BBC’s In Our Time on Social Darwinism

In February, BBC’s program In Our Time looked at Social Darwinism, featuring two historians of science, Gregory Radick and Charlotte Sleigh. Listen to the program here.

“La la la la – I’m not listening…”

The National Center for Science Education shared a link to a radio program:

Is the Louisiana Family Forum ruining education in the state? Is Darwin responsible for Columbine? Hear Barbara Forrest and Judge Darrell White go toe-to-toe on WRKF radio (Baton Rouge). To tune in, go to and select “The Jim Engster Show” from the dropdown menu on the left, then click the December 3 show entry on the right. The debate starts at 21:42.

I listened to it this morning, and while I’ll mention that White repeatedly refers to evolution as “nineteenth-century junk science” and that one cannot logically discredit evolution because two crazy teenagers referred to natural selection regarding their high school shooting rampage (“Ideas have consequences, Jim” / “fallout of mindless ideology” – well, what about killing in the name of God?), I’m more interested in a bit in there about quote-mining. White wants criticisms of evolution to be taught in public school biology classes, Forrest of course supports sound science education (read her letter to the editor). From the radio program:

27:30 Forrest: [in response to White comparing Darwin’s rebuttal in a later edition of On the Origin of Species to Mivart’s criticism that natural selection cannot account for incipient stages of useful structures to intelligent design proponent Michael Behe’s claims that cellular structures are irreducibly complex] “Well, here we have a case of, of Darwin being misused for the agenda of the Louisiana Family Forum. What’s happening here is that the Louisiana Family Forum is attacking science in the textbooks, and the work of scientists that they themselves don’t even properly understand. First of all, in Darwin’s Origin of Species, Darwin was doing what any good scientist does – he recognized the criticisms that might be made against his ideas, and he provided answers to them. And what Mr.White is doing is what creationists always do, they pick quotes, they cherry-pick quotes out of context and try to use them for their advantage.”

29:47 White: “Well, again, we’re in favor of teaching more Darwin than the textbooks allow, and that would include questions, for example, Darwin himself raised, in his introduction Darwin said ‘a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing all of the facts on both sides of each question.’ The textbooks simply do not do that.”

Just over two minutes after Forrest talked about how creationists pick quotes out of context for their advantage, White does exactly that! When he said that Darwin had said “a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing all of the facts on both sides of each question,” he’s referring to this line, which is indeed from the introduction of On the Origin of Species:

A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.

Unfortunately, as I’ve pointed out twice before, Darwin is not stating that all sides are equal concerning debate over evolution, but rather that he cannot properly offer all the facts he has in support of evolution in On the Origin of Species, which was much shorter than the book he really wanted to write.

White: “La la la la – I’m not listening…”

CBC’s “The Evolution of Charles Darwin”

CBC's The Evolution of Charles Darwin

CBC's The Evolution of Charles Darwin

Back on November 11, 2009, I mentioned this:

“The Evolution of Charles Darwin,” a 4-part series on CBC Radio One: “Ideas pays tribute to Charles Darwin and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of his transformational and contentious book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory of evolution through Natural Selection completely changed how we think about the world. In this 4-part series, Seth Feldmanguides us through the life and ideas of Charles Darwin, a creative genius. The series is produced by Sara Wolch.” Via Adrian.

There is now a CD version of the series, with a video preview:

– Part 1, The Prepared Mind:
From Darwin’s early years to his voyage of discovery on H.M.S. Beagle.

– Part 2, From The Beagle to the Book:
Darwin thinks his way to ‘The Origin of Species’.

– Part 3, Primates vs Primates:
What ‘The Origin of Species’ said, and what was said about it.

– Part 4, Darwin’s Enduring Legacy:
Why science and society today are still wrestling with Darwin’s big idea.

The CD set can be had here.

Royal Society on “In Our Time”

BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time (with Melvyn Bragg) is doing a four-part series about the Royal Society, for which 2010 marks its 350th anniversary:

Programme 1.  9.00am, 4 January 2010
Melvyn travels to Wadham College, Oxford, where under the shadow of the English Civil War, the young Christopher Wren and friends experimented in the garden of their inspirational college warden, John Wilkins. Back in London, as Charles II is brought to the throne from exile, the new Society is formally founded one night in Gresham College. When London burns six years later, it is two of the key early Fellows of the Society who are charged with its rebuilding. And, as Melvyn finds out, in the secret observatory in The Monument to the fire, it is science which flavours their plans.

Programme 2.  9.00am, 5 January 2010
Programme two begins in the coffee house Isaac Newton and the fellows of the early 18th century frequented. At the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, we learn how Newton’s feud with the Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed tested the lines between government-funded research and public access. By the end of the century the President, Sir Joseph Banks, successfully embeds the Royal Society in the imperial bureaucratic hub of the new Somerset House. But while senior fellows concentrated on foreign fields, a more radical, dissident science and manufacturing base wrought the Industrial Revolution right under their noses.

Programme 3.  9.00am, 6 January 2010
The 19th century blooms scientifically with numerous alternative, specialist learned societies and associations, all threatening the Royal Society’s pre-eminence. Attempts to reform the membership criteria – marking scientific leadership’s painful transition from patronage to expertise – are troubled, and organisations such as the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the BSA) excite and enliven scientific discourse outside of London.

