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Evolution Tag

Dino Might

With the recent release of Jurassic World and its record shattering box office numbers, dinosaurs are once again on the mind of the public. It’s easy to see why — dinosaurs represent an alien world that has actually existed. That’s what makes these creatures so cool and fascinating: we know that towering beasts with teeth longer than rulers actually walked the Earth at one point, and this allows us to anchor our thoughts in reality — but because we do not live alongside them, our imaginations are still able to run free when we picture amazing dinosaur battles and landscapes in our mind.

I figured that since dinosaurs are in the public eye once again, it would be a good opportunity to talk about, and hopefully put to rest, some of the more controversial and ongoing topics regarding the “terrible lizards”.

birds: the result of millions of years of evolution selecting for lighter dinosaurs that could better avoid prey, resulting in the most advance theropods to ever walk on Earth.

For starters, I may as well point out that although the word “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard”, it really is a misnomer. The whole “terrible” part is subjective, but the “lizard” portion to the name is completely misleading. I can tell you with some conviction that dinosaurs aren’t lizards — but trying to rank dinosaurs any further has been quite a mess for the last couple of decades. Scientists and taxonomists are working hard to place dinosaurs, crocodiles, and birds in their proper categories, but new research is always cropping up and causing the labourers to second guess their work. I’ve rewritten this section numerous times trying to make sure that I got the taxonomy correct, and sieving through a convoluted mess of information was one of the best headache providers I’ve encountered. But, without further ado, I give you a likely, most correct definition, for now, of what a dinosaur is (anticlimactic, I know).

Dinosaurs are considered diapsids, which means that they have specific holes on each side of their skull, and these are visible to us when we see them in museums. Diapsids are considered reptiles, just like crocodiles are. Thus, dinosaurs are reptiles — however, they don’t share in many of the same stereotypical traits that we normally associate to reptiles. That is, dinosaurs didn’t have sprawling limbs, nor were they cold blooded (they fell somewhere in-between warm and cold: called mesotherms). Birds are also diapsids, and are considered reptiles just like dinosaurs are; they, too, share in few of the characteristics we normally associate to the scaly reptiles. There, that wasn’t so bad.

Sue, the largest and oldest T. rex found. Note the characteristic diapsid holes in her skull.

With classification jargon out of the way, it’s time to tackle the sexiest of all dinosaur arguments: do they have feathers? And the answer is a resounding “yes”… sometimes.

There are five major groups of dinosaurs (I lied, more classification jargon coming): the sauropods, which contain the giant long necked dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus; the large grazers known as the ornithopods, which the crested Parasaurolophus is a part of; we have the group that the famous Tyrannosaurus belongs to, the theropods; there were the shield bearing thyreophorans that claim Stegosaurus; and the extremely difficult to pronounce marginocephalians, of which Triceratops belong to.

Only one of these groups has strong evidence for adorning feathers, and, thankfully, its the easiest group to pronounce, the theropods. Although there have been feather-like structures found in the other main groups of dinosaurs, only the species belonging to theropods have been shown to harbour the flight-feathers that we see in modern birds. These specific animals belong to what are known as the maniraptors, and contain all the raptors, therizinosaurs, and aves. That’s right, birds are dinosaurs — not merely descendants of them — actual dinosaurs. It makes geese seem all the more scary when they chase you down a hill (first hand experience) knowing that they have a thirst for blood in their genes…

This is NOT how Triceratops looked. They did not have feathers. If an article depicts this animal in this way, run…

So now that we know that most theropods had feathers (whether T. rex had them or not is up for debate), and some even had flight-capable feathers — a good question to ask is: why? What was the purpose of these animals having feathers in the first place?

Let’s look to modern birds for help. When I picture feathers, the first images that comes into my mind are long and beautifully coloured plumages — and one modern bird stands out among the rest in regards to opulence: peafowl, specifically peacocks. The general scientific consensus is that the iridescent plumage of peacocks evolved through sexual selection — though the exact reason why is still up for debate. Maybe having such colourful feathers is an honest indicator of one’s health and means that you are extremely fit; perhaps peahens associate the blue eyespots of tail feathers to their favourite food source, blueberries; or maybe peahens just originally liked males that looked like they ran through a Crayola factory and decided to mate with them. Either way, the trait for wild feathers stuck and took off.

Bringing this back 100 million years, scientists believe that dinosaurs originally used feathers for much of the same reason — to get laid. Dinosaur feathers were likely innocuous traits that had no real “primary function” at the time, and, instead, were used more as a visual signal to other dinosaurs around them. However, all evolution needs is a trait to be selected upon, and once feathered-dinosaurs existed, the original trait had the possibility to attain many uses down the road.

