Recently in Wells' PIG Category

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

The most virulent attacks on evolution tend to come from political conservatives, and many conservatives have argued—as Wells does in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design—that political conservatism and evolution are fundamentally incompatible. Other conservatives, most prominently Larry Arnhart, have argued that conservatism is not only compatible with the lessons of evolutionary science, but that in some ways conservatism fits better with those lessons than do leftist political theories. Although I’m not a conservative myself, and although Arnhart’s writings on the subject contain some significant blind spots, I think he has the better of this argument. But the PIG thinks otherwise, and its attack on pro-evolution conservatives in Chapter 14 is written with the irrational and histrionic tone that many “intelligent design” activists adopt when discussing the subject. Let’s take a look.

Haeckel on gastrulation

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This morning, the ID guys were embarrassed – once again – when it was revealed that they didn’t know what they were talking about when they accused PZ Myers of lying by misquoting Wells in PIGDID. PZ dealt with this pretty darn convincingly over here.

But looking at the Haeckel/embryos chapter of PIGDID reminded me of something that has always bugged me about Wells’s claims. Here it is:

Yet only after cleavage and gastrulation does a vertebrate embryo reach the stage that Haeckel labeled the “first.” If it were true (as Darwin and Haeckel claimed) that vertebrates are most similar in their earliest stages, then the various classes would be most similar during cleavage and gastrulation. (Wells, PIGDID, p. 30)

There you have it: Darwin and Haeckel were ignorant of diversity in embryo gastrulation! What boobs!

Imagine my surprise when I actually took a look at Haeckel’s Anthropogenie (1891 edition):

PZ Myers is such a LIAR!

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In my review of the embryology of Jonathan Wells in PIGDIG, I made a specific example of the abuse of a quote from Bill Ballard; I pointed out that he selectively edited the quote to completely distort Ballard's point in the cited paper, and used that to show how dishonest all of Wells' work was.

Now Tim McGrew of Kalamazoo wants to accuse me of intentionally distorting Wells' words. I didn't just selectively edit, he thinks I actively changed Wells' words to make my point.

Let me rephrase that: Myers has changed Wells's wording and then has the temerity to accuse Wells of misleading the reader at the very point where Myers himself has made the change in Wells's words.

Let me put that more bluntly: Myers is lying through his teeth. Literally. He is actually that dishonest. And not a single commentator on Panda's Thumb for the past two months could be bothered to check Myers's quotation against Wells's actual words to see whether Myers was telling the truth.

Sal Cordova, sycophant of the ID movement, has of course leapt upon this claim at Uncommon Descent as well. Let's see how accurate McGrew and Cordova are.

Continue reading "PZ Myers is such a LIAR!" (on Pharyngula)

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

In chapter eight Wells recapitulates the standard “intelligent design” mantra that design can be established via an eliminative process. That is, if it can be established that a particular phenomenon is not the result either of natural laws or chance, then design emerges as the only remaining possibility. Readers familiar with ID will recognize this as the same, tired argument that “intelligent design” activists have been offering for more than a decade. Indeed, Wells merely parrots the assertions of William Dembski, giving neither acknowledgement of nor consideration to any of the numerous refutations of Dembski’s work produced over the years.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

The seventh chapter of Wells’s book could be summed up in a single sentence: “biology doesn’t need no steeekin’ evolution!” Wells argues that, because medicine and agriculture were already doing just fine prior to Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species, clearly then, these fields (and others) haven’t benefited from an application of evolutionary principles in the time from 1859 to present day, and that Dobzhansky’s “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” is one big joke.

Wells focuses on medicine and agriculture because these are two fields that we all benefit from and are more easily understood than biological disciplines that are a bit more removed from the common man. Animal and plant breeding and domestication is something that resonates more with middle America than the speciation events Wells describes in Chapter 5 (review of that yet to come), and certainly the great strides made in medicine are familiar even to those who don’t have much of an interest in the field. Wells claims that these fields have been “darwined”; that “Darwinists steal credit for scientific breakthroughs to which they contributed nothing,” and calls it a form of “intellectual larceny.” (pp. 80-81):

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

No book on “intelligent design” would be complete without a mention of the concept of irreducible complexity. Jonathan Wells’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design does not disappoint in this regard; it is the actual discussion of irreducible complexity that is very disappointing and down right misleading.

