Happy 9th Paul Nelson Day!

| 25 Comments

It's a dying holiday, I'm sorry to say -- I completely forgot it last year. But I was reminded this year, so I'll mention it again. I think the proper way to celebrate it is simply to laugh at a creationist today.

The source of the holiday is a remarkable exhibition from Paul Nelson, who like several other creationists, loves to register and present at legitimate science conferences. The barriers are low, and many conferences are intended to give students an opportunity to present, so you'll often find that all you have to do is send in a fee and an abstract and you'll be allowed to put up a poster in an allotted space for a few hours of time. So Nelson showed up at the Developmental Biology meetings in 2004 with a poster titled "Understanding the Cambrian Explosion by Estimating Ontogenetic Depth" in which he and Marcus Ross claimed to have been collecting data measuring some parameter called "ontogenetic depth" in various organisms.

I was at that meeting. I asked him about that in person, and also in blog posts afterwards. How do you measure ontogenetic depth? Share your procedure so I can assess and replicate it, which is what scientists are supposed to do. He hemmed and hawed and hmmphed and in typical Nelsonian fashion babbled and burbled on, and the upshot was that he couldn't tell me just then, but he had something he was writing and he'd polish it up and get it to me the next day, 7 April. He didn't. We've been watching the 7th of April pass by for nine years now.

I think he's felt the sting of mockery. In 2010 he announced that my criticisms were invalid, but he was inventing Ontogenetic Depth 2.0, which still isn't defined and still doesn't have a procedure.

In 2011 he posted some more essays on his fictitious method, in the first of which he announced that ontogenetic depth is A Biological Distance That's Currently Impossible to Measure. Yeah? So why was he presenting a poster at a serious scientific meeting in which he and his colleague claimed to have been measuring it? Sounds like scientific fraud to me.

But then, Intelligent Design creationism has been scientific fraud all along, so I guess he was just following hallowed tradition.

25 Comments

Might I be so bold at to suggest a simple formula? Perhaps something like this:

D = (G X I)/(P)

where G equals the number of genes expressed in developmental pathways in an organism, I represents all of the gene interactions required in order to regulate those pathways properly and P equals to the number of body parts produced by development of the organism.

G might not be too difficult to estimate, since whole genome sequences are available for many organisms and estimates already exist for some.

P isn’t too difficult to estimate. All you need is a good definition and the ability to count.

I might be a problem. You would have to go into the lab and do some research with DNA foot printing, protein binding assays, micro arrays, etc. Perhaps this is the hold up. Paul realizes that he has no lab, no funding and no expertise in the field. So I guess all he can do is make up some numbers and hope no one notices. Good luck with that.

And even if he could calculate this enigmatic quantity, what exactly would it prove? Probably that he was wring all along.

What about a contest to see who can calculate “ontogenetic depth” or “complex specified information” first? I would suggest publication in a scientific peer reviewed journal as a criteria, but let’s be reasonable. :)

DS said:

What about a contest to see who can calculate “ontogenetic depth” or “complex specified information” first? I would suggest publication in a scientific peer reviewed journal as a criteria, but let’s be reasonable. :)

I don’t think it will get to peer review. It’ll just get wiped away, like all the other absurd scientific “papers”.

DS -

Your comment is actually not all that related to Paul Nelson. In fact, you’re doing the opposite of what he did. He made up some BS word game and assumed that nobody would care what it really meant. However, Your comment is interesting.

I don’t do basic research, but regulatory pathways are quite important in my field, because they increasingly relate directly to how numerous types of cancer are diagnosed and treated, even though our understanding of the pathways is superficial.

I represents all of the gene interactions required in order to regulate those pathways properly

I might be a problem.

I think it would be extremely challenging, to put it mildly. Biomedical science has plenty of work for the 21st century.

P isn’t too difficult to estimate. All you need is a good definition and the ability to count.

I think it might be very difficult.

What do we define as body parts - organs? Parts of organs? Definable structures that are repeated in almost all tissues, like various types of blood vessels and nerves? Are individual cells body parts? Intracellular compartments? Botanists - apologies for the zoology-centrism; similar questions could be asked about plants.

Do bacteria have ontogenetic depth of infinity? If not, what are their body parts?

But this is what happens when one tries to make sense of ID/creationist claims. Their claims aren’t meant to make sense. Their goal, conscious and/or unconscious, is to use technical sounding word salad to bamboozle the public, in order to pander to a political faction by advancing illegal religious favoritism in public school science classes. Another goal is to keep themselves employed. Making sense has nothing to do with either goal.

