A Coulter fan bloviates!


I knew someone would eventually be brave enough to try and support Coulter’s “science” in Godless…wouldn’t you know, though, that it would be a columnist on the disturbingly unhinged RenewAmerica site, Wes Vernon, the fellow whose disturbingly asymmetric visage you see here. It doesn’t quite do the job, I’m afraid.

About a third of the book deals with well-researched material that punches many holes in the theory of evolution, or Darwinism. But do the liberal media mention any of that? No way.

This is a good point, actually. The media has dealt with the outrageous factual errors in her book very poorly, preferring the “She said WHAT?” school of criticism (although I must admit the media’s attempt to portray her as a pirate is quite fetching). Unfortunately for Wes, though, she doesn’t punch any holes in the theory of evolution—her work consists mainly of poor to nonexistent scholarship as she flails about misrepresenting the science.

Mr Vernon distills her argument against evolution down to three points…rather arbitrarily, I thought, but hey, it’s his column.

1. The entire fossil record shows a very non-Darwinian progression, noticeably lacking the vast number of transitional species we ought to see.

This is not true; if there is a violation of the expected kinds of transitions in history, perhaps Mr Vernon would be so kind as to show me his Cambrian rabbit? We predict that many transitional forms should be lacking, yet we do have many examples of gradations in fossil forms. That Ann Coulter says there aren’t any doesn’t make it true, what it does is make Ann Coulter a liar.

2. The truth about Haeckel’s embryos is that they were a fraud perpetrated by a German eugenicist.

Poor Ernst Haeckel. All he is now is a scapegoat used by creationists.

Haeckel was actually a legitimate and influential embryologist who did a lot of good and interesting work. He did take some shortcuts in printing some of his results, for which he was rightly castigated; he was guilty of an excess of zeal in supporting his idea of a biogenetic law, which has since been discarded; he wrote popular science books that influenced a generation of Germans in the first half of the 20th century, and we all know where that led (although the link from Haeckel to Hitler is tenuous); and he shared in common 19th century racial prejudices.

However, those aren’t “his” embryos. The observation of the similarities in vertebrate embryos was first made by von Baer in the 1830s, who saw in them a property of development from the general to the specific that he used to argue against ideas linking lineages. The observations are valid—they’re backed up accurately and honestly by textbooks, and my developmental biology students will be doing a comparison of embryos in the fall that will also support the similarities—but Haeckel’s interpretation of the observations as indicative of a pattern of progression has been discarded.

Coulter merely stole her story straight from the grossly erroneous book by Jonathan Wells, and now Mr Vernon, who probably has never seen an embryo in his life, has credulously accepted her third-hand interpretation.

3. One by one, so-called “proof” of evolution has melted under honest scrutiny.

Ummm, no.

As I documented at some length, evolutionary biology is a thriving discipline with an increasing volume of support. Coulter dismisses it all because it is done by “women” and “biologists”, but then, I think it’s fair to dismiss her book because she’s an “idiot” and “fraud”. Vernon again simply takes her baseless accusations as valid…they aren’t.

Mr Vernon claims his misrepresentations and delusions are “facts that schoolchildren should be taught.” That’s exactly the problem, though: that the creationist camp thinks the rhetoric of loud poseurs ignorant of biology, like Ann Coulter, constitute “facts,” while the serious research of thousands of biologists, of which they have no knowledge, is not only a matter of mere opinion, but is false. It’s not just backwards, it’s insanely backwards.


  1. pough says

    About a third of the book deals with well-researched material that punches many holes in the theory of evolution, or Darwinism. But do the liberal media mention any of that? No way.

    What the hell is the “liberal media”? If it includes the top two ranked science blogs, then he’s just plain wrong on this. The third of her book that attempts to deal with “well-researched material that punches many holes in the theory of evolution” HAS been mentioned. Just because his head is up his ass and he can’t see anything, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be seen.

  2. says

    I feel doubly insulted since I fall into both groups. I also find Ms. Coulter’s comment a little odd, since it implies that being female means you’re disqualified doing anything that should be considered seriously. If Ann Coulter is female, wouldn’t that rule out her comments, or is does this mean that she doesn’t consider herself to be a woman?

    It’s funny, but that “women” and “biologists” comment is reminiscient of a famous comment James Watson made when he was head of NHGRI. Maybe Ann Coulter is really Jim Watson in drag.

  3. The_Savanna_King says

    If Coulter dismisses the study of evolution because it is done by women, does that mean she thinks we should also dismiss her thoughts because she is, debatably, a woman? Or is she okay to listen to since she got her information from them smart men at DI?

  4. idlemind says

    A similar phenomenon: you might have noticed that many of the women who spend their time promoting the idea of “traditional” stay-at-home motherhood are themselves spending their time promoting the idea of “traditional” stay-at-home motherhood instead of being stay-at-home mothers themselves.

