VIDEO: Janet Browne on Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography (3 lectures)

Janet Browne spoke on Darwin for three lectures at Harvard earlier in November, all of which have been uploaded to YouTube. Enjoy!

Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Economist of Nature”

Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Stories of a Scientific Life”

Becoming Darwin: History, Memory, and Biography, “Icon”

Darwin Day 2015 is approaching; Darwin lecture in Portland

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

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


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

And like the Darwin Day Facebook page!

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

VIDEOS: Alfred Russel Wallace talks from Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta

These videos are from a lecture series in October at the University of Alberta, “More than Natural Selection.”

The time travelers: Alfred Russel Wallace and Peter Kropotkin
Kathleen Lowrey – Associate Professor Anthropology University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Mars, Extra-Terrestrials and the Nature of the Universe
Robert Smith, Professor, History and Classics University of Alberta

Alfred Russel Wallace, Collector
Andrew Berry, Lecturer on Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Harvard University

Wallace on Science and the Problems of Progress
Martin Fichman, Professor, Department of Humanities York University

Capstone Address – Other Worlds: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Cross-Cultures of Spiritualism
Christine Ferguson, Senior Lecturer, English Literature University of Glasgow

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

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

LECTURE: From Charles Darwin to Lonesome George: Writing the New Animal History in the Galapagos Islands


The Institute for the Study of the Americas cordially invites you to attend the following events. I would be most grateful if you could circulate this event information to colleagues or mailing lists members who may wish to attend.

Wednesday 19 June, 17:30 – 19:30

From Charles Darwin to Lonesome George: Writing the New Animal History in the Galapagos Islands

Nicola Foote (Associate Professor, Latin American and Caribbean Histoy, Florida Gulf Coast University)

Chair: Linda Newson (Director, ISA)

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their iconic wildlife. Yet the critical examination of this wildlife has been left overwhelmingly to scientists – to date, there have been no studies by humanities or social science scholars that engage with either the representation or realities of Galapagos fauna. As a result, some of Latin America’s most famous animals have been left out of the emerging field of Latin American animal studies.This paper seeks to begin to fill this gap.

Venue: Room G35 (Senate House, Ground Floor)

Venue addresses:
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

For further information, please contact

Institute for the Study of the Americas
School of Advanced Study
University of London
Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

Michael Shermer in Portland, Nov. 16, “The Moral Arc of Science”

A friendly note to readers in the Portland, OR area that Michael Shermer will be in town again for a talk sponsored by Center for Inquiry–Portland and Oregonians for Science and Reason (he did a book talk for Powell’s last year):

Friday, November 16th 2012 at 7:00 pm
The Bagdad Theater, 3702 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, OR

The Moral Arc of Science: How Science Has Bent the Arc of the Moral Universe Toward Truth, Justice, Freedom, & Prosperity

by Michael Shermer

The arc of the moral universe bends toward truth, justice, freedom, and prosperity thanks to science—the type of thinking that involves reason, rationality, empiricism, and skepticism. The Scientific Revolution led by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton was so world-changing that thinkers in other fields consciously aimed at revolutionizing the social, political, and economic worlds using the same methods of science. This led to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, which in turn created the modern secular world of democracies, rights, justice, and liberty.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. Dr. Shermer’s latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. His last book was The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics. He also wrote Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and he is the author of The Science of Good and Evil and of Why People Believe Weird Things. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991).

Tickets: $20 (students $15; VIP seating for Friends of CFI, become one here)

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!

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:

History of Science lectures from Gresham College

For the oodles of time you have to sit and watch/listen to lectures:


The life and legacy of Dr Edward Jenner FRS, pioneer of vaccination
From Jenner to Wakefield: The long shadow of the anti-vaccination movement


