Diversifying the Geosciences

There’s a pretty terrible fact about the geosciences: degrees and careers are overwhelmingly got by white people. Go look at these stats. Look at the fact that in America, in 2010, just 1% of the people employed in earth science careers were black. One. Percent.

No group other than whites made it past the single digits. Not one.

We’ve got to do better than this. And we can, even us pasty-pale folk such as myself. We can amplify the voices of geoscientists of color. We can work with minority students to bring more of them into the STEM fold. We can fund scholarships. We can ask minority students what they need us to do, and do it. We can listen to our professionals of color. We can make our spaces welcoming to people of color. We can start right now by visiting Black Geoscientists, and taking their suggestions to heart. [Read more…]

“The One Thing No One Seems to Want to Remember is How Much Opposition There Was to King”

David Futrelle reminds us that Martin Luther King, Jr. faced plenty of violence, frenzied opposition, and attacks by police and public. Sometimes, we recall the speeches without recalling the chaos. We hear “civil disobedience” and “non-violent opposition,” and forget that those opposed to civil rights used the power of state and terror in an effort to maintain white supremacy.

We should never forget that he didn’t back down in the face of those arrests and attacks. We should never forget his work isn’t finished.

It takes a lot of courage to change the world.

Image shows MLK Jr. in a pale suit and hat, sitting at a counter, surrounded by police.

AP photo of Martin Luther King Jr. getting arrested for loitering, Montgomery, AL, 1958.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A Riot is the Language of the Unheard”

Sixty years ago, the color of your skin determined your treatment on Montgomery, Alabama busses:

Under the system of segregation used on Montgomery buses, white people who boarded the bus took seats in the front rows, filling the bus toward the back. Black people who boarded the bus took seats in the back rows, filling the bus toward the front. Eventually, the two sections would meet, and the bus would be full. If other black people boarded the bus, they were required to stand. If another white person boarded the bus, then everyone in the black row nearest the front had to get up and stand, so that a new row for white people could be created. Often when boarding the buses, black people were required to pay at the front, get off, and reenter the bus through a separate door at the back. On some occasions bus drivers would drive away before black passengers were able to reboard.

Rosa Parks wasn’t the first person to challenge that treatment. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t the only community leader who fought for an end to Jim Crow. But they rightfully become icons of the Civil Rights movement. We remember them for their peaceful protest. MLK Jr., especially, we remember for nonviolence and civil disobedience. So much so that he’s now thrown in the faces of angry and upset protestors in an effort to shut them up.

On this day, let’s remember more than “I Have a Dream.” Let’s remember that King also said that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Let’s remember “The Other America.” [Read more…]

Racism and Society Week: The Unequal Opportunity Race

This past year saw a warranted wave of anger at white oppression, as the people of Ferguson, Missouri demanded justice for yet another unarmed black teenager murdered by police. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and far too many others didn’t get justice last year. But I hope history records 2014 as the changing of the tide.

It won’t happen unless we take a stand.

Image is the British crown on a red background atop the words "Stand up and fight racism."

[Read more…]

Reveal That Metazoan! Roadcut Reptile Edition

Oh, look, it’s a brand-new mystery series! Many of you seem to enjoy these puzzlers, and I’ve got pictures of animals other than birds and bugs, so I figured I’d expand a bit. Branch out to other metazoan families, donchaknow. And that’ll help break up the relentless onslaught of mystery flora. The sad truth is, plants stand still. Animals often don’t. Hence, we have a dearth of animals as it is. We cannot afford to ignore any of them just because they don’t fly or don’t have an exoskeleton.

Here to inaugurate our new series is a delightful lizard seen in that incredible rhyolite road cut near the Nevada-Oregon border.

Image shows a gray-brown lizard with horizontal black stripes on its tail clinging jauntily to an outcrop of rheamorphic rhyolite.

Mystery Metazoan I

Saucy, innit? And large! It was quite plump and long. I’m used to Arizona lizards, which were skinny little things about the length of a finger. This one was longer than my hand, and definitely looks like it’s found good eating, out there in the rocky wastes.

Image is a close-up of the lizard's face.

Mystery Metazoan II

Look at those arch eyebrow ridges or whatever you call ‘em on a lizard! I love their dear little faces. There’s something about a lizard’s expression that just screams superiority. It’s like they know they’re better than those warm-blooded young upstarts that went infesting the planet. They almost seem to remember a time when reptilia ruled the world, and they haven’t bloody forgotten it.

Image shows the lizard now on a different rock, facing down and to the left.

Mystery Metazoan III

This one seemed to be curious about us, and also quite pleased to show off the remarkable rocks that were its home. It posed here and posed there, and I snapped away frantically, wanting to get a few good photos in before it decided it had graced the uncouth mammals with its appearance quite long enough.

Image is a close-up view of the head, showing a dark charcoal strip beneath its eye and along its head.

Mystery Metazoan IV

So really look closely at that glorious animal. Note the subtle but gorgeous patterns in its earth-toned scales. Observe the insouciant ease with which it perches in impossible positions on its rocks. Drool on the rocks a little, by all means, but do please return to perusing the lizard.

Alas, it eventually tired of us, and swept away across a rhyolite boulder, vanishing into some rabbit brush.

Image shows the lizard clinging to a rhyolite boulder, about to dodge into some rabbit brush.

Mystery Metazoan V

Look at those toes! They’re so agile. Amazing little critters.

I’ve got more photos over on Flickr for ye. Good luck in your identifications, my darlings!

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education V: Wherein We Map for God

Honestly, you’d think something as prosaic as mapping could avoid Godification. SPC doesn’t even bother with a chapter on cartography: maps are maps, and they’ve nothing to say about them.

ES4, however, devotes a whole chapter to the subject. And yeah, it gets goddy.

Image is a pastel-colored hand-drawn map of Jerusalem from 1650. ZION is printed in the bottom center-right.

Yes, possibly even as goddy as the Thomas Fuller map of Jerusalem. Image courtesy Geographicus Rare Antique Maps via Wikimedia Commons.

The chapter starts out fine: instead of a creationist cartologist, we get a nice demonstration of the power of maps, using, of course, Dr. John Snow’s cholera map. And the BJU staffers who wrote this chapter, at least, aren’t completely anti-vax. They discuss how government agencies use maps to track down areas with high disease rates, and say that targeting vaccination programs toward “areas with high rates of infections” is “far more effective and costs less than vaccinating a whole population.” Which may be true with rare or not easily transmitted diseases, I suppose, but I do wish their emphasis had been on getting everyone vaccinated for the common stuff. Herd immunity is an important thing. Still. At least they’re not taking this opportunity to say never vaccinate. Small mercies.

They do a fine job explaining what maps are, and scale, and perspective. But for some reason, there’s a textbox on Progressive Creationism right smack in the middle. I have no idea why. It’s nothing to do with maps, and they don’t even try to relate it. They just yammer. And it’s obvious they don’t like those progressive creationists, no sir. You can tell from this question: [Read more…]

Liberty University Pumping Creationists Into Public Schools

Sometimes, I wonder if my obsession with debunking Christianist textbooks is rather ridiculous. After all, how many truly committed creationists are there, really? Aren’t there more important causes I should be investing my time in? Surely I could be doing more on the feminist front, f’r instance. I could be pouring my time and energy into meatier posts about the magnificent science of geology. And I feel vaguely guilty that I let myself get distracted by the latest creationist outrages in textbooks that are foisted upon a mere fraction of the world’s children.

But then, I read survivors’ stories, and yes, I do think of the children: all those bright and curious minds stunted by the ignorant adults around them. I hope at least a few of them stumble upon this series, and find themselves jolted out of the confining creationist box and launched on an epic adventure in the science of their choice (even if it’s not one of the geosciences, although of course I think those are the best).

And there’s the fact we all learn some things about the earth sciences along the way, in what I hope is an entertaining fashion.

Not an inconsiderable consideration for me is that I’ve found so few women* debunking creationist nonsense, so it helps me feel like I’m doing my bit for diversity in the creationist nonsense debunking community.

Besides, Jonny Scaramanga recently said why creationism and the debunking thereof matters, so that’s told me this quest is not quixotic.

But when it really comes down to it, the main reason why I feel it’s bloody damned important to keep you guys informed as to what creationists are teaching their kiddies is because their kiddies are growing up ignorant, and then spewing that ignorance all over our public schools: [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: The Story of Wallace’s Woeful Wager

Well, you knew I couldn’t resist doing up a post on that subject, right? Of course! I looked up some of Wallace’s writings on the subject, did some digging round inside Flat Earth and the net regarding his nemeses, and wrote you up a little something. All right, it’s not little, it’s actually a bit long. Not like novella length or anything, but nice and meaty. Settle yourselves in and enjoy the tale! [Read more…]