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.

Humanist Perspectives: Connecting Children to Nature

I did a guest post for the blog of the Foundation Beyond Belief, which I copy here:

Humanist Perspectives: Connecting Children to Nature

This post is part of our Humanist Perspectives series. In this series, we invite guest contributors to explore active humanism and what it means to be a thoughtful, engaged member of society. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

by Michael D. Barton

I have many favorite quotes about children and nature, but here are two very simple yet insightful ones:

What is the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren? – Robert Michael Pyle, author


How can we expect [children] to really care about their natural environment if they’ve never had an experience in it? – Martin LeBlanc, Sierra Club

Taking your child or children on an afternoon trip to the zoo is a great thing to do, but what does that matter if a child is not connected in some way to the animals that live near their home? Why should we care to learn about pandas and cheetahs and polar bears if we haven’t learned about salmon and owls and dragonflies? My five-year-old son is a member of a generation that will face serious issues regarding the environment. As his father, I strive to raise him to be a scientifically literate and environmentally conscious adult. While I am not a homeschooling parent and my son will be going to public school, there are two aspects of education I feel fall into my hands: teaching about evolution and raising an outdoor kid.

Parents are first and foremost the responsible party when it comes to getting children away from television, computers, and digital devices and into nature. While environmental education is increasingly being recognized in schools and other educational avenues, it is not enough. Education begins in the home and with family. Here in Portland, Oregon, the outdoor education program for Multnomah County sixth graders has been cut from a full week outdoors to just a few days. There will always be funding issues with schools and education, and extra programs are the first to go (except football, of course). While many schools do participate in environmental education (field trips, school gardens, etc.), teachers are overworked. That is why I find it a parental duty to share nature experiences with my child. We’re not backpackers nor experienced campers — we simply leave the house a few times a week and head to local nature parks or nearby trails and participate in nature programming at museums and libraries. There is not a lot of effort involved (unless you live somewhere with less-than-ideal weather). I find myself having had a better day than if I had not gone outside.

Since I do not consider nature in any way the creation of a supernatural deity, for me bringing evolution into our experiences makes them more personal. We’re part of the natural world along with every creature great and small, plant, rock, wave, and breeze. As Alan Watts put it: “You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” We must care for our planet not just for ourselves to remain, but for all of our extended family.

The National Center for Science Education is not going anywhere. Creationist attacks on public education are not going to disappear in the foreseeable future. And now the NCSE has had to branch into protecting climate change education as well. I, as a parent, need to do my best to expose my son to these important ideas in science, not as an expert, but as a fellow learner. We have plenty of Darwin and evolution books geared toward children on our shelves (too many, my wife probably thinks). While my son learns, I learn, too. He is going to teach me things. What he is going to teach me is not just the neat stuff about the natural world, like different bird species for example. He is going to teach me that immersing oneself in nature has a deeper meaning. To feel that we are a part of nature is crucial in thinking about how we want to treat this planet. This is where evolution comes in strong. It is no surprise that some creation-minded folks also discredit the idea that humans have had an effect on the climate of this planet. Certainly understandable if one views themselves as above nature and given dominion over it. But my son is not going to be taught that he belongs to some group of humans created by some god (he will of course learn about religions). He will learn what we can know for sure about our world and our place in it. He will learn about evolution and how humans are not the epitomy of creation but just one (and yes we are unique, but so are all other organisms) animal in the tree of life. This is not indoctrinating a young mind, as some might suggest. Rather, it is teaching a young mind about his place in a world that could get along just fine without him. Earth is not ours for the taking, but ours for the caring.

I’m fond of a snippet from an 2009 article in Forbes by Kathryn Tabb, “The Debate Over Intelligent Design”:

But what would this ghost [Darwin], who would find the separation of church and state unthinkably radical, have to say about the legal battles over evolution being waged across America? An indifferent student, Darwin preferred the outdoors to the schoolhouse and once confessed, ‘Observing, thinking & some reading beat, in my opinion, all systematic education.’ My guess is that Darwin would urge the children … to take advantage of all the mayhem to sneak out while the adults aren’t looking — and, equipped with magnifying glasses and notebooks, take to nature and draw their own conclusions.

Take to nature, indeed.

I encourage you to look into the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes connecting children to the outdoors (its founder is Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder), and the blog writings of paleontologist and science educator Scott Sampson, which describe his vision of an evolutionary worldview.