For my contribution to the ongoing review of Jonathan Wells’ new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (PIGDID), I will be reviewing chapters four and five. Chapter Four covers the record of evolution that is contained in the DNA of all living things, and Chapter Five discusses speciation. A full review of each of these chapters is going to take a while and wind up being rather long. I’ve divided the reviews up into chunks, and I’m going to post each chunk as I finish it. Comments are more than welcome, and might be helpful when the time comes to pull all the separate chunks together into a single document. —

I’m going to start off with Chapter 5, which Wells has titled The Ultimate Missing Link. This chapter is nominally about speciation, which can be defined as the formation of new species from old ones. This is my own field of study, and I’m relatively current with the literature and what’s going on in the field. Reading Wells’ version of speciation, I was appalled. His description and criticism bears absolutely no resemblance to the field I study, and his presentation is packed with distortions and outright lies. In future parts of this review, I will discuss some of the real science involved in the study of speciation. In this part of the review, I am going to focus on three examples of places in Chapter Five where Wells lies to his readers. I do not use the word “lie” lightly here. The statements in question are not merely incorrect; they are statements that Wells must have known to be incorrect when he made them.

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

If there’s something embarrassingly dumb to be done or said, it’s probably going to be done or said in the name of “political incorrectness”. That term was first used to bring attention to the political censoriousness at leftist epicenters in the 1990s, but it has mutated into an excuse for saying stupid, outlandish, misleading things. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History was full of misrepresentations, politically-motivated elisions, and a neo-Confederate interpretation of the Constitution that embarrassed serious constitutional scholars. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science was full of silly pro-“intelligent design” notions, and now The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells has come along to carry this tradition forward—if “forward” is the right term.

An indication of the astonishing degree of misrepresentation and outright lying that The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design employs comes in Chapter 15 when discussing the controversy over an evolution website supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The Thumb covered this pseudo-controversy pretty thoroughly at the time. But here’s how Jonathan Wells describes it:

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Jonathan Wells has recently written The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Wells’s book is stuffed full of misrepresentations, distortions, and plain falsehoods. My Thumb colleagues are reviewing whole chapters, but my purpose here is to focus in some detail on just one of Wells’s claims to illustrate his scurrilous tactics.

The claim I focus on is from Chapter 16, “American Lysenkoism”. Mark Perakh has already documented how Wells manipulated partial quotations from Perakh’s earlier essay on Lysenkoism to create misrepresentations of what Perakh actually wrote. Here I will describe Wells’s dishonesty about a specific episode in Ohio last year.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Chapter 15 is entitled “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”. For much of this chapter, the reader will find Wells on his soapbox about this or that aspect of, you guessed it, “Traditional Christianity”. And, like “Darwinism” in the first chapter, Wells struggles to find a definition for his term. Wells chooses a current version of the Nicene Creed as the sort of “creedal affirmations that” traditionally unite Christians. (Apparently the litmus suggested by Jesus was inadequate.) Wells almost approaches clarity when he implies that if one doesn’t adhere to the tenets of the (current?) Nicene Creed, one cannot seriously consider him or herself as a Christian. (No word yet on the apparently non-Christians who affirmed a prior version of the Nicene Creed.)

There are two important things to say about Wells’s definition of a “Traditional Christian”. First, the commitment to the tenets of the Nicene Creed is hardly a universal litmus for determining who is and who is not a Christian. A Protestant, even one who subscribes to every tenet of the Nicene Creed, who thinks that Wells is right is encouraged to try to obtain the sacramental elements from a Catholic communion and see how far he gets. (According to Catholic tradition, Protestants cannot receive Catholic communion.)

The second important thing to note is that Jonathan Wells is styling himself as a defender of “Traditional Christianity.”

