Don’t drag me into your petty squabbles, loons

I got the strangest email from Ted Steele, one of those panspermia kooks, addressed to Paul Davies, complaining about priority. Why he wrote to me, I don’t know — I’m not a fan of either of them. It’s just so odd what set these guys off.

Here it is.

Dear Paul :

Scientific Behaviour of Paul Davies

I am writing to you directly and to ASU President Professor Michael Crow, and copied to many other scientific colleagues who know exactly what I am talking about [I guess that’s me?]

We are living through our Covid-era where outright lies and misinformation is being pushed on us on a grand scale- by the main stream media in lock step with BigPharma, Big Government and, and in many distressing situations, as we have here, by senior scientists who operate at the sophisticated extreme end of dishonesty, knavery and thievery.

There is a news article in The Guardian newspaper, and, as I now understand it , also promulgated in some low grade science weeklies, which paints Arizona State University’s Professor Paul Davies as the essential founder of the new scientific disciple of Astrobiology.

Viruses may exist ‘elsewhere in the universe’, warns scientist (

The article quotes Davies on the possibility of extraterrestrial viruses, which he thinks is possible (sure, why not), but that we shouldn’t worry about them, and he says only a few batty things like this:

A friend of mine thinks most, but certainly a significant fraction, of the human genome is actually of viral origin, said Davies, whose new book, What’s Eating the Universe?, is published this week.

I think the offense to Steele, though, is that the article calls Davies “an astrobiologist”. Not the essential founder of the new scientific disciple of Astrobiology, just “an astrobiologist”. This is unforgivable.

This is scientific misconduct pure and simple – somewhat more sophisticated than many, but misconduct nevertheless. The published scientific record in science is inviolate, it cannot be messed with.

The strong objective scientific concept that the universe is teeming with life and the marshalling of the key evidence, experimental data and observations- and their appropriate critical analysis and interpretation, can be fairly traced and attributed directly to Professor Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor N Chandra Wickramasinghe. These two great scientists are in the that special home that human history knows as the “ Pantheon”.

The Pantheon? Really? I’ve been calling Wickramasinghe the boss of the Panspermia Mafia, but maybe I have to upgrade “mafia” to “cult”.

You allude to Fred Hoyle in your article, but I could not figure out why then there was no proper attribution of scientific priority, particularly because at your Wikipedia site you make the following strong claim in your CV

“In 1970, he completed his PhD under the supervision of Michael J. Seaton and Sigurd Zienau at University College London.[1][2] He then carried out postdoctoral research under Fred Hoyle at the University of Cambridge. “

This claim is then repeated in the Wiki side box.

Why then not cite all the prior body of work by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe and colleagues if you were one of Fred’s post docs?

This is a strange argument. That is what Wikipedia says, but Wikipedia is not Paul Davies CV. If you look at Davies’ actual CV, he doesn’t mention being a post-doc with Hoyle. That’s a curious insertion by who ever did create that Wikipedia entry.

But also, even if he had been Hoyle’s post-doc, that association does not imply that one has to “cite all the prior body of work” in a short article in the Guardian.

But you see that statement in your CV is a lie i.e. untrue, it is bogus. It may well be a real fantasy in Paul Davies’ mind, but it is a lie nevertheless. Fred would be turning in his grave. As I understand it he told you to go away.

Oooh. Oooh. Do tell. Spill that tea.

If Hoyle told Davies to go away, that would somewhat enhance Davies’ reputation to my mind. Ted Steele, though, must be in his dotage to take such offense at a wiki article that Davies did not write and to be so outraged that a journalist clumped Davies in the same category as Hoyle and Wickramasinghe. He’s just beginning to get worked up.

There are two fundamental conditions that distinguish true scientists from the run of the mill ordinary behaviour, which all real scientists learn as they develop and continue in their search for the truth:

• When the facts change, you change your mind.

• Report and tell the Truth – do not lie and cheat.

These two guiding principles of course are also being torn up on a grand scale right now. But they still need to be restated, and when transgressed, firmly called out :

Paul Davies… you are simply a grub criminal trying to make a fast buck.

The whole matter is really quite disgusting – but has to be exposed for what it is.

Then he goes on to include a link to all of Chandra Wickramasinghe’s articles, because apparently that is what one must do nowadays.

It’s amazing what petty bullshit will trigger the Panspermia Cult. ‘Oh no, you didn’t praise Hoyle and Wickramasinghe enough!’ I also wouldn’t be surprised if Steele and Wickramasinghe and gang are prepared to claim that SARS-CoV-2 fell from outer space. Oh, wait, he already has.

