bible and sessions for children. And this is likely what Eric and his fellow creationists will be spouting:

I first saw this video on Why Evolution Is True.

An objective creation museum in the Pacific Northwest?

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and feel left out of being able to visit a creation museum, fear not!

There is much wrong with the statements made by these men reading off of cue cards.

1. Doug Bennett states that the NSM “will explain both the biblical and naturalistic points of view, side by side. In this way, visitors can see both views and then can determine for themselves which theory makes the most sense and which theory matches the evidence that we see in the world around us.” Less than a minute later, Rick Deighton states, “The museum will show scientifically how evolution is absurd.” So much for letting the visitor look at the evidence and make their own decision!

2. Evidence that confounds the most ardent evolutionists? I’d like to see what they offer that hasn’t been explained away by non-creationists, otherwise known as scientists.

3. Deighton: the NSM “will also put on display the catastrophic consequences of Darwinism. For example, Hitler and his Nazi regime could never have done what they did without the foundation of Darwinian evolution.” A tired claim shown to be wrong by historians.

4. The NSM will be different from other creation museums because it will be a “true science museum.” Yes, don’t mind the words biblical, gospel, Jesus, God, and creation that will be on many of the labels in the museum. This museum will be all about the science, okay?

I came across this video in a blog post from the Portland Mercury: A Cadre of Old, White Guys Plot a Creationist Science Museum.