Wingnut Takes on National Academy of Sciences

Wingnut Takes on National Academy of Sciences September 17, 2012

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.

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