Darwin and Lincoln’s bicentennial

Happy Darwin/Lincoln day everyone! On this auspicious day we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of both the founder (but not finisher) of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin, and the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, both of whom were born on this day, February 12, in the year 1809. Tis a day to celebrate both knowledge and freedom.


David Attenborough on his upcomming evolution documentary

[Via Pharyngula]


Here is a clip of the doc:

[Also via Pharyngula]

Teach the heliocentrism controversy!

The latest shirt at Evo-T’s (men’s & women’s) makes the point that “teaching the controversy” in  schools isn’t necessarily a wise thing.

Intelligent design creationism vs. evolutionary theory is no more a controversy than the Earth centered model of the solar system vs. the Sun centered model of the solar system. So if you want to teach the former you might as well teach the latter.

Believe it or don’t, there are still people out there that seriously believe that the Earth is the center of the solar system (if not the universe) and that there is an evil atheist conspiracy to foist “Copernicanism” on the world.

For examples see:

Welcome to the 15th century!

Intermediate fossils and the pre-Darwin (creationist) geologists

RBH left a comment to a previous posting that inspired me to put some material together to address his (or anyone’s) reservations on the subject of intermediate fossil forms and the pre-Darwin (creationist) geologists.

Another really helpful post, Troy. Thanks!

Thanks RB!


I realized during my discussions with RBH in the comments to this post that my main point behind writing about this subject might not be transparent to the average reader who doesn’t eat, sleep, and breath the creation/evolution debate. So I add this preface to give the reader a context for why I am going on at length about early 19th century geologists.

My point in all this is less about understanding the often vague and sometimes even contradictory views of the pre-Darwin scientists (as worthy as that subject of study is) and more about countering the arguments from modern antievolutionists that intermediate fossils do not exist and that those paleontologists who claim that they do, do so only because they are reading their “evolutionary beliefs” into the evidence.

If the pre-Darwin creationist geologists saw intermediates this tends, strongly I think, to falsify that argument. The same applies to the overall pattern of the fossil record and the geologic column that illustrates it (which is also frequently claimed by antievolutionists to be a evolutionary invention).

RBH: I do have one reservation. You wrote

The changing pattern of the fossil record and the existence of intermediate fossil forms was recognized by scientists (who were creationists) long before Darwin brought evolutionary theory into the scientific mainstream.

The changing pattern in the fossil record was surely observed; Cuvier in France and Owen in England — both eminent comparative anatomists in the first half of the 19th century — were very clear on that.

Indeed, Cuvier, Owen and just about every other geologist/paleontologist in the world at the time.

RBH: But Owen opposed Darwin’s hypothesis of species transmutation and common ancestry specifically because he did not see transitional/intermediate forms in the fossil record to which he had access.

I can’t speak much about Cuvier, but Owen is a little difficult to pigeon-hole into modern categories (perhaps a theistic evolutionist of sorts). He did oppose Darwin, particularly Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection but seemed to have been open to the idea of some sort of secondary causation for living things (as opposed to their direct creation by God).

Read on»

An evening with an “Evil Woman.”

Last Monday evening (3-3-08) I had the great pleasure of meeting one of my colleagues in the battle with antievolutionists, Dr. Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University. She is the co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The wedge of Intelligent Design (2004), and more recently an expert witness in the Intelligent Design trial; Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).

Dr. Forrest and myself

Dr. Forrest was giving a talk at Cal State Fullerton titled “Evil, Evil Woman” about what it was like being the only female witness in Kitzmiller trial and the sort of (mis)treatment she has been subjected to at the hands of the Intelligent Design crowd before, during and after the trial.

Read on »