History of creationism

A recent lecture and a podcast both look at the history of creationism in America.

The podcast BackStory with the American History Guys brought on historian of science Ronald Numbers and high school educator Joe Wilkey to discuss “In the Beginning: Evolution & Creation in America” (mp3):

On this episode of BackStory, the History Guys explore the ways Americans have attempted to grapple with the biggest question of them all: “Where did we come from?” Together, they trace the ups and downs in the relationship between science  and religion. Are there times when the two have not been at odds? How did the Founders conceive of “creation,” and why did the idea of extinction pose such a challenge to their worldview? How were Darwin’s ideas received in the U.S., and why did it take six decades before public school systems started challenging the teaching of his theories? What lessons does history offer those interested in charting a peaceful relationship between science and religion in the future?

And Adam Laats gave a lecture entitled “‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Huckabee’ – Creationism in Historical Perspective” for the Evolutionary Studies seminar series on November 7th, and video is available:

Three Darwin quote-mines corrected…

Tracy Zdelar posts about God and evolution on Hall of Fame Moms: 5/13: {Part 2} Darwin & the Bible? (16 July 2010). Her post is punctuated with quotes from Charles Darwin, and seeing that what she has to say about evolution is negative, we can expect the worst (if not dishonesty, then ignorance). Let me provide some context.

Quote #1 If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed[,] which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive[,] slight modifications[,] my theory would absolutely break down.

Context This passage, in Darwin’s hand, comes from chapter 6 (p. 189) of On the Origin of Species (1859, Murray: London), “Difficulties on theory,” in a section where he covers organs of extreme perfection. Immediately following the quoted passage, Darwin wrote: “But I can find out no such case.” This is a perfect example of quote-mining in which a sentence immediately following a passage that works for creationist purposes (to make Darwin seem like he doubts his own theory or idea) is simply not shown.


Quote #2 Such simple instincts as bees making a beehive could be sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.

Context These are not Darwin’s exact words. Here is what he actually wrote, in the chapter on instinct in On the Origin of Species (p. 207): “The subject of instinct might have been worked into the previous chapters; but I have thought that it would be more convenient to treat the subject separately, especially as so wonderful an instinct as that of the hive-bee making its cells will probably have occurred to many readers, as a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory. I must premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of the primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental qualities of animals within the same class.” Essentially, although some might think this would be a problem for Darwin’s theory, he did not think it was.” Again, the sentences after what is quoted are crucial to understanding what he was stating.


Quote #3 Often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may have not devoted myself to a phantasy.

Context This quote comes from a letter from Darwin to his mentor, the geologist Charles Lyell, from 23 November 1859, whilst On the Origin of Species was being published. Darwin expressed how much it means to him that he has Lyell’s support, and here is the quote in context: “I rejoice profoundly that you intend admitting doctrine of modification in your new Edition. Nothing, I am convinced, could be more important for its success. I honour you most sincerely:—to have maintained, in the position of a master, one side of a question for 30 years & then deliberately give it up, is a fact, to which I much doubt whether the records of science offer a parallel. For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for think-ing of the many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often & often a cold shudder has run through me & I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth like you & Hooker can be wholly wrong; & therefore I feel that I may rest in peace.” Here we have another instance of a very telling sentence being omitted from a quote, Darwin stating that he did not feel that he had been devoting himself to a phantasy.

Tracy, your use of these quotes to attempt to undermine Darwin’s credibility and thoughts about his own theory, is, if not dishonest, then a sign of your ignorance when it comes to Darwin’s writings. Will you correct your post?

File under: quote-mining

Skeptically Speaking #129: The Prince of Evolution

Click here to listen or download episode 129 of Skeptically Speaking:

This week, we’re discussing evolution, and a less well known, but just as fabulously bearded, scientist who helped to expand the theory. We’ll talk to Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin, about his book The Prince of Evolution: Peter Kropotkin’s Adventures in Science and Politics. And science history blogger Michael D. Barton joins us to examine the ways that evolution deniers misuse the words of Charles Darwin to make their case.

Did Darwin respond to Wallace regarding pitcher plants?