If you click on certain types of advertising links on the internet, you’ll eventually be told that your going to learn about Dr. So and So’s “cancer fighting tips” or learn “which revolutionary foods burn fat”. However, no matter how much you click or how much money you send, some key information will always seem to be held back. Scientology works this way, too. Professional ID/creationists also like this model - keep paying me, I’m “working on a disproof of Darwinism”, it’s coming any day now…

“complex specified information”

Some of the dullwits at Uncommonly Dense have tried to “calculate CSI”. It never seems to work out.

Perhaps…”Ontogenetic depth” will be a measure of how deep Mr. Nelson is buried when he dies without ever having given a means to calculate it.

Oh, stop badgering him, you mean ole evolutionists. All he wants is what all IDC’s want: scientific credibility without actually doing the work.

How about telling us just some basic facts about the quantity (OD or CSI or whatever)?

Is it an extensive or an intensive quantity? A question we all learned about in first-year chemistry.

What are its units? Furlongs per fortnight, grams-squared per dyne-degree, or knots per acre?

What sort of thing has the quantity? Atoms, species, functions, organ-types, processes, individual living things, aggregates, concepts, …?

It’s a dying holiday, I’m sorry to say

Well, yes, but considering that every day of the year could commemorate one or more creationist failures, I suppose it’s inevitable.

Nice to see the IDiots keeping up the tradition of empty promises, though. Remember, though, that they’re going to come up with evidence someday, good arguments someday, an ability to think clearly someday, and then all of you infidels Darwinists will be sorry.

Glen Davidson

It might be fun if one of Nelson’s targets decided to ‘embrace’ ontogenetic depth. Make a few wild assertions about having measured it, multiple times, in a multitude of organisms; put together a few impressive-looking, meaningless, and subtly hilarious charts & graphs; and then conclude that after careful analysis it turns out that ontogenetic depth supports common descent & the modern synthesis.

He’d object wildly, of course… but without a definition, he’ll never be able to discredit the paper.

J. L. Brown said:

It might be fun if one of Nelson’s targets decided to ‘embrace’ ontogenetic depth. Make a few wild assertions about having measured it, multiple times, in a multitude of organisms; put together a few impressive-looking, meaningless, and subtly hilarious charts & graphs; and then conclude that after careful analysis it turns out that ontogenetic depth supports common descent & the modern synthesis.

He’d object wildly, of course… but without a definition, he’ll never be able to discredit the paper.

I already did all that work and yes, in fact, ontogenetic depth does fully support common descent and gradual change by natural selection. I presented these findings at a scientifcy-sounding conference in the form of a poster session which gave a brief summary of the many calculations involved. I’ll be typing up the details tonight and get back to you tomorrow, or next year, maybe. In the meantime, we can rest reassured.

What do we define as body parts - organs? Parts of organs?

Easy–you define it as whatever you want at the moment.

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN! Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

Robert Byers said:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN! Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

So perhaps you could tell us how to calculate “ontogenetic depth”? WHat is the equation, what are the parameters, what are the units, how is it computed, what does it mean? It’s really funny when these charlatans try to ape scientific behavior. Kinda makes you believe we are related to other primates doesn’t it?

Robert Byers said:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN!

You ignore that it’s not testable, parsimonious, falsifiable, progressive, or measurable. And to add on that note, it violates methodological naturalism, and doesn’t specify the “designer”, and is creationism in disguise.

Byers said:

Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

We have seen evolution happening, it explains pseudogenes, atavisms, transitional fossils, etc.

EvoDevo said:

An Idiot bleated:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN!

You ignore that it’s not testable, parsimonious, falsifiable, progressive, or measurable. And to add on that note, it violates methodological naturalism, and doesn’t specify the “designer”, and is creationism in disguise.

And then there is the problem of how Intelligent Design is useless as an explanation, as not even its creators at the Discovery Institute can demonstrate how to use Intelligent Design theory to do anything other than be an anti-science propaganda prop.

An Idiot bleated again:

Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

We have seen evolution happening, it explains pseudogenes, atavisms, transitional fossils, etc.

And here we see Robert Byers the Idiot For Jesus yet again repeating his blatant lie that Evolution is somehow, magically not science (with the blatant implication that Young Earth Creationism is, in turn, somehow, magically science).

“Understanding the Cambrian Explosion by Estimating Ontogenetic Depth”

Yet another young-earth creationist talking about the Cambrian explosion seemingly unaware that if the Cambrian explosion actually happened then the world is not young.

TomS said:

How about telling us just some basic facts about the quantity (OD or CSI or whatever)?

Is it an extensive or an intensive quantity? A question we all learned about in first-year chemistry.