  5. George says

    Counter-Coulter book title ideas:

    God-Intoxicated: The UtraMegaSuperDuper Church of Conservatism, or Where is Sinclair Lewis When You Need Him?

    Bloviating Know-it-Alls: How Almost Anyone with a Web Site and Some Free Time Can Attract Attention by Attacking Evolution.

    Darwinian Smackdown: They Rassled with Darwin’s Ideas and Lost.

    Life in the Remainder Pile: I Attracted a Lot of Attention by Committing to Paper All of the Anti-Science Detritus in My Head, Now My Book Sells for 99 cents at Barnes and Noble.

  6. MYOB says

    Why not just call Wes Vernon a liar and be done with it?
    I find that calling them liars openly draws more attention to the details and forces them out than playing it nice and keeping the insinuation going that they might in fact be right. If they see themselves called liars they will probably respond and keep the controversy going. They will probably think about lawsuits and that means decising if they want to have the evidence presented in court. Something they will not want to do.

    So just call them liars rather than play nice. It’s about time hardball got played around the world on this subject and the likes of this idiot and Coulter get slammed around for a change.


  7. wildlifer says

    Coulter writes, “It is impossible to understand Hitler’s monstrous views apart from his belief in natural selection applied to races. He believed Darwin’s theory of natural selection showed that ‘science’ justified extermination of the Jews.”

    What fucking part of genocide is “artificial selection” doesn’t that ignorant waste of space understand?

  8. Canuckistani says

    Oh my god! Wes Vernon is Max Zorin! It’s obvious that he’s scheming to undermine the quality of science instruction in American schools so that he can take over the microchip market.

  9. says

    Haeckel’s influence is even bigger than you state. In the 19th century, not many people spoke English, but everyone deemed educated in Europe at the time spoke German. Thus, Haeckel’s books spread evolution through Europe (and Russia, etc.) before Darwin was translated into other languages. I have a 1875 first edition of Haeckel’s “History of Creation” translation into Serbian. It took another ten years or so for a book by T.H.Huxley to be translated and some more years before Darwin himself was tranlated. In the meantime, Haeckel’e translation was used as a biology TEXTBOOK in Serbian high schools.

  10. BlueIndependent says

    The only book you need is this:

    Darwin Award Nominees 2006 Edition

    The contents of its pages would be as follows:

    Foreword: an outlining of all the scientific observations that were railed against throughout history, and later proved to be irrefutably correct (earth is round, sun is center of galaxy, etc. et al, ad infinitum)

    A single chapter: This would be a listing of the names of all science’s doubters and accusers (along with their title), both past and present


    Le Fin

  11. BlueIndependent says

    OK…disregard my comment about the sun being the center of the galaxy…I OF COURSE meant “solar system”…

  12. says

    It’s not just backwards, it’s insanely backwards.

    I can’t help but wonder if that’s part of the reason these anti-science beliefs have so much traction. If you tell a small lie, or an easily falsified one, people very well might not believe you. Tell a lie that’s big enough, about a complex topic people don’t understand very well in the first place, and they might be more inclined to go along.

  13. BlueIndependent says

    A lot of it has to do with lie telling, but one of the more overriding modes that generate the lies is the self-absorbed “trend-bucking” that neocons loves to impose on their image. They talk about their crap (anti-science, pro-preemptive war, flat taxes, comprehensive reform, etc.) like it’s all trend-bucking cool stuff that everyone’s buying into.

    Obviously it’s all the old-hat mental manifestations of monarchies and dictatorships, but they enjoy selling it like it’s some new thing they drummed up that nobody had ever figured out before.

    Consequently, they want to rewrite every line in every history book to be what they see it as, not as it truly is or was. That’s why human subjectivity is such a viral, acidic catalyst for evil when used irresponsibly and incorrectly. They want a subjective world, because their collective id is their opiate, and they can’t shut it off. It’s their form of crystal meth.

  14. xebecs says

    self-absorbed “trend-bucking”

    You mean like the constant claim to be “not politically correct” as they recite rhetoric that would have gotten them a nice pat on the head from the Inquisition?

  15. says

    More possible counter-Coulter titles:

    OOGITY-BOOGITY! Fear Tactics of the Ultra Right

    SUCKERS: How the Ultra Right Maintains its Voting Base While Laughing All The Way to the Bank

    MANIPULATIVE B****ES (OF BOTH GENDERS): Lying With Flair and Style… and Getting Away With It

    ALLAH-LESS: Why America is the Great Satan, with its teachings of evolution and other secularisms; allowing equal rights for women and other “freedoms”…

  16. BB-Idaho says

    Let’s see..Wes Vernon falls somewhere between homo habilis
    and homo ergaster in cranial size. A. Coulter is clearly descended from the rat branch of the rodent line. While
    they may communicate against evolution, their existance
    proclaims its proof.

