Darwin Day lecture in Portland

I hope to be able to attend this OMSI Science Pub lecture on February 16th:

Why Was Darwin on the HMS Beagle? The History of Evolution as World History
with Richard H. Beyler, PhD, Professor of History at Portland State University​

February 16, 7pm
Located at: Empirical Theater at OMSI
Doors Open @ 5PM | $5 Suggested Donation

HMS Beagle is famous today as the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed around the world in the years 1831 to 1836. This voyage sparked many of the ideas that led to his theory of evolution though natural selection. Yet the voyage of this British navy vessel was not planned in order to ferry this young naturalist across the oceans: his presence on board was almost a coincidence. This presentation is about how the story of Darwin’s early development as a naturalist intersects with the history of international politics, naval strategy, imperial expansion, global trade, and anti-slavery activism.

Richard Beyler is a professor of history at Portland State University, where he teaches history of science and intellectual history.

Dinner will be available in our restaurant, Theory, or from the Empirical Café. Guests can check-in at the theater entrance to reserve a seat before grabbing dinner and drinks. Food and drink are welcome in the theater. Parking is free for the event. Doors open at 5pm.

Darwin Day 2013 in Portland, February 12

I’m aware of at least two things going on in Portland for Darwin Day on February 12th.

The Center for Inquiry-Portland will be hanging out between between the Smith and Neuberger buildings on the Portland State University campus from noon to 3:30, passing out cake and talking to people about evolution (last year and 2011 it was at Pioneer Square).


Massimo Pigliucci of the City University of New York will give a Darwin Day talk on the interaction between philosophy and science at 7:00 pm, in SB1 107 (see below for update on location) on the campus of Portland State University. Details on the Meetup page here.

Support the 2013 Darwin Day Resolution

Exhibit near Portland: “Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe”

Portland area friends, an exhibit about the Hubble Space Telescope, “New Views of the Universe,” will be open this Saturday, November 17 at the Hillsboro Civic Center in Hillsboro, through May.

How did the universe begin? How big is it? What is it made of? What is its ultimate fate? These are some of the questions that scientists have been investigating with the Hubble Space Telescope since its launch in 1990. Not only is Hubble providing us with an unprecedented amount of information about the universe, its breathtaking images—disseminated in the press and over the Internet—have excited more people around the world than any other images in the last decade.

This exciting exhibit makes it possible to see and understand the extraordinary discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope. A model Hubble telescope will be on view along with hands-on activities about how the telescope works.

The exhibit also includes several games, infrared light technology and spectacular backlit color images of planets, galaxies, black holes, and many other fascinating cosmic entities captured by Hubble.

On opening day, November 17 at 2 p.m., NASA speaker, Russell L. Werneth, an aerospace engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center, will give a special lecture. Werneth was the Extravehicular Activity Manager for the Hubble Space Telescope Project who trained astronauts on telescope repair techniques during spacewalks.

Starting November 17, Washington County Museum will be open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free to members, $6 for adults and $4 for children. Children age 3 and under are free. The Hillsboro Civic Center is located at 150 E Main Street, Hillsboro, OR 97123 and located at the Hatfield Government Center MAX Station Stop (Blue line). For more information, call 503.645.5353 or visit www.washingtoncountymuseum.org.

Hopefully I can get Patrick out there sometime between now and May to check it out!

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 Skeptic.com, 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)

Third Annual Portland Humanist Film Fest, October 26-28

Next weekend is the 2012 Portland Humanist Film Fest:

A Challenge To Religion, Alternative Medicine, And Other Superstitions At Local Film Festival


Sylvia Benner, Chair
Portland Humanist Film Festival

A Challenge To Religion, Alternative Medicine, And Other Superstitions At Local Film Festival

The Portland Humanist Film Festival focuses the camera lens on the harm caused by religious superstition and unproven medical treatments, and advocates for evidence-based thinking.

Portland, OR—October 15, 2012—The Portland Humanist Film Fest (PHFF) will put a strong focus on reason and critical thinking during the last weekend in October.

Now in its third year, the Festival will feature documentaries that directly challenge alternative medical practices, such as homeopathy, that enjoy great popularity in the Portland metro area, but are not supported by scientific evidence. These and other films will model skepticism, critical thinking, and an effort to understand what makes a believer believe.

Portland Humanist Film Fest, the largest freethought film festival on the West Coast, is presented by Center for Inquiry–Portland with major support from the Humanists of Greater Portland. Throughout the weekend, audiences will have the opportunity to watch engaging films and learn about the growing cultural importance of secular humanist thought.

