Peter Nyikos is dead!

I am surprised. For those who never encountered him, Nyikos was an obsessive mathematics professor from South Carolina who haunted the usenet group,, for at least the last 40 years. He was an oddball who mainly hated all the regulars at the newsgroup, especially if they had legitimate degrees in biology, so he would regularly pop in to spew his contempt for people like Larry Moran and John Harshman and me, and just generally anyone who battled creationists. He wasn’t very good at expressing his position, though — he was mainly just bitter and repetitive. I think he was such an angry authoritarian that he resented anyone who had any authority at all in the subject of evolution. The arguments never ended with him.

Until now. Nyikos is officially deceased. I guess it’s safe to visit again.

Except…oh no, Google is killing the usenet archive!

Effective February 22, 2024, Google Groups will no longer support new Usenet content. Posting and subscribing will be disallowed, and new content from Usenet peers will not appear. Viewing and searching of historical data will still be supported as it is done today.

I guess Google decided that there’s no point anymore without Nyikos’ vituperative bile.


  1. selecaolegal says

    this is the kind of old school internet cattiness i love! thanks for sharing (and also, bye bye pitcaivage)

  2. Peter B says

    Pity. No new updates in alt.religion.scientology. I was a regular reader and sometimes posted a few random thoughts. Does anyone remember the ARSCC?

  3. John Harshman says

    There are a few people whose deaths I would celebrate. Nyikos is not among them, annoying as he was.

    And Usenet isn’t dead yet; Google was only one way to access it, and others remain. But yeah, it was coughing up blood last night.

  4. Doc Bill says

    Ah, Peter the Chew Toy, I knew him well. A man of infinite arrogance.

    I used to call him Nyquil just to get up his nose. My greatest accomplishment was convincing him that Professors Keeshan and Green were experts in kangaroo evolution. He never got the reference to our everlasting joy.

  5. says

    I’m not celebrating his death either — the poor man, and his long-suffering family.
    I’m also not mourning the death of a guy who constantly called me a liar, and who was certain he knew far more about developmental biology than I do.
    Google dropping it doesn’t mean it’s completely dead. Yeah, there are other ways to read it, but now I’d have to find, download, and use a newsreader, so it does put a big speed bump in front of it.

  6. says

    Was this the same guy who occasionally showed up on Dispatches from the Culture Wars obsessively pushing some Intelligent Design rubbish or other? I don’t celebrate his death, but I don’t miss him either. I hope, for his sake, that he’d done something better in his life than all that to be remembered for.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    This reminds me of an episode of God Awful Movies dedicated to people who claimed they could sustain themselves on sunlight without any food (!).

    After a certain cultist appearing on the ‘documentary” had claimed he had not eaten since [ date A ], Mike Marshall added “he has definitely not eaten since [ date B ], since that is when he died”.

  8. John Harshman says

    PZ: Newsreaders are no problem; I use Thunderbird. And you can find both free and cheap services to access. Again, I use Giganews at $3 per month, but there are free ones too.

    Nyikos was apparently a fairly prominent name in topology. Biology, not so much.

  9. mordred says

    John Harshman@8 While I was aware that there still are newsreaders and services, I quit the subscription for my service more than a decade ago as I rarely found anything interesting in my old newsgroups anymore.
    Are there really still newsgroups worth reading? Maybe I’ll look for a free service to check out the scene once more.

  10. says

    At one of the groups I had an extended dispute with Peter Nyikos about how to calculate inbreeding coefficients. Keep in mind that I was teaching in a theoretical population genetics course then, about two different ways to do that. Nyikos had an all-purpose easy-peasy method that made little sense. After considerable untangling, it developed that Nyikos was assuming that the typical individual in a population was the offspring of cousin mating. Not just the one whose inbreeding coefficient we were computing, but all individuals all the way along the pedigree. In short the pedigree was a hopeless tangle. Once I pointed that out, Nyikos quietly dropped his easy-peasy all-purpose method. A few years later a guy I know started a job at Nyikos’s university and had a chance to talk to Nyikos. Nyikos said that he had argued with me and that he had been wrong. The Guy I Know asked “did you ever admit that in the newgroup”? Nyikos suddenly suffered a lapse of memory and said he wasn’t sure whether he had admitted it. (He hadn’t, of course).

