I get mail

I still get lots of plain old US Mail — it’s almost always from a crank or religious apologists, so it’s kind of entertaining. I’m not a big fan of certified mail, though. That usually means someone is going to bluster and threaten to sue me for something. I got some yesterday.

To provide a little context, I pointed out in 2008 that the latest stuff published at a meeting by Richard H. Lambertsen represented a serious decline in quality from the previous work of this rather well-known cetologist. He did not take it well. Lambertsen wrote me an email in which he suggested that I need to read some of his papers to appreciate the depth of his thinking.

I did. This was my reply then, in 2011.

In particular, they don’t explain how the evolution of the craniomandibular articulation in baleen whales was the enabling mutation that permitted the occurrence of free will, what this has to do with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, the significance of the death of the largest blue whale known on 20 March 1947, and how you tie all these disparate observations into the conclusion that humanity is about to undergo a speciation event. I looked in particular in the paper on lunge feeding for evidence that George W. Bush stole your driver’s license, as you claimed in your paper, to no avail.

Long silence.

He has now written to me again, by certified mail. I’ve scribbled on it a bit, I hope you don’t mind.


Given the pace of his responses, I don’t think I’ll hear from him again until about 2019, and I expect either a telegram or possibly an attempt to communicate by Morse code.


  1. asbizar says

    From following his lines of thoughts, he is clearly suffering from thought disorders, a clear sign of schizophrenia

  2. HappyHead says

    @Marcus #3:
    Let’s hope not, as Oglaf (safe-ish comic, but NSFW site) has shown, you should never mess with someone who can do interpretive dance.

    This guy reminds me of the early stages of one of the students I had back when I was teaching. He filed a 183 page appeal of his F- (3% final grade, class average including him was 74% that year), insisting that he deserved an A+ instead, because Cyberterrorists Who Have His Password kept stealing and/or vandalizing his car. 183 pages of that, phrased as many different ways as he could think of. Also sent to the University via registered mail, despite him living only one block away from the campus.

  3. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    Well… shit. I thought I was slow to respond to people.

  4. frog says

    On the one hand, people who harangue you with foolishness should be discouraged from doing so.

    On the other hand, I always worry about mocking people who seem so entirely disconnected from reality. Like, what is the mechanism in their brain that is causing this gibberish. Are they simply ignorant? Is there an internal logic that would make sense if we were to accept some set of (ludicrous) premises as true? Or are their neurons misfiring in some way?

    This bugs me particularly when it’s someone who was known for being a decent thinker at some time in the past. How much of this is something that was always there but perhaps they hid it better, and how much might be the result of later damage?

  5. leerudolph says


    I’m not sure how seriously you intend your attribution of schizophrenia to be (and because I’m not sure, I’m certainly not imputing any wrong behavior to you).

    Be that as it may, Lambertsen’s own reference (as quoted in PZ’s 2011 post) to “aged individuals suffering the effects of senescence” suggests another attribution (and one that would be more than sufficient to explain the bizarre behavior), namely, “senile” dementia (although he’s only about 60 now, yet has been apparently writing bizarre things for quite a few years).

    [Note: I’m using the word “attribution” instead of “diagnosis” precisely because I’m not qualified to “diagnose” anything in anyone, and particularly not on the scanty basis of writings, no matter how bizarre; but I can damned well “attribute” anything to anyone, with much less of a burden of proof!]

  6. leerudolph says

    Following up to myself: a small amount of Google searching turned up this news article from 2002 which appears to be about the man in question. Whoever the Richard H. Lambertsen in the article may be, his own attorney at that time “said her client has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.” So asbizar, you are very likely right.

    My search was not for any evidence of madness, I was just trying to find out how old he was, what his current academic affiliations—if any—were, etc. The cited article was the first hit, but I didn’t read it first because it seemed from the sampled first paragraph to be about someone else of that name; instead I went to hit 2, the LinkedIn profile, from which I calculated the age. That’s where I noted the Florida connection. Then I posted my previous comment before going back to the first hit, cited above. Honestly, I was not trying any doxxing. I do feel somewhat as if I’ve gone over the line, however.

  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Here I am, worrying whether I should go see a shrink or not, when I can obviously be diagnosed by some internet doctor after they read 10 of my sentences.


  8. Big Boppa says

    I’m not a scientist so can someone please explain one thing that’s confusing me?

    I went to the link and read the original 2008 post on ScienceBlogs. Most of it made sense to me but I can’t figure out why his apparent lack of a grasp of reality hasn’t made him a front runner in the Republican presidential polls. He almost makes Ben Carson sound sane.

  9. says

    Beatrice @12,
    Agreed. Even though it turns out he actually does suffer from Schizophrenia, I really do wish people would stop leaping to diagnose strangers. It’s not just cruel and unreliable, it’s a particularly cheap way of arguing ad hominem.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    While repeated insistence to do the math is not a question, I think you actually missed something important.