  17. beervolcano says

    I like this bit the best.

    Hitler’s own opposition to abortion, as Weikart explains, was not based on the tenets of Judeo-Christian morality, “but rather was a complete repudiation of them.”

    Opposition to abortion is never based on any tenets of Judeo-Christian morality. At least not as spelled out in the Bible. But don’t let that stop them from distancing themselves from Hitler for sharing one of their opinions on life. Anyway, I thought it was funny.

  18. HP says

    You know, considering that American conservatives in the late 1930s were at best nativists and isolationists, and at worst actively supported Hitler and Mussolini (cf. the German-American Bund, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, et al), I think there should be an active moratorium against conservatives being allowed to use Hitler as an example of anything other than Conservatism’s incredible history of short-sightedness and poor judgement.

  19. says

    I’m re-reading Coulter’s bile at this point. I love this line: “As I undestand the concept behind survival of the fittest, the appendix doesn’t do much for the theory of evolution, either.” Well, she has a point there–an idiotic one, but a point, because (as I assume that she means Natural Selection) she doesn’t understand it. And that’s the crux of her problem. Let’s face it, lots of people don’t understand Natural Selection, and it’s difficult for me to not go sliding back into Lamarckist thinking every once in a while, but for her to assert that the disadvantages of having an appendix “disproves” evolution is just plain stupid. (Evidence doesn’t “prove” evolution anyway, evolutionary theory describes the evidence.) I was not aware that having an appendix that can burst at any time made one sterile. “Fittest,” bah. All one needs to do is reproduce oneself before the appendicitis hits.

    “Well-researched material?” Bwa-ha! She obviously culled her material from secondary creationist sources without checking the primary ones. But who wants to read about eukaryotic biochemical properties or protein translocation when one can just cry, “Evolution is a state religion! A state religion!”

  20. Grumpy says

    …disturbingly asymmetric visage…

    Weren’t you the guy who warned commenters to steer clear of remarks about Ann Coulter’s appearance, saying it wasn’t pertinent to her lousy arguments?

  21. James R says

    Mr. Vernon
    Your proctologist called. He says he’s found your head.

    WES says
    …Obviously, she has done considerable careful and time-consuming research. Much of the book, especially the evolution part of it, is — as Rush Limbaugh has noted — “an intellectual feast,” albeit sprinkled with her signature penchant for the facetious wisecrack, e.g. “If you want something that complicates a belief in God, try coming to terms with Michael Moore being one of God’s special creatures.”

    A veritable feast and they didn’t invite any of us to dinner? Dicks.

    And to think these are people who will infect a goodly portion of their sheep. I just don’t get it. They are either stupid to the extreme or just plain lazy. Maybe both. How can anyone consider this drivel to be well researched?

  22. Caledonian says

    Weren’t you the guy who warned commenters to steer clear of remarks about Ann Coulter’s appearance, saying it wasn’t pertinent to her lousy arguments?

    Yes, yes he was.

    Never expect human beings to be fair, reasonable, or consistent when their own sacred cows are involved.

  23. stevie_nyc says

    Yeah well researched. Like how George Bush is a compassionate conservative.

    The same people who think Rush is an upstanding guy. Just ignore the blue pills
    and young prostitutes in the dominican republic.

  24. thwaite says

    As Kristine (above) mused, Coulter’s assertions on the appendix miss some nuances. Let’s get explicit, just in case Coulter or Vernon grace this page.
    The appendix is:
    * not so good for natural selection, though it’s mostly just dead-weight. It definitely serves well for those whose spleen isn’t functioning (as a backup part of the immune system), though such folk are rare enough that this isn’t likely an evolutionarily significant function. The total lack of appendix function in humans isn’t certain; and the spleen and pineal gland were also thought functionless until pretty recently.
    * also not so good for intelligent design (heh)
    * wonderful evidence of evolution via common descent. The appendix in other mammals does wonders for their cellulose digestion. Since the human appendix is so diminished (as are other primates’ to varying degrees) and yet so similar, we can strongly infer that the human appendix is an evolutionary vestige, regardless of what minor functionality it still retains.

    But none of this is such ringing rhetoric as Coulter’s.

  25. says

    Well, you know I had to look up “protein translocation” right? That raises another point.

    I start out with the assumption that I’m ignorant (which I am), and must do some reading on the subject (largely general science reading for my poor brain). For some reason I enjoy learning rather than pretending that I already know what I’m talking about. Yet it seems that Coulter and pundits like her appeal to a strain in American thinking which assures people that they are already experts and need only apply “common sense” to the question. If only we had regular shows on evolution like those home-repair or gardening shows–then do-it-yourselfers wouldn’t fall prey to people like her, and I wouldn’t have to check out PBS videotapes from the library which are always missing several parts.