  11. Hemidactylus says

    Having a constant irritant like Nyikos gave the newsgroups he frequented reason to produce some rare pearls. He was scrappy and argumentative and a bit much at times. I imagine him talking St. Peter’s ear off about Howard Hershey and others. His passing is a bit hard to process. At least he had his wits about him up until his final postings, which weren’t long ago…less than a month.

  12. Brian says

    Actually, many old-timers are hoping that when Google turns off their feed, the levels of spam-posting will go back down to pre-Google days, and USENET might just become usable again.

  13. John Morales says

    I used to be mostly on sci.skeptic — I remember Earl Curley, though he was just a straightout kook.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    On the positive side, there is now an opening in South Carolina for a teacher of obsessive mathematics.

  15. wcaryk says

    Google groups will no longer be updating Usenet, but there are other ways to access it. Usenet will continue to flourish.

  16. Steve Morrison says

    If all you want to do is lurk, you can use Narkive. But as others have said, you would need a newsreader and a Usenet provider to actually participate.

  17. Hemidactylus says

    Firefox is a web browser. Mozilla’s Thunderbird is an email client that also handles nntps usenet reading as would a pure newsreader, but still needs access to a news server to get up and running. I used to use T-bird before I found an iOS newsreading app for my iPhone.

    I’ve forgotten the many newsreaders for desktop systems. I used Pan and KNode in Linux before. Windows has several. And Mac too.

    The best Firefox could do is allow web-based access to usenet through a site like Google Groups, but that’s the thing that’s coming to an end tomorrow. I don’t know of any other full-featured web-based access to usenet.

    I’m glad to see Google Groups go. I’m surprised Google stayed with it so long. It was a magnet for spammers. Sadly too many people latched onto Google Groups as a convenient way to access usenet and don’t want to deal with the minor headache of reverting to traditional means of usenet access. Usenet may die out or maybe enjoy a renaissance. Probably the former.

    If he had lived longer Nyikos may have stubbornly struggled past the hurdle of setting up a newsreader and finding a newsserver. I doubt he would have let the ending of GG halt his usenet career.

  18. Silentbob says

    “Usenet”, lol.

    Don’t despair folks, I hear you can still learn Morse code
    and communicate with other enthusiasts of the telegraph.

    The only catch is you may need to use this new-fangled thing called the “World Wide Web” from 1993 – so you may find the whole experience a bit too modern. :-/

    [This message reproduced from alt.blogs.pharyngula.howtobeflamed.gnarlydude]

  19. Owlmirror says

    Well, there’s a blast from the past!

    I never interacted with him on Usenet, but at one point he visited Jason Rosenhouse’s Evolutionblog to blather on and on about ID (trying to relitigate Kitzmiller v Dover) and directed panspermia. That interaction went on for a few (discontinuous) months.

    Heh, that was fun.

    Me, 2011:

    Oh, and [Nyikos] wrote that he was using the word “theory” in a broader way than that used for actual science. No doubt, like Behe in his testimony, he means “theory” in a sense so broad that it includes astrology.

    “When the moon is in the second house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then ID will rule biology, and hot dogs will come from the stars! This is the dawning of the age of panspermia….”

  20. bionichips says

    The obit said 10 Ph.D. students and 9 Masters students in 45 years. Am I missing something or is this pretty pathetic?

    My M.Sc. is in Topology from U of Alberta (1973) and while I worked hard, for my advisor it did not seem like a lot of work. And at U of A most profs seemed to have multiple Ph.D students and multiple masters students each year.

  21. Louis says

    Damn! I remember that guy. I hope those who loved him are dealing well with their loss.

    I wonder how Ray is…


  22. Louis says

    @John Morales, #22

    Well isn’t today “Blast from the past day”! :-)


    I learned a lot on these sites/in these arguments etc, but I am very happy to be almost entirely out of it.



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