Highlights of this year’s PHFF include:

  • Kumaré – The true story a false prophet. Film Maker Vikram Gandhi impersonates spiritual leader Kumaré and gathers disciples in the United States. In the process, he forges profound connections with people from all walks of life and is forced to confront difficult questions about his own identity. At the height of his popularity, Kumaré unveils his true identity to a core group of disciples who are knee-deep in personal transformation. Kumaré, at once playful and profound, is an insightful look at faith and belief. Film Maker Vikram Gandhi was recently interviewed on the Colbert Report.1
  • Let’s Talk About Sex takes a closer look at American attitudes about sex. It was partially filmed in Portland and other Oregon locations. The film compares approaches to sex education in the US and Netherlands, and highlights solutions that lead to better health outcomes. Producer Neal Weisman will attend the Festival and is available for media interviews by contacting portland@centerforinquiry.net or            503.877.2347      . Information about the film can be found at http://www.letstalkaboutsexthefilm.com/about.html.
  • In God We Teach, a documentary film that follows the “separation of church and state” controversy played out in a very public feud between high school student Matthew LaClair and his history teacher in Kearny, NJ. Information at http://ingodweteach.com/. Director Vic Losick will be in Portland for the film festival weekend and is available for interviews.  He can be contacted BY phone at            212.580.3366       or by e-mail at vic@losick.com.
  • 12 Angry Men. The 1957 film classic starring Henry Fonda, which remains one the best demonstrations of practical skepticism in movie history.
  • Flatland 1 and Flatland 2, a charming animated exploration of mathematical concepts in an engaging story about a girl named Hex, who dares to think outside the box, based on the 19th century classic novel by Edwin Abbot.
  • Contagion, Chocolat, The Dish and other major studio films addressing themes of science, reason, and humanism.

Why host a Humanist Film Festival in Portland? According to several recent surveys, the Pacific Northwest is one of the least-religious regions of the nation. A Pew Forum report released October 9, 2012, confirms that atheists and the religiously unaffiliated make up a rapidly increasing segment of the population.2 CFI–Portland is at the forefront of this expanding movement. (For an in-depth look at the Pew report and the population it reveals, watch the upcoming PBS Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly series, “None of the Above: The Rise of the Religiously Unaffiliated” Sundays at 4:00 p.m. on OPB.)

Dates:  October 26-28, 2012
Times:  Friday: 5:00–11:00 pm; Saturday 2:00–10:30 pm; Sunday 2:00–10:00 pm (times approximate)
Location:  Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209
Admission:  $28 weekend passes; $8 or $13 one-day passes. $ 5 off for early ticket purchase. 

More information at www.humanistfest.com

1 http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/416832/july-23-2012/vikram-gandhi

2 “’Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation,” Pew Research Center, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, October, 9, 2012 www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Unaffiliated/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf                                                                        

Center for Inquiry–Portland is a community of secular humanists working to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. More information can be found at www.centerforinquiry.net/portland or www.meetup.com/cfi-portland.

Humanists of Greater Portland is a nonprofit organization and recipient of the 2008 American Humanist Association Chapter of the Year award. HGP welcomes you. Visit portlandhumanists.org.

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!

“Rewriting the Book of Nature” Darwin exhibit at OHSU Library

The National Library of Medicine’s small panel exhibit about Darwin is now open at the library of the Oregon Health & Sciences University, here in Portland, until April 21st. Four panels of images and text constitute Rewriting the Book of Nature: Charles Darwin and the Rise of Evolutionary Theory (brochure). Patrick and I went up to OHSU on Tuesday to take a look, but also to meet with the archivist there to discuss a talk I am going to give on April 4th at a noon reception for the exhibit – my first invited talk! I’ll share more details later about the talk, but for now here are pictures of the exhibit:

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

"Rewriting the Book of Nature" (Darwin exhibit) at OHSU Library

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

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

Parenting Beyond Belief seminar

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

Parenting Beyond Belief seminar

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


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

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

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

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

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

Happy Darwin Day!

Happy Darwin Day!

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

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

Thanks Sarah for the photo!

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

More Darwin/evolution related events in Portland area

In addition to the Darwin Day party in Pioneer Square on February 12th, here are a few more events that may be of interest to folks in the Portland area:

“How do Muslims view science and evolution?”
by Salman Hameed
Admission free
Friday, February 10, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Templeton Campus Center – Council Chambers
Lewis & Clark College

James Randi lecture
Admission: $10 (Friends of CFI-Portland free)
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
First Unitarian Church
1011 Southwest 13th Avenue, Portland, OR
Friends of the Center: FREE with VIP seating

“Food for Thought” Lecture: Why did the fish leave the water?
Devonian environments of the fish-amphibian evolutionary transition
by Greg Retallack, PhD
Admission $5 (Friends of CFI-Portland free)
Friday, February 17, 2012, 6:30 PM -7:40 PM
Brentwood-Darlington Community Center
7211 SE 62nd Ave., Portland, OR

Lecture: And God said, “Let there be evolution!”
by Charles Wynn
Free and open to the public
Saturday, February 18, 2012, 7:00 PM
Portland State University – Science Building 1
1025 SW Mill Street, Portland, OR

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 http://www.icspdx.org 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.