The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition and Development in the Western World since 1700
Science’s First Mistake: Delusions In Pursuit of Theory?
Early Mathematics Day
To Infinity and Beyond
The Victorians: Empire and Race
The Victorians: Religion and Science
Early Science: An Historical Perspective [Part 1]
Early Science: An Historical Perspective [Part 2]
Triangular Relationships
Royal Society Anniversary Lecture: An Even Shorter History of Nearly Everything
The Victorians: Time and Space
Sir Hans Sloane: 350 years of preserving history
Wren, Hooke and Willis: Divine geometry and natural design
The Boyle Lecture: The Legacy of Robert Boyle – then and now
400 Years of the Telescope
History, Science, Religion: Capturing The Public Imagination
Now the dust has settled: A view of Robert Hooke post-2003
Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science
The New London and the Heavenly Jerusalem: Scientists and Craftsmen in Sir Christopher Wren’s London
The Sun Kings
Hospital for seafarers
Health on the ocean waves: The sea-doctor afloat and in port
Robert Hooke: Tercentennial Studies
Curious Eyes and Steady Hands – Anatomists in Georgian London
The Mariners’ Instruments
Some London heroes of science and technology
The celestial geometry of John Flamsteed: Mapping the heavens from 17th century Greenwich
Disease and Death in Late Stuart London
The Jacobean Space Programme – Wings, springs and gunpowder: flying to the moon from 17th century England
Medicine in London, 1600 to 1900 – A well-scrubbed world
Medicine in London, 1600 to 1900 – Dr William Harvey and the seventeenth-century medical revolution
Hooke as Speculative Philosopher
Hooke as Designer, Maker and User of Instruments
Hooke as Employee
Genetics, Evolution and Eugenics – Lecture One
Genetics, Evolution and Eugenics – Lecture Two
True and Impartial Observations: The Work of Robert Hooke
The Boyle lecture – Misusing Darwin: The Materialist Conspiracy in Evolutionary Biology
Mathematics in the modern age – The 19th century: Revolution or evolution?
Mathematics, Motion, and Truth: The Earth goes round the Sun

The Darwin Lecture 2011: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise given by Sir David Attenborough


The Darwin Lecture 2011: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise given by Sir David Attenborough
Wednesday 2 November 2011
Venue: Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, LONDON, W1G 0AE
The third annual Darwin Lecture on Science and Medicine will be given by Sir David Attenborough on the subject of Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise

A.R. Wallace spent eight years travelling in search of birds of paradise and became the first European naturalist to see them in display. In the course of his explorations, he wrote a paper that, together with another by Charles Darwin, announced the theory of evolution by natural selection. But it was the birds of paradise that preoccupied him throughout his journeys in Indonesia.

This lecture is organised in association with The Linnean Society of London

Registration is currently unavailable

Registration Details:
Member – Linnean Society: Free of charge
RSM Retired Fellow: Free of charge
RSM Student: Free of charge
RSM Trainee: Free of charge
RSM Associate: Free of charge
RSM Fellow: Free of charge
Public: Free of charge

6.00 pm
Registration with tea and coffee

6.30 pm
The 3rd Annual Darwin Lecture on Science and Medicine: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise
Sir David Attenborough

7.30 pm
Close of meeting followed by a drinks reception
Meeting ref: PEC01
CPD (Applied for)

How the Victorians Learned about Darwin’s Theories: Popularizing Evolution

Here’s a 2010 talk by historian of science Bernard Lightman, How the Victorians Learned about Darwin’s Theories: Popularizing Evolution (mp3), from Discover Yale Digital Commons:

Bernard Lightman’s research focuses on the cultural history of Victorian science. In speaking about the popularization of and attacks upon Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection, he draws on his 2007 study Victorian Popularizers of Science.

Sean Carroll lecture on Darwin, Wallace, and evolution, March 8 in Forest Grove

From the NCSE:

Dear Oregon friends of NCSE,

I thought that you would like to know that Sean Carroll will be speaking on “Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species” at 7:00 p.m. on March 8, in the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center on the Forest Grove campus of Pacific University. The event is free and open to the public, so please spread the word!

A Supporter of NCSE, Carroll is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Professor of Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of, most recently, Remarkable Creatures (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), and a monthly column published in The New York Times Science Times.

For further information, visit:

I saw Carroll give this same lecture last summer in Portland at the Evolution 2010 conference. It was in the same vein as this, as will be the one in Forest Grove:

Lecture on Alexander von Humboldt in Portland this Wednesday

At Portland State University:

Event: School of the Environment Seminar Series: Alexander von Humboldt (the “Founder of Modern Geography”)

January 26, 2011 Starts: 4:00pm Ends: 5:00pm

Where: Cramer Hall 271

Speaker: Bill Fischer, Department of World Languages & Literature (German), Portland State University

LECTURE: Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science

Bora has the details of a lecture historian William Kimler will give next week at NCSU, “Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science.” According to his department webpage, Kimler is “completing a book on how Charles Darwin has been used as a symbol of science and the idea of evolution.”

