Why I support the March for Science


First, I have not the slightest concern about politicizing science. Science has long ago been politicized. It was politicized when elected representatives, from school board members to United States Senators, denied the reality of global warming (climate change, if you prefer), biological evolution, the deleterious effects of pollution, the urgent need for everyone to be vaccinated, and the need for conservation of our natural resources. Science was politicized when Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution, when Oppenheimer was denied his security clearance, and when the Trump administration decided to delete certain EPA webpages (later rescinded).

Robert S. Young (presumably no relation to me) proclaimed in the New York Times that a scientists’ march is a bad idea. He bases his thinking largely on an anecdote: He once co-authored a report warning that sea level might rise by 39 inches (1 meter) by the end of the century. Real estate and other interests attacked the report, and the legislature passed a law that prohibited any planning based on an anticipated rise in sea level. Professor Young’s conclusion is that neither the people in general nor the legislators in particular had ever met a scientist, so scientists should go out and

Phalangium opilio

Phalangium opilio – harvestman. The legs are several times the body length. The substrate is a window screen with a pitch of approximaely 1.5 mm.

On Bullshit


I have read 1984 twice already and also saw the movie, though I admit quite some time ago. I decided to forgo reading it a third time and instead picked up On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt, for the second time. On Bullshit is only 67 pages long, and the pages are about 10 by 15 cm, with (shall we say) ample margins. It is a magazine article disguised as a book, which, I suppose, is better than a magazine article expanded to fill a book.

On Bullshit is either (a) tedious and poorly written, (b) a parody of philosophical writing, or perhaps (c) both. It is a long time before the author gets to the point but eventually he distinguishes among lying, bluffing, and bullshitting: A liar knows the truth but overtly tries to make you believe the opposite; a bluffer knows the truth but tries without lying to make you believe the opposite; and a bullshitter tries to make you believe something without the slightest concern as to whether it is true or not. Unless you are interested in Wittgenstein’s statement that you do not know what a dog feels like and the attendant discussion of whether a simile is a lie, I think I have just summarized almost the entire book.

Speaking of bullshit, and as if the Ark Park is not bad enough, I notice that someone is making a movie out of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. (Confession. Some time ago, I read The Case for the Creator, probably the student edition, but not The Case for Christ. I was, to say the least, not impressed.)

On second thought, instead of rereading 1984, maybe I will just rewatch The Manchurian Candidate.

Dan Phelps wins Friend of Darwin award


The National Center for Science Education has awarded its Friend of Darwin Award to Dan Phelps, an occasional contributor to The Panda’s Thumb and a frequent source of news about the Ark Park. In announcing the award, which was also given to Edward Larson and Richard Lenski, NCSE’s Executive Director Ann Reid commented,

The legal history of the creationism/evolution controversy is important to NCSE, and nobody has studied it more thoroughly and insightfully than Ed Larson, while it would be hard to think of anybody who has done as much to show that evolution is among the experimental sciences than Rich Lenski. As for Dan Phelps, he’s the sort of activist who is a walking argument for human cloning: we could use a dozen of him!

Mr. Phelps recently provided us with a myriad of pictures of the Ark Park on Opening Day and will be featured in the film We believe in dinosaurs, along with PT contributor David MacMillan.

Edward Larson is a historian who has written a number of books about evolution, creation, and the Scopes trial; Richard Lenski is the originator of the famous long-term evolution experiment involving the bacteria E. coli.

NCSE also presented a Friend of the Planet award to the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network; Peter Sinclair, the producer of a video series; and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.