Alfred Russel Wallace, circa 1895

For the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace’s death, November 7, 2013, I assembled a host of on-line resources about Wallace’s life and work, which was posted to ncse.com and sent in Evolution and Climate Education Update, NCSE’s free weekly e-newsletter. (Not a subscriber? That’s easy to fix.) After he received the update, Norman Sleep, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University, sent me Kevin Zahnle’s 2001 article (subscription required) from Nature about Percival Lowell’s ideas about canals on the planet Mars.  Although Lowell didn’t discover the canals—that credit belongs to Giovanni Schiaparelli—he was responsible not only for popularizing them but also for promoting the idea that they were the products of intelligent design. Lowell’s views were dotty; Zahnle admits that “Lowell’s flamboyance, combativeness, and inflexibility made him look ever more like a crank” on the topic. But what’s the connection to Wallace?

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Not everybody realizes that the primary mission of NCSE is to defend the teaching of evolution and climate science. That’s understandable, of course. “National Center for Science Education” certainly suggests a broad remit for the organization.

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