A visceral experience: “Body Worlds & the Brain” at OMSI, Portland, OR

Yesterday I headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, sans wife and child, to see the exhibit Body Worlds & the Brain (which opened on October 20th for a limited engagement). From Gunther von Hagens, the exhibit “includes more than 200 authentic human specimens and highlights neuroscience, brain development and performance. Through respectful, aesthetic displays, this all-new exhibition invites intensive study and profound reflection on the power, beauty, and fragility of the human body” (more info). The displays are shown along with large text panels discussing many aspects of being human, from anatomy and development to intelligence  and emotions.

I have always wanted to see one of these exhibits of plastinated cadavers, as I have heard from other people about what they liked about it or did not. Given that the bodies are obtained from individuals knowingly providing themselves for these artistic and didactic displays, there is not much I can complain about (much effort is made in getting this point across in the exhibit). Body Worlds is simply wondrous. My initial impression is amazement, but I am sure over the next few weeks I will think about certain aspects of the exhibit (I should see if the Portland libraries have this book: The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens).

One text panel had the following words, which I think sums up such an endeavor: “The creative process generates the new by seeing the known in an unusual way. It is founded on a sense of wonder and fed by the ability to pursue an idea simply to satisfy our curiosity.” A truly visceral experience. I highly encourage folks in the Portland region to visit OMSI and peruse Body Worlds, especially the dynamic poses of many of the bodies and the various organs shown in stages of disease. How often does one get the opportunity to get so close and personal to what is – and could be – inside all of us?

Enjoy the photos, which I was given permission to take and post for media purposes.

Body Worlds & the Brain at OMSI (November 6, 2011)

Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

Close-up of Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

The Angel (2005)

The Digestive System

Blood vessel configuration of the arm

The Ponderer (2005)

The Ponderer (2005), showing the brain and spinal column

Elegance on Ice (2005)

The Ringman (2002)

A plastinated giraffe (2008), which made me think of what a project it must be to pack and ship these exhibits around the world

Interior of Giraffe (2008)

The Yoga Lady (2005)

Skull and brain of an infant

Lungs of a smoker

Sitting Ligament Body (2008)

Expanded skull

The human brain

Blood vessel configuration of a lamb

Obesity Revealed

OMSI visitors observing The Head-Diver (2006)

Another view of Giraffe (2008)

2011 Portland Humanist Film Festival

This coming weekend November 11-13 is the 2nd annual Portland Humanist Film Festival. I was not able to attend any of the films last year, but I will this year, and I am volunteering on Saturday evening to sell passes. This will be a great opportunity to not only see some interesting films concerned with science, reason, humanism, and religion, but to converse with like-minded folk:

Portland, OR—October 25, 2011—This Veterans Day weekend, November 11-13, Portland, Oregon, one of the most secular cities in the nation, will host the 2nd annual Portland Humanist Film Festival, featuring 17 films with themes of interest to secular humanists, including science, critical thinking, atheism, freethought, separation of church and state, human rights, civil liberties, and others. This three day event is the largest freethought film festival on the West Coast and is presented by Center for Inquiry–Portland with major support from the Humanists of Greater Portland.

Previews of the films:

And here is the schedule and admission info:

5:00 The Nature of Existence
7:00 The Invention of Lying
9:00 Monty Python’s Life of Brian Prizes for best (“worst” ) LoB costumes

SATURDAY 11/12/11
2:00 8: The Mormon Proposition
3:30 Here Be Dragons*
5:00 D.M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker*
6:00 Waiting for Armageddon
7:30 “Who Are The Doubters Anyway?” Featured Speaker: Tom Flynn Exec. Dir. Council for Secular Humanism
8:55 Agora

SUNDAY 11/13/11
2:00 Waking Life
4:00 Humanism: Making Bigger Circles (Dr. Isaac Asimov)
5:00 The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today
6:00 Separation of Church And State Featured Speaker: Bruce Adams Pres. Columbia Chapter Americans United
7:00 Independent Film Awards – The Fairy Scientist* Science is a Vaccine* The Species Problem* Patrick’s Story* . . . talk with film producers!
8:30 The Ledge

Admission: $5 Fri, $10 Sat, $10 Sun, or $20 for Fri-Sun weekend pass.* Films are independent film winners.
Sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Portland • www.centerforinquiry.net/portland
Contributor Humanists of Greater Portland • www.portlandhumanists.org

If you are in Portland, I hope to see you there!