What are its units? Furlongs per fortnight, grams-squared per dyne-degree, or knots per acre?

What sort of thing has the quantity? Atoms, species, functions, organ-types, processes, individual living things, aggregates, concepts, …?

Well, information is measured in bits. Various conversations with ID cdesign proponentists suggest that they still do this. However, that doesn’t help them any at all.

A point mutation results in the same number of bits in both the precursor and the final DNA, but can’t describe the change involved (which is significant in sickle cell anemia).

What they really want to measure is ‘meaning’, not ‘information’. And while it’s theoretically possible to measure meaning of DNA or proteins or the like, the ID guys have never done so.

EvoDevo said:

Robert Byers said:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN!

You ignore that it’s not testable, parsimonious, falsifiable, progressive, or measurable. And to add on that note, it violates methodological naturalism, and doesn’t specify the “designer”, and is creationism in disguise.

Byers said:

Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

We have seen evolution happening, it explains pseudogenes, atavisms, transitional fossils, etc.

Again I say all origin subjects are not easily studied by scientific rules. Its literally a failure of methodology scrutiny.

You haven’t SEEN evolution happening in the important conclusions that is evolutionary biology. Your three points are lines of reasoning and completely unrelated to biological investigation based on science standards. They are just secondary invesigations done by heavy reliance on presumptions of facts not proven or anyways unrelated to biology. Fossil sequence is not admissable to scientific study of biology. The connections are not being studied but implied.

apokryltaros said:

EvoDevo said:

An Idiot bleated:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN!

You ignore that it’s not testable, parsimonious, falsifiable, progressive, or measurable. And to add on that note, it violates methodological naturalism, and doesn’t specify the “designer”, and is creationism in disguise.

And then there is the problem of how Intelligent Design is useless as an explanation, as not even its creators at the Discovery Institute can demonstrate how to use Intelligent Design theory to do anything other than be an anti-science propaganda prop.

An Idiot bleated again:

Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

We have seen evolution happening, it explains pseudogenes, atavisms, transitional fossils, etc.

And here we see Robert Byers the Idiot For Jesus yet again repeating his blatant lie that Evolution is somehow, magically not science (with the blatant implication that Young Earth Creationism is, in turn, somehow, magically science).

No. We say origin subjects are about past and gone events and processes. Therefore investigation of what is not observable is not easily or at all open to scientific investigation. Then we can demonstrate evolutionary biology is not a scientific theory but only a open hypothesis. Point by point this can be shown. You could shut us up with JUST your top four scientific biological evidence for the important conclusions of evolutionary biology as a mechanism . We can show any audience evolutionists can’t do this! For us its step one in debunking this old error.

Robert Byers said:

EvoDevo said:

Robert Byers said:

Intelligent design is scientific fraud?? I say its as scientific as can be about origin subjects. Mr Myers is questioning methodology. AMEN!

You ignore that it’s not testable, parsimonious, falsifiable, progressive, or measurable. And to add on that note, it violates methodological naturalism, and doesn’t specify the “designer”, and is creationism in disguise.

Byers said:

Does conclusions from evolutionary biology from investigation of SCIENTIFIC methodology?? If too general a question what is the top three facts to demonstrate the scientific methodology has been hand in glove with ToE.

We have seen evolution happening, it explains pseudogenes, atavisms, transitional fossils, etc.

Again I say all origin subjects are not easily studied by scientific rules. Its literally a failure of methodology scrutiny.

Too bad that you lack the knowledge, intelligence, and intellectual honesty to make a meaningful evaluation of these matters.

But you’ll repeat your false claims coming from simplistic fools like you no matter what anyone says.

IOW, you’re a contemptible buffoon.

Glen Davidson

Robert Byers said:

Again I say all origin subjects are not easily studied by scientific rules. Its literally a failure of methodology scrutiny.

You haven’t SEEN evolution happening in the important conclusions that is evolutionary biology. Your three points are lines of reasoning and completely unrelated to biological investigation based on science standards. They are just secondary invesigations done by heavy reliance on presumptions of facts not proven or anyways unrelated to biology. Fossil sequence is not admissable to scientific study of biology. The connections are not being studied but implied.

You’re dead wrong, Robert Byers, but suppose you were not.

Suppose that the theory of biological evolution is completely wrong. Suppose that the fossils don’t mean what the ToE says they mean. Suppose all the inferences are spurious.

None of that is the case, but suppose it were.

So what?

Would that mean that gods exist? No, it would not. Would that mean that the supernatural exists? No, it would not. Would that mean that geology as well as biology, as well as physics, as well as cosmology, mathematics, computer science, inorganic chemistry, etc. etc. would be wrong? No, it would not.

