Rhawn Joseph is fishing with worms now

Oh, dear. Rhawn Joseph is at it again.

He has a new, exciting, batshit loony paper to publish in his website-masquerading-as-a-journal, titled “Tube Worms on Mars: More Proof of Life on the Red Planet”. I haven’t seen it. I am capable of judging it by his past work, though, and am confident that it will be a collection of photographs pulled from NASA, selected for the presence of the appearance of holes, and the text will basically be a litany of rationalizations for how they kinda sorta look like earthly tube worm burrows, therefore they are tube worm trace fossils. It’s the rankest nonsense.

So this tweet was put out to warn the worm community (yes, Virginia, scientists who study worms form a fairly tight collaborative community — it’s cool) that Rhawn Joseph has put out a call for reviewers for this paper. Now here’s the deal, though: the paper is going to be published. There is also a tight collaborative community of cranks that I dubbed the Panspermia Mafia, and some among them will readily rise up to give a cursory peer evaluation of the work, and rubber stamp their approval. It is going to appear in the funny pages of the Journal of Astrobiology, and you can’t stop it.

However, the warning is still a good idea, because what Joseph is actually doing is fishing for a) real scientists who might think this kind of thing is amusing and let it pass, legitimizing it or b) new gullible cranks to join his community.

You really don’t want to join the Panspermia Mafia. The initiations are brutal — they pelt you with idiocy until your brain melts.

P.S. I’ll probably read it and laugh at it when good ol’ Rhawn dumps it on to the web, so you’ll probably see it here. I pelt you with idiocy, too!

Marshrooms and araneiforms, oh my: the ongoing absurdity of Rhawn Joseph

Rhawn Joseph is back. Two years ago, I posted a comprehensive list of my engagements with that fraud, so if you want, you can review it there. There’s a lot. It’s all very silly. I even made a video about his claim to have found Marshrooms. Last year, I made a post about his latest publication, in which I wrote, “Let’s hope this is the end of Joseph and Wickramasinghe.” Hah! Right.

Here, in May of 2021, he has again published a Martian mushroom paper titled Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior From Sequential Images in the journal Advances in Microbiology. It’s 63 pages long! Of course, most of it is photos cribbed from NASA that are blown up and processed to make his imaginary point. To quote some legitimate scientists:

Michael Brown, an astronomer at Monash University in Australia, said “there’s some pretty horrible over-interpretation of blurry photos,” while Gretchen Benedix, a geophysicist at Curtin University in Australia, noted “increasing image sizes to investigate the objects of interest does not change the resolution of the image and therefore does not give better analysis of the objects of interest.”

Rocco Mancinelli, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Astrobiology, called the science and logic “completely flawed,” and said he would recommend it be rejected for publication.

Yet various versions of this garbage hypothesis were and are being published. Here’s the abstract for Rhawn Joseph’s latest:

Fungi thrive in radiation intense environments. Sequential photos document that fungus-like Martian specimens emerge from the soil and increase in size, including those resembling puffballs (Basidiomycota). After obliteration of spherical specimens by the rover wheels, new sphericals-some with stalks-appeared atop the crests of old tracks. Sequences document that thousands of black arctic “araneiforms” grow up to 300 meters in the Spring and disappear by Winter; a pattern repeated each Spring and which may represent massive colonies of black fungi, mould, lichens, algae, methanogens and sulfur reducing species. Black fungi-bacteria-like specimens also appeared atop the rovers. In a series of photographs over three days (Sols) white amorphous specimens within a crevice changed shape and location then disappeared. White protoplasmic-mycelium-like-tendrils with fruiting-body-like appendages form networks upon and above the surface; or increase in mass as documented by sequential photographs. Hundreds of dimpled donut-shaped “mushroom-like” formations approximately 1mm in size are adjacent or attached to these mycelium-like complexes. Additional sequences document that white amorphous masses beneath rock-shelters increase in mass, number, or disappear and that similar white-fungus-like specimens appeared inside an open rover compartment. Comparative statistical analysis of a sample of 9 spherical specimens believed to be fungal “puffballs” photographed on Sol 1145 and 12 specimens that emerged from beneath the soil on Sol 1148 confirmed the nine grew significantly closer together as their diameters expanded and some showed evidence of movement. Cluster analysis and a paired sample ‘t’ test indicates a statistically significant size increase in the average size ratio over all comparisons between and within groups (P = 0.011). Statistical comparisons indicates that arctic “araneiforms” significantly increased in length in parallel following an initial growth spurt. Although similarities in morphology are not proof of life, growth, movement, and changes in shape and location constitute behavior and support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.

