Darwin & evolution books from Greenwood

Randy Moore, biologist and science educator, has published before on evolution and creationism (Evolution in the Courtroom: A Reference Guide), and he has some more recent edited books and a forthcoming title:

More Than Darwin: The People and Places of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy (published 2008, paperback in 2009):

Since the middle of the 19th century, debates over evolution have occurred almost non-stop. From the publication of Charles Darwin’sOrigin of Species to the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, there has rarely been a time in which scientists, educators, theologians, politicians, and judges have not been involved in these debates. How can anyone keep all of these individuals straight without a scorecard? More than Darwin: An Encyclopedia of the People and Places of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy is that resource, providing accessible and balanced synopses of every major person, organization, and place involved in the long history of the evolution-creationism controversies.

Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy (published 2009):

With hundreds of entries, Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy describes specific cultural, religious, and scientific events relevant to the evolution-creationism controversy from the first notions of creationism in ancient Egypt to the present. Within this historical approach, it identifies a number of recurring themes that have shaped the debate through the ages, including famous court cases, the recurrence of the “intelligent design” argument, disagreements over the age of the Earth, and the impact of technological advances on both the scientific and faith-based viewpoints. While approaching the subject globally throughout, the book’s second half focuses on tensions between science and religious thought in the United States since the early 1900s.

Arguing for Evolution: An Encyclopedia for Understanding Science (forthcoming July 2010):

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The publisher of these books has put out other evolution/creationism titles, and will publish Darwin as Symbol by historian of science William Kimler (who I met in Phoenix last November) this August. Kimler says on his faculty page: “I am currently completing a book on how Charles Darwin has been used as a symbol of science and the idea of evolution.”

Cartoons from Evolution: a journal of nature, 1927-1938

Cartoons from early evolution education journal

Cartoons from early evolution education journal

Evolution: a journal of nature was an “otherwise lost journal in the 1920s and 1930s devoted to promoting the teaching of evolution in US public schools.” Information about its publication history here. The gallery of cartoons is here.

ARTICLE: Darwin, Dover, ‘Intelligent Design’ and textbooks

Paleontologist Kevin Padian (UC Berkeley) and biologist Nick Matzke (formerly of the NCSE) have published “Darwin, Dover, ‘Intelligent Design’ and textbooks” in the Biochemical Journal. The article is available as a PDF here.

Via the National Center for Science Education.

Padian also recently published another article on the latest phase of creationism (ID): “The evolution of creationists in the United States: Where are they now, and where are they going?”

Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch (of the NCSE): “The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom”

BOOK REVIEW: D. Graham Burnett’s "Trying Leviathan"

A few weeks ago, on a hike to History Rock in Hyalite Canyon just south of Bozeman, I noticed this rock in the trail. I said to my friend who was with me that it looked like a whale, and she replied that it could also look like a fish. I thought that little exchange ironic considering that I was near finishing D. Graham Burnett’s Trying Leviathan(Princeton, 2007), a book that revolves around a historical investigation of the question, “Is a Whale a Fish?” It took me a while to read this interesting (but densely erudite!) book – mostly 10 to 15 minutes during my lunch break everyday working at the campus library since January. If given the time, however, I probably could have polished it off in a few weeks, but time is always limited, and I am not as prolific a reader as a fellow blogger, who has also read this book (and hopefully planning to review, Brian?). So, that said, I am happy to finally post my review of Burnett’s book about” The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature” (this is its subtitle), and I thank Princeton University Press for their patience.

In Trying Leviathan, Burnett, a historian of science at Princeton University and author of Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado (UCP, 2000), explores a little known New York trial from 1818, Maurice v. Judd, in which a fish oil inspector (James Maurice) brought a candle maker and oil merchant (Samuel Judd) to court over his refusal to pay fees on whale oil (a law stated that fish oil had to be inspected for quality and purity). Maurice was represented by lawyers William Sampson and John Anthon, who desired to keep the trial about commercial regulation and away from, in Burnett’s words, the “muddy matters of taxonomy” (p. 17). Judd, whose defense included the testimony of the well-respected New York naturalist Samuel Mitchell, was represented by Robert Bogardus and William M. Price, who thought differently – they saw this as a taxonomic issue, and were willing to get dirty in the muddy matters (this case is also mentioned in the endnotes of Eric Jay Dolin’s Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America (W.W. Norton, 2007), pp. 384-385). What results is a splendid examination of questions about taxonomic systems, epistemology of natural historical knowledge, semantics, literary references, authority of various classes of New York citizens, and the relationship between science and society. Although the trial centers on the question of whether whale oil is fish oil, and hence if whales are fish, Burnett strives to look deeper into the reasons why the trial came to court at all, and what it meant beyond the straight science of taxonomy; he writes in his introduction: “It is perhaps cliché to assert that all taxonomy is politics, or to insist that epistemological problems are always problems of social order; Maurice v. Judd provides a striking occasion to test the viability (as well as the limits) of such sweeping claims” (p. 10).