    He was asking why you prohibited him from commenting on the ScienceBlogs site: he appears not to know that comments on old posts are routinely (though, admittedly, not always) closed automatically by software to any commenters. He appears to think that

    1) you control sciblogs
    2) you monitor all people browsing on sciblogs/pharyngula
    3) you used your knowledge of his identity to block him, specifically, from adding a comment
    4) he had no recourse but to deadtree-mail.

    Ugh. Ordinarily I have little patience for internet diagnostics, but in this case davidnangle has it exactly right: this is sad.

  11. grasshopper says

    Comments #3 & #15 bring to mind some imagery from Cool Hand Luke, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout.

    “As for the story itself, it was entitled “The Dancing Fool.” Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure to communicate. Here was the plot: A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing. Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golfclub.”

    ― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

  12. Lady Mondegreen says

    Agreed. Even though it turns out he actually does suffer from Schizophrenia, I really do wish people would stop leaping to diagnose strangers. It’s not just cruel and unreliable, it’s a particularly cheap way of arguing ad hominem.

    On the contrary, it was neither cruel nor a cheap ad hominem; it was an expression of concern.

    And, yes, like it or not, there are patterns of thought that are clearly suggestive of schizophrenia. Noticing that is not bad or presumptuous. Saying “he sounds schizophrenic” is not saying, “I am officially diagnosing this person over the internet.” Nor is it saying, “haha, crazy person.”

    Lady Mondegreen
    Officially Diagnosed Crazy Mentally Ill Person.

  13. rrhain says

    @5, HappyHead

    That is one of my favorite Oglaf cartoons from the timing of it. A long time ago, my friends and I were playing D&D campaign. Version 3 had come out and I decided to play a bard. Due to scheduling conflicts in my life, I didn’t have much time to get together with the group so they would play him for me when I wasn’t there.

    Skip to today. We’re playing Pathfinder and I thought, “Ya know…I wouldn’t mind resurrecting my bard and see if I can play him for myself this time.” Pathfinder is based on D&D, but has many variations. For example, the bard gets benefits for having put so many skill points in Perform: You can substitute your Perform skill for various other skills. For example, Perform, Oratory can substitute for Diplomacy and Sense Motive.

    Perform, Dance can substitute for Acrobatics and Fly, so I’m putting points in there. And, of course, you use your Perform skill to cast your Bardic Performance, including Inspire Courage which has a range of perception: As long as they can see you, they’re inspired.

    And just as I do this, Oglaf comes out with that strip.

    Never mess with the bard.

  14. zetopan says

    “From following his lines of thoughts, he is clearly suffering from thought disorders, a clear sign of schizophrenia”
    What about a brain tumor? Drugs? There are other possibilities, one should not rush to judgment.

  15. Rich Woods says

    and I expect either a telegram or possibly an attempt to communicate by Morse code.

    If I were you, I’d brush up on Napoleonic semaphore code. And build a semaphore tower in the back yard.

  16. says

    If this is the same person referenced by leerudolph @9 then this post should be taken down (in our opinion).

    This is not like making fun of creationist stupidity. Rather this may genuinely be the product of diagnosed mental illness if the reference @9 is correct. In which case what exactly is the point of this post and how is it helpful for the person in question?

    The idea that it’s about concern (ala Lady Mondegreen @19) doesn’t ring true. When folks are genuinely concerned they take steps to help the person like contacting family or friends to make sure they are well cared for. Or if there are signs they may be a danger to themselves or others it may be necessary to contact emergency services.

    What’s generally not helpful is to publish the person’s communications and blog about it. And have others show up to comment on how schizo it makes them appear. That just doesn’t seem to serve any purpose that has any relation to genuine concern. It seems more like making fun of a person with mental illness regardless of whether that was the intent or not.

    Not cool at all.

    Hoping Professor Myers reconsiders whether this post is appropriate given the circumstances.

  17. leerudolph says

    Plethora @ 23: “The idea that it’s about concern (ala Lady Mondegreen @19) doesn’t ring true.”

    I read Lady Mondegreen as attributing “concern” to asbizar@4 (who introduced the word “schizophrenia” to the discussion), not to PZ.

  18. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    That’s weird. I can only assume that he’s not really trying to argue with you, but to get some attention and publicity? In which case you are obliging, I guess.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    The old Swedish semaphore system/optical telegraph used a different system from the French. To avoid confusion, maybe you should ask him to simply use Ogham script.

  20. says

    His claim to be a whale expert is a bit dodgy as well. He spent the 1980s claiming that baleen whales are short lived in order to oppose the imposition of a moratorium on commercial whaling. Anyone with any serious knowledge of whales already knew that was nonsense on stilts, because it’s really easy to estimate the age at death of a baleen whale specimen. Their otoliths have annual growth rings, like a tree. You section the otolith and count the rings… and the fact is that the baleen whales live for a very long time.