BioLogos, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting evolution within evangelical circles, recently released a large survey examining how and why people develop their views on evolution. There’s a lot to mine there, though you can read the highlights in NCSE’s news item. I’m especially fascinated by the survey’s work to separate out different stances in the public conversation on how evolution and religion intersect.

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After my three-parter on fossils, I was sure you'd be sick of them, but there was a request (seconded by a few people) to talk about one particular aspect of paleontology that I didn’t cover yet: How do you know how old a fossil is? It turns out to be a pretty interesting question.

Misconception: Paleontologists directly date fossils.

Correction: Most of the time, fossils are not directly datable.

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Last week, we explored what it takes to become a fossil and what exactly fossils are. Hopefully, you have some appreciation for the relatively rare conditions necessary to become a fossil. But let’s say you beat the odds and die along a floodplain and get buried in sediment before decaying or getting eaten. Is it time to break out the balloons and celebrate? Start designing your cushy museum exhibit? Not quite…you may be on your way to being a fossil, but now you have to be found.

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In last week’s somewhat belated post, I gave a long introduction to this question: What does it take to become a fossil, and what does it take to be found? I made the claim, too, that if you can understand how rare quality fossil finds are, you can begin to appreciate all that we do know and get excited about what we have yet to discover. So let’s get cracking!

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I apologize for missing a Monday post. Last week, I was in Cleveland* for the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting and just didn’t have time to write anything up. So it’s only fitting that I pull from that meeting my inspiration for this misconception post, however belated.

Misconception: Fossils are everywhere. Just dig.

Correction: Fossils are very rare. And you don’t dig; you look.

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