Burnett organizes his book around three reasons why this case is important to study: the status of “philosophy” and natural history in learned institutions and intellectual culture of New York in the first quarter of the nineteenth century; the importance of whales and other cetaceans that were considered “problems of knowledge” to this period of history in the United States; and the shaky status of zoological classification, surely not one of a “golden age of the classifying imagination” (I do think I should fully read Harriet Ritvo’s The Platypus and the Mermaid: And Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination (Harvard UP, 1997) – I read the first chapter for an animal histories course in 2005). These considerations, and the trial’s main question in general (is a whale a fish?), are investigated by chapters devoted to what different categories of people in New York did or did not know about whales: naturalists, sailors and whalemen, artisans, merchants, and dealers in whale products, and regular folk of New York. While Mitchell thought it important to understand the authority of the first three, Sampson added the last category, considering the opinion of everyday citizens as worthy of attention.

The everyday citizens are tackled first, with Burnett concluding that a majority of people – whose limited contact with whales (textually or physically) included the authority of the Bible and its tripartite taxonomy (fish/water, beasts/earth, and birds/sky), popular natural history texts, the occasional strandings or moorings of whales, and the whale jaw bone of Scudder’s American Museum – thought of whales as fish, and it was hard to stomach that whales could be in the same category (mammals) as humans. Whales seemed to sit outside of natural history, more as curiosities than as creatures which could be easily classified. Peculiar examples of animals pointed to exceptions to the rule of classification, which damaged the authority of the new philosophy of taxonomy, brought forth mainly by the comparative anatomy of Cuvier (as being different from the Linnean-style categorization of plants or animals based on external characteristics).

Yet the naturalists, “those who philosophize,” would make the case that whales are indeed mammals, the subject of Burnett’s third chapter. Anthon, who represented the oil inspector, stated to the jurors: “Many of us may not have seen a whale,” but this should not cause us to be “led astray by the learning of philosophers” (p. 41). At issue was the authority of the naturalist and ichthyologist Samuel Mitchell, author of “The Fishes of New-York” and star witness of the defense, and in the long run, the authority of the enterprise of science itself. If common sense tells regular citizens of New York that whales are fish (for the Bible says so, and they swim in water like fish), then on what grounds should a naturalist’s erudition and, maybe, mere opinion, tell them otherwise? Since taxonomy was brought to the forefront in the case, the prosecutors sought to show that the current state of taxonomy is in question, and that there is disagreement between the learned.

Not only did Mitchell represent the “new philosophy” of classification based on comparative anatomy, but he had big ideas about a program for a patriotic, American natural history, to make New York a scientific center by popularizing the city’s natural history collections and promoting natural history to its citizens through lectures. And it was to this up and coming natural history and scientific culture that Maurice v. Judd may have owed its time in court: “through the trial flowed the strong currents of opposition to the institutions, innovations, and schemes of state-sponsored ‘philosophy.’ Science in the service of the state looked to many New Yorkers suspiciously like the state in the service of the men of science” (p. 207), while there existed an “emerging cultural and intellectual ambitions of a rising community of artisans and merchants, who were seeking support for their own institutions for the advancement of learning” (p. 203). Maurice v. Judd was more about social order in New York than it was about figuring out what a particular type of creature was (such that Burnett could have titled his book Trying Natural History, or Trying Mitchell, but Trying Leviathan sounds better).

In Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869), the naturalist Pierre Aronnax, with his apprentice Counsel, and the harpoonist Ned Land at times disagreed over not only their fate aboard Nemo’s Nautilus, but also matters of life in the sea; and while Aronnax showed erudition as to the species of plants and birds (expert knowledge), Ned Land knew how to capture and prepare them for eating (practical knowledge). Naturalists and whalemen had different ways of looking at whales, and in the fourth chapter of Trying Leviathan, Burnett investigates what whalemen knew about their prey. Two whalemen were witnesses in the trial – one believed whales were not fish, noting similarities with humans, and the other did, until the trial caused him to possibly think otherwise. Whalers combined physical experience with whales with texts that discussed natural history of marine mammals, which may or may not have contrasted with the views of “cabinet naturalists.” Burnett uses the logs and journals of whalemen to understand how they understood cetaceans. One way whalers thought of whales was in terms of oil; they were not solely animals, but instead storehouses of a money-making product. But they also thought of whales in terms of zoology. Important to Burnett’s look into the whaleman’s natural history is their cutting-in patterns, diagrams which depicted the methods by which a whale would be cut up, a “high-seas butchery,” in which different whales necessitated different cutting-in operations due to different anatomies – anatomies different from those of naturalists, an “autonomous domain of natural knowledge” (p. 118). I like Burnett’s observation that a harpoon or shaft is just as much a pointer to anatomical detail as it is a whaler’s fatal tool. But he is quick to note that such anatomical detail represented for whalemen only a “superficial anatomy,” because whalemen learned the anatomy useful to their purpose (whale oil was found in areas near the outer layer, or “blanket,” of the animal), while naturalists learned as much as they could to have as complete a picture of nature as possible. With whales referred to as fish in logbooks, whalers not considering some whales to be “whales” (semantics), and whales as whales in the water yet fish if out of water, I take it that whalers generally considered their catch as fish.

