Current Projects

With the completion of the first book, I am starting or returning to work on several other projects on the history of science, religion, and education.

  • William Paley and the Evolution of Natural Theology

In an article published in 2008, I argued that despite reaching the similar conclusions, Paley’s arguments are  fundamentally different from those put forward by Intelligent Design supporters today. My current project asks the question: If people today are invoking Paley in such divergent ways, how did different interpretations emerge and become so widely accepted?

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  • Nebraska 1924: America’s First Antievolution Trial

About nine months before the Scopes trial took place, there was an evolution trial that took place in Lincoln, Nebraska.  A schoolteacher sued for slander after he lost a job because (people said) he was a “Darwinist.” [Spoiler Alert: He won!]

My study of this previously unknown trial asks how this lawsuit came to be, and what its obscurity, compared to the Scopes trial spectacle, tells us about how people in the 1920s understood the evolution/religion debate.

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  • Hesperopithecus: The Five-Year Life of the 500,000-Year-Old Man who Never Existed

In 1922, Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History in New York announced the discovery of ‘Nebraska Man’—Hesperopithecus haroldcookii—the first hominid in the New World.  However, by 1927, Osborn and the others investigating the Nebraska fossils determined that they were not from a primate and retracted their announcement of Hesperopithecus.  Some opponents of evolution have described this episode as a “hoax” but there’s no evidence of fraud or deceit.  My research will look at how and why scientists posited the existence of Nebraska Man, why it took five years to retract it, and the impact of Hesperopithecus on the popular understanding of evolution in the 1920s.

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