It’s important to point out, though, that evolution has no foresight. It doesn’t see a primitive trait and think “oh cool, I can make these animals fly now” — evolution just occurs through the non-random selection of random mutations, that’s it.

Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur. Note the long visible feather impressions.

Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur. Note the long visible feather impressions.

So, what was the next big step for feathered dinosaurs? Well, earlier I talked about how it was the theropod dinosaurs who had the feathers, and if you are a dino-buff, you know that raptors are theropods. Our most fantastical depictions of raptors have them jumping on large prey and slashing at them with their huge claws — and this is where we think the feathers came into play. You’ll notice that raptors were bipedal, this would make it difficult to maintain one’s balance while they slashed at the prey the stood atop — akin to you standing on a moving horse. Scientist have put forth evidence that raptors used their feathered arms for stability while holding on and attacking prey with their feet: using flapping motions to stay vertical. This idea is pivotal in the development of feathers and the origins of the flapping motion, and this brings us to our final point of discussion: how the development of flight occurred and how we got to birds.

There are a handful of hypotheses stated as to how flight fully developed. One such idea is the cursorial, or “ground up”, model. This idea puts forth the notion that birds started out on the ground and used flapping as a means of stability. However, it is an extension of this cursorial model that really has me interested. It’s called the wing-assisted incline running theory — and posits that light flapping enabled dinosaurs (and modern birds) to run up extremely steep inclines as a method of escaping predators, climbing, or hunting.

We don’t even need to travel back 100 million years to see this in action. Modern birds, as they develop from chick to adult, actively exhibit each stage of flight evolution detailed by the cursorial and the wing-assisted incline running theory as they transition towards fully flighted adults. In watching the development of a hatchling to an adult, we’re pretty much looking at hundreds of millions of years of flight evolution sped up to a few months’ time.

Standing over 6ft tall, this cassowary would totally love to go raptor on you. Just look at those soulless eyes…

The way I see it, theropod dinosaurs originally had feathers as a means of display for mating purposes. As sexual selection takes hold, feather adornment increases in its outlandishness, leading to the development of long feathers on the forearms of certain dinosaurs. Raptors then co-opted this physical adaptation to aid them in hunting and maintaining their balance by flapping their arms for stability. This was then taken a step further as dinosaurs used this flapping technique to run up steep inclines. Eventually, this led to the development of flight after thousands of successive generations of lighter dinosaurs being able to run up steeper and steeper inclines — until the ones who could generate lift began to survive the most.

And this brings us to birds: the result of millions of years of evolution selecting for lighter dinosaurs that could better avoid prey, resulting in the most advance theropods to ever walk on Earth.

Oh, and I feel like I should mention, much like my prior article regarding bringing back ancient species from the Pleistocene epoch, we’re trying to do the same with dinosaurs, too. Only, instead of using frozen animals, we’re genetically retrofitting modern birds. It may not be that long until we have a real Jurassic Park of our own — but this is a topic for another article.

So, the next time you come across a shady looking bird, just remember that it likely has millions of years of flesh eating terror imprinted in its genome and would likely jump at the chance to attack you. At least, that’s how I rationalize the thought process of menacing Canada Geese.

Image sources:

  1. Deinonychus antirrhopus. http://carlo-arellano.deviantart.com/art/Deinonychus-antirrhopus-414245032
  2. America, C. M. from C., United States of. 2012. English: Sue, the most complete fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen ever found
  3. Dinosaurs Feathers | TP Dinosaur. http://tpdinosaurs.hol.es/dinosaurs/dinosaurs-feathers.html
  4. Jebulon. 2009. English: A Peafowl flaring his feathers
  5. Raab, H. 2009. English: Archaeopteryx lithographica, specimen displayed at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. (This image shows the original fossil – not a cast.)
  6. Quartl. 2009. English: Single-wattled Cassowary(Casuarius unappendiculatus) in the Walsrode Bird Park, Germany
  7. Durbed. 2012. English: A scale chart of dromaeosaurids including Microraptor, Dromaeosaurus, Austroraptor, Velociraptor, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus (left to right)


The Lost World

Bringing an organism back from the dead is a quirky topic that unites both science fiction lovers and conservation biologists. It’s a safe assumption that you, my faithful readers, have watched, or at least know the premise of Jurassic Park. The concept of bringing back animals that once roamed the earth millions of years ago captured the imagination of everyone who watched it. Ever since that movie came out, society has patiently waited for our own T. rex petting zoo — but scientists have continually disappointed us (I don’t know what the delay is, it seemed pretty easy in the movie). However, with the discovery of an extremely well preserved woolly mammoth carcass in the Siberian tundra, the concept of bringing animals back from the dead has been given new life. And with the possibility of reemergence, conservation biologists are looking to the past as a means of saving the forests of North America from a surprising pest.

