Darwin, evolution & science books for holiday gift giving (2018)

‘Tis the season for holiday gift giving (to others or to yourself, no shame there), so I thought I’d share about some recent books about evolution and related topics that might strike in you a desire to spread the good news (of science!).



Rebecca Stefoff and Teagan White (illustrator), Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition (New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018, 176. pp.) ~ As she has done for other books (Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, and Charles C. Mann’s 1493), Stefoff has taken an important book and adapted it for a younger audience, using more accessible language and including copious illustrations and photographs, and while remaining true to Darwin’s chapter structure, has provided updated information on topics that have, well, evolved since Darwin’s time. If On the Origin of Species continues to be a book that everyone has an opinion about yet have never actually read (it can be a challenging read), perhaps they can start with this handsome large format edition. It surely deserves a place on the shelves of middle and high school libraries. Order Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Grandmother Fish

Jonathan Tweet and Karen Lewis (illustrator), Grandmother Fish (New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016, 32 pp.) ~ This fantastic book about evolution for preschool-aged kids is not new, but I shared about it previously and it is worth mentioning again! Order Grandmother Fish: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

One Iguana, Two Iguanas

Sneed B. Collard III, One Iguana, Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution (Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House, 2018, 48 pp.) ~ I have not looked at a copy of this book myself, but Greg Laden has. Here’s the publisher’s description: “Natural selection and speciation are all but ignored in children’s nonfiction. To help address this glaring deficiency, award-winning children’s science writer Sneed Collard traveled to the Galapagos Islands to see for himself, where Charles Darwin saw, how new species form. The result is this fascinating story of two species of iguana, one land-based and one marine, both of which developed from a single ancestor that reached the islands millions of years ago. The animals evolved in different directions while living within sight of one another. How is that possible?” Geared toward upper elementary and middle grade readers. Order One Iguana, Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Stuff of Stars, The.jpeg

Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes, Ekua (illustrator), The Stuff of Stars (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2018, 40 pp.) ~ Going further back that biological evolution, this book puts the Sagan-esque notion of everything being made of “star stuff” – that all the matter that makes up every organism, including humans, was first created in the furnaces of stars billions of years ago – into a beautiful presentation of words and art. For some science-minded people who live without religion, appreciating our elemental connection to the universe can serve as a secular spirituality, and The Stuff of Stars serves as a perfect introduction of this idea. Order The Stuff of Stars: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.


Ince, Martin, Continental Drift: The Evolution of Our World from the Origins of Life to the Future (Blueprint Editions, 80 pp.; titled Drift in the UK for WeldonOwen Publishing) ~ It is difficult to discuss the evolution of animals on Earth without bringing in geology: how plates of earth’s crusts moving around the globe over millions of years has had a major effect on the evolutionary lineages of organisms. Continental Drift by science writer Martin Ince, begins with the formation of Earth 4.5 billions years ago and the formation of land around 3.4 bya, and then passes through periods of geologic time (Cambrian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleogene, Anthropocene, etc.), describing the movement of plates and evolution of organisms during those periods. Copiously illustrated with drawings and photographs, as well as large maps showing how the earth’s land appeared in each period, this book is perfect for upper elementary and middle grade students wishing to learn more about the history of our planet and its life. In fact, curious adults will find value in pouring through its pages. Order Drift: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

When the Whales Walked

Dougal Dixon and Hannah Bailey (illustrator), When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys (London: words & pictures, 2018, 64 pp.) ~ I have not seen a copy of this book yet, but it looks like an important one to teach readers about transitional fossils. The publisher’s description: “Step back in time and discover a world where whales once walked, crocodiles were warm-blooded and snakes had legs! Meet terrifying giant birds, and tiny elephants living on islands in this fascinating creature guide like no other. Learn how whales once walked on four legs before taking to the oceans; how dinosaurs evolved into birds; and how the first cats were small and lived in trees. Featuring a stunning mix of annotated illustrations, illustrated scenes and family trees, evolution is explained here in a captivating and novel style that will make children look at animals in a whole new way.” Order When the Whales Walked: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Galapagos Girl

Marsha Diane Arnold and Angela Dominguez (illustrator), Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2018, 40 pp.) ~ This is a charming picture book about a young girl born and raised on Floreana island in the Galápagos, who grew up among its unique animals and has made a life of researching, protecting, and educating about the Galápagos and its wildlife. Her name is Valentina Cruz, and through her story readers will learn about what it means to spend time in nature and value protecting it. The publisher’s description: “For Valentina, living on the Galápagos islands means spending her days outside, observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. She is a Galápagos girl, and there is no other place she’d rather be! But this wondrous world is fragile, and when Valentina learns her wild companions are under threat, she vows to help protect them and the islands. Whimsical illustrations by Pura Belpré Honoree Angela Dominguez transport readers to the unique Galápagos islands, which shelter a number of diverse plant and animal species that can be found nowhere else on the planet. Come discover this beautiful world with Valentina and her animal friends!” The book is presented in both English and Spanish, and Mr. Darwin only receives a single mention, in a note at the end of the book about finches. This book is, after all, about Valentina, not Charles, as there are many persons connected to the history of these islands. Order Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.



