07.31.2014

H. L. Mencken in 1935

Let’s face it. When you think of journalists covering the Scopes trial, you don’t think of Joseph Wood Krutch writing for The Nation, you don’t think of Frank Kent writing for the Baltimore Sun, you don’t think of Westbrook Pegler writing for the Chicago Tribune. You think of H. L. Mencken, writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun and for The American Mercury, the monthly magazine that he and George Jean Nathan founded in 1924, the year before the Scopes trial. And that’s not surprising: by 1925, Mencken enjoyed a national reputation as a fiery iconoclast: “the most powerful influence on this whole generation of educated people,” as Walter Lippmann called him in 1926. He reveled in the opportunity afforded by the Scopes trial to revile the mores of the South. So prolific was he in covering the trial, and so compelling were his stories, that as late as 2006 a 206-page collection consisting of his Scopes coverage was published.

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Chances are, if you’ve been in the same house or apartment for many years, you’ve probably accumulated stuff that you don’t need. NCSE is like that, so before I retired, I promised to return to help sort out archival materials—helping to decide what to keep and what we no longer need. This is turning out to be a rather fun project as I am going through old files that neither I or anyone else has looked at for a long time.

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Recently I found myself around the corner from Buckingham Palace in the boardroom of Rolls-Royce, maker of airplane engines and wind turbines (they spun off the luxury car division years ago), sitting across the table from the renowned climatologist Jean Jouzel, listening to his passionate plea to for us to educate society to prepare for changing climate and limit its impacts.

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07.29.2014

Harold Morowitz

As habitués of the Science League of America may have by now gathered, I have a taste for historical trivia and for unusual words. A few months ago, a member of NCSE offered me the chance to indulge both.

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I did a fair amount of photo research when
Photo by newlow via Wikimedia Commons I worked for an educational publishing company. On one occasion, I needed a nice photograph of a scientist “at work” to decorate our introductory chapter on science methods. You know what I found? Photo after photo of people in lab coats looking at or holding flasks or test tubes of colored liquids. It was almost comical, but not unexpected. I have a friend who works for a pharmaceutical company, and he once told me that when the board of directors came in for a visit, the staff members were told to fill up some containers with colored water so they’d look busy—apparently, their incredibly scientific jobs weren’t showy and sciency-looking enough! This stereotypical idea of what science looks like embodies this week’s misconception:

All science is done via experimentation.

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