It turns out that a particular species of ruminant has ballooned in population numbers, and the overabundance of this even-toed ungulate has detrimental consequences to crops and the sustainability of North American ecosystems on whole. If you couldn’t sieve through the science jargon, I’m talking about Bambi. That’s right, the cute white-tailed animal of Disney is throwing our ecosystems out of whack, and may even lead to a mass extinction event in the future.

White-tailed deer are native to North America, and as such, enjoy eating native flora. However, since their populations are so large, herds of deer completely decimate grasslands and forests of their native plants, allowing non-native invasive species to enter and set up camp(1)(2). This is where the problem lies, and humans share part of the blame for this potential catastrophe.

At multiple times over the Pleistocene epoch (as far back as 640,000 years ago, and as recent as 13,000) mass extinctions took place wiping out 71% of large mammalian species in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Environmentalist Tim Flannery stated in his book, The Eternal Frontier :

ever since the extinction of the megafauna 13,000 years ago, the continent has had a seriously unbalanced fauna(3).

The exact reason for this extinction event is not certain, however an emerging idea is the second-order predation hypothesis. In summary, it states that humans over-hunted predators (not herbivores), and this led to the overabundance of herbivore species that were now free to reproduce unchecked. As prey populations increased, their habitats were unable to support their increasing numbers as the herbivores incessantly browsed and grazed, this lead to mass death of the large mammals at every trophic level. This hypothesis has support from mathematical models that corroborate its validity(4)(5).

We notice some troubling similarities to the past in comparison to our current position. Human hunting of top-level predators that are perceived as threats cause their species numbers to drop, and the wolves and cougars that are untouched by humans live in fragmented forest habitats preventing them from suppressing herbivore populations(6), this then leads to the rampant overpopulation of deer and the destruction of native flora by this overabundance. This is an eerily similar situation to the one we got ourselves into tens of thousands of years ago.

So what are our solutions? Well, you may think that we can simply increase hunting efforts in order to cull the ruminant population. However, hunting isn’t the answer(7), and based on our track record for completely decimating populations when hunting/fishing is unregulated (collapse of cod fisheries ring any bells?), we would likely create an equally horrible situation where we end up with too few deer with little hope of recovering their numbers(8).

Scientists propose a different — and so much cooler — method of keeping deer populations regulated, our forests full of native plant life, and increasing biodiversity in the process. The plan is called Pleistocene rewilding, and it involves bringing the modern analogues of species that roamed the earth thousands of years ago back into their former habitat. And aside from filling the various ecological niches that were left vacant after the most recent extinction event(9), we would be able to have top predators introduced to help suppress our current deer problem.

So now we have our pick of the litter. There exist numerous ecological equivalents to the top predators of the past, and you may be surprised to learn what species used to roam the, not so ancient, lands of North America. We had a massive cat known as the America Lion, weighing up to 740lb and over 4ft tall at the shoulder(10) — its African cousin would make a perfect fit. An American Cheetah roamed the New World; related closer to pumas than cheetahs, it developed cheetah-like characteristics through convergent evolution(11). Scientists believe the existence of this cheetah helps explain why pronghorns are capable of running at nearly 90km/h — since this speed easily surpasses that of both wolves and cougars(12). Once again, the extant African species would be used to fill this ecological niche.

However, you may notice a problem with the animals I proposed to fill their ancient ecological roles above: they live in hot, arid savannahs — and Canada can get pretty chilly. This little problem puts a damper on which apex predators we can bring over to help control pest population. Though, there is one animal that thrives in winter environments, and it just happens to be the largest predatory cat available — the Siberian tiger. This massive beast already feeds on the various species of deer present in the northeastern forests of Asia, and its introduction into North America would aid in our current efforts to raise its poor population numbers. The Siberian tiger would fill the ecological role that was occupied by the American lion and Smilodon: the sabre-toothed cat.

