Grandmother Fish: book review


Once upon a time (now, in fact), there lived a man named Jonathan Tweet. Mr. Tweet was a professional game designer. Even though they lived many years apart, Mr. Tweet was also a good friend of Charles Darwin. Mr. Tweet was jealous of Mr. Darwin’s wonderful beard,

 Tweet and Darwin

but he especially admired Mr. Darwin for explaining why there are so many different kinds of plants and animals. Mr. Tweet thought that Mr. Darwin’s explanation was so important that he decided to write a book, Grandmother Fish,

Grandmother Fish cover

to explain Mr. Darwin’s theory to children like you. Mr. Tweet enlisted Karen Lewis, another friend of Mr. Darwin, to illustrate his book. Ms. Lewis does not have a beard and is not jealous of Mr. Darwin.

To make sure he got the explanation exactly right, Mr. Tweet enlisted the help of several scientists, but especially Eric Meikle, then of the National Center for Science Education. If your parents ever want to make a contribution to NCSE, I suggest that you encourage them.

Bubo virginianus


Photograph by David Young.

Great Horned Owls
Bubo virginianus – great horned owl, Boulder County, Colorado, April 7, 2018. The photographer says, "We visited a very nice family for a little while earlier this afternoon. They were hanging out [on a cliff] just west of McCaslin on South Boulder Road, and about 20 feet up. One of the adults was away but the other and the two kids were at home. Some other visitors said the adults were here two years ago without kids, weren't to be found last year, and returned this year with the little ones coming along not long after!" The adult who was away was alleged to be bringing treats for the kids.

Men overestimate intelligence in science class


The full head of this NBC report was Not smart enough? Men overestimate intelligence in science class. A subhead read, “Even when grades show different[ly], men overestimated their class ranking.”

The gist of the article was that men thought that they were in the 66th percentile of their class, whereas women thought that they were in the 54th percentile, which is considerably closer to the truth. In addition, women in Stem courses are often belittled and think they are inadequate.

The first finding, that people overestimate themselves, will come as no surprise to those familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, which we discussed here several years ago.

I was somewhat curious about the women, though, so I performed an experiment of my own. I promise you that it has no statistical significance whatsoever. But first it is probably necessary to set the stage: Between 1999 and 2014, I taught a course called Epics at the Colorado School of Mines, primarily to first-year students. Epics is an acronym whose etymology I promise you, you do not want to know. It is a project course in which the students are divided into teams of five, design something, and often build a prototype for an outside client. For example, we have designed wheelchair-accessible cattle guards, chalk-making machines and distillation equipment for certain cottage industries in the developing world, a student health center, examining rooms for physicians, a pedestrian bridge or tunnel across a major highway, and sensors and other equipment for balloon experiments undertaken by NASA.

This is not an April fool story


I was going to write an April fool story, but the day came, and I cannot remember what I was going to write. This phenomenon is known as Craft disease, or creeping senility. My wife, alas, cannot even remember my telling her, admittedly a couple of months ago, that I was going to write what I was going to write.

But cheer up! All is not lost. Danny Faulkner comes to the rescue. Dr. Danny R. Faulkner is the chief astronomer at Answers in Genesis. If you wanted to be catty, you could say he was Ken Ham’s court astronomer.

Dr. Faulkner posted an article last week and verified that the redshifts of galaxies and quasars are “cosmological” in origin. This fact will come as no surprise to most readers of The Panda’s Thumb, but Dr. Faulkner’s intention seems to have been to convince young-earth creationists (whom he calls recent creationists) of this well-known fact.

Having established that redshifts are “real,” Dr. Faulkner then admonishes his fellow “recent” creationists that they must accept that fact and find some cogent explanation within a recent-creation framework. To my mind, that is a bit like saying that we must accept the evidence that the Earth is approximately spherical and find some cogent explanation within a flat-Earth framework.

I can think of several possible explanations for this odd behavior (though I think commenters will come up with many more). I reject the possibility that Dr. Faulkner does it only for the vast sums of money he is paid by Mr. Ham. Further, it seems unlikely to me that he is a mole sent in by the Center for Inquiry or even Michael Shermer to undermine belief in a “recent” creation, though it seems to me his article should do precisely that.

No, ever the optimist, I think that Dr. Faulkner is on the brink of having an epiphany and rejecting young-Earth creationism in favor of some vastly more sensible religious belief.

We can only hope.