Evolution Weekend 2018


Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project reminds us that Evolution Weekend is Friday, February 9, through Sunday, February 11. Charles Darwin’s birthday is February 12.

The Clergy Letter Project has designated (or recommended) a theme, Our Shared Humanity, for any clergy who choose to use it. They say,

...Clergy Letter Project participants demonstrate that when some define religion so narrowly that it is categorically opposed to evolutionary ideas, or any of the findings of science, it both demeans and diminishes religion. As members of The Clergy Letter Project have stated so often and so clearly, this narrow perspective is at odds with the broader conception of religion held by thousands upon thousands of relgious leaders.

This year, those congregations opting to embrace our theme, Our Shared Humanity, will demonstrate how religion and science, each working through their specific lens, have come to the same conclusion: racial divisions are neither meaningful nor productive. Religion teaches us that we are of one familly and that we need to care for each other while evolutionary biology and genetics teaches us that race is a human rather than a natural construct. As members of a single species, we can move past the superficial differences that have divided us and create a healthier, more equitable environment for all.

176 Congregations representing 41 States and the District of Columbia, as well as 3 countries are scheduled to participate in Evolution Weekend 2018 with sermons, discussion groups, and seminars. You may see a very long list of participants organized by state and then foreign country on their website. Not all of the events will occur precisely during Evolution Weekend, so it will be wise to check.

For International Darwin Day activities near you look here. Or, better yet, add an activity. So far, there are many fewer activities than last year.

Museum of the Bible as a fifth column


The New York Times yesterday ran an article, The Museum of the Bible is a safe space for Christian nationalists, that was somewhat less positive than the article, Hobby Lobby Museum of the Bible, that we ran on PT in October. Our article, I am afraid, was not so positive either, but we kind of gave them a pass for appearing (or trying to appear) more or less neutral. The Times article, by Katherine Stewart, gives them no such pass and makes it appear as though the museum is intended as a kind of fifth column designed to promote a right-wing Christian theocracy in the United States and abroad.

Despite their removing some verbiage about the absolute authority of the Bible from their mission statement, as we noted in PT, Ms. Stewart claims that

The museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission. The aim isn’t anything so crude as the immediate conversion of tourists to a particular variety of evangelical Christianity. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.

Alsophila pometaria


Photograph by Mark Sturtevant.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Alsophila pometaria – inchworm. Like other caterpillars, this Geometrid (inchworm) larva has “prolegs” on its abdomen. Prolegs are not generally regarded to be homologous to true legs. Most inchworm species have secondarily lost several of their prolegs in comparison to other caterpillars, but some species have not completed this process. About 1/3 the way from the rear end of this one are a vestigial pair of prolegs.

PT contributor Richard Hoppe dies


We received sad news today from Eric Holdener, a teacher in instructional technology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio:

... I started following [Panda's Thumb] during the Kitzmiller case, and I also gained a deeper appreciation for my fellow Gambier native Dick Hoppe who posted those riveting (and often quite humorous) updates.

I am sorrowed to pass along the news that Dick has passed away [on January 3], but I thought you might want to know and perhaps you might want to post something to the PT. The initial obituary in our local newspaper is rather thin (link below), but I imagine that Kenyon will have a more detailed announcement soon. I could pass that along to you when that comes to us here.

I never met Dick Hoppe, but we corresponded a bit, and I liked him. I probably read almost every word he posted. I remember particularly following his reports on the Freshwater case, which must have lasted at least 2 years and probably ended with this dispatch. One of his last reports mourned (if that is not too strong a word) the closing of Jason Rosenhouse’s EvolutionBlog.

Here is another remembrance from one of the PT contributors:

Saddened to hear of Richard Hoppe's death. I never met him, but his many comments on PT were a high point for me – he conveyed his expert knowledge of physics in forceful, clear, and humorous ways.

He really knew his stuff, and cared about getting science across to his readers.

I will update you in the comments as soon as I learn anything more, such as a more complete announcement. In the meantime, I encourage you to leave any remembrances in the comments as well.

High winds send Noah's Ark crashing into boats


According to this website,

A [floating] model of Noah’s Ark in the Dutch town of Urk broke free of its moorings amid high winds on January 3, crashing into several nearby vessels, and causing “significant” damage, according to the local mayor. The floating Bible museum, which local reports said is 70 meters long, is seen in this video hard up against a number of sail boats. High winds, with gusts of up to 90 km/h (55 mph), were reported locally on January 3.

Maybe Ken Ham was smart to put his “model” of the Ark on dry land.

Thanks to the ever alert Dan Phelps for the tip.