UPDATE (9/14): It dawned on me yesterday that while I have provided here at The Dispersal of Darwin many examples of anti-evolutionists claiming Darwin said something when he did not (quote-mining), this post is an example of Darwin having written something and then it being claimed that he did not. Interesting.


In 1875 Darwin published his book about plants that eat insects, Insectivorous Plants. It was rather technical in nature, so did not receive the popular readership as did his Journal of Researches (1839, later The Voyage of the Beagle), On the Origin Of Species (1859), or the later (and last book) The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms (1881). Like many of his books, Insectivorous Plants was a continuation of Darwin’s theory of transmutation project. Specifically, the book is a study of the adaptations of such plants to impoverished conditions. Darwin wrote of it in his autobiography:

During subsequent years, whenever I had leisure, I pursued my experiments, and my book on Insectivorous Plants was published July 1875,—that is sixteen years after my first observations. The delay in this case, as with all my other books, has been a great advantage to me; for a man after a long interval can criticise his own work, almost as well as if it were that of another person. The fact that a plant should secrete, when properly excited, a fluid containing an acid and ferment, closely analogous to the digestive fluid of an animal, was certainly a remarkable discovery.

A remarkable discovery indeed, but a fellow naturalist, whom Darwin shared the discovery of the theory of natural selection with, was concerned that some would not find natural selection a suitable explanation for the adaptations of carnivorous plants. In a letter to Darwin on July 21, 1875, Alfred Russel Wallace wrote:

Dear Darwin,–Many thanks for your kindness in sending me a copy of your new book [Insectivorous Plants]. Being very busy I have only had time to dip into it yet. The account of Utricularia is most marvellous, and quite new to me. I’m rather surprised that you do not make any remarks on the origin of these extraordinary contrivances for capturing insects. Did you think they were too obvious? I daresay there is no difficulty, but I feel sure they will be seized on as inexplicable by Natural Selection, and your silence on the point will be held to show that you consider them so! The contrivance in Utricularia and Dionaea, and in fact in Drosera too, seems fully as great and complex as in Orchids, but there is not the same motive force. Fertilisation and cross-fertilisation are important ends enough to lead to any modification, but can we suppose mere nourishment to be so important, seeing that it is so easily and almost universally obtained by extrusion of roots and leaves? Here are plants which lose their roots and leaves to acquire the same results by infinitely complex modes! What a wonderful and long-continued series of variations must have led up to the perfect “trap” in Utricularia, while at any stage of the process the same end might have been gained by a little more development of roots and leaves, as in 9,999 plants out of 10,000!

Is this an imaginary difficulty, or do you mean to deal with it in future editions of the “Origin”?–Believe me yours very faithfully,

Letters to and from Darwin of 1875 are not yet available through the Darwin Correspondence Project, but this letter can be found on pages 233-34 of Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences (edited by James Marchant, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1916). Wallace’s words in this letter have been taken up by intelligent design proponents as a way to criticize Darwin. Remember, Wallace is the new poster boy for the Discovery Institute. In “Carnivorous plants eat Darwin” (August 18, 2011), Denyse O’Leary (also blogging about this at The ID Report) writes for Uncommon Descent:

University of Bonn geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig will soon have a new book out, on the 200-year-old headache that carnivorous plants pose for Darwinism. Briefly, how does a plant evolve in slow, Darwinian steps, toward making insects part of its normal diet? Like the pitcher plant, for example.

O’Leary quotes Granville Sewall in the post:

In every family of the plant and animal kingdoms there are species whose sudden appearances and whose irreducibly complex features pose problems for neo-Darwinism. But certain carnivorous plants pose these problems in such a spectacular way that they are a focal point of the Darwinism debate, ever since Alfred Wallace warned Darwin about the problems posed by Utricularia, saying “I feel sure they will be seized on as inexplicable by Natural Selection” and implored him to address these difficulties in a future edition of his book “On the Origin of Species.”

These words are indeed from Wallace, in the letter to Darwin above. The way they are being used, however, seems to imply that Wallace finds natural selection an unconvincing explanation, whereas he is only stating that others might criticize Darwin for this (Wallace remarked, “I daresay there is no difficulty”). Moreoever, O’Leary writes in her post, in response to Wallace imploring Darwin “to deal with it in future editions of the Origin,” that “Darwin never did.” To state that Darwin never responded to Wallace’s question in a later edition is to imply that Darwin gave no response at all.

