Great auks. John Gerrard Keulemans via Wikimedia Commons.

“Why Are There No Penguins at the North Pole?”—a February 6, 2015, article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano by Carlo Maria Polvani, a biochemist-turned-priest working in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State—raises a good question, although in the service of a bad agenda. The agenda isn’t creationism: Polvani correctly describes evolution as “shared by the majority of the scientific community” and moreover cites Pope John Paul II’s 1996 Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as sufficient to show that “few today doubt the evolution of life on Earth.” Rather, the agenda is opposition to “Darwinism,” which he defines as holding that there are “two, and only two, forces to explain the phenomenon of evolution,” namely chance, “which creates diversity at the genotypic level,” and selection, “which supports the emergence of the phenotypes most likely to guarantee survival.” 

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Full disclosure: I ran the four-part (newly renamed!) natural selection misconception diagnostic because my idea well had run dry. I was hoping that by retreading some old misconception tropes, I would get inspired. Imagine my delight, then, when Larry Moran gave me an idea for this post in the comments.

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