Tag Archives: natural selection

Trigger warning for creationist visitors to National Zoo

Here’s a photograph I took several years ago at the National Zoo’s “Think Tank” exhibit on primate cognition. Darwin Day is one week so I thought I’d share.

Colin Purrington Photography: Evolution graphics &emdash; Think Tank warning for creationists

The text is a little hard to read so here’s transcription:

“This exhibit is about animal thinking. It contains some things you may agree with, some you may disagree with, and others that may even trouble you. Come explore and see what you think.” 

The warning sign was crafted by Smithsonian staff to cater to snowflake creationists who complained about the “Changes over millions of years have resulted in today’s humans” panel that covered the age of the earth, human evolution, and how natural selection works. 

The “see what you think” part suggests to visitors that the facts presented within are up for debate and thus shouldn’t undermine somebody’s alternative views about human origins or the age of the earth. But, of course, the warning signage undermines the experience for all visitors. I.e., a curious but uninformed visit might assume that the exhibits are just wild guesses about what might have happened. A shameful use of tax dollars, in my opinion.

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Happy birthday, Origin of Species!

On November 24th, 1859, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Eventually shortened (thank, God) to, On the Origin of Species. First editions can easily fetch $200,000 at auction. Not all copies have been accounted for, so check your shelves. This one is owned by the American Philosophical Society, which also has a huge and entertaining collection of translations and even the draft title page that Darwin sent to Lyell. If you’re shopping for a gift for a young science fan, get Dr Jan Pechenik’s version, The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species, As Edited for Modern Readers

Colin Purrington Photography: Charles Darwin &emdash; First edition of Darwin's Origin of Species

Colin Purrington Photography: Charles Darwin &emdash; Origin of Species translations

Colin Purrington Photography: Charles Darwin &emdash; Origin of Species draft title page

Colin Purrington Photography: Charles Darwin &emdash; Tree of life cake for Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin Has A Posse in Arabic

For all you Arabic-speaking science fans, here’s a rough translation of my Charles Darwin Has A Posse sticker for your lunch box. Sorry it’s so late … not sure you can order stickers in time for Darwin Day (February 12th), but there’s plenty of time for 2016 parties. If there’s an error in the translation, please let me know (I, um, only know how to say “hello” in Arabic).

Charles Darwin Has A Posse sticker in ArabicBy the way, if you’re interested in how Darwin and evolution were received in Arabic, get Reading Darwin in Arabic. Thanks to the Department of Modern Languages at Swarthmore College for the translation.

As a bonus, here’s an image courtesy the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. As part of its “Dialogues with Darwin” exhibit they had a huge wall of translations. The cover art variation was amazing.

Charles Darwin translated into Arabic

Charles Darwin Has A Posse in Arabic

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Georgia evolution disclaimer turns 10

I got caught up in the holidays and completely forgot to mark the 10-year anniversary of Cobb County’s “evolution disclaimer” court case (which started in 2004). In case you missed it, the Atlanta area school board decided to glue this sticker onto the front inside cover of students’ biology textbooks:

Colin Purrington Photography: Evolution graphics &emdash; cobb-county-evolution-disclaimerThis sticker was designed, of course, to make it seem like evolution is just an interesting idea, one that might be useful, but only time would tell. The sticker delighted the creationists in town who had pushed for the language.

I played a very, very small part in the trial: I sent a page of snarky disclaimers (below) to the plaintiff’s lawyer to amuse her, and she decided to print some up as posters to show in the courtroom. I heard the judge liked them a lot. If you are having a Darwin Day party on February 12, consider printing a bunch as party favors. Print some as bookmarks for kids while you’re at it.

Textbook disclaimer stickers

If you liked the above, you might also like the version I did for the New York Times. I had titled it “Dissent with Modification” but the editors changed it. That made me so mad …

descent-of-dissent-disclaimers-nyt

 

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Ebola evolution

Just a Public Service Announcement from Charles Darwin: get a flu shot now so that you’ll (likely) be alive to fret endlessly about Ebola.

Charles Darwin on Ebola evolution

And if you don’t get the vaccine and end up getting the flu, please consider quarantining yourself: you are infectious because flu is airborne and kills a lot of us (36,000+). From the CDC:

“Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.”

(Charles Darwin painted by Carl Buell. Background mural by Borgny Bay. Photo by me.)

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