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Apr 07 2014

Today is the 10th Annual Paul Nelson Day!

I think the appropriate way to celebrate is to do nothing at all, but just to pretend to have a big party.

Paul Nelson Day commemorates the fabulous concept of Ontogenetic Depth, a metric that Paul Nelson invented and presented at the 2004 Society for Developmental Biology meetings — he claimed that it was a measure of the complexity of a developmental process, and that it was a serious problem for evolution. Look, he said, all of a sudden in the Cambrian these creatures appeared with high Ontogenetic Depth values! Only he couldn’t tell us what those values were, or how he measured them. But they sure were a big problem for evolution!

Well, at least he couldn’t tell me right then and there at the meetings how to calculate Ontogenetic Depth. But he’d get right back to me with the details. Tomorrow. Right away. Some day.

Despite having actually had the gall to present this stuff at a legitimate scientific meeting, those details have receded farther and farther away, to the point where he finally admitted in 2011 that ontogenetic depth is impossible to measure. But we can still keep on rubbing his nose in his phony pseudoscience.

As for me, I have a cadre of strippers and a marching band here in my office, have dismantled all of the local churches to get the raw materials for a gigantic bonfire in the parking lot outside, and plan to have a picnic on the moon this afternoon to celebrate. I promise. I’ll post pictures to prove it…tomorrow. Pinky swear!

46 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin Anthoney

    I think it’s also a good time to reflect on the tremendous progress science has made over the last decade, and the huge contribution Creationists haven’t made to any of it.

  2. 2
    chigau (違う)

    Is this where ‘shallow end of the gene-pool’ came from?

  3. 3
    Kevin Alexander

    Popular Mechanics has had flying cars coming tomorrow for about fifty years now which makes them about nineteen hundred and fifty years behind that guy who’s coming tomorrow.
    I don’t mean the cable guy; he might come tomorrow.

  4. 4
    cervantes

    Actually I believe there is a company that has made a prototype of a flying car. They’re hung up with FAA approval and whatnot before they can market it, however. The problem is that flying cars have a lot of ontogenetic depth, apparently.

  5. 5
    mothra

    Paul Nelson is out of his ‘ontogenetic depth’ whenever he discusses evoution. He presented a wonderful example of argument from ignorance at the Science Religion and Lunch Seminars at NDSU two years ago. The DI video on metamorphosis with ‘scientific’ text by Paul Nelson is almost a comedy (except the people are taken in).

  6. 6
    Paul Brown

    What Kevin Anthoney #1 said …

    I vaguely remembered (so I went digging) that Nelson had said something to the effect that the lack of any alternative to evolution as an explanation for biological design and diversity was a problem everyone should be working on (for some definition of “everyone”).

    Digging led me to a Panda’s Thumb post from June 2005. From the vantage point of a decade, seems they’ve not made much progress.

  7. 7
    tfkreference

    Jesus will explain it when he comes back.

  8. 8
    Ray, rude-ass yankee (now in HD-3D!)

    tfkreference@7, Like Kevin Alexander said @3, he’s about 2000 years late already. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

  9. 9
    anuran

    Meanwhile, the Catholic Church just trolled the fuck out of Creationists by giving Dr. Kenneth Miller “the 2014 Laetare Medal, an award given annually to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/06/meet-the-prizewinning-catholic-biologist-creationists-can-t-stand.html

  10. 10
    Bronze Dog

    I’m reminded of one Creationist (Egnor?) who said “biological information” cannot increase. When biologists asked him to define the term, he said that was their job. So, he doesn’t know what “biological information” is, but somehow he knows it can’t increase. Fun.

    “Irreducible complexity” started out having a meaningful definition, (remove any one component and it stops working) but when we all knew the ways evolution could produce it (scaffolding, change of function, removal of redundant components, etcetera), and that science has known since 1924 (when a biologist called it ‘interlocking complexity’ in his article), the term suddenly started getting vague.