If one were to look in the historical record more deeply, they would find that Darwin did indeed respond to Wallace. On July 22, 1875, one day after Wallace’s letter about Utricularia, Darwin wrote to Wallace that he had “thrown some light on the acquirement of the power of digestion in Droseraceae,” another group of carnivorous plants (unfortunately there is no full text of the letter available until the DCP publishes the 1875 letters; they are currently readying 1871 for print). Darwin is referring to pages 361-63 of Insectivorous Plants:

The six genera of the Droseraceae very probably inherited this power from a common progenitor, but this cannot apply to
Pinguicula or Nepenthes, for these plants are not at all closely related to the Droseraceae. But the difficulty is not nearly so great as it at first appears. Firstly, the juices of many plants contain an acid, and, apparently, any acid serves for digestion. Secondly, as Dr. Hooker has remarked in relation to the present subject in his address at Belfast (1874), and as Sachs repeatedly insists, the embryos of some plants secrete a fluid which dissolves albuminous substances out of the endosperm; although the endosperm is not actually united with, only in contact with, the embryo. All plants, moreover, have the power of dissolving albuminous or proteid substances, such as protoplasm, chlorophyll, gluten, aleurone, and of carrying them from one part to other parts of their tissues. This must be effected by a solvent, probably consisting of a ferment together with an acid.† Now, in the case of plants which are able to absorb already soluble matter from captured insects, though not capable of true digestion, the solvent just referred to, which must be occasionally present in the glands, would be apt to exude from the glands together with the viscid secretion, inasmuch as endosmose is accompanied by exosmose. If such exudation did ever occur, the solvent would act on the animal matter contained within the captured insects, and this would be an act of true digestion. As it cannot be doubted that this process would be of high service to plants growing in very poor soil, it would tend to be perfected through natural selection. Therefore, any ordinary plant having viscid glands, which occasionally caught insects, might thus be converted under favourable circumstances into a species capable of true digestion. It ceases, therefore, to be any great mystery how several genera of plants, in no way closely related together, have independently acquired this same power.

So when asked by Wallace how to account for the evolution of one particular group of carnivorous plants, Darwin responded that his thoughts about another group should answer the question, it is understandable that Darwin need not have addressed this issue in a future edition of On the Origin of Species.

In his book, available as a PDF here, Lönnig quotes Wallace on page 145, and states (this is a Google translation from German), “I am not aware that Darwin has replied…” Well, to set the record straight, he did reply.

As I am not one to go into the actual biology of this issue, see Nick Matzke’s comments on O’Leary’s post and two others about carnivorous plants. The Darwin Correspondence Project has many letters to and from Darwin on carnivorous plants (Drosera and Utricularia), and some from Mary Treat about Utricularia have been published online ahead of print as part of the project’s Darwin and Gender initiative.

“Does the intelligent design movement need to be demolished and rebuilt?”

Jack Scanlan has an interesting post about intelligent design (wait, aren’t most of his posts interesting, and about ID? ;)), here‘s a snippet:

The intelligent design (ID) movement has been around for over 20 years, and few (if any) of its stated and implied goals and plans have thus far come to fruition. While contributing factors to this lack of success are certainly the hard work of the scientific community and its friends, as well as the fact that ID has never been adequately formulated as a scientific idea, a significant proportion of the responsibility for the outcome should be laid upon ID movement itself. It has, in arguably many respects, acted in the exact opposite way that it should have acted if it wanted to be taken seriously – only one example of which is bringing up religion whilst simultaneously claiming that they weren’t and then chastising critics who pointed out what they were doing.

It’s hard to find an ID proponent who will admit this. Like many movements, the one constructed around ID is insular, mistrusting and lacks introspection, and it spends most of its time on attacking “the Darwinist enemy” in academia instead of really thinking about what it’s doing. This is understandable, considering it’s been relentlessly criticised by the scientific community ever since it poked its head up out of the carcass of creation science, rendering it in a somewhat-perpetual state of defensiveness. Those few proponents who can somehow forget the fact that nearly every biologist in the world would laugh about their ideas to their face given the chance still attack evolutionary biology with unparalleled confidence, which bolsters the morale of those in the Internet trenches: and thus the movement continues. Even with its “Darwinist conspiracy” mindset, it still thinks it’s winning. But it’s not. Not by a long shot.