I admit, I perked up at the mention of araneiforms — that’s spider-like shapes. It’s not about spiders on Mars, darn it, it’s about these complex dendritic shapes that appear and disappear on the Martian landscape. Joseph wants to claim that that is evidence of fungal life, based on over-interpretation of photos from Mars rovers. It’s not. No one is denying that there are ongoing changes on Mars — seasonal variations, windstorms, erosion, shifting dunes, all that sort of geological stuff. The question is whether it is caused by biology, and so far, the answer is it is not. There are better explanations for the araneiforms, for instance: The formation of araneiforms by carbon dioxide venting and vigorous sublimation dynamics under martian atmospheric pressure.

The local redistribution of granular material by sublimation of the southern seasonal CO2 ice deposit is one of the most active surface shaping processes on Mars today. This unique geomorphic mechanism is hypothesised to be the cause of the dendritic, branching, spider-like araneiform terrain and associated fans and spots—features which are native to Mars and have no Earth analogues. However, there is a paucity of empirical data to test the validity of this hypothesis. Additionally, it is unclear whether some araneiform patterns began as radial and then grew outward, or whether troughs connected at mutual centres over time. Here we present the results of a suite of laboratory experiments undertaken to investigate if the interaction between a sublimating CO2 ice overburden containing central vents and a porous, mobile regolith will mobilise grains from beneath the ice in the form of a plume to generate araneiform patterns. We quantify the branching and area of the dendritic features that form. We provide the first observations of plume activity via CO2 sublimation and consequent erosion to form araneiform features. We show that CO2 sublimation can be a highly efficient agent of sediment transport under present day Martian atmospheric pressure and that morphometry is governed by the Shields parameter.

You’ve got a thin atmosphere where the repeated freezing and sublimation of carbon dioxide is a major factor, and you want to claim that mushrooms are thriving to the point that they spring up overnight in the tracks of Mars rovers? OK, pull the other one, guy.

By the way, Joseph still touts his affiliation as being with cosmology.com, his vanity website where he publishes articles about the Quantum Physics of Time Travel and the consciousness of the universe. That’s the fake journal I trashed, which he then put up for sale for $100,000. If you check it out now, he’s selling it for $50,000. I’m waiting for the price to get down around $1.98, and then I’ll snap it up.

Or…hey, Rhawn, I’ll take the responsibility off your hands right now, no charge, and keep the site up as a historical curiosity, with maybe just a little front-page editorial commentary. You know it’s an embarrassment, just dragging you down, pass it on to someone who’ll keep it alive a little longer.

Punching Rhawn Joseph some more

I’ve made the big leagues. I’m cited on c/net in a review of panspermia claims.

Joseph is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a shirt unbuttoned to his stomach. He is, according to his autobiography, a well-known and acclaimed neurobiologist. He enjoys the ocean, walking along the beach and hiking. His self-published articles argue life has been found on Mars and Venus, and propagate an alternative view of life’s beginnings.

That theory is “panspermia.” It holds that life first arose in space and that planets in the solar system were “seeded” with microbes carried across the cosmos by dust, meteors and debris.

“Panspermia is one of those things where all the biologists are saying, ‘Maybe it could have happened, but we don’t have any evidence for it’,” says Paul Myers, a developmental biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Myers has refuted the theory in the past, leading to clashes with Joseph and his colleagues, a group he calls “the panspermia mafia.”

Two of panspermia’s biggest proponents are famed astronomer Fred Hoyle, who died in 2001, and his protege Chandra Wickramasinghe. Hoyle helped unravel “stellar nucleosynthesis,” a process that occurs in stars to generate all the chemical elements in the cosmos and, in collaboration with Wickramasinghe, the pair discovered the organic material that makes up cosmic dust. However, in the latter parts of their careers, the two have made controversial claims with little evidence to back them up, including the idea that viruses, like the flu and coronavirus, come from space.