    Any updates on “specified complexity?”

  11. 11
    cervantes

    No, but I think I can define “irreducible stupidity.”

  12. 12
    Kevin Kehres

    I think “specified complexity” continues to mean what it meant when it was coined: “I can’t figure it out, therefore Jesus.”

    With regard to irreducible complexity, I recall a few years ago doing a little bit of research on the bacterial flagellum. I discovered that the evolutionary pathways leading to the bacterial flagellum had been teased out prior to Michael Behe receiving his PhD in biochemistry.

    So, Behe was wrong even before he started. I remember being quite amused by all that.

  13. 13
    PZ Myers

    “specified complexity” is still a void. I think the general understanding of it is that it is a pattern that has a previous blueprint or specification — so I’m still waiting to see the cosmic blueprint for squid that was written down 500 million years ago or more, and that allows them to say that squid were specified.

  14. 14
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    All these vague attempts at defining away the ability of evolution to increase complexity reminds me of an old commercial with catch-phrase, “Where’s the beef?”

  15. 15
    Rey Fox

    Then there’s the continuing Discovery Institute predictions on the demise of Darwinism.

  16. 16
    steve78b

    Are you sure he didn’t say: “LETS GO ON TO GENETIC DEPTH”? and really meant to chlorinate the gene pool?

    Really ….. he probably meant well …..

    …maybe

  17. 17
    Kevin Anthoney

    One of the other Herculean challenges that the Creationists set themselves was to write their own version of Dawkins’ weasel program, which they’re still struggling with. Although, to be fair, they are hamstrung by having to try and write it in such a way that it doesn’t work.

  18. 18
    Evan Garber

    Will there be dancing at the moon party… moon walking?

  19. 19
    woozy

    he finally admitted in 2011 that ontogenetic depth is impossible to measure. But we can still keep on rubbing his nose in his phony pseudoscience.

    Um, isn’t that being a poor winner? I mean for the first year or so, sure. but for three years? Surely we’ve had more important victories in three years.

  20. 20
    screechymonkey

    I propose we redefine “ontogenetic depth” as “the depth of the pile of bullshit that creationists have spewed.” Then, Nelson’s 2011 admission that it’s “impossible to measure” will still be accurate.

  21. 21
    paulnelson

    Some day PZ will let this joke die. Until he does — come on over to Evolution News & Views:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/04/on_paul_nelson084131.html

    Should have some more installments in this discussion later this week, with the comments open, but the ENV editors absolutely won’t let me say that. Promising stuff before it’s ready it, they say, is exactly HOW YOU GOT INTO THE ONTOGENETIC DEPTH MESS in the first place. They’re right, of course.

    Hey PZ — going to SDB this year? It’s at UW-Seattle. Dinner is on me, and I won’t compare you to the Apostle Paul this time. PZ knows the reference: a nice bar in Morris, he wouldn’t drink anything alcoholic (unlike me), some time in 2004 I think. I told him at the end of the evening that he was a charming pussycat in person, unlike the Dread Slayer who writes this blog. Compared him to St Paul, who was said to be easygoing in person, etc., and PZ said “No! Anyone but Paul…”

  22. 22
    Al Dente

    paulnelson @21

    Some day PZ will let this joke die.

    So you were just joking when you made up that “Ontogenetic Depth” nonsense. I suggest the next time you try to tell a joke, make it funny ha-ha, not funny peculiar.

  23. 23
    David Chapman

    Are there no Depths to which these fuckers will not sink?? :)

  24. 24
    qwerty

    Looking forward to the 11th anniversary of Paul Nelson day. I assume nothing will change within the next year.

  25. 25
    zenlike

    I think it’s important to keep this alive: it shows those creationist idiots for what they truly are: liars and bullshitters who don’t know what they are are talking about, and when they are really drummed into corner about one of their lies they just move on to the next line of bullshit.