On the How To Debate Evolution blog, the pro-intelligent design author, EvoGuide, has written what they think is a solution to many of these problems, in a post titled “Towards a Better Version of ID – A Manifesto”. While I think it still has its flaws, the bigger ID blogs, such as Evolution News & Views and Uncommon Descent, would do well to listen to this advice:

The rest is worth a read. I particularly like the phrase: ID “poked its head up out of the carcass of creation science.”

Free evolution book downloads from the NCSE

The National Center for Science Education has since 2009 been offering free PDF downloads of chapters from a variety of books related to evolution. The most recent is The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization.

Here’s their list of past offerings that are still available:

Am I a Monkey? (Johns Hopkins University Press) by Francisco J. Ayala

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin Of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (Rodale) by Michael Keller

The Darwin Archipelago (Yale University Press) by Steve Jones

The Darwinian Tourist (Oxford University Press) by Christopher Wills

Darwin’s Lost World (Oxford University Press) by Martin Brasier

Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution (WW Norton) by Iain McCalman

Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z (UC Press) by Richard Milner

Evidence of Evolution (Abrams Books) by Susan Middleton and Mary Ellen Hannibal

The Evidence for Evolution (University of Chicago Press) by Alan R. Rogers

Evolution, 2nd Edition (Sinauer Associates) by Douglas J. Futuyma

Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms (Cambridge University Press) by Berkman and Plutzer

Evolution vs. Creationism, 2nd edition (Greenwood) by Eugenie C. Scott

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be (Kids Can Press) by Daniel Loxton

Evolution: The Story of Life (UC Press) by Douglas Palmer

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth (Hill and Wang) by Jay Hosler. Illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon

The Fossil Hunter (Palgrave Macmillan) by Shelley Emling

In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field (Roberts & Company Publishers) edited by Jonathan B. Losos

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (W.W. Norton) by Nick Lane

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (Bloomsbury Press) by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The Missing Link: An Inquiry Approach for Teaching All Students About Evolution (Heinemann) by Lee Meadows

Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University Of Chicago Press) by Massimo Pigliucci

The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton University Press) by David N. Reznick

Principles of Life (Sinauer Associates) by Hillis, Sadava, Heller, and Price

Stones & Bones (Polebridge Press Norton) by Char Matejovsky and Robaire Ream

Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Basic Books) by Edward J. Larson

The Tangled Bank (Roberts and Company) by Carl Zimmer

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place In Nature (Bellevue Literary Press) by Brian Switek


Celebrate Science: Campaign for Evolution Education

I hear that this film may show at this year’s Portland Humanist Film Festival:

Celebrate Science! will launch in late August, a campaign to promote the importance of keeping creationism out of our schools, with the support of the National Center for Science Education and Americans United for Separation of Church & State.

Emmy winning filmmaker Greta Schiller’s film NO DINOSAURS IN HEAVEN will screen at a number of universities in the South and nationwide as well as at the New York Academy of Sciences and the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles. Along with speakers and discussion, this film series will help to provoke an important dialogue on the need for quality science education, the joy of genuine scientific discovery and freedom from religious influence in the classroom.

More info: or contact Laure Parsons ( to find out how to bring the film to your area.

Blogging a Darwin book: Reef Madness

Science writer David Dobbs (Neuron Culture, @david_dobbs) has been blogging his book Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral. So far he’s posted seven ten installments:

Reef Madness Begins: Louis Agassiz, Creationist Magpie
Reef Madness 2: The One Darwin Really DID Get Wrong: Rumble at Glen Roy
Reef Madness 3: Louis Agassiz, TED Wet Dream, Conquers America
Reef Madness 4: Alexander Agassiz Comes of Age
Reef Madness 5: How Charles Darwin Seduced Asa Gray
Reef Madness 6: The Death of Louis Agassiz
Reef Madness 7: Alex Finds a Future
Reef Madness 8: A Dissipated, Low-Minded Charles Darwin
Reef Madness 9: Charles Darwin & the Pleasure of Gambling
Reef Madness 10: Darwin’s Earthquake
Reef Madness 11: Darwin’s First Theory of Evolution

It’s worth checking out, in blog form or by purchasing a copy for yourself or your public library. I’m happy to have had Dobbs sign my copy at Science Online 2011:

Books signed at Science Online 2011

Books signed at Science Online 2011

NCSE bumper sticker contest!

