It’s Paul Nelson Day, again


Solemn greetings, all. Today, as the more reverent among you know, is Paul Nelson Day. Today is the 12th annual feast day of St Nelson, patron saint of obtusity and procrastination, and we honor his contributions to science by…well, by not doing much of anything at all. You could make grandiose claims today and promise to make good on them tomorrow, a tomorrow that stretches out into a decade or more, I suppose, but that’s too much work. Instead, maybe we should all just shrug and say we’ll think about celebrating later.

Oh, jeez, shrugging? I don’t have time for that. How about if we don’t and just say we did.

I also thought about suggesting waffles as the perfect food for this day, but nah, I’d have to cook them, or go to a restaurant. I’m just going to say “waffles!” and put it off to some other day.

Anyway, if you don’t know the story, Paul Nelson is a creationist who attended the Society for Developmental Biology meetings in 2004, with a poster in which he claimed to have developed this new evo-devoish parameter, Ontogenetic Depth, that supposedly measured the difficulty of developmental complexity to evolve. I quizzed him on it, and specifically asked him to explain how I could measure it in my zebrafish, for example, and he couldn’t tell me, even though he seemed to be saying that he and a student had been doing these ‘measurements’. But he promised to send me a paper he was working on that explained it all. Tomorrow! A tomorrow that never came.

So now we remind him of his failure every year. It’s a good thing to point out to Intelligent Design creationists that they don’t seem to be very good at fulfilling their grand promises.

He seems to sometimes notice that he’s being mocked, at least. Last year, he tried to trot out Ontogenetic Depth 2.0, which was just as impractical and ill-conceived as the first non-existent version. Maybe he’ll have a new beta for us this year, too?

Unlikely. Too much work. Not in the spirit of the day.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Please, Paul (N, not the other one): I need to know how to measure the ontogenetic depth of the swimming pool I don’t have.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Always, ALWAYS, best to say “I’ll tell you tomorrow”.
    If said originally on Monday, when Tuesday arrives, expecting the answer, yu can, (obviously) say,
    “it’s now ‘today’, I said I’d answer ‘tomorrow’. [IOW: when it is tomorrow at this very moment, I’ll answer]”

    pfft tsk tsk

    me thinks Paul is operating on that pair-a-docks [sic]

  3. Sastra says

    I think Paul Nelson Day deserves a recommendation to listen to something by this guy — who has apparently been delivering worthwhile stuff for a long time.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I would suspect that complexity calculations for ID would show up under vaporware in the dictionary. So far, nothing but hype.

  5. wzrd1 says

    Well, it’s always a find adage, “never do today that which could be far better not done tomorrow”.

    As for waffles, I love them. I think I’ll make some – tomorrow. Or Saturday.
    Or something.

    But, I really am leaning toward making them tomorrow. :)
    A couple of dozen, freeze those not immediately consumed.

  6. Louis says

    How dare you insult the most holy day of my religion with your apathy!

    I am outraged that you are not properly venerating this festival. I bet you’re one of those people who says “Happy Paul Nelson Day” instead of “Merry PaulNelsonmas”.

    It’s political correctness gone mad I tells ya.


  7. robro says

    How can you waffle about waffles? (Unfortunately, rarely allowed on the old man’s diet.)

  8. dick says

    If one supposes creationism to be true, and one also acknowledges that we are flawed products of the creator, (due to problems such as enlarged prostates in men, difficult, painful childbirth for women, & a whole host of other things), then the creator, aka GOD, must be a useless waste of space, a bungling buffoon. It didn’t do any better than what one might expect from the process of evolution by natural selection, plus a little bit of founder effect and genetic drift.

    So what is the creationist’s reason for positing this magical interventionist? There’s no point, that I can see, except to fit a pre-existing theistic worldview. But having a theistic worldview usually entails worshipping the creator, as a perfect being, (at least within the Abrahamic traditions). But the animal kingdom is a monumental orgy of terror, pain & suffering. The god thing is, therefore, either a sadist or an incompetent creator.

    Why can’t these eejits see that? I guess, because they ‘ve got their heads stuck up where the sun doesn’t shine.

  9. lesherb says

    I just looked up “Paul Nelson creationist” on Google. The first “hit” states that Mr. Nelson is “an American philosopher of science”. Does that make any sense?

  10. Doc Bill says

    I would say that Paul Nelson’s greatest contribution is bringing out Louis!

    Greetings, old bean!

  11. mothra says

    I thought Paul Nelson Day was April 9. Now I’m late sendingout cards and gifts. :(

  12. wzrd1 says

    Well, I nearly made waffles. As I made a loaf of cheese stuffed bread last night, I am eating that instead.
    I might make a similar loaf for work this weekend, putting some stew inside of the loaf as it completes its last rising and baking.

  13. Louis says

    Chigau and Doc Bill,

    Very kind of you to welcome an old pharyngulean. I hope you are both well (well, I hope everyone reading this is well), it’s the holidays that can reunite families isn’t it? You know, the big occasions where the long, lost, relative returns to the fold however briefly.

    PaulNelsonmas is the one remaining holiday where we can laugh at creationists like the old days. It’s so unfashionable now to mock the perpetually benighted for their blitherings. Which, let’s be honest is a good thing. We’ve moved on. But it is sometimes nice to celebrate the old ways. The dark ways.



  14. chigau (違う) says

    This was a rather sad Paul Nelson Day.
    Paul himself never showed.
    Very nice to see you, though.

  15. Louis says


    Ah but the enigma that is Paul Nelson never truly shows himself. He is a conundrum, wrapped in a puzzle, surrounded by a terrible idea and a cloud of bullshit.

    Luckily his hand waving distributes the bullshit, and in so doing makes crops yields improve over a moderate area.

    For his ways are mysterious to behold. He can turn logic into illogic. Data into drivel. Facts into fallacies. His wonders are not for us mortals to behold, merely to gaze upon, open mouthed in awe at the torrential guff they are.


    P.S. I’m worried I’m starting to believe this crap now!

  16. Ichthyic says

    I think Paul Nelson Day deserves a recommendation to listen to something by this guy — who has apparently been delivering worthwhile stuff for a long time.

    this further suggests a “Project Paul Nelson”, where we collect all the Paul Nelsons of the world that are eminently more productive than the Discotute version.