  26. 26
    cubist

    sez PZ: “As for me, I have a cadre of strippers and a marching band here in my office, have dismantled all of the local churches to get the raw materials for a gigantic bonfire in the parking lot outside, and plan to have a picnic on the moon this afternoon to celebrate. I promise. I’ll post pictures to prove it…tomorrow. Pinky swear!”
    PZ has, here, provided an excellent example of the most appropriate way to celebrate Paul Nelson Day: Make unsupportable, grandiose claims, and swear that the actual, like, support for said claims will be coming up any day now. Any. Day. Now.

  27. 27
    zenlike

    And I see Paul Nelson is still liar, from his bullshit article:

    Three key points:

    (1) A hundred and fifty years after the Origin of Species, the evolutionary pathways from unicellular eukaryotes to any of the animal body plans remain entirely unknown.

    Bullshit.

    (2) These missing pathways are often blamed on the absence of “transitional” fossils.

    By idiots like Nelson.

    (3) The necessary evolutionary pathways will remain hidden as long as one seeks to explain their origin via undirected processes.

    Bullshit.

    Nelson, you are still an idiot, even though you abandoned ontological depth.

    This celebrationary day is still much needed I see.

  28. 28
    raven

    Some day PZ will let this joke die.

    Oh Paul, you don’t understand.

    As creatures from beyond space and time, formed by random processes in a cold (literally it is 3 degrees K), dark universe, we have nothing else to live for.

    Hmmm, well not much anyway. I have to finish work, go home, feed the cat, stare at my taxes some more, and read my latest book.

  29. 29
    raven

    Some day PZ will let this joke die.

    Oh Paul, you don’t understand.

    As creatures from beyond space and time, formed by random processes in a cold (literally it is 3 degrees K), dark universe, we have nothing else to live for.

    Hmmm, well not much anyway. I have to finish work, go home, feed the cats, stare at my taxes some more, and read my latest book.

  30. 30
    Doc Bill

    Comments are still closed over at Evo Lies and Whines.

    What has Paul Nelson been doing in the past 10 years, a decade by my reckoning?

    Fuck all.

    Same for all the IDiots. All Nelson can splutter is to plug Meyer’s pile of dreck but at least Meyer wrote a book of dreck, unlike Nelson who did precisely fuck all.

  31. 31
    woozy

    Well, I can’t say much about his science whether in quotes or not but for an anti-evolution IDiot Paul Nelson seems to have a decent sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. That’s something. Maybe not enough but it’s a not lot most humorless creationists have.

    I think it’s important to keep this alive: it shows those creationist idiots for what they truly are: liars and bullshitters who don’t know what they are are talking about, and when they are really drummed into corner about one of their lies they just move on to the next line of bullshit.

    Perhaps. But when one challenge (when are you gonna show us how to measure ontogenetic depth) is over we should place our objections in terms of the *current* issue (“‘Target problem’? How is that different than your failure at ‘ontegenetic depth’? Ten years in and you are still saying the same stuff? I predict in a year you’ll still say the same stuff and still have nothing’”) It’s a bit misleading to say “10 years and waiting for the metric” when the metric argument is over and given up upon (you *won*) three years ago. It’s okay to dump on a guy but dump currently. After all *we* keep up, don’t we?

    So, this target problem…. Kinda looks to this outsider as still the same old ontogenetic depth argument to me. So this year he calls it “target problem”; what do you predict he will call it next year?

    (See? We can *still* celebrate Paul Nelson day *and* acknowledge we won the first argument three years ago.)

  32. 32
    johnharshman

    Quick. Somebody ask Paul Nelson what his solution is to the “target problem”. Of course we know the answer: C. elegans and every other species was created ex nihilo, in its present form, about 6000 years ago. No need for a pathway at all. And this is a better solution to the problem than anything involving evolution or deep time.

    Someone should also ask him why he likes Darwin’s Doubt so much since he presumably thinks everything it says about the Cambrian explosion is illusory; all those fossils are just created animals that died in the flood, along with the fossils of all those other supposed periods.

