S  A  C  R  E  D      B  O  V  I  N  E  S
The  Ironies  of  Misplaced Assumptions  in  Biology

This website presents my perspectives on unchallenged commonplaces about biology -- here, playfully dubbed "Sacred Bovines."

Douglas Allchin

These essays (& presentations) reflect my background in evolutionary biology, history & philosophy of science, and over 3 decades in science education. We have much to learn. it seems, about the nature of science -- and how to teach about it. Misplaced views about science are widespread. Yet they shape how we make personal decisions and frame joint policy in our society. Most persons go blithely ahead, unaware and heedless of the consequences.

We can benefit from opportunities to reflect on our unchallenged assumptions. They spur creativity and foster insight -- and deeper knowledge. Serious business. But they can also amuse. There can be sheer joy in enriching the mind. Andy Warhol -- in his stunning graphics of soup cans and pop idols -- helped awaken us to images that surround us in plain sight, and thus see the extra-ordinary in the ordinary. Jasper Johns -- in his paintings of the American flag and other cultural symbols -- likewise alerted us to the power of such familiar icons. I hope to nudge perceptions and provoke reflections in similar ways here, by focusing on our stereotypes, or sometimes "myth-conceptions," of science. Ironies abound, all worth appreciating. Maybe the plain and simple is not so plain and simple.

But readers, beware: in some circles, I am known as a troublemaker. You are invited to stir "trouble" with me.

Sacred Bovines cover
now available from Oxford University Press

The Way of Science
  1. Monsters and Marvels
  2. On Genius & Happenstance in Scientific Discovery
  3. Marxism and Cell Biology
  4. Deciphering How Cells Make Energy: An Acid Test
  5. The Dogma of the Scientific Method
  6. The Counter-roll in Science [March, 2020]
Making Science Happen
  1. Ahead of the Curve
  2. From Snakebites to Serpentariums
  3. Science Without Shiny Labs
Science & Complexity
  1. The Messy Story of the Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology
  2. Is an Apple Living?
  3. Kettlewell's Peppered Moths, A Study in Black and White [JCST version]
Darwin, Evolution & Society
  1. Was Darwin a Social Darwinist?
  2. Social Un-Darwinism
  3. A More Fitting Analogy
  4. The Domesticated Gene [Download presentation]
Making Mistakes
  1. A Comedy of Scientific Errors
  2. Nobel Ideals and Noble Errors
  3. Celebrating Darwin's Errors
  4. Does the Evidence Speak for Itself?: Archibald Garrrod & Inborn Errors of Metabolism
  5. Is Science Self-correcting?
What Counts as Science
  1. Science Beyond Scientists
  2. Skepticism and the Architecture of Trust
  3. Science Con-Artists [Download presentation]
  4. Global Warming: Scam, Fraud, or Hoax?
  5. Alternative Facts and Fake News or text with full references [ presentation/visuals ]
  6. The Covid Conundrum [August, 2020]
Naturalizing Cultural Values
  1. Male, Female, and/or ?
  2. Monsters and the Tyranny of Normality
  3. To Be Human
  4. Genes 'R' Us
  5. Skin Color and the Nature of Science
Purpose in Nature
  1. How the Tiger Changed its Stripes [Visuals] [Oct., 2019]
Myth-conceptions of Scientists
  1. Penicillin & Chance [1995 version]
  2. William Harvey and Capillaries
  3. Mending Mendelism
  4. The Tragic Hero of Childbed Fever
  5. Role Models and Real People [May, 2020]
The "Unenvironment"
  1. Out of Balance
  2. The Politics of Biodiversity Speak
  3. From Leopold's "Land Ethic" to Ecological Hubris
Values, Biology & Society
  1. Organisms, Modified, Genetically
  2. Crazy about Vitamins
Teaching Biology
  1. First Among Errors
  2. Listening to Whales
  3. Contextualizing Creationists
  4. Teaching Respect for Life [version from NABT symposium]
  5. Hooks, Lines and Sinkers
  6. Hands-Off Dissection?
  7. Close to Nature

Acknowledgments: My deep appreciation to Ann MacKenzie, Bill Leonard and Bill McComas -- and to the National Association of Biology Teachers -- for supporting the publication of this column in American Biology Teacher.