Tiger walking in the snow

Great, it seems like we have a solution to a problem that would likely spell the demise of our North American ecosystems. Now we just need some public acceptance and we can fly these tigers over within the week… This is likely the largest hurdle to overcome. The knowledge that we would have numerous 600lb tigers roaming our forests would cause utter chaos among the general populous. Large-scale opposition was seen regarding the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park (and would most certainly be present with tiger introduction). Ranchers completely opposed the idea, citing that wolves destroy livestock and are considered a plague on their way of life(13). However, the benefits of wolf reintroduction are staggering and have rectified the problem of elk overpopulation within Yellowstone, facilitating an increase in native floral biodiversity(14). While wolf reintroduction would take far longer in areas outside of national parks(6), and waiting for wolf population numbers to increase naturally could take decades — tiger introduction would be immediate and would confer numerous benefits (in ecosystem stability and by increasing tiger populations). But of course, this is wishful thinking and, as I’ve stated before, answers to difficult problems are never simple.

Earlier I spoke about Jurassic Park and alluded to the possibility of bringing back once extinct animals. This fantastical idea has reemerged in public discourse with a recent Vice news report detailing the finding of a woolly mammoth carcass in Siberia that has enough viable tissue to potentially clone the species(15)(16). This would enable us to enact Pleistocene rewilding using the actual animals from that time period. However, there are ethical dilemmas that arise with this sort of topic — I believe Dr. Ian Malcolm said it best:

Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should. — Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park

That is, who is truly benefiting from reviving extinct animals? Is it the species that potentially gets another shot at evolutionary success? Or would humanity use this scientific triumph as a conduit for financial gain? Being engrossed in science all my life, I am unconditionally in favour for the progression of knowledge — and I feel like trying to bring back an extinct species to determine if the feat is possible is acceptable and noble. However, it’s what we do with the knowledge that “un-extinction” is possible that I am worried about. Like any science/animal lover, I would be ecstatic at the potential to have an island theme-park full of sabre-toothed cats, woolly mammoths, and dinosaurs. But if we don’t plan on creating a self-sustaining population of mammoth, the only animals that would be benefitting would be the humans.

In an earlier article, I detailed how the ignorant will, with good intentions, put forth easy solutions to problems completely out of their scope. Although I would like to say that the answer to deer overpopulation is as simple as airdropping some big cats into the Great White North, I understand that I’m oversimplifying things: public displeasure/fear would prevent swift approval, not to mention the potential that using tigers as a means of biological pest control could backfire and throw the food-web into disarray, as has happened numerous times in the recent past(17)(18). However, lowering the ruminant population is vitally necessary for the stability and sustainability of North American ecosystems, and predation seems to be the most viable option for realizing this solution. That is, until we can bring back Deinonychus and Smilodon (in self-sustaining populations), tigers will be our best bet. And I’m personally thrilled at the idea of being able to travel 5 hours north to see one of my favourite animals roaming free and in good numbers. Just don’t forget to bring your bear tiger spray.


  1. Eschtruth, A. K., and J. J. Battles. 2009. Acceleration of Exotic Plant Invasion in a Forested Ecosystem by a Generalist Herbivore. Conservation Biology 23:388–399
  2. Deer proliferation disrupts a forest’s natural growth. http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2014/03/07/deer-proliferation-disrupts-a-forests-natural-growth/
  3. Flannery, T. 2002. The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. Grove Press
  4. Barton, C. M. 2004. The Settlement of the American Continents: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Human Biogeography. University of Arizona Press
  5. Whitney-Smith, E. 2004. Clovis and Extinctions–Overkill, Second Order Predation, Environmental Degradation in a Non-equilibrium Ecosystem
  6. Mushegian, A. 2008. REWILDING NORTH AMERICA. Harvard Science Review
  7. Lin, D. 2013. Hunting Isn’t the Answer to Animal “Pests.” Time
  8. Frank, K. T., B. Petrie, J. S. Choi, and W. C. Leggett. 2005. Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem. Science (New York, N.Y.) 308:1621–1623
  9. Janzen, D. H., and P. S. Martin. 1982. Neotropical anachronisms: the fruits the gomphotheres ate. Science (New York, N.Y.) 215:19–27
  10. Christiansen, P., and J. M. Harris. 2009. Craniomandibular morphology and phylogenetic affinities of Panthera atrox: implications for the evolution and paleobiology of the lion lineage. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:934–945
  11. Barnett, R., I. Barnes, M. J. Phillips, L. D. Martin, C. R. Harington, J. A. Leonard, and A. Cooper. 2005. Evolution of the extinct Sabretooths and the American cheetah-like cat. Current biology: CB 15:R589–590
  12. Byers, J. A. 1997. American Pronghorn: Social Adaptations and the Ghosts of Predators Past. University of Chicago Press
  13. Our National Parks » Reintroduction of wolves brings controversy. http://www.ournationalparks.us/park_issues/reintroduction_of_wolves_brings_controversy/
  14. Living on Earth: Beyond the Headlines. http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=15-P13-00012&segmentID=5
  15. The Mission to Clone the Woolly Mammoth. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-mission-to-resurrect-the-woolly-mammoth
  16. Cloning a Mammoth is Only the Start. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/cloning-a-mammoth-is-only-the-start
  17. Biocontrol backfires again. http://www3.scienceblog.com/community/older/2002/C/20025043.html
  18. Wright, M. G., M. P. Hoffmann, T. P. Kuhar, J. Gardner, and S. A. Pitcher. 2005. Evaluating risks of biological control introductions: A probabilistic risk-assessment approach. Biological Control 35:338–347