Here’s a silent Kimler next to a musician talking about Darwin:


VIDEO: Stephen Jay Gould on the fossil record (2001)

Stephen Jay Gould‘s collections of Natural History essays were some of the first books about evolution I explored in high school. It’s nice to hear his voice. The NCSE posted this video of Gould discussing creationism & fossils while reminsicing on his involvement in McLean v. Arkansas (1981):

He also has with him a few really old books. When seeing him interviewed from his office in various documentaries, I always thought his library would be awesome to look through:

Texas Textbook Talk

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, March 16, 2010

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, March 16, 2010

Last night I attended a talk put on by the Columbia Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State at the Multnomah Arts Center in Portland. The speaker was Steven K. Green, of Willamette University in Salem. An historian and professor of law, Green is the Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy and author of The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America. His talk addressed the textbook issue in Texas:

The battle in Texas over social studies textbooks has been so fierce it has gained national attention. The majority on the Texas Board of Education questions the concept of the separation of church and state and is making numerous changes to the textbooks to reflect this view. Texas is such a large purchaser of textbooks that it influences textbooks across the nation. Professor Green, who has both a PhD in American History and a law degree, recently went to Texas to testify at the Texas Board of Education hearings. He will share his perspective on this important issue with us.

It was interesting to hear about this issue – the “simplifying & sanitizing of our history” – from someone involved, from someone who has argued with dentist-turned-head-of-board-of-education Don McLeroy (at least he is now no longer part of it, although still pushing his revisionist agenda). It was interesting to hear about largely creationist tactics being employed, like the quote-mining of significant American figures in history, making their statements sound as if they advocated for a “Christian nation” (Green had another term for this, not quote-mining, but I can’t recall what it was).  One question that came up was whether or not, in this digital age and access to information online and e-books, the decisions in Texas would really affect all that much what goes on in other states regarding textbooks.

Steven K. Green (photo by Don Domenigoni)

Steven K. Green (photo by Dan Domenigoni)

Today there is a rally in Austin, TX, “Don’t White Out Our History,” against the changes being made to the curricula standards. If you know anyone near there, let them know.

A rather large crowd, apparently (photo by Don Demonigoni)

A rather large crowd, apparently; you can see me on the right, sitting down with my arm up in the air (photo by Dan Demonigoni)

One benefit to me moving to Portland is that I can enter into established freethinking/skeptic/humanist/secular communities, many of which are easy to stay informed about through In Bozeman, despite the history of science-minded students, paleontology students, and others who despised pseudoscience, a community was lacking. Paleo students began a skeptic group, but nothing happened with it besides hosting a lecture by Kevin Padian about intelligent design (and I was out of the state at the time). Other Bozemanites have recently revived a freethinker group, but I was too busy in my last semester at MSU to get involved with meetups or film showings.

So, Portland, thank you.

Evolution 2010 in Portland this June

The Department of Biology at Portland State University will be hosting Evolution 2010, the joint annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB), and the American Society of Naturalists (ASN), on June 25-29, 2010, at the Oregon Convention Center.

Since we’ll be living in Portland by then, I looked up what’s going on and I will be:

1. Participating in the evolution education workshop for teachers and educators all day Friday, June 25th. Louise Mead of the NCSE is running the workshop, and Kate Miller of Charlie’s Playhouse will be there as well; and

2. Attending Sean Carroll‘s lecture on that Friday evening, 8 PM. Carroll, a molecular biologist, is the author of Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species and recipient of the SSE’s Stephen Jay Gould Prize, for “sustained and exemplary efforts [that] have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science and its importance in biology, education, and everyday life in the spirit of Stephen Jay Gould.” Carroll was recently named the HHMI’s vice president for science education.

Carroll Lecture

Carroll Lecture (click pic for Facebook event)

I’m hoping to meet up with folk (bloggers or otherwise) – who else is going to Evolution 2010?

Exhibit Hall at PLA 2010 (Portland, OR)

Patrick at Oregon Convention Center

BOOK: Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

Darwin (Darwin College Lectures)

In 2009, Darwin College at the University of Cambridge held a lecture series on Darwin. The lectures are accessible online (why so many ways to find these lectures?). The eight lectures are now available as a book in Darwin (Darwin College Lectures):

Charles Darwin can easily be considered one of the most influential scholars of his time. His thoughts, ideas, research and writings have had a far reaching impact and influence on modern thought in the arts, on society, and in science. With contributions from leading scholars, this collection of essays explores how Darwin’s work grew out of the ideas of his time, and how its influence spread to contemporary thinking about creationism, the limits of human evolution and the diversification of living species and their conservation. A full account of the legacy of Darwin in contemporary scholarship and thought. With contributions from Janet Browne, Jim Secord, Rebecca Stott, Paul Seabright, Steve Jones, Sean Carroll, Craig Moritz and John Dupré. This book derives from a highly successful series of public lectures, revised and illustrated for publication under the editorship of Professor William Brown and Professor Andrew Fabian of the University of Cambridge.