Myers says the academic pedigree of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe gave panspermia an air of credibility in the 1970s, helping the pair popularize it as a renegade view of the origins of life. But the theory has served as a launching pad for nonsensical, pseudoscientific theories — including Joseph’s belief that Mars is full of mushrooms, fungi and lichen.

Wickramasinghe remains the godfather of panspermia, continuing to publish on the theory in books and his own journals. Rhawn Gabriel Joseph is the heir apparent.

It’s not just me, of course. They review his claim of mushrooms sprouting on Mars.

How Joseph’s piece moved past the peer review process and was accepted for publication remains a mystery. The process usually weeds out these explicitly non-scientific claims. Other astronomers and astrobiologists who examined the research soundly rebuked its conclusions, citing poor methodology and analysis.

Michael Brown, an astronomer at Monash University in Australia, said “there’s some pretty horrible over-interpretation of blurry photos,” while Gretchen Benedix, a geophysicist at Curtin University in Australia, noted “increasing image sizes to investigate the objects of interest does not change the resolution of the image and therefore does not give better analysis of the objects of interest.”

Rocco Mancinelli, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Astrobiology, called the science and logic “completely flawed,” and said he would recommend it be rejected for publication.

A NASA spokesperson told me “the consensus of the majority of the scientific community is that current conditions on the surface of Mars are not suitable for liquid water or complex life.”

As the article points out, Rhawn Joseph and his cronies have been tainting a scientific subdiscipline for decades, relying on promotion by tabloids to generate the illusion of authority.

Over the last decade, Joseph and JOC have mostly been ignored by NASA and by the scientific community. Very few scientists take the alien fungi claims seriously, but Joseph’s work has been highlighted in UK tabloids, RT and many well-meaning science news sites since February 2019. Some have touted Joseph’s websites as “scientific journals” and even confused Joseph’s vanity website with legitimate, similarly named journals. One painted Joseph as someone trying to “defy the odds.”

And that’s where the danger lies.

Astrobiology, the search for and study of extraterrestrial life, is a serious scientific endeavor. NASA has an astrobiology program, and searching for life is a critical part of its Mars exploration program. And although the public seems resistant to fanciful claims of fungal spores on Mars or lichen on Venus, they haven’t gone away. If anything, social media seems to have made us more gullible. As crank, fringe theories start to gather steam in honest peer-reviewed journals, the public’s perception of astrobiology can quickly be muddied.

Let’s hope this is the end of Joseph and Wickramasinghe.

I doubt that it will be. They’re going to continue to dump junk science into the literature.

Rhawn Joseph and a new silly claim about extraterrestrial life

He’s back. The weird mastermind behind the Journal of Cosmology and Cosmology.com has created yet another fake journal, The Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Reviews, and has made another bold claim. By looking at photos from the Mars Rovers, using just his mighty brain, he has determined that the surface of Mars is covered with mushrooms, lichens, and the bones of dead Martians, and further, he has convinced a cheesy British tabloid to report on it, so it must be true.

This is the rabbit hole I got sucked in to today, and since I’ve written about this goofball so many times before, this time I had to make it a video.

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.”

No, we haven’t found good evidence of life on Mars.

The tabloid that annoyed me:

A few books by Rhawn Joseph:

Mars: Evidence of Life:: Evolution, Algae, Viking, ALH8401, Stromatolites, Fungi, Bones, Skulls, Methane, Martians

Sexual Consciousness: Evolution of Female Breasts, Buttocks & the Big Brain

Sexuality: Female Evolution & Erotica

Female Sexuality: The Naked Truth

Online articles by Rhawn Joseph:



Rhawn Joseph’s professional affiliation:

The Martian “science” articles discussed here:

Sex On Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Sex In Outer Space

The high probability of life on Mars

Evidence of life on Mars

A High Probability of Life Mars: The Consensus of 70 Experts in Fungi, Lichens, Geomorphology, Mineralogy

The Fake Journals mentioned:

Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Reviews

Journal of Cosmology


If you really want to look closely at Joseph’s brilliant satirical work, photoshopping my face onto obese women’s bodies, I have a copy here. The original was taken down.

