Hot on the heels of The Sun, here comes Newsweek, touting that drivel about cephalopods from space by Steele et al.. I have dispensed enough scorn for that paper lately, so now I’m going to snarl at a few other targets: some of the critics.
Outside experts are unconvinced by the findings. Avi Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, told Newsweek the paper raised “an interesting but controversial possibility.”
Oh, fuck that noise. That’s the polite reservation of a privileged professor who would rather not offend a peer. It was not “interesting”. There is nothing interesting about the hypothesis. This is antique bullshit biology by a dead astronomer who knew nothing of the subject, and it’s been kicked around for years by his (ma)lingering acolytes. It is not compatible with any of the evidence, and it doesn’t even make sense: it contradicts all the available evidence.
It is also not “controversial”. It is fucking wrong. I know it goes against years of science training, which tells everyone to fudge and hem and haw and avoid saying anything that might someday be used to say you were wrong about something, but get over it. Learn to speak plainly and honestly. This kind of dim politesse is exactly what allows science denialists to misquote you.
However, it offers no “indisputable proof” that the Cambrian explosion is the result of panspermia, he said.
Aaargh. First day of my introductory biology course, where I talk about the basic principles of science, the first thing I tell them is that THERE IS NO PROOF IN SCIENCE. We deal in probabilities, in consilience, in building an evidential case to strongly support a hypothesis, and everything is provisional.
The problem with the squid panspermia hypothesis isn’t that there is no proof, it’s that there is no evidence. None. The dithering pontifications in the paper in question are all evidence-free speculations based on wishful misinterpretations of inappropriately collected and interpreted data.
I bet that Harvard professor would say exactly the same thing over a beer at the local bar with his colleagues, but put ’em in front of a journalist and suddenly all of their well-earned confidence turns into cautious cowardice.
And thus do all the phony hucksters and pseudoscientists thrive in the loamy fertilizer of tepid, timid compost dribbling from the jaws of hesitant academics.