  26. Azkyroth says

    And to think these are people who will infect a goodly portion of their sheep.

    What’s surprising about that? It’s not like we can expect them to use condoms since they’re largely opposed to them even when they’re screwing humans, whom they can actually impregnate. Ah, well, maybe they’ll catch scrapie

    Weren’t you the guy who warned commenters to steer clear of remarks about Ann Coulter’s appearance, saying it wasn’t pertinent to her lousy arguments?

    Yes, yes he was.

    Never expect human beings to be fair, reasonable, or consistent when their own sacred cows are involved.

    “Sacred cows,” huh? [Insert predictable potshot at Christian Conservative females notable for displaying a lack of intelligence, the belief that females of their species are primarily for breeding and family rearing, and pronounced herd behavior (*cough*Coulter*cough*) here]

  27. older and better says

    BB-Idaho — nonono!! Rats are actually nice little folks! Not like Ms. Coulter, who is big, and not nice.

  28. says

    Sandra Porter wrote:

    If Ann Coulter is female, wouldn’t that rule out her comments, or is does this mean that she doesn’t consider herself to be a woman?

    It could mean that she’s really an androgen insensitive male. It’s certainly possible: she has no children, we don’t know for a fact that she menstruates, and her features are distinctly “mannish”…

    Not that any of that should matter to us godless libruls, but if it were true, it would make her an object of disgust to her current fanbase, and I just think that’s funny. :-)

  29. richCares says

    Ann Coulter
    her science chapters appear to be good examples of plagiarism, they are very similar to the writings of a failed high school student’s science papers. Her science chapters are much too similar to the high school student that flunked.

    It is very difficult for me to accept that she or her readers are that stupid.

  30. Torbjörn Larsson says

    “”…disturbingly asymmetric visage…”

    Weren’t you the guy who warned commenters to steer clear of remarks about Ann Coulter’s appearance, saying it wasn’t pertinent to her lousy arguments?”

    I agree on the principle. But PZ has an out – symmetry is a predictor for fitness and sexual selection. He could say that he gave a professional opinion. :-)

  31. thwaite says

    Kristine, your posts are spot on.

    Are the PBS videotapes missing due to being checked out, or stolen? I’d like to think David Attenborough (for example) is popular enough for either fate. Then again, reading the Amazon reviews for him, several of which give him low scores for including ‘too much evolution’, suggests other motives such as malicious theft.

    It’s remarkable how rare general-science writers and video producers are, and also the credentialing programs for them. Even here in the SF Bay Area, I’ve been challenged to supply specific recommendations for interested students (UC Santa Cruz at ucsc.edu has the program I usually resort to). Of course for writing it’s also ‘practice, practice’ – hard work – and also necessary to find and read great role models like PZ and several of the other blogs among the list from Nature he recently discussed.

    Starting with an assumption of one’s own ignorance is always prudent and often productive. And accurate for everyone in most areas, despite the prevalent presumptions that ‘common sense’ will suffice. (Wasn’t that presumption definitive of ‘mass man’ for Ortega y Gasset?)

  32. mister c says

    The problem with the BIG LIE is in the way it’s used. The wingnuts will utter a ridiculous statement which is 99% lie and 1% truth. They can then point to the insignifigant non-sequiter 1% and say, “See, we told you we weren’t lying to you. After all, this is true!!” The government has been doing this for the last 5 1/2 years to great success(for them, not us).

  33. Paul Hands says

    I thought I’d see just how obtuse the bloviator is. No matter what factual discussion you enter into, you just get stuff like this….

    “Dear Paul,
    There is sufficient(and sufficiently obvious)biological data to dismiss evolution without any hesitancy or without any shadow of a doubt.I tried my best to provide you with that information.I would like to try and stimulate you to think of reasons why chromosome numbers of karyotypes might be so totally contradictory to evolutionary phylogenies.And to try and figure out how karyotypes could ever have evolved when the mechanisms of meiosis are so effectively designed to prevent evolution of karyotype.
    And to explain how karyotypes could have evolved while integrated chromosome functions require inheritance of complete and original karyotypes.
    I have no wish to stifle thought. I am calling for evolutionists to think through these problems which they can no longer afford to ignore.
    The fact remains that the Genesis account of the origin of species(which is ascribed to Moses as the representative of God)does not contradict mechanisms of inheritance whereas evolution totally contradicts these mechanisms.

    No facts, no evidence, just dismissal and bald assertion that genesis is the answer. I’m not sure it’s worth trying to reason with closed minds.