  33. 33
    mothra

    @Paul Nelson- from your article as quoted by #27zenlike.

    “The necessary evolutionary pathways will remain hidden as long as one seeks to explain their origin via undirected processes.”

    You mean: “The necessary evolutionary pathways will be revealed[!] when we seek to explain their orginis via directed processes? How can ID claim to be scientific when depending on revealed knowledge?

    (goes off capering and laughing)

  34. 34
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    How can ID claim to be scientific when depending on revealed knowledge?

    Yep, in order for IDiots to be right, they must first provide conclusive physical evidence for their imaginary deity, outside of their unscientific theory. That is the only way it can be shown to be scientific. Of course, the required evidence is physical evidence that would pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine, and not natural (scientifically explained), origin. Something equivalent to the eternally burning bush, which has been MIA for eons….

  35. 35
    zenlike

    I’m seconding woozy: Nelson plugging a book which totally contradict his beliefs in an earth created 6000 years ago from nothingness. Hey, as long as goddidit, it doesn’t matter, right?

  36. 36
    David Chapman

    19
    woozy

    Um, isn’t that being a poor winner? I mean for the first year or so, sure. but for three years? Surely we’ve had more important victories in three years.

    Have a look at the drivel Nelson is recommending to our attention on the ‘Evolution News & Views’ (sic) website, and see if you think he’s learned his lesson yet.

  37. 37
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Have a look at the drivel Nelson is recommending to our attention on the ‘Evolution News & Views’ (sic) website, and see if you think he’s learned his lesson yet.

    Nelson can’t learn, as learning requires him to shut off his “goddidit” response. Like any intelligent person did back, like myself, when they first learned about the physical evidence for evolution, and the lack of physical evidence for his imaginary deity….

  38. 38
    johnharshman

    #35 zenlike: That wasn’t woozy.

  39. 39
    markjoseph125

    #21 Paul Nelson:
    I looked at your post; it is nothing more than “god of the gaps”. Four hundred years ago you would have said the same thing about the circulation of the blood, or the nature of lightning.

    Were you going to present scientific evidence that your own particular interpretation of your own particular religion is true and accurate? Or merely complain about what science has done, is doing, and will do?

  40. 40
    Kevin Anthoney

    #30

    Comments are still closed over at Evo Lies and Whines.

    To be fair, Nelson didn’t say they were open. He said they were going to be open, “later this week”.

    HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

  41. 41
    Anri

    paulnelson @ 21:

    Creationism is a joke – but if you want it to die you should stop telling it.

    (Wait – let me guess, you’ll stop telling it real soon, just any day now! Right?)

  42. 42
    firstapproximation

    Paul Nelson,

    Some day PZ will let this joke die.

    How about PZ let’s this joke die the day Intelligent Design Creationism makes a positive contribution to biology?

  43. 43
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Some day PZ will let this joke die.

    There’s one way to ensure that it does…

    So uh Dr. Nelson, how exactly do you calculate Ontogenetic Depth?

  44. 44
    zenlike

    My apologies, johnharshman.

  45. 45
    Louis

    Ah I see it is time for my annual Paul Nelson Day Joke:

    “Is it Merry Paul Nelson Day? Or Happy Paul Nelson Day? I can never remember.”

    Thank you.

    Louis

    P.S. This post contained precisely as much information as the concept of “ontogenetic depth”. Except with only marginally less whinging, hand waving and special pleading.

  46. 46
    cubist

    Let us not forget that Paul Nelson is one of the five persons credited as ‘author’ of the ID textbook Explore Evolution, a book which consists entirely of lies (mostly of the “of omission” kind, but there’s a few lies of commission in there as well) and/or pre-refuted Creationist bullshit. The link in the sentence just previous is to an online forum which thoroughly dismantled Explore Evolution, most brutally by showing that every point it raised could be found in the Index to Creationist Claims.

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