In my previous post about Paul Nelson’s weirdly ignorant view of nematode evolution, Kevin Anthoney made a prescient comment:
Remember that Nelson’s got this bizarre linear view of evolution which starts with a single cell creature, which evolves into a creature with a few cells, which evolves into one with a few more cells, and so on until you reach the 1031 cells in the nematode today. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Nelson thought that the creature at the 150 cell stage in this process had to be like a modern nematode at the 150 cell stage of development.
The Discovery Institute has responded. I got as far as the massive projection in the following paragraph before giving up.
We can also write off Africa and Asia. After all, the Americas and Australia were colonized by all those Old World people, so there’s hardly anybody left behind, and we in the New World are now the future of humanity.
That’s how it works, right? Human beings are like locusts: we strip our homes to bedrock, then take wing and flit off to the next environment to exploit. At least, that’s the impression I get from Stephen Hawking, all-around smart guy and obsolete resident of the dead old homelands.
It’s a fascinating example of motivated reasoning. Bill Maher has been raked over the coals on his irrational, anti-scientific attitude towards vaccines; his own guests have scorned his views on his own show; he’s been confronted repeatedly with the evidence and the rebuttals. He’s got to know by now that there is no rational justification for claiming that vaccines or thimerosal cause autism, or that the drug companies are profiting hugely by including poisons in their vaccines (which makes no sense, even if you do believe in greedy pharmaceutical mega-corporations).
So what does he do? He invites anti-vax crank extraordinaire, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to sit around and commiserate with one another about how they’re called cranks and liars for merely denying the scientific consensus.
The latest fatuous obsession by Paul Nelson, Philosopher of Biology at the Discovery Institute, is a real corker. He has decided that nematodes could not possibly have evolved, because scientists (real ones, not creationist pseudoscientists) have produced an extremely detailed literature documenting their development; because Brenner, Horvitz, and Sulston (no creationists among them) won the Nobel Prize for their work describing the cell lineages to produce the worm; and because he doesn’t understand developmental biology at all. I’ve got palm impressions in my forehead from smacking myself so many times while watching this terrible little video.
This is why Paul Nelson is laughed at by developmental biologists. He cannot be taken seriously. I figured, though, that if you’re not already familiar with concepts and details of development, you might find him credible — he’s so pompously earnest! — so I thought I’d explain all the ways he goes wrong.