Professional science journalism

Examples of the kinds of dissections that enraged Dr Joseph:

Did scientists discover bacteria in meteorites?

NASA speaks out boldly on the ‘bacteria from space’ claims

I am getting a very poor impression of astrobiology

The Journal of Cosmology replies

An inside view of the Journal of Cosmology

The hubba-hubba theory of human evolution

Diatoms…iiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace!

I’m not the troll, but I think they caught one in their sample

Funny Looking Rock found on Mars!


No wonder he hates me.

If you want some real science, NASA has all these beautiful images collected by the Mars rovers available for your perusal.

Opportunity: All 228,771 Raw Images

Please don’t scan through them looking for imaginary aliens to fit your wacky hypotheses, or I shall mock you.

Three stupid sources ought to be an automatic rejection

I shouldn’t have even started drilling down to the source. I started at Answers in Genesis, a mistake I know, but at least the ridiculed (for the wrong reasons) the next article in the chain, which was in The Daily Mail. Here’s the Daily Mail headline:

Hey, how about if you demonstrate the existence of intelligent space-faring aliens before you start speculating about their motivations? But they’ve got a scientist who’s doing the speculating, and the Daily Mail loves scientists who agree with their biases.

Sci-fi films and TV shows have routinely depicted a brutal race of aliens visiting Earth in their spaceships and enslaving unfortunate Earthlings.

But according to one expert, extraterrestrial life may actually be too scared of ‘dangerous’ and ‘violent’ humans to want to come here.

Dr Gordon Gallup, a biopsychologist at the University of Albany, argues that humans are ‘dangerous, violent and ceaselessly engage in endless bloody conflicts and war’.

How do you become an expert in alien biopsychology, I’d like to know. We’re about to bottom out, though, since we’re about to learn where he published these claims.

Dr Gallup has presented his argument in an open access paper published in the Journal of Astrobiology this month.

Oh god. AiG, the Daily Mail, and the Journal of Astrobiology? Is this Dumpster Diving Friday or something? Have mercy. Here’s the abstract for the paper.

We evaluate claims for extraterrestrial intelligence based on the logic behind assertions such as the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To assess intelligence elsewhere in the universe we outline two of the principle scientific claims for intelligence on Earth. One involves the idea that intelligence involves working out the reasons for our own existence. The other involves self-awareness and the capacity to make inferences about what others know, want, or intend to do. The famous quote from Rene Descartes “I think; therefore, I am” needs to be revised to read “I am; therefore, I think.” Some of the conclusions we derive about intelligence include the idea that most species on planet Earth have clever brains but blank minds (no self-consciousness); humans are the only species where what you know could get you killed; if humans become extinct it is highly unlikely that human-like intelligence will re-emerge on this planet and the odds of human-like intelligence evolving on other worlds is infinitely small. However, if intelligence exists elsewhere in the universe it may not have revealed itself because humans are dangerous and are perceived as posing too great a risk.

I’d reject it out of hand for the blatant human exceptionalism and the false claims right there: most species on planet Earth have clever brains but blank minds (no self-consciousness). Most species on Earth don’t have brains, for one, but additionally, have you met my cat? Not very clever, but definitely full of herself and quite aware of herself. There are a lot of claims in this abstract that the author does not adequately justify in the remainder of the opinion piece (it is not a scientific paper).

Then, in the first paragraph of the introduction, he cites Rhawn Joseph three times. Ugh. He’s an affiliate member of the Panspermia Mafia, I think we’re done.

I couldn’t help myself. I took a quick look in the table of contents to see what ol’ Rhawn was up to now. He’s still poring over NASA’s Mars photos, drawing circles and arrows on them, to claim now that there are tube worms and crustaceans on Mars.

At least he’s got the Daily Mail and Answers in Genesis to continue pretending he has any credibility at all left!

FIFTY BILLION ($50,000,000,000) DOLLARS!!!

Regular readers of this blog don’t need to be told who Rhawn Joseph is, but for the rest of you, he’s the panspermist who gazes at photos from NASA and ESA of the surface of Mars and Venus, and then claims to have identified mushrooms. And spiders. And human skulls. He’s just a barrel of laughs.