Would it put even a scuff mark on the edifice of applied, empirical naturalism? No, it most certainly would not.

So what’s your point, Robert Byers? Please do try to come up with one, would you?

Childermass said:

“Understanding the Cambrian Explosion by Estimating Ontogenetic Depth”

Yet another young-earth creationist talking about the Cambrian explosion seemingly unaware that if the Cambrian explosion actually happened then the world is not young.

Your right. YEC should not embrace the cambrian explosion as ID folks do. I don’t think YEC do. They might flirt with it as a criticism of evolutionary conclusions but would stress the rejection of the geology presumptions. In fact everyone should drop the cambrian explosion as any SCIENTIFIC biological evidence for evolution/criticisms of evolution. they are missing the point here its all determined on biological presumptions and without these there is no insight at all. A historic logical flaw has been in the methodology of much of evolutionary biology AS a credible scientific theory and not just a hypothesis or good hunch or anything other then Genesis.

Robert Byers said:

A historic logical flaw has been in the methodology of much of evolutionary biology AS a credible scientific theory and not just a hypothesis or good hunch or anything other then Genesis.

Suppose you’re correct, Robert Byers. You’re not, but suppose for the purpose of argument that you can somehow show that evolutionary biology is no good.

Why would that mean Genesis? Why wouldn’t it mean the Bhagavad Gita?

How could you tell it was your creator god, Robert Byers? How could you tell it was Jehovah and not Vishnu?

phhht said:

Robert Byers said:

Again I say all origin subjects are not easily studied by scientific rules. Its literally a failure of methodology scrutiny.

You haven’t SEEN evolution happening in the important conclusions that is evolutionary biology. Your three points are lines of reasoning and completely unrelated to biological investigation based on science standards. They are just secondary invesigations done by heavy reliance on presumptions of facts not proven or anyways unrelated to biology. Fossil sequence is not admissable to scientific study of biology. The connections are not being studied but implied.

You’re dead wrong, Robert Byers, but suppose you were not.

Suppose that the theory of biological evolution is completely wrong. Suppose that the fossils don’t mean what the ToE says they mean. Suppose all the inferences are spurious.

None of that is the case, but suppose it were.

So what?

Would that mean that gods exist? No, it would not. Would that mean that the supernatural exists? No, it would not. Would that mean that geology as well as biology, as well as physics, as well as cosmology, mathematics, computer science, inorganic chemistry, etc. etc. would be wrong? No, it would not.

Would it put even a scuff mark on the edifice of applied, empirical naturalism? No, it most certainly would not.

So what’s your point, Robert Byers? Please do try to come up with one, would you?

The correction of erros on origin matters aids the truth of scripture and all in it. Then its mans duty to intelligently figure out the natural world. Solomon was a naturalist researcher. Then correction can lead to benefits for mankind. Then one can have satisfaction in accomplishment in bringing about these goals. Then its fun and sharpens the wits. Strange question to ask but you did.

But scripture is fiction, Robert Byers. It is no more true than the Harry Potter stories. How could overturning evolution turn fiction into fact?

Robert Byers said:

phhht said:

Robert Byers said:

Again I say all origin subjects are not easily studied by scientific rules. Its literally a failure of methodology scrutiny.

You haven’t SEEN evolution happening in the important conclusions that is evolutionary biology. Your three points are lines of reasoning and completely unrelated to biological investigation based on science standards. They are just secondary invesigations done by heavy reliance on presumptions of facts not proven or anyways unrelated to biology. Fossil sequence is not admissable to scientific study of biology. The connections are not being studied but implied.

You’re dead wrong, Robert Byers, but suppose you were not.

Suppose that the theory of biological evolution is completely wrong. Suppose that the fossils don’t mean what the ToE says they mean. Suppose all the inferences are spurious.

None of that is the case, but suppose it were.

So what?

Would that mean that gods exist? No, it would not. Would that mean that the supernatural exists? No, it would not. Would that mean that geology as well as biology, as well as physics, as well as cosmology, mathematics, computer science, inorganic chemistry, etc. etc. would be wrong? No, it would not.

Would it put even a scuff mark on the edifice of applied, empirical naturalism? No, it most certainly would not.

So what’s your point, Robert Byers? Please do try to come up with one, would you?

The correction of erros on origin matters aids the truth of scripture and all in it. Then its mans duty to intelligently figure out the natural world. Solomon was a naturalist researcher. Then correction can lead to benefits for mankind. Then one can have satisfaction in accomplishment in bringing about these goals. Then its fun and sharpens the wits. Strange question to ask but you did.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on April 7, 2013 6:13 AM.

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