A multi-disciplinary overview of the influence of the legacy of Charles Darwin, with contributions from the history of science, economics, philosophy and English literature as well as the biological sciences, appealing to a number of interests • Contributors are internationally-famed leading authorities from their fields, providing the most current research findings • The authors write for the general reader from the standpoint of the leading researcher, making it thoroughly accessible to the non-specialist reader


1. Darwin’s intellectual development: biography, history, and commemoration, Janet Browne
2. Global Darwin, James A. Secord
3. Darwin in the literary world, Rebecca Stott
4. Darwin and human society, Paul Seabright
5. The evolution of utopia, Steve Jones
6. The making of the fittest: the DNA record of evolution, Sean B. Carroll
7. Evolutionary biogeography and conservation on a rapidly changing planet: building on Darwin’s vision, Craig Moritz and Ana Carolina Carnaval
8. Postgenomic Darwinism, John Dupré

This will be published in August.

Darwin College, University of Cambridge

Darwin College, University of Cambridge

LECTURE: “Charles Darwin the Experimental Botanist”

From the APS Museum:

Lecture: Karen Snetselaar, “Charles Darwin the Experimental Botanist”
MARCH 23, 2010

Charles Darwin is recognized world-wide for developing and disseminating ideas on evolution and natural selection.  His work as an experimental scientist is less well-known.  As a botanist, Darwin carried out a number of elegant experiments directed at understanding such wide-ranging topics as plant movement in response to light, mechanisms by which plants prevent self-fertilization, and responses of insectivorous plants to different food sources.  As a gentleman scientist, Darwin did many of his experiments in his house or on the surrounding grounds, often involving his children in the activities.  This talk will describe some of these botanical experiments and their impact on future plant biologists.

Dr. Karen Snetselaar is Professor and Chair of Biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.  She is a botanist whose research is focused on plant symbiosis and fungi and has published extensively in science journals. In addition to her teaching responsibilities at Saint Joseph’s University, Dr. Snetselaar directs a program that brings hands-on science into Philadelphia elementary school classrooms.  She has been teaching for the Wagner Institute since 1997 as a member of the adult education faculty and through the GeoKids program, a partnership with four elementary schools.

This lecture is hosted in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

5:00 – 6:15pm – view Dialogues with Darwin in Philosophical Hall, 104 South Fifth Street
6:30pm – Karen Snetselaar lecture in Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut St.

After the lecture, APS Museum Director and Curator Sue Ann Prince will offer a curatorial tour of the exhibit and refreshments will be served.

Fee: $10 PHS members and Friends of the APS, $20 non-members.

To register and purchase tickets, please contact Carol Dutill at 215-988-8869

“Evolution Matters” Lecture Series at Harvard Museum of Natural History

“Evolution Matters” is “three lectures by Harvard and MIT researchers, which explore issues in evolution from the perspective of the medical sciences.” From the HMNH website:

The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma
Lecture by Marc Kirschner
Thursday, March 11, 7:00 PM

Dr. Marc Kirschner, Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, will discuss his evolutionary theory of how rare and random mutation in organisms can lead to exquisite changes of form and function. Free and open to the public, Harvard Museum of Natural History, 24 Oxford Street. Part of the Evolution Matters lecture series.

Evolution of Brain Aging and Cognitive Decline
Lecture by Bruce Yankner
Thursday, March 25, 6:00 PM

During the last century, treatments for the diseases of youth and middle-age adults have helped raise life expectancy. However, neurocognitive decline has emerged as one of the greatest health threats of old age, with nearly 50% of adults over the age of 85 afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. Meeting this challenge demands a greater understanding of the processes underlying normal and pathological brain aging. Dr. Bruce Yankner, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, will discuss how evolutionary studies are unexpectedly revealing new insights into age-related cognitive decline, suggesting that it may have appeared recently in the primate lineage. Free and open to the public, Harvard Museum of Natural History, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge. Part of the Evolution Matters lecture series.

The Evolutionary and Genetic Basis of Human Reproduction
Lecture by David Page
Thursday, April 15, 6:00 PM

Dr. David Page, Director of the Whitehead Institute and Professor of Biology at MIT, studies sex chromosomes and the critical role they play in human reproduction, with special focus on the evolution of the Y chromosome. His laboratory is currently seeking to unravel the genetic mechanisms responsible for a range of sexual disorders, from failed sperm production to sex reversal to Turner Syndrome. Free and open to the public at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge.  Part of the Evolution Matters lecture series.

Darwin/evolution video miscellany

So what if Darwin was a racist? (The Atheist Experience):

Lincoln and Darwin (with Sandra Herbert):

Darwin FormfromForm (Univ. of Cincinnati’s Darwin-inspired art exhibit):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (lecture with Kenneth Miller):

Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank (Q&A with Kenneth Miller):

“beagle” (Composed and performed in the Spring of 2009 for the bicentennial of Charles Darwin):

Darwin’s Edinburgh and An Entangled Bank (exhibits):