He’s also been dabbling in the law. He tried to sue NASA, and more recently, he sued Springer Nature for refusing to publish one of his pareidolia papers, and for daring to retract another when people alerted the publisher about what a flaming ball of garbage it was. He’s litigious, but either too cheap or too weird to get a legitimate lawyer to help him out, so he’s filing these things pro se, which makes them particularly amusing. Here’s a succinct summary from a judge:

Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D., proceeding pro se, is a scientist who claims he found evidence of possible extraterrestrial life on Venus and Mars. To expound his ideas here on Earth, Dr. Joseph wrote two articles—one about life on Venus, the other about life on Mars—and submitted them for publication in an academic journal called Astrophysics and Space Science (“ApSS”). ApSS published the article about Venus, and the piece received some traction in the scientific community. But before publishing the article on Martian life, ApSS told Dr. Joseph that it needed to vet his findings a bit more. Dr. Joseph did not like the sound of that. So he withdrew his submission of the Mars article and demanded that ApSS remove the Venus article from its website. Rather than remove the Venus article, and after conducting additional peer review, ApSS told Dr. Joseph that it would retract the article.

The judge also made a few other comments.

The Complaint is at times difficult to follow. It is littered with speculation, confusing ramblings, conclusory legal assertions, and personal attacks against Defendants. See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 12 (“The Defendants are lying, confabulating, engaging in fraud and falsifying their references[.]”), ¶ 20 (claiming that “major scientific discoveries must pass through three stages: 1) Ridicule, 2) Violent opposition, 3) Acceptance as obvious and self-evident” and that Dr. Joseph’s work regarding life on Venus and Marks “is now at stage 2 (violent opposition)”); ¶ 23 (calling the two individual Defendants “mediocrities”); ¶ 30 (“Defendants libeled and slandered Plaintiff in April of 2020.”). Because Dr. Joseph is proceeding pro se, the Court endeavored to distill the facts from the Complaint as best it could and construe them in the light most favorable to him.

Yeah, that’s the shouty deranged Rhawn Joseph I know all right.

The best part: Rhawn Joseph was suing Springer Nature for…

FIFTY BILLION ($50,000,000,000) DOLLARS!!!

His case was dismissed.

I get email

Oh, look. I got an invitation.

Invitation to Publish a Critique: Fungi/Tube Worms on Mars

Dear Dr. Myers

You have been cited in news articles as stating you believe Dr. Joseph’s work is harmful to science and to the field of astrobiology. We are aware you are a leading opponent of all claims favoring extraterrestrial life. The Journal of Astrobiology is very interested in publishing your views

The Editors of the Journal of Astrobiology (JOA) are inviting you to submit a critical analysis of the claims and recent findings of Dr. Rhawn Joseph and his team, RE: Fungi on Mars. Tube Worms on Mars.

If you accept our invitation, the critical analysis must be scholarly, fully referenced, and less than 2000 words, including Abstract, Title, Figure Captions.

We are aware of the insults, false statements and personal and hominem attacks directed at Dr. Joseph by some science news reporters. We are confident, if you should decide to submit a critical analysis, your article will be scholarly and factual.

Your article will be peer reviewed. However, be assured: JOA is interested in publishing your views.

There are no page or publication charges. All articles are published online, open access, and authors have the right to reprint and post their article at Researchgate and their website.


Sheila Van Akker
Managing Editor

Right. Please write us a review that doesn’t point out the idiocy of our work, and dignifies it by treating it as if if were serious scholarly research.

No. It’s garbage.

Also, I’m not a leading opponent of all claims favoring extraterrestrial life. I’m just someone who can clearly see when a pseudoscientific fraud is trying to bamboozle the public.

Bumps and lumps and crannies, oh my

I’ve been informed by Spirobranchus that a preprint of Rhawn Joseph’s latest ravings is available. How could you? I have baby spiders that require tending, and you serve up this colossal distraction?

At least it’s exactly what I predicted: page after page of color glossy photos with circles and arrows. Unfortunately, he missed the mark on making a homage to Alice’s Restaurant, though, because it’s not 28 photos…it’s FORTY ONE PAGES OF NASA PHOTOS. 41. He really thinks mind-numbing repetition will make his point.

Here’s an example from page 15. Can you find the tube worms?

I know I can’t. Even the red circles don’t help. So let’s look at page 20, where the red rectangle will help us focus on the really important features in the photograph.

