World of Wonders

When we see things that aren’t, we miss the wonderful things that are.

Extreme Weather Calls for Extreme Care in How We Write about Climate Change

As the death tolls rise in step with temperatures in Russia and flood waters in Pakistan, and with each passing “hottest-on-record” month, it’s tempting to think this summer’s extraordinary weather is incontrovertible proof of global warming.

Russia fighting fires

The sentiment is a common thread of daily conversation; it’s reflected in science blogs and mainstream media. For example, in an article in the Telegraph this week, Environment Correspondent Louise Gray writes that, “Experts…said the recent ‘extreme weather events’ prove global warming is already happening.” (My emphasis.)

But do experts actually say that? And do these events really prove global warming?

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Filed under: climate change, science literacy, ,

Lamarck is Alive and Well and Living in Language

On the 266th anniversary of the birth of Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, Lamarckism is alive and well, and living in the language we use to describe the evolution of species.


Long before the English naturalist Darwin set sail for the Galapagos Islands, the French biologist Lamarck proposed his own theory of evolution. According to the Chevalier, species did indeed evolve—and as Richard Dawkins writes in The Blind Watchmaker, he deserves to be honoured for this accomplishment alone. Furthermore, Lamarck said, species were transformed by forces that guided each individual creature toward complexity and toward a greater degree of adaptation to their environment.

The mechanism behind this transformation was twofold: the use and dis-use of certain organs, which led to the strengthening or weakening of those organs over the course of a creature’s life; and the inheritance of those newly acquired or discarded characteristics by the animal’s immediate offspring.

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Filed under: darwin, evolution, ,

About me

I am a Toronto-based writer, author and photographer who is inspired and fascinated by science. Science is our best way of understanding the natural world, but it is much more than that. Science is culture, and its pursuit ultimately leads to meaning, values and wonder.  My interests include evolution, Darwin, the Galapagos Islands, secular humanism, religion, skepticism, climate change, and science culture.  For many years, I wrote and produced astronomy programs for the McLaughlin Planetarium of the Royal Ontario Museum. I am author of many books for young readers (Sterling Publishing and Penguin Young Readers, N.Y.) and articles for children's magazines. I also write non-fiction related to the themes reflected in this blog. You can read some of my longer non-fiction and view my photographs at, and follow me at


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