Image sources

  1. Puffin, F. 2011. In the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair
  2. Overgrazing by deer is changing the face of U.S. forests | EarthSky.org. http://earthsky.org/earth/overgrazing-by-deer-is-changing-the-face-of-u-s-forests
  3. Jaguar, T. T. 2012. Tiger walking in the snow
  4. Antón, M. 2004. Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain (2004) National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals, Washington, D.C.:  National Geographic ISBN 9780792271345, ISBN 9780792269977

Charles Darwin

The Golden Age of Scientific Denial

I certainly didn’t think that I would ever have to write a blog about this topic, but the cover story of the March issue of National Geographic told me otherwise. The War on Science is real, and scientific illiteracy may have a greater impact on society now than ever before.

That’s right, we’re talking about those who deny that humans ever landed on the moon, those who hold strong in their conviction that evolution never happened (or my favourite: that it’s just a “theory”), those who are vehemently afraid of genetically modified foods, those who believe in the psuedoscience of astrology, and those who choose not to vaccinate their children in fear that they will somehow develop autism.

I guess living in Toronto and attending the University of Western Ontario has spoiled me — I rarely come across a person that doesn’t subscribe to the theory of evolution. So that’s why it was such a shock when I learned that in a representative survey conducted by the National Science Foundation:

…48% of respondents said they thought it was true that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,”(1)

You read that correctly — less than half of all Americans accept evolution as the mechanism by which humans came to be on this planet. This result is also strikingly similar to the proportion (44%) of people who pick blue as their favourite colour(2). Coincidence?

When I saw this number I originally gave the respondents the benefit of the doubt: “Maybe they were never introduced to the theory of evolution, so it’s natural that they wouldn’t accept it.” But then the National Science Foundation released this stat as a follow up:

but 72% gave this response when the same statement was prefaced by “according to the theory of evolution.”(1)

I’ll tell you why this discrepancy is unsettling. This jump in acceptance illustrates that there are people who remotely understand what the theory of evolution claims and what the “evolutionists” state to the public, but still choose to not accept it. That is, only when “according to the theory of evolution” prefaces the original question do respondents answer correctly — exposing their blatant disregard for mountains of scientific evidence and research. I would have much preferred that both questions had similar proportions of correct responses. At least then we would have been faced with the much simpler task of introducing the ignorant to the concept of descent with modification, rather than our current situation where we stand against the large camp of people who willingly brush the evidence under the rug.

Creation Museum

Vegetarian T. Rex coexisting with a human at the Creation Museum

Don’t for a second think that the people of the United States of America are the only ones who score poorly on these tests. Us Canadians fared slightly better than our southern cousins, but it is extremely disturbing to find out that 13% of Canadians do not know that the earth orbits around the sun(3). These are people that maintain a worldview consistent with the scientific community of over 500 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if these same individuals spent their free time trying to turn lead into gold.

On a less extreme and more comical side are the astrologists. And in a rudimentary effort to disprove astrology, I’d like you all to read the following passage regarding the Libra (born between September 23 to October 22):

When it comes to professionalism and traditional values, Libra wins hands-down. This practical sign loves to tackle life in the most conventional of ways, leaving no stone unturned. Considered the most serious-minded of the signs, the Libra possesses an independence that allows for considerable progress both personally and on the job.

If you know a Libra, this describes them perfectly. The problem is that this passage was originally written for a Capricorn (December 22 to January 19). Don’t believe me? Follow my citations(4). Now, astrologers don’t pose a literal threat to science, but do so in a metaphorical sense. Astrologers aren’t rioting, book burning, or jailing — but their beliefs do undermine scientific discovery and remove personal responsibility by putting one’s fate into the hands of astronomical alignment.


