My talk in Tallahassee in late March

February 25, 2020 • 12:00 pm

In almost exactly one month, I’m speaking to the Tallahassee Scientific Society in Tallahassee, Florida. My talk is on Thursday, March 26, and I think the time and venue are the same as those for the previous speaker: 7 p.m. at Tallahassee Community College’s Center for Innovation on Kleman Plaza. The topic is “Why Evolution is Still True”, and I’ll give a brief rundown of the evidence for evolution (updated in light of new discoveries), followed by discussion of why Americans remain so resistant to this scientific truth.

I’ll give one more announcement in mid-March or so, and all are welcome to come. I believe they’ll also have my two trade books on sale, which I’ll be glad to autograph. And, if you tell me the genus and species of any felid besides the house cat, I’ll draw a cat in it.

Here’s a photo I sent them to use for advertising the talk; the picture is from Wikipedia so it’s in the public domain. Toes, teeth, and size!

Photo credit: H. Zell (from Wikimedia Commons; CC license CC BY_SA 3.0).


22 thoughts on “My talk in Tallahassee in late March

  1. Shortly after the publication of “God Is Not Great” in 2007, Christopher Hitchens went on a book tour, including in particular Southern states. Afterward, at a public talk in Seattle, Hitch recalled some experiences of the Southern tour. He was much impressed, he said, by the positive response he found there; and in particular by the number of people who, at his well-attended talks, were encouraged by seeing that they were not alone in their Southern communities.

    1. In the sense of “something outstanding and possibly irritating”, would they be the studs in the bible belt?

  2. I would so love it, Professor Ceiling Cat, if you could make it to Salt Lake City sometime. I have a religious friend that I have been coaxing towards rationality whom I would love to bring.

    And may I say how deeply I appreciate your WEIT ministry (if I may call it that)? I am reformed Mormon – served an LDS mission to South Korea back when. It was the scientific method that gave me my first taste of fresh air. I remember the first moment of insight very well. Change is possible.

    1. Hey Lee — I also live in Salt Lake City and have been asking myself how we can get Professor Coyne out to speak. Maybe at the Natural History Museum which has a speaker series every year (I just went to hear Shankar Vedantam last night). Let’e put our heads together!

  3. Tallahassee’s not a bad little town. I’ve been there a few times to argue cases before the Fla. Supreme Court or in front of the governor and cabinet (which sits collectively a couple times a year in the Capitol basement as the Florida Board of Clemency).

    Come to think of it, I happened to be there in the ’90s on the opening weekend of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Went to see it at a theater on (or right next to) the FAMU campus. I was the only white cat in a packed-house audience.

  4. The evolution of horses is a good case, but a special one too. All the ‘more toed’ and smaller species went extinct. I gather that is not the usual way things go, although it could be argued the same happened in humans or lobefinned fishes (or even dinosaurs with a true, renewed radiation again), so not really that unusual.
    We have dozens and dozens of, say, microchiroptera using sophisticated echolocation. Or rodents using their equally stunning teeth.
    The question (IMMO) is why did the more extreme horse model, with a single hoof and great size persist, while the others perished? Why did the others perish?

    1. Perhaps ancestral primitive horses didn’t “perish” but just evolved into one-toed creatures because of increased speed (predator pressure) and efficiency of locomotion (food and migration). Of course there are many animals with rather monotonous modern forms — rhinos and tapirs for example — that lost side branches that retained primitive traits. At least one horse species used to be common and widespread in North America, but went extinct, possibly from over-hunting, after people arrived about 15,000 years ago.

    2. It’s not at all atypical. Most dinosaurs with feathers perished and one lineage evolved anagenetically into modern birds. This is also true of humans. It is not “special” that many species in a radiation go extinct without issue but one ancestral species evolves lineally into something new–in this case, one-toed horses.

      It is indeed the way things normally go because modern species in a group like rodents or bats had a single common ancestor that evolved and then speciated. It would be foolish to think that that common ancestor had NO relatives that went extinct.

      1. Well, of course one species has nearly by definition an anagenetic ancestry, but I didn’t know it was really common that a single quite different species (or genus) was left over, although I did note with some examples it could not be extremely rare.
        I note that the rhinos and tapirs that W.Benson mentioned are all related to horses.
        Are there some clades more prone to this (a single quite different species/genus surviving) than others? Is there any idea or hypothesis about what would determine that?

        I guess it (this different single species/genus surviving) would go for all species without close relatives, from the tuataras to the ornithorhynchus.

        1. Are there some clades more prone to this (a single quite different species/genus surviving) than others? Is there any idea or hypothesis about what would determine that?

          Try playing some card games (people may be more practiced in working out the odds in card games). I would suspect that, given a few tens of million years from initial “bushing” of a clade, the norm is that one species/ genus is the most prevalent. Simply because the odds are bounded at one side by extinction, and on the other side by needing at least one surviving lineage to have evolved from. It’s an evolutionary variant on the “drunkard’s walk” argument of why you often find yourself walking down the same streets.

  5. “…why Americans remain so resistant to this scientific truth.”

    Be sure to tell us what the audience thinks of that. I wonder if the event will wind up on YouTube.

    1. That gets legally hairy, unless the organiser has posted notices to the effect of “we’ll be posting the video in public” outside the meeting room.
      Not that I’d expect the average youtuber to even recognise that there is an issue.

      1. So many events are on YouTube. Seems to me people at a public forum should expect it. But, lets hope the gods approve. I’d love to hear the address to the congregation.

  6. Images on Wikipedia are not, generally speaking, in the public domain. If you click on an image in Wikipedia, you’ll get more information about it, including the license. This one has the license CC BY-SA 3.0. You’re supposed to give credit to the creator (H. Zell in this case) and link to the license.

    1. In the process of uploading a media item to Wikipedia, you’re asked a number of questions about the source of the image, your rights to it, and why you think that you have a right to post the image in a highly public place.
      Obviously, people can lie. Or not read the warnings. But those warnings are there so that Wikipedia (strictly, the Wikimedia Foundation) can say that they have done what they can to check if the person uploading the media does actually have a right to publish the medium. They have a case which they can defend in court, to minimize their liability. Unlike the poster, upon whom the obligation has been loaded.
      [Caveat : the questions that Wikimedia ask you may be different depending on which jurisdiction you’re uploading from. None of which affects your liabilities in the country you’re in when/ if you get sued.]

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