In the fifth chapter, Burnett discusses the last group worth studying, those involved in the whale product industries (mainly oil), the “men of affairs.” Although the shortest of the chapters to look at what a group of people knew about whales, it is here that Burnett teases out more motives of Maurice v. Judd. He asks what was really at stake, since the fine put on Judd was only $75. Like the Scopes Trial in 1925, Maurice v. Judd best represented a formal test case for the New York law passed in March of 1818 that authorized “the appointment of guagers [sic] and inspectors of fish oils” (p. 147), to test the scope and interpretations of “fish oil.” Dealers in oil generally understood fish oil and whale oil to be distinct, while Gideon Lee, a leather industry man who drafted the statute, desired to have all oils under the term “fish oils” inspected for purity to clean up a messy oil industry, full of “deceptions and fraud” (p. 162). Plus, fish oils were important for leather manufacture, and for Lee, “money made its own taxonomic distinctions” (p. 161). In the end, Maurice v. Judd really concerned venders of oils (those who were inspected) and purchasers of oils (the leather tanning industry) protecting their commercial interests. Animals were classified differently in this context, in what Burnett calls “taxonomies of craft and trade” (p. 164).

In the pages of the penultimate chapter of Trying Leviathan, Burnett reveals the outcome of the trial, and for that reason, I am not going to discuss it. This book was an exciting read, and Burnett brought to life for the reader many characters and their arguments in early nineteenth century New York. I think the reader deserves to find out the outcome for themselves. He pulled from a multitude of sources – logbooks, natural history texts, lecture notes, trial transcripts, newspaper articles, letters, and illustrations – representing a variety of people concerned with the trial. It’s science history, social history, intellectual history, religious history, economic history, and law history (are there any others?) all brought together to illuminate one small and largely forgotten event in American history. There is much more in this book than I could possibly share, and I am still trying to decide if Maurice v. Judd owes its occurrence to a science vs. artisans issue or a venders vs. purchasers problem in New York.

Today in Science History: Scopes Trial begins

From Today in Science History:

Scopes monkey trial In 1925, the “Scopes monkey trial” began in Dayton, Tennessee and ran for 12 days. A local school teacher, John Scopes, was prosecuted under the state’s Butler Act, but was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. This law, passed a few months earlier (21 Mar 1925) prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. The trial was a platform to challenge the legality of the statute. Local town leaders,(wishing for the town to benefit from the publicity of the trial) had recruited Scope to stand trial. He was convicted (25 Jul) and fined $100. On appeal, the state supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the law but acquitted Scopes on the technicality that he had been fined excessively. The law was repealed on 17 May 1967.

Today in Science History:

From Today in Science History:

Alexander Carl Heinrich Braun (Born 10 May 1805; died 29 Mar 1877). German botanist who was the most highly regarded botanist of the “nature philosophy” school, a doctrine which attempted to explain natural phenomena in terms of the speculative theories that dominated early 19th-century German science. Several species of cryptogams he discovered bear his name, such as Chara braunii. With Karl Schimper, he established the theory of spiral phyllotaxy. In his book Betrachtungern über die Erscheinung der Verjüngung in der Natur (1851) he made some significant contributions to the morphology of plants, to the biology of freshwater algae, and especially to cell theory. He opposed Darwinian selection, and remained a believer of “nature philosophy” when the doctrine was falling out of favour.

Leonhard Fuchs (Died 10 May 1566; born 17 Jan 1501). German botanist who prepared the first important glossary of botanical terms. This made a definite break from Dioscorides, and helped make the transition to modern botany. Although he was at first a private physician, and then professor of medicine, he actively persued an interest in natural history. He wrote books such as History of Plants (1542), in which he described numerous plant species in detail. His name was honored later by the naming of the fuchsia shrub. The distinctive bluish red colour of the flowers is also now known as fuchsia, eternally perpetuating his name.

Scopes hearing In 1925, John T. Scopes was given a preliminary hearing before three judges. He had been arrested and charged under a new Tennessee’s state law, the Butler act, which prohibited the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools. Scopes had agreed to participate in a challenge to that law, with the support of local leaders in Dayton, Tennessee, and the American Civil Liberties Union. A few weeks later, at what became known as the Scope’s Monkey Trial, he was found guilty and fined $100. Although upon appeal the fine was ruled excessive and over-ruled, the state law itself was not found unconstitutional. Thereafter, the law was not enforced, but it was not repealed until 1967.

Today in Science History: Scopes Monkey Trial development

From Today in Science History:

In 1925, a meeting of local leaders was held in Dayton, Tennessee, to plan a challenge to that state’s new law, the Butler Act, which made it illegal to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in a public school. George W. Rappelyea and other local leaders of the small mining town met at Robinson’s drug store. The American Civil Liberties Union in New York, concerned by the law’s infringement on constitutional rights, had advertised an offer to give legal support to any teacher who would challenge the law. Rappelyea saw the publicity that would accompany such a trial as an opportunity to promote his town. He approached John T. Scopes, a 24-year-old teacher and football coach, who was hesitant at first, to test the legality of the law in court.

More about the Scopes Monkey Trial at Famous Trials in American History, and a comment from Brian at Laelaps in his review of Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons.