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21 January 2014

Virginia House Bill 207: encouraging pseudoscience is a bad idea

Virginia House Bill 207: encouraging pseudoscience is a bad idea

I was first alerted to the proposal of a new bill in the Virginia House of Delegates last Wednesday by a colleague at James Madison University, Eric Pyle. Eric and I serve as state Councilors for the state of Virginia in the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. As such, we are sincerely concerned about any policy that would weaken science education in the Old Dominion, in particular when it comes …

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9 September 2013

Monday macrobug: pine sawfly larvae

Monday macrobug: pine sawfly larvae

These “caterpillars” are the larvae of the pine sawfly, Neodiprion sp. They were grazing on a small pine in my front yard. Sawflies are relatives of bees, wasps, and ants – they’re members of the Hymenoptera. But their larvae look so much like the larvae of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) and flies (Diptera), don’t they? Beetles, too (Coleoptera) have “grubby” larval morphology. They’re wormy things, long bags of hungry guts …

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14 February 2013

The Discovery Institute feels sorry for my students

Periodically, I get requests to use my images in publications. It’s very easy to find my photos, because I publish a lot of them on this blog, or on my NOVA website, and they always rise to the top of a Google image search. I got a distinctive one on Monday: Dear Mr. Bentley, My boss Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at the Discovery Institute is finishing up a book that discusses …

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20 February 2012

Honey, I shrunk the grad students

Honey, I shrunk the grad students

On the airplane ride back from Texas, I bought a copy of Michael Crichton’s semi-posthumous final novel, Micro, which was co-authored by Richard Preston after Crichton’s death in 2008. Preston wrote a superb book about Ebola virus in the DC area, so I was intrigued to see his influence. Plus, and of utmost priority, I just wanted some light reading for the plane. It was mediocre. If you’ve read Sphere, …

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24 January 2012

Paleoproterozoic stromatolites from the Malmani Dolomite (Transvaal Supergroup)

Paleoproterozoic stromatolites from the Malmani Dolomite (Transvaal Supergroup)

After our safari, Lily and I were taken up onto the Great Escarpment in northern South Africa. The escarpment is supported by sedimentary strata of the Transvaal Supergroup that overlie the Archean basement rock of the Kaapvaal Craton. The Transvaal strata are Paleoproterozoic in age, somewhere between 2.5 and 2.0 billion years old. They are a mix of siliciclastic sediment and carbonates. Here’s the view from an overlook dubbed “God’s …

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16 October 2011

A graphical dalliance

A graphical dalliance

I read an article in the current issue of Physics Today with interest. It deals with the nature of scientific controversies, as percieved by the public and by specialists in the field in question. The author, Steven Sherwood, compares the origin of the ideas of a heliocentric solar system, general relativity, and human influence on the Earth’s climate. Each of them follows a similar pattern, he argues, with the initial …

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10 September 2011

A dismaying course, part II: evolution

Picking up where we left off on Thursday’s post on the relationship between the 2011 Republican presidential hopefuls and science, we examined their statements on climate change. Today, we look at the other information compiled by NPR, their statements on evolution. Michele Bachmann I support intelligent design. What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for …

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19 January 2011

Video book review III: evolution

Amazon links to the five books mentioned: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne (and here’s his blog) The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (and we gave a shout out to the superb The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins, also) (the video with the giraffe neck dissection) Evolution: the Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon …

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5 December 2010

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

I just finished reading a book that I should have read fifteen years ago, when I first saw it in the library: Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken to listening to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, thanks to a recommendation from Bryan on a post I wrote about podcasts back on the first incarnation …

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2 September 2010

The Creationists by Ronald L. Numbers

Over the summer, I finished reading an excellent history of creationism called The Creationists, authored by Ronald L. Numbers. Many of my students at Northern Virginia Community College come to my geology classes from a creationist background. Some are true believers, some are looking for the perspective of science. Some are quiet about it, others flaunt it. Regardless of whether their minds are already made up or not, I deal …

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