Unnatural Selection

Katrina von Grouw, Unnatural Selection (Princeton University Press, 2013, 304 pp.) ~ This book came out in the summer, but I shared about it previously and it is worth mentioning again! Order Unnatural Selection: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Life on Earth (1)

David Attenborough, Life on Earth: The Greatest Story Ever Told (London: William Collins, 2018, 352 pp.) ~ A classic, updated. From the publisher: “David Attenborough’s unforgettable meeting with gorillas became an iconic moment for millions of television viewers. Life on Earth, the series and accompanying book, fundamentally changed the way we view and interact with the natural world setting a new benchmark of quality, influencing a generation of nature lovers. Told through an examination of animal and plant life, this is an astonishing celebration of the evolution of life on earth, with a cast of characters drawn from the whole range of organisms that have ever lived on this planet. Attenborough’s perceptive, dynamic approach to the evolution of millions of species of living organisms takes the reader on an unforgettable journey of discovery from the very first spark of life to the blue and green wonder we know today. Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the book’s first publication, David Attenborough has revisited Life on Earth, completely updating and adding to the original text, taking account of modern scientific discoveries from around the globe. He has chosen beautiful, completely new photography, helping to illustrate the book in a much greater way than was possible forty years ago. This special anniversary edition provides a fitting tribute to an enduring wildlife classic, destined to enthral the generation who saw it when first published and bring it alive for a whole new generation.” Order Life on Earth: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants

Ken Thompson, Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: Darwin’s Botany Today (London: Profile Books, 2018, 256 pp.) ~  In five chapters Thompson takes a look at Darwin’s seven books that cover botanical topics, from his first on orchids in 1862 to The Power of Movement in Plants in 1880. From the publisher: “Ken Thompson sees Darwin as a brilliant and revolutionary botanist, whose observations and theories were far ahead of his time – and are often only now being confirmed and extended by high-tech modern research. Like Darwin, he is fascinated and amazed by the powers of plants – particularly their Triffid-like aspects of movement, hunting and ‘plant intelligence’. This is a much needed book that re-establishes Darwin as a pioneering botanist, whose close observations of plants were crucial to his theories of evolution.” Order Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Tangled Tree, The.JPG

David Quammen, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018, 480 pp.) ~ Currently making my way through this new offering from one of the best science writers we have. Quammen tells the intriguing story of how molecular biologists rewrote the tree of life, centering on the work of Carl Woese (billed as one of the most important biologists of the 20th century that you’ve never heard of) but including Lynn Margulis and a great many others. Quammen blends science with storytelling in such a fashion that one feels as if they are witnessing science at work as it is happening – it’s ups and downs, its triumphs and lesser moments. With plenty of Darwin to start the narrative off. Highly recommended. Order The Tangled Tree: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Wall of Birds, The

Jane Kim and Thayer Walker, The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years – A Visual Journey (New York: Harper Design, 2018, 224 pp.) ~ Ever since I first saw social media posts showing the work in progress for a mural on a wall at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s office, I have been in awe of Jane Kim’s bird and other scientific illustrations. They are absolutely gorgeous, and this new book by Kim shares her experience doing the mural and about all the birds presented, including dinosaurs! Order The Wall of Birds: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound. More info about the wall here, and Jane’s website here.

Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline

Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll (artist), Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2018, 290 pp.) ~ A follow up to Johnson and Troll’s Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip (2007), which followed the author and artist through the American West in search of fossils and paleontologists, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline does the same for the stretch of coastline from southern California up north into Alaska. Johnson is a fine writer, and Troll’s unique art style never disappoints. Order Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Galapagos Life in Motion.jpeg

Walter Perez and Michael Weisberg, Galápagos: Life in Motion (Princeton University Press, 2018, 208 pp.) ~ For someone who hopes to visit the Galápagos in their lifetime but is not sure if it will happen, this book of photographs by Walter Perez is an antidote to waiting for such an opportunity. From the publisher: “The Galápagos Islands are home to an amazing variety of iconic creatures, from Giant Tortoises, Galápagos Sea Lions, Galápagos Penguins, and Ghost Crabs to Darwin’s finches, the Blue-footed Booby, and Hummingbird Moths. But how precisely do these animals manage to survive on―and in the waters around―their desert-like volcanic islands, where fresh water is always scarce, food is often hard to come by, and finding a good mate is a challenge because animal populations are so small? In this stunning large-format book, Galápagos experts Walter Perez and Michael Weisberg present an unprecedented photographic account of the remarkable survival behaviors of these beautiful and unique animals. With more than 200 detailed, close-up photographs, the book captures Galápagos animals in action as they feed, play, fight, court, mate, build nests, give birth, raise their young, and cooperate and clash with other species.” Order Galápagos: Life in Motion: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Charles Darwin - A Reference Guide to His Life and Works

J. David Archibald, Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018, 232 pp.) ~ I have yet to view a copy of this book, but I have liked Archibald’s other books about Darwin and evolution so I expect this to serve as a useful resource. Here is the publisher’s description: “Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works provides an important new compendium presenting a detailed chronology of all aspects Darwin’s life. The extensive encyclopedia section includes many hundreds of entries of various kinds related to Darwin – people, places, institutions, concepts, and his publications. The bibliography provides a comprehensive listing of the vast majority of Darwin’s works published during and after his lifetime. It also provides a more selective list of publications concerning his life and work.” Order Charles Darwin: A Reference Guide to His Life and Works: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

My Darwin talk at OHSU, April 4th

Guest Lecture

Perhaps I should let folks here know that I will be giving a talk at the Oregon Health & Sciences University here in Portland on Wednesday, April 4th, at 12:30pm in the Old Library Auditorium. It will be for a reception to the small exhibit now on display in the OHSU Library, Rewriting the Book of Nature (see my post here).

Darwin Exhibit

My talk will be “Charles Darwin: Myth vs. History,” an overview of myths about Darwin and corrections of them. I will talk about both what I think are unintentionally created myths (events or characteristics that find their way into popular history, science textbooks, etc.) and those that are indeed intentional, and meant to smeer the reputation of a historical character (mainly, creationist misuse of history).

Reception at 12:00, my talk at 12:30, free and open to the public!

Q: How many historians does it take to change a light bulb?

A: There is a great deal of debate on this issue. Up until the mid-20th century, the accepted answer was ‘one’: and this Whiggish narrative underpinned a number of works that celebrated electrification and the march of progress in light-bulb changing. Beginning in the 1960s, however, social historians increasingly rejected the ‘Great Man’ school and produced revisionist narratives that stressed the contributions of research assistants and custodial staff. This new consensus was challenged, in turn, by women’s historians, who criticized the social interpretation for marginalizing women, and who argued that light bulbs are actually changed by department secretaries. Since the 1980s, however, postmodernist scholars have deconstructed what they characterize as a repressive hegemonic discourse of light-bulb changing, with its implicit binary opposition between ‘light’ and ‘darkness,’ and its phallogocentric privileging of the bulb over the socket, which they see as colonialist, sexist, and racist. Finally, a new generation of neo-conservative historians have concluded that the light never needed changing in the first place, and have praised political leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for bringing back the old bulb. Clearly, much additional research remains to be done.

[This is from historian David Leeson, shared on Facebook]

Sir Charles?

“… but Wren and Sloane owed the honour to their public work rather than to their eminence in science. England was slow to reward scientific achievement by this distinction and I believe that Davy, in the early years of the nineteenth century, was the next to receive royal recognition; and even during that century such physicists as Faraday and Maxwell, and such a biologist as Darwin, were not knighted.”

– Louis Tenchard More, Isaac Newton: A Biography (1935)

A few days ago Rebekah Higgitt (@beckyfh, Whewell’s Ghost) tweeted:

Came across this yahoo Q&A on Darwin & lack of knighthood. That this wrong answer ‘resolves’ Q is dispiriting http://j.mp/eBdCFs #histsci

Here is the question and the various answers:

Question (Nick.391): How come Charles Robert Darwin never received a knighthood?

Answer 1 (Will): You must remember that Queen Victoria was not only the head of state, she was also the head of the Church of England. As Darwin’s theories were denounced by leading churchmen, it would have been virtually impossible for the Queen to have honoured him. He was simply too controversial at the time.