Hey, man, have you ever like really looked at dirt? It’ll like blow your mind, man.

You know what else is really annoying? None of these images have legends or captions, they don’t even have figure numbers. The body text mentions that the results are summarized in Table 3, but there are no tables in the preprint. The text also references figures 5, 7, and XX, and that’s it — how do you justify 41 pages of figures without even mentioning their existence? This is particularly galling because I tell my students, who have to write simple little lab reports, that every figure must have an explanatory caption, they must all be numbered, and each figure has to be referenced in the body text. If it isn’t cited or explained, I get to just rip it out and ignore it. I have failed student work that commits even a fraction of the sins in this work that the author thinks is ready for peer review. This paper is a very, very bad rough draft by an exceptionally lazy and undisciplined author, with essentially no thought about the data, and no real analysis.

Further, the paper has 40 references listed; 22 of them are by Rhawn Joseph. Let’s add that the author is lazy, undisciplined, and exceptionally vain.

Are you ready for the conclusion?

If the specimens identified in this report are alive, fossilized, mineralized, or dormant is unknown. That they are biological is obvious. Thus, the specimens presented in this report serve as further evidence that there is and was life on Mars.

Jesus. None of the photos show anything that is biological, obvious or otherwise. This thing is an unprofessional mess that wouldn’t even pass muster in an introductory high school biology class.


I was reading this article with a provocative title: Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?. It set my alarm bells ringing from the title onward.

Look at those authors! So many, yet the paper itself is so empty of data. Most I don’t know. Steele I’ve heard of — he was promoting neo-Lamarckism in the 1980s, and thinks the Cambrian explosion was caused by retroviruses squirting new complex genes into the ancestors of all animals. Brig Klyce I’ve bumped into a few times on the internet…he’s a panspermia fanatic. Milton Wainwright is the guy who used an EM to look for odd blobs and declared they are evidence of alien life. The Wallis’s were part of a time that announced that diatoms came from outer space. Oh, and Chandra Wickramasinghe…yes, we have crossed paths multiple times. He published a lot in the Journal of Cosmology, with an editor, Rhawn Joseph, who really, really doesn’t like me.

Wickramasinghe has been making bank on this nonsensical idea that genes for complex intelligent life have periodically rained down on the Earth from outer space. There is no evidence for it, and no reason to invoke this random phenomenon to explain biology — we have random phenomena enough, thank you very much, and none of them have the extreme weirdness of the space virus explanation.

I guess I have heard of quite a few of the authors! And it’s a most unsavory stew of notorious crackpots.

Let’s take a look at the abstract for this gem of a paper, shall we?

We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ~500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion — life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.

It’s a moderately long paper, because it’s really easy to layer on thick coats of bullshit when you don’t care about the quality of the evidence. So I’m just going to look at — can you guess? — his second focus, “the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus”.

It’s garbage.

There are novelties in cephalopod evolution, and I’ve written about them before. In particular, cephalopods carry out a significant amount of gene editing, that is, they use enzymes to modify a few of the bases in RNA before it is translated into protein. This is not a shocking surprise — it’s not a universal modification of every RNA, but it has been observed in phyla all across the animal kingdom — although some gullible sources claim it is a violation of the central dogma (they’re wrong). But the key thing is that it’s not unique to cephalopods, lots of organisms have the enzymes, so you can’t use it as evidence for the claim that gene editing came from outer space.

In particular, there is no reasonable justification for this claim:

Thus the possibility that cryopreserved Squid and/or Octopus eggs, arrived in icy bolides several hundred million years ago should not be discounted (below) as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth ca. 270 million years ago. Indeed this principle applies to the sudden appearance in the fossil record of pretty well all major life forms, covered in the prescient concept of “punctuated equilibrium” by Eldridge and Gould advanced in the early 1970s (1972, 1977); and see the conceptual cartoon of Fig. 6. Therefore, similar living features like this “as if the genes were derived from some type of pre-existence” (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981) apply to many other biological ensembles when closely examined. One little known yet cogent example is the response and resistance of the eye structures of the Drosophila fruit fly to normally lethally damaging UV radiation at 2537 Å, given that this wavelength does not penetrate the ozone layer and is thus not evident as a Darwinian selective factor at the surface of the Earth (Lutz and Grisewood, 1934) and see Hoyle and Wickramasinghe (1981, p.12e13). Many of these “unearthly” properties of organisms can be plausibly explained if we admit the enlarged cosmic biosphere that is indicated by modern astronomical research e discoveries of exoplanets already discussed. The average distance between habitable planets in our galaxy now to be reckoned in light years e typically 5 light years (Wickramasinghe et al., 2012). Virion/gene exchanges thus appear to be inevitable over such short cosmic distances. The many features of biology that are not optimised to local conditions on the Earth may be readily understood in this wider perspective.

