No, really, I’m not being sarcastic. Paul Nelson is a nice guy. But he’s afflicted by an obdurate wrongness and he’s convinced that he’s got the intellectual chops to show he’s right…and he really doesn’t. He’s a young earth creationist and an intelligent design creationist, and he wrote to challenge Jerry Coyne, with much hubris. He said, in part:
Readers who already know about the thinking of workers such as Eric Davidson, Michael Lynch, Andreas Wagner, John Gerhart & Marc Kirschner, or Scott Gilbert (all of whom, among many others, have recently expressed frank doubts about selection) must discount what you say about the centrality of natural selection to evolutionary theory — because they know that just isn’t so.
I know the work of all those people — I could tell you that they don’t discount the importance of natural selection, but they do also consider other mechanisms important. Coyne knows them better — Lynch was even at the University of Chicago that day giving a lecture — and he wrote to them all and asked them personally if they agreed with Nelson’s summary of their position. The results were hilarious: all of them said no way.
Nelson made the big mistake of dragging in living scientists and claiming that they all supported his claim that evolution was on the ropes. Didn’t he get the memo? It’s best to cite long dead prominent scientists, especially ones who died before the middle years of the 19th century.
But then it gets sad. Read into the comments, and you’ll find Nelson commenting, trying to reassert that really, all those people are mistaken, and he knows better than they do, that they really expose a weakness of evolution — that because they understand that many features have a non-adaptive origin (hey, didn’t I just make that argument?), that they are therefore questioning the importance of natural selection. He’s relying on quote mining to make arguments from authority. It’s pathetic. It’s dismal. It’s self-destructive. It’s disgraceful. It’s a typical creationist move.
Stop digging, Nelson, stop digging!
P.S. Oh, no! I forgot to celebrate the 8th Paul Nelson day last April! (Note that I even predicted that I might forget.) Remind me in a few months.