Pointy syringe photos are used by anti-vaxxers to instill fear and pain

Arguably the most damaging scientific denial that takes place today is through the anti-vaccination movement (known as anti-vaxxers). They hold the conviction (based on a retracted study published in 1998 that I refuse to cite in an effort to get this notion out of popular discourse) that vaccines are in some way linked to the development of autism in children, and new statements even claim that vaccines are physically harmful to children in general. They completely ignore the data showing that vaccinations eradicated smallpox(5), nearly all incidences of polio(6), have reduced bacterial meningitis infections by 99%(7), and prevent 14 million infections annually(8). However, like cancer, the anti-vaxx campaign spread and metastasized with the aid of celebrity endorsements and spokespersons — and its damaging effects are now beginning to be realized.

Measles, a disease once declared “eliminated” by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(9) has now reemerged as an impending threat as more parents deny their children life saving vaccinations(10). In an effort to reason with the unreasonable, a website was created that aimed to quantify the amount of humans that have been diagnosed and died from a preventable disease as a result of the anti-vaxxer movement(11). Drastic? Yes. But it is unfortunately necessary as this body count will only increase as the anti-vaccination movement continues to spread.

Scientific literacy has created such a dichotomy in society that stating your subscription is no longer a testament to how you reason as a person; rather, it is a statement regarding what camp you belong to, what groups you’re apart of, what table you can sit at during lunch, and what school of fish you swim with(12).

As scientifically literate individuals, our triumph has the ability to be our downfall. The strict adherence to the scientific method is what has, and will continue to, allow us to achieve monumental successes in science. However, it is this constant second guessing, revision, and skepticism that allows for the scientifically illiterate to make headway. In his book, Mortals and Others, philosopher Bertrand Russell states:

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.(13)

Despite this, I do not blame the scientific method — doing so would be ridiculous. The scientific method has facilitated innumerable discoveries and paradigm shifting realizations. Science has taken many blows in the past — it has been jailed, excommunicated, executed, and set ablaze. Yet after each disaster the pillars of discovery were rebuilt stronger than before. The amazing thing about science is that even if you deny it, it’s still true. The only way to remove the blemish on people’s minds is to calmly educate and continue to push forward with research. If two people yell, neither is heard — and it is our camp’s duty to remain calm.

Flat Earth


Original story idea: The Age of Disbelief, written by Joel Achenbach, photography by Richard Barnes

  1. S&E Indicators 2014 – Chapter 7. Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding – Highlights – US National Science Foundation (NSF) . http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-7/c7h.htm
  2. List of USA Survey Results. http://awp.diaart.org/km/usa/survey.html
  3. Council of Canadian Academies | CCA | Science Culture: Where Canada Stands. http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/science-culture.aspx
  4. Capricorn Profile by Horoscope.com | Get your Free Capricorn Profile. http://my.horoscope.com/astrology/horoscope-sign-profile-capricorn.html
  5. Fenner, F. 1988. Smallpox and its eradication. World Health Organization, Geneva
  6. Sutter, R. W., and C. Maher. 2006. Mass vaccination campaigns for polio eradication: an essential strategy for success. Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology 304:195–220
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2002. Progress toward elimination of Haemophilus influenzae type b invasive disease among infants and children–United States, 1998-2000. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 51:234–237
  8. Park, A. 2008, June 2. How Safe Are Vaccines? Time.
  9. Orenstein, W. A., and M. J. Papania. 2004. Defining and Assessing Measles Elimination Goals. Journal of Infectious Diseases 189:S23–S26
  10. Measles — United States, January 1–May 23, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6322a4.htm?s_cid=mm6322a4_w
  11. Anti-Vaccine Body Count. http://www.antivaccinebodycount.com/Anti-Vaccine_Body_Count/Home.html
  12. The Age of Disbelief. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/science-doubters/barnes-photography
  13. Russell, B. 1998. Mortals and Others Volume II: American Essays, 1931-1935. Psychology Press

Image sources

  1. Darwin, L. 1874. Photograph of Charles Darwin taken around 1874 by Leonard Darwin
  2. Anthony5429. 2007. This is a photo I took on 2 June, 2007 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, United States
  3. Kübelbeck, A. 2007. Insulin type syringe ready for injection. Patients view
  4. Ferguson, O. 1893. A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893