Answer 2 (Michael B): It was not common in the 19thC to knight men outside the service of the Crown. Soldiers and sailors who had done well and politicians or civil servants were knighted or even ennobled; the fashion for ladling out honours to entertainers, academics and sportsmen is comparatively recent. Controversy had nothing to do with it. Some of the political and military figures who were promoted to a K or even a peerage were, in their way, just as controversial. Simply, academics and scientists did not expect, and did not get, that type of recognition.

Answer 3 (NC): Church of England made sure of that. Many of its notable members (both clergymen and laymen) were openly hostile to Darwin.

Noted by the asker as the “Best Answer” is… #1, and he also commented “Great answer, thanks. Michael B [no, this is not me!] must be on drugs or something because none of that is even accurate” (referring to the second answer). So, the favored answer is that science versus religion tensions kept Darwin from receiving a knighthood, while the possibility of a more nuanced explanation is not possible because such a suggestion could come only from someone whose mind is not properly functioning. Dispiriting, indeed! (I’ll note that another Yahoo Q&A asks the same question, with the answer: “When deciding on who to knight not only must the nominee have done something notable but “usually” must also have a character that does not upset the status quo of the country or upset the citizens in general. Charles Darwin was such a controversial figure that there was “no way” that the monarch of the time could even have considered him for a knighthood.”)

Becky’s tweet started a short exchange between her, myself, Ian Hesketh (@ianhesketh, author of Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity, and the Oxford Debate, and Greg Good (@HistoryPhysics).

@darwinsbulldog – Interesting, any resources abt this? Seeing online that Wilberforce stepped in & stopped a proposal in ’59, don’t know if factual

@ianhesketh – Desmond and Moore (1991: 488) have a brief paragraph about this but cite a secondary source: Bunting (1974)

@ianhesketh – Desmond and Moore go on to say that they could not themselves locate Bunting’s sources (and he is now deceased).

@darwinsbulldog – So, Palmerstone suggests CD for knighthood, Wilberforce steps in and he doesn’t get it… Nothing in Browne’s biography

@beckyfh – Think Wilberforce thing a myth. Myth that establishment against CD. Wrong that people like him got knighthoods.

@beckyfh – Unless CD was sitting on govt advisory boards etc (like Brewster, Airy or Kelvin) honours wd be very unlikely.

@ianhesketh – Interesting! I also doubt the story about Wilberforce’s intervention given that no one can find Bunting’s sources

@beckyfh – I think all 19thc men of science with knighthoods get them for direct public work, not their science per se.

@HistoryPhysics – What is the primary record for reasons for knighthood? Personal corr? Prime Minister papers?

@beckyfh – Citations for honours are a matter of public record, I think, but also in newspapers etc.

@beckyfh – Eg Brunel: “For *public* services in the profession of Civil Engineering”, naming dockyard work

@darwinsbulldog – Was not Joseph Dalton Hooker, Lyell, and John Lubbock also knighted? Gov’t service? Def. for Hooker…

@beckyfh – Hooker govt employee, Lubbock MP & Uni VC, Lyell lawyer, prof & employed on geological survey.

@beckyfh – Obv doesn’t mean their status in scientific world irrelevant, bt I thnk explains the Darwin case

@ianhesketh – This subject (scientists and knighthood) would make for a great article (clearly it’s needed)!

@darwinsbulldog – So how do you explain McCartney and Elton John? What’s the criteria there?

@beckyfh – The criteria changed in 20thc! Scientific & creative work now rewarded

Let’s take a look at what Adrian Desmond and James Moore wrote, in Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (1992):

This Anglican censure had more personal repercussions. Darwin may even have lost a knighthood. Lord Palmerston, the incoming Liberal Prime Minister in June 1859, had apparently mooted Darwin’s name to Queen Victoria as a candidate for the Honours List. Prince Albert concurred; he was a friend of science, a friend of Owen’s, President of the British Association in September 1859, where Lyell had spoken of Darwin’s forthcoming work, and he had seen Sir Charles similarly honoured. Darwin would have been delighted and astonished. But then came the Origin. The Queen’s ecclesiastical advisers, including the Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce, scotched it. The honour would imply approval, and Palmerston’ request was turned down. (488)

As Hesketh noted, Desmond and Moore cite the short 1974 biography of Darwin by James Bunting:

Bunting, Charles Darwin, 88-89, based on evidence apparently found while researching Parliamentary history. The sources have not been located and the author is deceased.