Programme 4.  9.00am, 7 January 2010
The horrors of the First World War were a shocking indictment of the power of science. Picking up the thread at this hiatus in scientific optimism, this programme, recorded in the current home of the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace in London, looks at the more subtle, discreet role the Society played in the 20th century, such as secretly arranging for refugee scientists to flee Germany, co-ordinating international scientific missions during the Cold War and quietly distributing government grant money to fund the brightest young researchers in the land..

You can download the mp3s of the four parts here, herehere, and here.

NPR’s Darwin: The “Reluctant Revolutionary”

NPR has a page for their recent Darwin content:

Charles Darwin is most remembered for his revolutionary theory of evolution. As a child, he hated school, but Darwin loved to read and to explore the natural world. Throughout his life he was constantly experimenting — with seeds, plants, worms, gases, and Galapagos flora and fauna — to understand the science of life.

February 20, 2009 · Evolution doubters have adopted a new focus for their attacks on Darwin’s theory: the human brain. They say it’s impossible that a grouping of cells could produce something as abstract and complex as consciousness or free will. Brain scientists counter that there’s plenty of evidence that the brain causes the mind. But they admit they’re not exactly sure how this happens.

Darwin’s Theory: Too Big To Publish

February 11, 2009 · Imagine having a revolutionary idea, and then sitting on it for more than 20 years. That’s what Charles Darwin did. His theory that nature — not God — was responsible for the marvelous variety of life on Earth was heretical. But then a young butterfly collector forced Darwin’s hand.

Darwin, Britain’s Hero, Is Still Controversial In U.S.

February 8, 2009 · Science long ago proclaimed Darwin’s theory of evolution a winner. And in honor of his 200th birthday, England is issuing commemorative stamps, coins — even quilts — in honor of its hero. But in parts of the U.S., Darwin’s theories remain socially controversial.

The Forces That Shaped A Young Charles Darwin

February 1, 2009 · To honor Charles Darwin — born 200 years ago this month — Weekend Edition Sunday and the NPR science desk are launching a series called “Darwin 200.” In the first installment, Keith Thomson, author of The Young Charles Darwin, talks about his early influences. 

Darwin’s Earthworm Experiments Broke New Ground

February 12, 2009 · While Charles Darwin is most remembered for his revolutionary theory of evolution, he also studied earthworms. He proposed the theory that earthworms, then considered pests, actually processed soil, making it more fertile.

‘Orchids Through Darwin’s Eyes’

February 22, 2009 · This Orchids. These brilliant, flashy, sensual, and sometimes graphic flowers fascinated Charles Darwin. This year the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has made Darwin’s interest in the flowers the theme of their annual orchid exhibition.

Students Reconcile Darwin’s Theories With Faith

February 15, 2009 · The state of Kansas has been publicly wrestling with how or whether to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in the public schools. At the University of Kansas, some students are studying biological sciences despite devout Christian faith and a strong belief in the biblical story of creation. They face internal struggles similar to the ones Darwin himself must have felt as he wrestled with his scientific theories about evolution.

Letters: Darwin’s Earthworms

February 13, 2009 · Listeners respond to the story on Charles Darwin and earthworms. Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from listeners’ e-mails.

Death Of Child May Have Influenced Darwin’s Work

February 12, 2009 · Charles Darwin was honest with his devout Christian wife that his scientific investigations led him to doubt the existence of heaven. But he feared that publishing his scientific ideas would hurt her deeply. Only after his daughter Annie’s death did this change, biographers say.

Examining Darwin On His 200th Anniversary

February 12, 2009 · The work of Charles Darwin, who was born 200 years ago Thursday, transformed our understanding of life on Earth and underpins the whole of modern biology. His work challenged just about everything the Victorians believed in.

Moving Darwin Into The Digital World

February 12, 2009 · The University of Cambridge in England is working to put all of Charles Darwin’s scientific work online. You can already see thousands of letters, and an online version of the first edition of “The Origin of Species”.

Taking Darwin Personally

February 15, 2009 · Why do Charles Darwin’s ideas generate such strong resistance? Maybe because it hurts people’s feelings. But does accepting our place in the animal kingdom make us any less miraculous?

Darwin Finds Some Followers In The Pulpits

February 11, 2009 · Churches and synagogues worldwide will be holding events this weekend to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Organizers of Evolution Weekend say it’s a chance for people of faith to challenge the assumption that evolution and religion are incompatible.

After 200 Years, Darwin’s Legacy Still Evolving

February 6, 2009 · Feb. 12 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Ira Flatow speaks with Darwin’s great-great-grandson, writer and director Matthew Chapman, about the ongoing battle over teaching evolution in public schools and how Darwin’s legacy continues to evolve.

Letters: This I Believe, Darwin, Addison

January 25, 2009 · Liane Hansen reads listeners’ reactions to last week’s “This I Believe” essay by 6-year-old Tarak McLain, a suggestion for the upcoming series on Charles Darwin, and a note of praise for our interview with gospel singer Shari Addison.

Listen to The Dispersal of Darwin on ‘Pods and Blogs’

Audio for the episode of BBC Radio’s Pods and Blogs (now Outsiders) (with Jamilla Knowles) that features The Dispersal of Darwin, which Peter was nice enough to spread the word about, is now up online (mp3 link below, Darwin segment starts at 13:40 into the program). (UPDATE: the audio for this is no longer available online)

Pods and Blogs: 17 February 2009
Geek ink, Darwin online, the death of TV as we know it and the game that hooked us early when the ball was square. All on pods and blogs this week.

Original audio source.