Just the three of us


Today marks my wife and I’s sixth anniversary (and seven years together). But as any parent knows, it’s not just us anymore. How the two of us came together to make such a delightful and beautiful little human being, I’ll never know.

Happy Anniversary, Catherine! And thank you for Patrick!

The photo is from a free session we won through Red Tricycle, with Grace Espiritu Photography. The shoot was done at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, WA, just across the Columbia River from Portland. You can see some more shots at Grace’s blog and her Facebook page.

Goodbye, Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle Atlantis' (STS-135) final launch, July 8, 2011 (AP Photo)

I took Patrick to OMSI today to watch the final launch on the planetarium screen. I’m glad I did.

Last Space Shuttle launch at OMSI

Last Space Shuttle launch at OMSI

Several Portland news stations were there to film it, and one station (KATU) filmed people in the crowd, including Patrick. I saw the story on their live streaming a little while ago, and there’s two quick shots of Patrick, one of him flying his little shuttle toy in the air. If they post the video to their website, I’ll be sure to post it here!

I was not a NASA-crazed child, but I grew up with the Space Shuttle. I can recall the day when I found out, at age 7, that Challenger had exploded and its crew perished. It’s an important part of our history, not just as Americans, but as humans, to share in these awesome achievements of science and human ingenuity. I hope Patrick remembers this moment.

Darwin misquote at the Oregon Zoo

Dinosaurs have returned to the Oregon Zoo for the summer. Patrick and I checked them out back in May (photos):

Dinosaurs at Oregon Zoo

Toward the end of the prehistoric trail we saw this sign about dinosaur extinction:

Dinosaurs at Oregon Zoo

Continents moving, ecosystems breaking down, meteor, volcanic activity. Standard fare. And a quote from Charles Darwin:

Dinosaurs at Oregon Zoo

But, of course, it’s not from Darwin at all. Less of a mistake I guess than the one at the California Academy of Sciences!

Photos: Michael Shermer in Portland

Michael Shermer was at Powell’s City of Books last night to talk about his new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths:

Michael Shermer at Powell's

Then folks – mostly with the Center for Inquiry Portland – headed down the block to McMenimans Ringlers Annex for some drinks and conversation. Here’s me with Shermer:

Michael Shermer at Powell's

And the crowd:

Michael Shermer at Powell's

It was a great evening… and now I have a signed copy of In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History.

Talking about apes

Oregon Zoo, Portland

Patrick with an orangutan at the Oregon Zoo last November

I had an interesting exchange with the young man pumping my gas this morning.

Attendent: Hey, why do you have a picture of me on your car?

Me: What?

Attendent: The zoo sticker with the gorilla on it, looks like me.

Me: Oh, that’s an orangutan.

Attendent: Same thing.

Me: Not really…

Attendent: Well, they live in different places.

Me: Yes, gorillas in Africa and orangutans in Indonesia. They’re both apes, along with humans and chimpanzees.

Attendent: Monkeys, right?

Me: Apes and monkeys are different; apes don’t have tails.

Attendent: How would I know something like that?

Me: Did you ever take a biology course in high school?

Attendee: I never finished any of my classes. Maybe that’s why I’m pumping your gas and you’re teaching me about apes and monkeys. [gas pumping stops]

Olivia’s Birds

Olivia did a small event on Monday night at Powell’s bookstore in Beaverton, OR (near Portland). It is wonderful to meet a young person with not only a tremendous passion for nature, but the motivation to do something positive with it. We are happy to have a signed copy of Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf in our collection. Patrick was rather shy with her, though:

Myself, Catherine, and Patrick with Olivia and her Pileated Woodpecker puppet

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…

2011 Northwest Freethought Conference in Portland, OR

The Northwest Freethought Conference starts with a reception tonight in Portland, at Portland State University. Then there are sessions tomorrow with a banquet and a keynote with PZ Myers of Pharyngula; and sessions Sunday morning. I’ll be attending the whole conference and providing any coverage I come across here.

Twitter hashtag: #nwfreethought

Joshua Fost: Freethought 2011
Friendly Atheist: Visiting Portland for the Northwest Freethought Conference
Pharyngula: Conferencing this weekend

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: http://www.pacificu.edu/news/detail.cfm?NEWS_ID=9383

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: