Evolution Art Contest

September 14, 2010

Charlie’s Playhouse is an online store that promotes evolution education through games and activities. They have a really cool selection of original products, including a “giant evolution timeline“. Check it out and add them to your child’s wish list for Christmas.

They’re also doing a really neat art contest. The challenge is for the kids to draw and color how an animal’s final descendant may look after centuries of gradual change. In order to reinforce the idea of natural selection, the contestants are encouraged to think of their animal being stranded on an island with a unique habitat, and how certain genetic traits will prosper under those conditions.

My daughter wants to draw a horse with jewels on it’s body. She may have to get creative for how to explain how these jewels evolved, but that’s the point of the contest.

Podcast TWIPS: Episodes 15 and 16

June 27, 2010

Yikes. This is late. Needless to say, the content on SBP has been slim lately as the podcast and our daily routines have started to consume our lives.  Episode 15 was soooo long ago. Remember when Elyse and Women Thinking Free Foundation counter-protested at the antivaccine rally in Chicago? Yeah, we talked about that. We also spoke with Dr. Eugenie Scott about her work at the National Center for Science Education!

And remember when we spoke with Dr. Angie McQuaig of Center for Inquiry and Camp Inquiry? She’s pretty awesome too!


Every week, the hosts of Podcast Beyond Belief use parenting science as a springboard for discussion. On episode 15, we discussed…

On episode 16, we discussed…

Podcast TWIPS: Episode 10 (Dr. Stuart Brown)

May 9, 2010

Last week on Podcast Beyond Belief we spoke with Dr. Stuart Brown, director of The National Institute of Play and author of PLAY: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

Here is a video of Dr. Stuart Brown speaking at the TED Conference…

We also discussed these topics on “This Week in Parenting Science”…

Podcast TWIPS: Episode 3 (Daniel Loxton)

March 18, 2010

This Week in Parenting Science for Episode Three of Podcast Beyond Belief:

The amiable Daniel Loxton was our guest this week on Podcast Beyond Belief. We spoke to him about his recent articles on Skeptic Blog, his new book on Evolution, and Junior Skeptic Magazine. You may also want to check out his essays “Where do we go from here?”, “What do I do Next?” and his “Skeptic Mixtape“.

Evolution Book For Kids

January 19, 2010

By Odin – he’s done it!

Everyone’s favorite goat herding Junior Skeptic editor, Daniel Loxton, has finally finished his illustrated compendium of knowledge on the subject of evolution. A commenter was recently asking whether there were any decent books on natural selection to share with kids. Well, ask no more. If this new evolution book is anything like the quality that is produced for Junior Skeptic magazine, then I will wager to say that it’s worth purchasing.

Buy it at Skeptic.com

Also, buy it at Amazon!

A Skeptic’s Christmas

December 25, 2009

For anyone who was interested in my Winter Solstice party, I just wanted to update and let you know that it went really well. No druid cloaks were involved – ha ha. It was a family-style dinner party where everyone volunteered to participate in the prep, the cooking, and the cleaning. Here in suburban America, that sense of community and festive warmth is often sadly lacking at parties, so Winter Solstice will certainly be a tradition we will revisit in years to come.

We haven’t abandoned Christmas, either. I have too many fond memories of the holiday from when I was a child, and I want my own children to have similar experiences. It’s been pointed out by many, including myself, that most of the Christian traditions associated with Christmas were once secular (or pagan). By now, Christmas has evolved into it’s own entity to become a cultural force that stretches far beyond religious boundaries, so I don’t necessarily feel guilty for drinking a mug of ‘nog while watching David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols.

I must admit that it’s also simply nice to have an excuse to give (and receive) presents. My own children will be enjoying, among other things, the magnification power of the Eyeclops and a membership to the Cincinnati Zoo (thanks Grammee), both gifts that I hope will encourage a love of science.

I also bought my wife an “I [heart} Skeptics" necklace from Skepchick Surly Amy at the Star Party prior to this year's Dragoncon. She always appreciates hand-crafted artwork - the message was just a bonus.

I also received a few skeptic-friendly gifts that I had hinted at wanting. Check out my new tongue-and-cheek t-shirt...

Continuing on the subject of evolution, I'll also look forward to reading "The Greatest Show On Earth", the new book by Richard Dawkins.

I’d love to hear your plugs for your favorite science-based gifts you either gave or received this year. If anything, maybe somebody will be inspired to spend that $50 check sent to them by Uncle Jenkins on a deserving science-based product.

Where in the world is Charles Darwin – Part 2

May 18, 2009

A few months back, I was dismayed that the local public library had an entire shelf of religious literature for kids, and not one book about Charles Darwin.

I was beginning to lose hope in Cincinnati, my hometown… and neighboring town to the dreaded Creation Museum. Even our local zoo almost joined forces with the creationists until people protested. But then, a ray of light appeared on the horizon. I was excited to see that the Cincinnati Museum Center was opening a new Darwin exhibit.

Would it be a traveling exhibit like the Dinosaurs Unearthed currently visiting? Would it have an animatronic Darwin greeting me as I entered? Would there be a special IMAX movie? Would they sell Darwin action figures and t-shirts in the gift shop?

Not quite.

The lady at the front desk hadn’t even heard of the exhibit. I had to hop on my data phone and search for the info myself. When I discovered the wing of the museum in which I could find the exhibit, the greeter at the door had never heard of the exhibit. I was beginning to think that this “exhibit” would be a diorama of The Beagle and a glass case full of finches. Surely the Museum Center wouldn’t shove Darwin in a corner and hide him from their own employees.

Finally, I found what I was looking for…


That sign with the tiny words that I can barely read is a metaphor for my experiences at the museum trying to find an exhibit that was smaller than my bedroom. I know that there were people who worked hard on putting this together, and I must give them credit for trying, but I live 15 miles from an entire museum dedicated to Young Earth Creationism, a place where they put saddles on dinosaurs and force you into a hell house room before you exit.

In a world where creationists can make denialism and ignorance a fun experience for kids, and a natural science museum can make the undeniable fact of evolution even more boring than it is, something has gone terribly wrong.

Darwin’s Soldier: Ken Miller in Cincinnati

December 5, 2008

I just came back from Ken Miller’s lecture in front of a packed audience at the Museum Center in Cincinnati.  Aside from being an excellent presenter, Ken Miller is good at laying the smack down against the Discovery Institute’s wedge strategy of “intelligent design” in the classroom.

You may not be familiar with Ken Miller (I certainly wasn’t), but he’s been a regular guest on The Colbert Report, he wrote several ubiquitous Biology text books, and he was the first to testify in Kitzmiller V. Dover, the court case against the teaching of “Intelligent Design”, as retold by Nova on PBS.  Seriously, click that last link if you haven’t seen that fantastic “Judgment Day” episode of Nova.  Dr. Miller is also a professor of cell biology at and biochemistry at Brown University, and he’s the author of Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory.

Ken Miller seems to be in the middle of this manufactured war between God and Science.  It was his text book that was stamped with a sticker in Cobb County Georgia (my wife’s alma mater) that warned the students that evolution was ” a theory, not a fact”.

It was also Miller’s text book that was being taught in Dover when the school board decided to send the principal into the classroom to read to the children an “intelligent design” statement, which was inspired by the Discovery Institute’s creationist propaganda “text book” Of Pandas and People.  Despite the intentions of the Discovery Institute to wedge a connection between atheism and Darwin, many of the teachers who protested the mandate to teach I.D. were christian.  There were also christians among the parents who sued the school board and christians among the scientists who testified, chiefly Ken Miller.

Ken reminded us about the primary GOP debate when Mike Huckabee raised his hand in response to the question “Who here does not believe in evolution.”  The next day, after the debate, Huckabee gave an interview where he objected to the idea of being descended from a primate.  Ken Miller to Mike Huckabee, “Sorry, bud, but you are a primate.”  Humans are primates, and the person to decide that classification was Carolus Linnaeus, a creationist and scientist.

Ohio also had it’s close encounters with “intelligent design”.  In 2002, Ohio came extremely close to making the mistake of passing a resolution to teach “intelligent design”.  Also, in 2006, the people of Ohio voted to oust a known evolution opponent, Deborah Fink, and put in science advocate Tom Sawyer to replace her.  Thank god because I would be embarassed to live in a state like Texas, which has lately become a hot bed of anti-evolution activity.  The state school board has six members who are affiliated with the discovery institute, and these bozos can decide what nonsense they want taught in Biology classes.  I hope they do, so that we can see evolution destroy “intelligent design” in the court room all over again.

One lesson that should have been learned from the Dover trial is that “intelligent design” proponents base their arguments on lies.  For instance, they testified that there are not enough transition fossils between fish and amphibian.  Except, there are multiple transition fossils, including one important one called Tiktaalik that was found in the exact strata and the exact location where scientists predicted it would be discovered.  That’s one of the beautiful things about evolution is that scientists can make a prediction based on lines of evidence, and the fossils prove that prediction true or false, in this case true.

Answers in Genesis is another creationist group that lies about the facts.  They are still lying to this day, as Ken so rightly pointed out in his lecture.  They claim that Darwinists are jumping to conclusions and interpreting whale fossils that have no backbone or pelvis.  Except they are wrong – we have almost complete transitional fossils of ambelocetus, the walking whale; in fact, there are 22 distinct species that mark the transition of whales from land mammals to water mammals.  Oops.  I guess the Discovery Institute will change that any day now.

Creationism is butter.  It’s bad for you, and it spreads easily.  Take a look at this graph that shows that America has the least amount of people who believe in evolution… just above Turkey.  We should be ashamed.

I encourage those of you who have time to check out this previous lecture by Ken Miller.  The video is in nine parts, but I bet it gives some of the better arguments that Ken made tonight in Cincinnati, packaged for an audience of children.  Good stuff.

Science For the Kids – X-mas 08

November 28, 2008

Today is Black Friday.  I’ve been up since 4am helping my FIL buy a 42″ flatscreen at Wal-Mart.  I ordinarily wouldn’t voluntarily visit a Wal-Mart on any day, let alone on a day when the place is swelling with rabid shoppers, but family comes first.

For those of you who are snobby science-loving shoppers, like myself, I have three gift ideas picked out to recommend.  Please understand that I have not used these products or tested them myself.  These are just the coolest looking science toys that I could find.  I recommend that you read the reviews for each product before taking my blind advice.

I think the best science toys explain not only “what we know”, but “how we know what we know”.  That’s why I am excited about the Milestones in Science kit by Thames & Kosmos.  This kit will walk you and your child through the history of scientific discoveries and help you reproduce the very experiments that had our wise ancestors saying “EUREKA!”.  I love the concept.  I can only hope that they executed it well.

Charlie’s Playhouse has Darwin-inspired toys that engage young minds about evolution, including a giant time line with info cards of several ancient creatures.  This gift really helps young minds understand our diverse ancestral tree of life, and gets the kids thinking about fact-based reality before the phone book ripping zealots can brainwash them.

This being a skeptic blog, I do want to encourage logic and reasoning, which is why the last gift I’m recommending is the new incarnation of Clue called Clue Suspects.  This seems like a neat twist on the classic game, except instead of using process-of-elimination, the game is played by using reasoning and deduction.  This is meant to be a solitaire game, so it’s perfect for the only-child.  I like the idea, it sounds like fun, and I think I found the perfect Secret Santa gift.  Sh… don’t tell.

I Teach The “Controversy” of Evolution!

August 30, 2008

*This post today in honor of McCain’s VP pick, Sarah Palin, who believes that we should teach the “controversy” of evolution and creationism in public schools.

Today, class, we’re continuing our lesson on the “controversialorigins of life.

Yesterday, we discussed evolution through natural selection, a theory first developed by (the evil) Charles Darwin over a century ago.  Just to review, since the publication of (devil worshiper) Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, our observations and scientific advancements have only served to validate the theory of evolution.  Or to put it in a way that is fair to the “controversy”, God is testing whether we have an unswerving belief in him by planting misleading evidence in the fossil record and that we will all go to hell unless we deny the evidence for evolution that the natural world constantly provides us.

Which brings us to today’s lesson – that God made the heavens and the Earth, the plants and the animals, and humanity in the form of Adam and Eve.  Now, if you follow the ancestral lineage as detailed in the Bible, you will see that Adam and Eve were created by God roughly 6,000 years ago.  Now, we know that the Earth is billions of years old from a variety of multiple observations and measurements, and we’ve also discovered early hominids (such as australopithecus) that predate homo sapiens and aren’t mentioned in the Old Testament.  Again, remember, that in today’s lesson we are chalking up those lines of evidence contradicting the bible to a capricious and all-powerful God tempting humanity into false belief.

Now just like science, the Bible has undergone peer review.  The councils of Nicea, Constantinople, and Ephesus were a way for humans to clear up confusion from the Bible, an ancient collection of texts with anonymously authored content that contradicts scientific observation.  For instance, every bit of observable evidence leads us to the concept that we live on a spherical Earth that rotates around the sun.  Yet, the Bible tells us that we live on a flat Earth in a geocentric universe.  Again, today we are learning that such observations are tricks of the devil.    Isn’t that an interesting controversy?

Theists point to the complex majestic natural interactions that occur on this planet that improbably support life.  Surely, a creator must have designed a world that provides the abundance of resources we find in our ecosystem.  Of course, since the concept of God can’t be falsified, we can ask ourselves one simple logical question.  If all the Earth’s natural complexity and beauty was created by a God, then who created the God?  Surely, any all-powerful self-aware designer would be complex enough to have been designed himself.  Again, in today’s class we are teaching the controversy, so we must categorize such questions as sinful thoughts planted by the Devil or one of his demons.

For homework tonight, I want you all to pray for a new toy and write down your observations on whether you get the toy.  Then I want you to write an essay on the results of your prayer.  If you get the toy, write about how you proved God’s existence, and if you don’t get the toy, write about how God is testing you.

Tomorrow we will teach the global warming “controversy”.


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