Via the NCSE:

Announcing NCSE’s Bumper Sticker Contest!

Our classic bumper stickers…

“Evolutionists do it with increasing complexity”

“Honk! If you understand punctuated equilibria”

Honk Honk!

…will remain in the lineup. But it’s time to bring some new players onto the field.

This is your chance to speak loud, speak proud for evolution, by crafting a killer slogan that could end up on the tail end of thousands of cars. The aim of this mobile message: to spread the good word about evolution and evolution education. Your bumper sticker can be funny, profound, fierce—whatever, as long as it’s good.

Send your entries to


– Be original. Run a Google search and make sure your slogan hasn’t been used or overused.

– Size constraints. Your basic bumper sticker is about 2.75″ high and about 15″ wide. That’s enough room for up to two lines of text, approximately 22 characters across (including spaces) per line. Remember: shorter is better.

– Submit as many bumper sticker slogans as you like. Winning slogans become the property of NCSE for all time. By emailing your entry to, you warrant that the slogan is your own work, to which you own the copyright, except for any phrases that fall within the scope of fair use, the public domain, or a Creative Commons license.
– Entries must include your full name and postal address.

– Winners will receive one of these prizes: 1) a bumper fun variety pack of evolution books, 2) NCSE’s famed “ooze” T-shirt, 3) a Darwin bobblehead, 4) the 2009 UK Charles Darwin £2 Brilliant Uncirculated 200th Anniversary Coin, 5) a copy of Greta Schiller’s new documentary, “No Dinosaurs in Heaven”, OR 6) an 11×16″ Darwin poster suitable for framing.

– Submissions will be accepted between July 5, 2011 and September 5, 2011

My entry, which is unlikely to win:

Struggle for Existence

Evolution quote-mining in small town newspaper

I came across this in the Lodi News-Sentinel (21 May 2011):

Scientists weigh in on evolution

Richard Dawkins, the most influential anti-creationist, evolutionist and atheist today, stated, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

Dawkins’ strong sentiment about Darwin’s theory is not unanimous, even among evolutionists. Listen to what reputable scientists have stated about evolution.

Britain’s “New Scientist”: “An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists, argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is not genuine scientific theory at all. Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials.” (The New Scientist, “An Exercise in Science,” by Michael Ruso, June 1981, Page 828).

Swedish biologist Soren Loutrup, 1987: “I believe that one day, the Darwinian myth will be ranked as the greatest hoax in the history of science.”

Sir William Dawson, Canadian geologist; past president, British Association for the Advancement of Science: “This evolutionist doctrine is itself one of the strangest phenomena of humanity, a system destitute of any shadow of proof and supported by vague analogies and figures of speech.

“Now, no one pretends that they rest on facts actually observed, for no one has ever observed the production of even one species.”

Charles Darwin: “If numerous species have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution.” (“Origin of the Species,” Part 2, 1902, Page 83).

Darwin, Page 92: “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in formations has been urged by several paleontologists (fossil experts) as a fatal objection to belief in the transmutation of the species. The case at present must remain inexplicable and may truly be urged as a valid argument against the evolutionary views have entertained.”

Zoologist Albert Fleishmann, University of Erlangen: “The Darwinian theory of descent has not a single fact to confirm it to the realm of nature. It is not the result of scientific research, but purely the product of imagination.”

Evolutionists admit that within human history, no one has ever observed a single species evolve.

Tom Baker


I posted a lengthy comment to this letter:

This letter is nothing but deceptive quote-mining, a common antievolutionist practice that takes quotes out of context, or uses the thoughts of figures in the history of science to comment on the state of scientific ideas in the present.

