By Tony Russell|
"We're really excited about your new science textbook
series. It's clear, well-written, and beautifully
illustrated. What we like best about it, though, is
the way it helps students understand how scientists
work. You get a real feel for their passion, their
curiosity, their commitment to following evidence
wherever it leads."
"I appreciate the kind words. Thanks very much! So
you're going to publish the books?"
"We'd be crazy not to. All you have to do is make
some minor editorial changes, and we're good to go."
"Sounds simple enough. What changes did you have in
"Well, here in your section where you talk about
glaciers, you say that the Great Lakes were formed
when glaciers carved deep basins in the northern part
of the country and then retreated. You write that all
of that took place during the Wisconsin glacial
period, which was at its height twenty thousand years
"Yes. That's pretty much agreed upon by geologists
everywhere. Is there a problem?"
"Uh, the issue is, counting generations back through
the Old Testament, folks have calculated that the
earth is six thousand years old. So you're saying the
Great Lakes were created before the world existed."
"And here in the section on botany, you have a
fascinating piece on the dawn redwood. That was all
new to me--I'd never heard of it. You say it had been
found as a fossil dating back to the Miocene epoch,
and everybody assumed it had been extinct for over
five million years, until a small stand was found in
China in 1944, still alive. It's a wonderful story.
But that number 'five million' presents a difficulty,
"I think I follow you. The tree species is four
million, nine hundred and ninety four thousand years
older than some people want it to be."
"Right. Then there's your profile of Jack Horner,
the paleontologist who discovered a colonial nesting
site for a new dinosaur species on Egg Mountain in
Montana. You say he concluded that they built
colonies of nests and watched after their young when
they hatched out. According to your chapter, they
lived in large herds; Horner calls them 'the cows of
the Mesosozoic.' It's all really well done. Kids are
crazy about dinosaurs, and they'll eat that stuff up.
A lot of them reading your book would be motivated to
get into science."
"I'd love to see that."
"The problem is, you say the so-called Mesozoic era
ended sixty-five million years ago."
"Yes, that's correct."
"Then there's this section on birds. You mention
that the 'first bird' that we have evidence of is
Archaeopteryx. By the way, that's a stunning photo of
that fossil; you can see the clearest details of the
feathers! But you say that this bird lived 150 to 155
million years ago."
"Right. That dating has been thoroughly researched
"Surely you see the difficulty, though. The gap
between six thousand years and a hundred and fifty
million years is a bit wider than we're comfortable
"I'm getting the picture."
"And then, of course, there's astronomy. Where to
begin? You write that by studying meteorites, which
are presumed to be remnants from the creation of the
solar system, astronomers put the age of the system at
four billion, six hundred million years."
"Yes, that's the consensus among astronomers and
"I don't suppose you could scale back that timeline
"All the way to six thousand!?"
"I'm not suggesting you compromise your standards.
But is that asking too much to sell a lot of books?"
© Tony Russell, 2008