Wingnut Takes on National Academy of Sciences

I somehow got an email linking me to a Outing the Moronocracy: Ending the Rule of the Blind, the Stupid, and the Disgraceful in American Society,” by some nut named Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. This is some funny stuff, including an open letter sent to the National Academy of Sciences.

You can read that full letter at his website for the book. Prepare to be amused. He’s mighty upset over the NAS publication Science, Evolution and Creationism and he’s got a laundry list of bad arguments straight out of the creationist jokebook. He seems particularly fond of the phrase “chance human reptile descent” to describe the theory of evolution, as he repeats it over and over again in the letter. I don’t know why he chooses reptiles. Yes, mammals did evolve from reptiles, but why pick that point in the history of life? Reptiles evolved from amphibians, which evolved from fish. Why not “change human fish descent”?

He says lots of ignorant things like this:

No mechanism in nature has been discovered that can develop the genetic data of a certain species and cause it to become another species. Out of the two million or so species on this planet, you cannot pick a single one (a pine tree, anchovy, garden spider, whale, potato, snail, human, eagle, firefly, bumblebee, etc.) and identify, with empirical evidence, the species from which it allegedly evolved.

Of course, we have actually observed speciation in nature many, many times. And yes, we can identify the ancestors of lots and lots of species with empirical evidence. This may be my favorite part, where he declares that the term “natural selection” is an “indefinable figure of speech” (actually, it’s very well defined and its effects are entirely measurable in populations) and proceeds to rewrite various sentences in the NAS booklet to replace the former with the latter:

Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were the first to identify an indefinable figure of speech as the driving force behind evolution, or what Darwin termed “descent with modification ” (pp. 22-23).

The process by which organisms with advantageous variations have greater reproductive success than other organisms within a population is known as “an indefinable figure of speech” (p. 50).

The concept of an indefinable figure of speech has been applied in many fields outside biology (p. 9).

In that “natural selection” is “a personification of nature,” we may also logically substitute that phrase as well:

A personification of nature also can reduce the prevalence of traits that diminish organisms’ abilities to survive and reproduce (p. 5).

However, a personification of nature also can have radically different evolutionary effects over different timescales (p. 6).

Over multiple generations, some populations of organisms subjected to a personification of nature may change in ways that make them better able to survive and reproduce in a given environment (p. 50).

Moronocracy indeed.

"Jerry Falwell's idiot son is living proof that the turd doesn't fall far from the ..."

Falwell, Jr. : Sessions, Rosenstein, Wray ..."
"The closest I've seen to a kind of likable version of Trunp, and I'm really ..."

Trump Unwittingly Reveals Major Character Flaw
"And they were only passed cause no one wanted to see them again a 4th ..."

Trump Unwittingly Reveals Major Character Flaw

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • It’s like those things where incompetent people are found to judge themselves as in the upper percentiles of competence. These moronocrats who barely understand science understand just enough to think they’ve cleverly refuted it but to everyone else they come off as children making artwork with their poo-poo.

  • iknklast

    OK, now I expect to see “an indefinable figure of speech” show up in my Biology class! (I don’t know how many times I’ve had Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator thrust in my direction as though it would make some difference to me that a preacher didn’t agree with the scientific data).

  • No, see, positing a designer, as in so-called Intelligent Design, would be a personification of nature. Saying that nature selects is simply shorthand for saying that species adapt to their environment. Saying that intelligence designs is creating a person. Agency is required to design; not to select. At least, not according to the definition of “selection” used here.

    Nice attempt at equivocation there, though, Mr. Johnson. If anthropomorphism is really your bag, might want to check out Stewart Guthrie’s book Faces in the Clouds for an explanation of how it undergirds religion. Not science; religion.

  • dmcclean

    Similarly, “Darwin” is a “proper noun”, so we can substitute the latter for the former….

    Proper noun and Alfred Russel Wallace were the first to identify an indefinable figure of speech as the driving force behind evolution, or what proper noun termed “descent with modification ”

    Hmmm. Something seems to be going wrong here. Perhaps two things need to be synonyms for this “substitution” idea to work, and not simply for the latter to be a description of the former. I’d think this would be obvious even to young children.