Re: Dawkins – Read what he has to say about his own quote being misuded: “I first wrote that in a book review in the New York Times in 1989, and it has been much quoted against me ever since, as evidence of my arrogance and intolerance. Of course it sounds arrogant, but undisguised clarity is easily mistaken for arrogance. Examine the statement carefully and it turns out to be moderate, almost self-evidently true.” (

Re: Ruso – First, this was written by Michael Ruse, not Ruso, in an article that supports evolution. While the citation is correct, here it is in context starting in the first paragraph: “An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists (particularly academic philosophers), argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all.” The line “Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials” actually appears not in the same paragraph, nor the next, but in the third paragraph. Note that Ruse ends the article with: “In short, therefore, there seems no good reason to deny that in the core of today’s version of Darwinian evolutionary theory we have genuine scientific claims. Furthermore, there seems no reason to deny that these claims transmit down to the various sub-disciplines of the evolutionary synthesis, where again we find genuine science existing and flourishing. This being so, has the time not come to put bogus arguments behind us, and to get on with the important and exciting scientific tasks of extending and, where necessary, correcting the legacy that Darwin and his successor, have bequeathed us?” (

Re: Loutrup – Google searches for this quote, in and out of quotation marks or just some key words, bring up only 1 or 2 hits, one being this letter to the editor. Where does this quote come from, or is it completely fabricated? [ed: if anyone knows a source for this quote, please let me know!]

Re: Dawson – Dawson did indeed write such words, in an 1873 book titled The Story of the Earth and Man, here in context: “This evolutionist doctrine is itself one of the strangest phenomena of humanity. It existed, and most naturally, in the oldest philosophy and poetry, in connection with the crudest and most uncritical attempts of the human mind to grasp the system of nature; but that in our day a system destitute of any shadow of proof, and supported merely by vague analogies and figures of speech, and by the arbitrary and artificial coherence of its own parts, should be accepted as a philosophy, and should find able adherents to string upon its thread of hypotheses our vast and weighty stores of knowledge, is surpassingly strange. It seems to indicate that the accumulated facts of our age have gone altogether beyond its capacity for generalisation; and but for the vigour which one sees everywhere, it might be taken as an indication that the human mind has fallen into a state of senility, and in its dotage mistakes for science the imaginations which were the dreams of its youth.” The science of evolution today is not based on the thoughts of a theologically inclined geologist more than 130 years ago. (

Re: Darwin #1 – In context, from the sixth edition of On the Origin of Species (1872, p. 282-283): “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations, has been urged by several palæontologists—for instance, by Agassiz, Pictet, and Sedgwick—as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species. If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection. For the development by this means of a group of forms, all of which are descended from some one progenitor, must have been an extremely slow process; and the progenitors must have lived long before their modified descendants. But we continually overrate the perfection of the geological record, and falsely infer, because certain genera or families have not been found beneath a certain stage, that they did not exist before that stage. In all cases positive palæontological evidence may be implicitly trusted; negative evidence is worthless, as experience has so often shown. We continually forget how large the world is, compared with the area over which our geological formations have been carefully examined; we forget that groups of species may elsewhere have long existed, and have slowly multiplied, before they invaded the ancient archipelagoes of Europe and the United States. We do not make due allowance for the intervals of time which have elapsed between our consecutive formations,—longer perhaps in many cases than the time required for the accumulation of each formation. These intervals will have given time for the multiplication of species from some one parent-form: and in the succeeding formation, such groups or species will appear as if suddenly created.” (

Re: Darwin #2 – This combines part of passage above with a line from page 287 of Darwin’s book: “The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained. To show that it may hereafter receive some explanation, I will give the following hypothesis.” Note that the word “evolutionary” was added, and that Darwin immediately following the quote went on to offer explanations. (

Re: Fleischmann – He was a German comparative anatomy professor, and he wrote this in Die Descenddenztheorie in… 1901! (Tom McIver, “Anti-Evolution: A Reader’s Guide to Writings Before and After Darwin,” 1992)

One should always be skeptical of quotes, especially when they are being used to argue against a particular idea.

Not that showing the quotes in context will change the mind of Tom Baker, but I hope other readers will find my effort useful, as did David. Here’s a message I received yesterday, after he had read Tom’s letter:

Soon after, you posted a beautiful quote-by-quote rebuttal with full quotes and citations, and gave him the virtual smackdown.

As an atheist from that small little town, thank you.

New issue of the Reports of the National Center for Science Education

The NCSE has changed how they publish RNCSE. Content from the latest issue is up online, inlcluding a book review by me:

NCSE is pleased to announce the second issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education in its new on-line format. The issue — volume 31, number 2 — includes Matt Cartmill’s “Turtles All the Way Down: The Atlas of Creation“; Alice Beck Kehoe’s “The Lost Civilizations of North America Found … Again!”; and, in his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore’s “Billy Sunday: 1862-1935,” discussing the creationism of the ballplayer-turned-evangelist.