I’m hoping for a Kilkenny-cats-style outcome.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    That is what Wikipedia says, but Wikipedia is not Paul Davies CV.

    Doesn’t Wikipedia have a policy of not allowing people to edit their own entries?

  2. hemidactylus says

    Paul Davies I recall as a physicist who appeared quite often on Closer to Truth. Ed Steele I recall having interesting ideas about retrovectors that I didn’t buy into in Lamarck’s Signature which did go into some detail in how the immune system works.

    These guys are at odds? Weird stuff.

  3. raven says

    A friend of mine thinks most, but certainly a significant fraction, of the human genome is actually of viral origin, said Davies, whose new book, What’s Eating the Universe?, is published this week.

    That is actually true. It’s not most but a significant fraction, 8%.

    Completion of the sequencing of the human genome has led to the conclusion that a significant fraction (approximately 8%) of our genome is of retroviral origin, with thousands of proviral sequences disclosing similarities with the integrated form of infectious retroviruses (23).

    Survey of Human Genes of Retroviral Origin: Identification and …

    This is badly phrased by Davies. He could have looked it up on Google like I just did in 5 seconds and that is the first hit.

    We’ve even resurrrected one of these retroviruses by fixing its loss of function mutations. It’s been named Phoenix for obvious reasons.

  4. raven says

    Although a large proportion (44%) of the human genome is occupied by transposons and transposon-like repetitive elements, only a small proportion (<0.05%) of these elements remain active today.

    Which transposable elements are active in the human genome?

    Almost half of the human genome is made up of transposable elements, some of which are still active.

    For an intelligently designed computer program, the human genome looks a lot like a junkyard full of ancient relics from ancient battles for replication space.

  5. kome says

    The published scientific record in science is inviolate, it cannot be messed with.

    Um…… no. Just no. The published scientific record is, like all other human endeavors, quite flawed. That’s why you also sometimes wee published addenda and corrigenda, and see retractions issued. And, as evidenced most recently by the revelation that Juul bought and paid for an entire issue of a respected medical journal to push favorable empirical articles on vaping, I think it is very clear that the published scientific record is frequently messed with.

    What kind of twerp is Ted Steele?

  6. consciousness razor says

    So much noise about what is essentially sponsored content to sell another book, by an old guy who’s written too many books.

    Myself, I prefer the Daily Mail version. Only half kidding. But it’s kind of a wild ride. It veers around so many times in such a short piece. Even the useless report about UFOs that was released back in June got a mention, and it concludes by noting that Musk has declared his Mars colony would not recognize Earth laws. What more could you want? Are you not entertained?

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Re. online pyrotechnics.
    The ex-muslim Harris Sultan has finally managed to get a sharia scholar named Haqiqadju to agree to a debate at a neutral site (99% of the time they only agree if it is a forum that favors their own side).
    -Haqiqadju (called Pikachu by his detractors) is a non-charming guy who defends elements of sharia like child marriage and slavery.
    As HS is already familiar with islamic terms and arguments I look forward to him exposing sharia for the enormous pile of $£!t it is.
    One sharia scholar said of child rape “how is it rape if the parents have given consent (to the marriage)”.
    Re. American nutters: any chance we can create a split between different factions of nuts?
    “Hey, anti-vaxxers, the homeopaths say you are wankers who are financed by the jews”.
    Chemtrail guys saying the 9/11 planes were really laden with chemicals and drawing fire from truther nuts.

  8. Nemo says

    Kilkenny cats… You know the cartoon rendering of a fight, where the antagonists are just rolling around in a ball, emitting violent noises? I once had a pair of cats get into a fight that was exactly like that, so much so that I thought, “Oh, that’s where they got that from.” (Luckily I was able to break it up with no one seriously hurt.)

  9. birgerjohansson says

    Nemo @ 11
    If you were not wearing gloves, you took a substantial risk of eventually running out of gauze.

  10. unclefrogy says

    I just do not see how any of that really solves anything. not even considering that it does not predict anything , does not have any evidence and just pushes any question off to some other level completely out of our reach.
    “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
    those that have a story to sell and a reputation to build never remember to try doing that

  11. KG says

    It was disappointing to see the Grauniad draw attention to this pointless tosh by Davies – one of those physicists who thinks expertise in physics means he’s an expert on everything. Steele I know nothing about, beyond what Wikipedia tells me.