We’ve gone from a few viral genes raining down on Earth and getting incorporated into life, to frozen squid eggs drifting from Alpha Centauri to Earth in icy meteors and somehow crashing into our oceans and surviving to populate the seas. I don’t think the authors understand the word “parsimonious”. If this were true, cephalopods would represent an entirely novel lineage, and more than having a few molecular novelties, they would be completely unrelated to any other animal lineage on the planet. They would not be related to other molluscs. They would not be protostomes. They would not be eukaryotes. They would be totally alien.

The authors even seem to be superficially conscious of this problem. Here is the “conceptual cartoon of Fig. 6”.

This diagram is what you get when you pretend that lineages are made solely of apomorphies, or the derived traits that distinguish each species from other organisms, and close your eyes to the plesiomorphies, or shared similarities. A phylogenetic tree is not “forced”, it is produced by identifying shared traits. The octopus has molecular similarities to snails, and the two together have similarities to other invertebrates, and all of them have shared attributes with all animals. You don’t get to just ignore all that! This is equivalent to saying that octopuses have tentacles, therefore octopuses are from outer space, completely neglecting the fact that octopuses have homologous genes linking them to insects and sea cucumbers and people.

To back up the remarkable assertion that cephalopods fell from space, they present no evidence, other than a flurry of citations of … N. Chandra Wickramasinghe. It’s an embarrassingly masturbatory display. Wickramasinghe and his associates have been churning out these useless, garbage papers for decades, and now they use the volume of shit he has produced as evidence that his shit is valid. He occasionally sprinkles in references to other authors, which he gets wrong: Stephen J. Gould would not recognize figure 6 as an accurate representation of punctuated equilibrium. This is not how science is supposed to work. It’s simply fraudulent.

Wickramasinghe used to be associated with Cardiff University — they fired him and closed his astrobiology ‘department’, which turns out to have been a bit of a Potemkin village anyway. It was run entirely by Wickramasinghe as a part-time employee, and the entirety of the staff were “honorary”, unpaid volunteers.

“It was only costing them between £14,000 and £15,000 (about $24,000) a year to retain me as a part time director of the centre.

“All the other staff, totaling about 12, is honorary research fellows and associates who were not costing the university anything at all. They have brought a huge amount of credit to Cardiff University and so it amazed me that the university would discontinue their support for astrobiology. “What they did to me is a travesty of normal university practice and I still don’t understand the motive. I can’t believe for a moment that they are strapped for £15,000 a year to maintain a centre that has, for good or bad, a very high profile internationally. “We continue to make headlines in various things that we do. Some of our work remains controversial but it is in the nature of science to promote controversy as long as it is intelligent controversy. That’s within the rules of the game. If people agree 100 per cent what they’re doing then science becomes a bit insubstantial. “I just fail to understand why they do this. It could be ageism because, at 71, I’m over the retirement age by a couple of years, but I’ve been around for years and have published many papers. I was Sir Fred Hoyle’s longest-running collaborator from the time I was a student at Cambridge.”

Cardiff claims the closure was entirely due to budgetary reasons, but I rather suspect that, contrary to Wickramasinghe’s claim, his slack work and low standards of evidence have frequently brought discredit to the university.

Don’t cry for Chandra, though. He was snapped up by the University of Buckingham to form a “centre for astrobiology”. I think that might mean he was allowed to host a webpage on their site, because he’s never had a real research unit, and I doubt that he’s been given the funds for one now.

But yeah, if you see his name on anything, or apparently any of the names in that long list of articles, you’ve found a treasure trove of pseudoscience.