Plus a flurry of Darwinalia: Michael D. Barton reviews John van Wyhe’s The Darwin Experience; Steven Conn reviews James Lander’s Lincoln and Darwin; Piers J. Hale reviews David N. Reznick’s The Origin Then and Now; Allen D. MacNeill reviews James T. Costa’s The Annotated Origin; Michael Ruse reviews Phillip Prodger’s Darwin’s Camera and Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer’s The Art of Evolution; and Keith Thomson reviews Julia Voss’s Darwin’s Pictures.

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 31:2, which contains, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, news from the membership, a new column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they’ve been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!)

2011 Antievolution Legislation Scorecard

Just a few months into 2011 are there has been much anti-science legislation in the U.S. The National Center for Science Education has a scorecard summarizing the where and what of it:

This has been a busy year for creationists. Since January, anti-science legislators in seven states have proposed nine bills attacking evolution and evolution education. Many are so-called “academic freedom” bills, like Tennessee’s HB 368, which allows teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” (For general background on academic freedom acts, go here.

But that’s not all. Some of these bills also target such “controversial” theories as global warming, the chemical origins of life, and human cloning.

Given all the proposed legislation flying to and fro, we thought a short guide to proposed anti-evolution bills in 2011 would be helpful.

House Bill 368 (HB 368)
Aim: “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories”…including evolution, global warming, the chemical origin of life, and human cloning.
Status: Passed in the House, 4/7/2011. Senate version being debated.

Senate Bill 893 (SB 893)
Aim: Identical to HB 368.
Status: In Senate Education Committee

“Tennessee antievolution bill passes the House”

SB 1854
Aim: requires a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution” in the state’s public schools.
Status: In committee

“Reactions to the antievolution bill in Florida”

HB 2454
Aim: “An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.”
Status: In committee

“Intelligent design legislation in Texas”

HB 195
Aim: “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.” Almost identical to last year’s HB 1165.
Status: Not assigned to committee

“Antievolution legislation in Missouri”

HB 169
Aim: would have allowed teachers to “use…instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”
Status: Died in committee

“Antievolution bill dies in Kentucky”

SB 554
Aim: A classic academic freedom bill that also provides that “No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula.”
Status: Died in committee

“Antievolution bill apparently dies in Oklahoma Senate”

HB 1551
Aim: allows teachers to help “students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” Topics specifically mentioned: “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Status: Died in committee

“Antievolution bill loses in committee in Oklahoma”

New Mexico
HB 302
Aim: Teachers must inform students about “relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses”. The bill would protect teachers from “reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so.”
Status: Died in committee

“Antievolution legislation in New Mexico”

CONTACT: Robert Luhn, Director of Communications, NCSE, 510-601-7203,

Web site:

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization that defends and promotes the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The NCSE provZides information and resources to schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education. We educate the press and public about the scientific, educational, and legal aspects of the creation and evolution controversy, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels. Our 4000 members are scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious affiliations.

Hello there!

Sorry blogging has been so light as of late. Just a few things:

My wife started a new job a month ago, as a librarian in the city of Canby about 25 minutes south of Portland. So I am daddy during the week and have some part-time work on the weekends.

Excited for the OMSI Science Pub at the Bagdad Theater tonight. It’s with Rebecca Skloot and she’ll be discussing her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Hopefully Patrick behaves…

Speaking of my son, he turned 5 on March 27th. He’s getting big! We had a fabulous nature-themed party for him at Tryon Creek State Park:

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

He’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall. The proud parents:

Patrick's 5th Birthday & Party

The freethought conference (pictures) here in Portland at the end of March was great, and it was nice to meet PZ Myers:

2011 Northwest Freethought Conference, Portland State University

I seem to be blogging more at my other blog, Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas, and Patrick and I spent spring break week outside every day

Molalla River State Park, Canby, OR

Next month I will be giving a talk about Darwin and creationist quote-mining for the Secular Humanists of East Portland/CFI (an extended version of what I did for Science Online 2011).

And there are not too may days until the next installment of the history of science blog carnival, The Giant’s Shoulders.

Follow me on Twitter (@darwinsbulldog) and Facebook for constant linkage of Darwin items of interest…