  • Michael Heath

    iknklast writes:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator thrust in my direction as though it would make some difference to me that a preacher didn’t agree with the scientific data)

    My favorite response to having Lee Strobel’s work or Josh McDowell’s, Evidence which Demands a Verdict “thrust” in my direction (your verb is accurate), is to ask the advocate if they’ve read the entire book. Or even a significant fraction of it after they always tell me ‘no’ to the initial question. The response is then summarized by noting that they don’t need to be convinced, I instead do.

  • Randomfactor

    Surely a rough draft exists where the term is “an indefinable figevolutionure of speech.”

  • No One

    From the books appendix:

    APPENDIX I: THE VANITY OF REASONING

    By A. E. Knoch

    Co-founder of the Concordant Publishing Concern

    From Unsearchable Riches magazine, September, 1934

    …The remedy is exceedingly simple: it is faith. If we believe all of God’s Word we will not need to reason. The Scriptures do not consist of a collection of premises, which we must combine in order to get the truth. When reasoning is necessary, it is done for us…

    Ya’ll are looking at this through the lens of reason instead of faith. Snort.

  • This may be Johnson’s way (through an obvious fog) of repeating the old creationist cannard that natural selection is a tautology (the “fit” survive; we know they’re fit because they survive).

    Steven Jay Gould dealt with that one back in the 70s:

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_tautology.html

  • No One

    Apparently this fellow wrote “The Parthenon Code” depicting how the Greeks embraced the serpent instead of the god on Noah:

    http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/Posts/00003666.html

    He take Mike Moyers to task for his engagement of Campbel:

    http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/Posts/00003666.html

    And his book “Sowing Atheism”. Note the serpent (reptile) on the cover:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/78060248/Sowing-Atheism

  • No One

    And an interview:

    http://www.publishersnewswire.com/articles/article_0013.shtml

    “Chariots of the gods” Xtian fundie style.

  • John Hinkle

    This Robert Bowie Ray Jay Johnson, Jr. fella ought to compile his thoughts and scienterrific findings into an article and submit it to a peer reviewed biology journal. Then he could kick back and wait for the Nobel prize.

    But then again, my guess is his submission would not be followed by Nobel prize money, but by “embarrassing smack down.”

  • garnetstar

    By “human reptile descent”, he means the evolution of human reptiles, known to the rest of us as “scientists”.

  • d cwilson

    So that’s where the Lizard People came from!

    Obama built his time machine and traveled back thousands of years ago to genetically alter dinosaurs into Lizard People. Then, he saved them from the Flood, hence why there were no dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. Then he brought them forward in time where they helped fake his birth certificate and planted them in key positions in society. Now, they are preparing for the moment when they can strike to seize our guns, impose Sharia law, and force us all into gay marriages.

    It all makes sense.

  • lofgren

    Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were the first to identify an indefinable figure of speech as the driving force behind evolution, or what Darwin termed “descent with modification” (pp. 22-23).

    The process by which organisms with advantageous variations have greater reproductive success than other organisms within a population is known as “an indefinable figure of speech”

    He could have at least picked a couple of sentences that don’t contain perfectly viable, plain English definitions of natural selection.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    Not surprisingly, RBJ,Jr has an entry in the Encyclopedia of American Loons, a work with which I was unfamiliar until just now. I look forward to spending some time there. About a previous work it says

    The book is rather thin on evidence and reason, but then Bob Johnson doesn’t really care for such atheist tricks like ‘sanity’.

    His official bio on Solving Light claims he’s a 1995 graduate of West Point and

    Mr. Johnson is the co-inventor (with Ron Pramschufer) of the controversial board games Public Assistance: Why Bother Working for a Living? and Capital Punishment (©1980 and 1992 now both out of print).

  • jakc

    Out of the two million or so species on this planet, you cannot pick a single one (a pine tree, anchovy, garden spider, whale, potato, snail, human, eagle, firefly, bumblebee, etc.) and identify, with empirical evidence, the species from which it allegedly evolved.

    Isn’t this really the absurd “why are there still monkeys” nonsense? Two species, contemporary in time, can only be said to have a common ancestor; one species cannot be said to have evolved from the other, even if it has more conserved traits from the common ancestor. Of course, once we include the number of extinct species with current species, then Johnson’s number of species (even with the “or so”) becomes absurdly low but the amount of empirical evidence to show “descent with modification” becomes overwhelming.

    I know all this is obvious, but it’s really amazing (frustrating?) how often these sorts of ridiculous objections are raised