So, we have two ways of looking at a little bit of history. For one, the historical documents purporting to show that indeed Darwin’s lack of a knighthood was due to religious criticism of his work on evolution are lacking. For the other, as Becky has nicely shown, there is good reason to suggest that Darwin did not receive a knighthood (was he even really suggested for one by Palmerston?) because he did not carry out work in service of the British government, as was the case for many of the scientists who did receive royal honours. For now, I will go with the latter. But one’s willingness to go with Wilberforce on this one is perhaps to insist on there having been an absolute science versus religion conflict in nineteenth-century Britain (the conflict thesis, or warfare thesis). Surely there were those who perceived it as such (Tyndall, for example), and classic books devoted to it (John W. Draper’s 1881 History of the Conflict between Religion and Science and Andrew Dickson White’s 1896 History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom), but we must understand this time as one of not a simple dichtomoy of views but of plenty of in-betweens (such as Charles Kingsley). Moore addressed this in The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900 (1979). He dispelled the notion that religion was strictly separated from science in the nineteenth century. He notes that, although not the best way to describe what was actually going on in nineteenth-century exchanges between science and religion, the military metaphor of “conflict” or “warfare” was a common trope within the post-Darwinian controversies and that “testifies to its symbolic importance” (13).

Just as the Oxford debate between Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley has been demythologized, by Hesketh and Gould (and Brian Switek, too!), it seems – pending some graduate student tasking him or herself with finding the documents Bunting says are there and doing a deeper analysis of this moment – that Desmond and Moore, although acknowledging the sketchy documentation, like to tell a good story. What sounds more exciting: Darwin not a public servant, or evolution-hating Wilberforce knighthood-blocking Darwin?

Joseph Dalton Hooker, one of Darwin’s supporters and botanist to the British government, did receive several honours. In his case, however, he did not really care to receive them. When in 1869 Lyell and Murchison urged the Duke of Argyll to suggest Hooker for recognition of his service in India, Hooker’s response to Darwin was:

I do not think there is the least chance of my getting the offer of it. The K.C.S.I. is so rare an honour that I might well be proud to have it, for my Indian services; but I really do not desire Knighthood, and would infinitely rather be plain
Dr. Hooker with C.B. to testify to my having done my duty as well as others who have that certificate. So if it comes I shall be proud of it; if not, I shall be as well content. Please say nothing about it. The fact is the Duke might do it with a stroke of the pen, but he don’t like my Darwinism and my Address and I am right proud of that! [emphasis mine]


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 http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/giraffes-necks-for-food-or-necks-for-sex/#ixzz117yR2LJL

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:


WORKSHOP: Revisiting Evolutionary Naturalism: New Perspectives on Victorian Science and Culture

From Situating Science | Science in Human Contexts:

Revisiting Evolutionary Naturalism: New Perspectives on Victorian Science and Culture

Node Workshop
May 6 – 7th, 2011
York University, Toronto, Canada

Ever since the 1970’s, when Robert Young and Frank Turner treated T. H. Huxley, John Tyndall, and their allies as posing an effective challenge to the authority of the Anglican clergy, scholars have found the term “scientific naturalism,” or “evolutionary naturalism,” to be a useful shorthand for referring to an influential group of like-minded elite intellectuals. But over the years, questions have been raised about the cohesiveness and the cultural status of scientific naturalism. Is the term elastic enough to include both the idealist and romantic Karl Pearson as well as the hard-nosed materialist Charles Bastian? Just how powerful were the scientific naturalists if they disagreed amongst themselves on key issues, and if, as many recent studies have suggested, they were confronted by a host of effective opponents in addition to Anglican clergymen, including North British physicists, Oxbridge trained gentlemen of science, self-trained popularizers of science, philosophical idealists, spiritualists, feminists, anti-vivisectionists, and socialists? Indeed, how far were the practices and writings of scientific naturalists actually shaped by their interchanges with such myriad opponents?

In this workshop we hope to explore new perspectives on the British scientific naturalists, re-examining their interactions with each other and with other groups within the larger culture. Speakers include Ruth Barton, Peter J. Bowler, Gowan Dawson, James Elwick, Jim Endersby, George Levine, Bernard Lightman, Ted Porter, Evelleen Richards, Joan Richards, Michael Reidy, Jonathan Smith, Robert Smith, Matthew Stanley, Michael Taylor, Frank Turner, and Paul White. The workshop will take place at 320 Bethune College, York University, Toronto, Canada on May 6th and 7th, 2011. It is sponsored by York University, SSHRC, and by Situating Science.

Barton, Dawson, Elwick, Lightman, Reidy, and Stanley are all part of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project. I’m hoping to attend.