Read that again: Jonathan Wells, Traditional Christianity. Not to be impolite, but to us here at the Thumb Wells defending “Traditional Christianity” reads as queer as Ann Coulter defending “traditional values”.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

I’ll address in this article chapter sixteen, “American Lysenkoism”, in Jonathan Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. As Wells (1994) explained, he went to study biology at the behest of his spiritual “father” the Reverend Sun-Myung Moon, with an explicit goal to devote his life to “destroying Darwinism”. Since he set out to destroy “Darwinism” before having sufficiently familiarized himself with it, this immediately points to his lack of impartiality when dealing with “Darwinism.” Wells’s goal was not to evaluate “Darwinism” on its merits but to search for any arguments, regardless of their merits, which would serve his goal set in advance. This alone is a strong warning to the consumers of Wells’s literary output: take Wells’s arguments with a good dose of salt; he is not an unbiased judge of evidence, but a partisan of an anti-evolution effort whose goal is not to find the truth but to prove his viewpoint regardless of means.

In a box in the margin of chapter sixteen Wells writes: “Lysenkoism is now rearing its ugly head in the US, as Darwinists use their government positions to destroy the careers of their critics.”

Really? Thousands of biologists in the USSR at the time of Lysenko’s reign were arrested, exiled to Siberia, and many of them shot in the basements of the notorious Lubyanka prison, while intelligent design advocates in the US thrive on lavish donations from ultra-religious sources, have their own publishing outlets, lecture all over the country without any interference from genuine scientists, endlessly appear on TV and radio shows, and enjoy support from the extreme right-wing pundits and commentators?

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Chapter 9 in Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Evolution and Intelligent Design, “The Secret of Life”, is like previous chapters, a rehash of well-known creationist arguments. This time the topics are DNA, the genetic code, and the origin of biological information. In addition, Wells uses up a third of the chapter with some excuse-making for the lack of peer-reviewed papers supporting “intelligent design”, and with a completely misleading account of the purported “persecution” of an ID-friendly scientist by the “Darwinist orthodoxy”.

As far as the scientific arguments go, after giving an overview of DNA structure and function, Wells presents three main objections to the current scientific understanding of evolution at the DNA level, which in a nutshell go like this:

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Jonathan Wells is a titular developmental biologist, so you’d expect he’d at least get something right in his chapter on development and evolution in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, but no: he instead uses his nominal knowledge of a complex field to muddle up the research and misuse the data to generate a spurious impression of a science that is unaware of basic issues. He ping-pongs back and forth in a remarkably incoherent fashion, but that incoherence is central to his argument: he wants to leave the reader so baffled about the facts of embryology that they’ll throw up their hands and decide development is all wrong.

Do not be misled. The state of Jonathan Wells’s brain is in no way the state of the modern fields of molecular genetics, developmental biology, and evo-devo.

Here’s my shorter version of Wells’s chapter 3, titled “Why you didn’t ‘evolve’ in your mother’s womb.” It may sound familiar to many of you.

The strongest evidence for Darwin’s theory was embryology, but Karl Ernst von Baer, who laid out the laws of development, did not think they supported evolution, and Ernst Haeckel twisted and distorted von Baer’s laws and faked his data to support Darwinism. He was wrong, and the earliest stages of vertebrate embryos do not resemble one another at all, so Darwinism was built on a false foundation, and they’re still using Haeckel’s faked data in our textbooks. Oh, and mutant fruit flies are still just flies.

That’s right, it’s a rather boring rewrite of a premise of his book, Icons of Evolution, which I hammered on over three years ago. He hasn’t learned a thing since, and he’s making exactly the same arguments. I’ll take a different tack this time and expose the sleight of hand he’s pulling.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

By titling his first chapter “Wars and Rumors”, Jonathan Wells invokes a snippet of scripture in which Jesus describes the end times

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Wells uses such dramatic quotations and general martial language because the struggle between “intelligent design” and science is very much a culture war, at least to him and other creationists. In order to advance his thesis, Wells has to convey the idea that “Darwinism” pits itself against traditional Christianity: to allow pupils to learn it is to give them up to atheism, decadence, liberalism and to lose the culture war.

Note that Wells does not wage war against evolution. In fact, he is at pains to make it (somewhat) clear that he wages war against “Darwinism”, which in context might sound like the sort of thing any sensible Christian would want to guard against. Unfortunately, Wells isn’t exactly clear what he means by Darwinism as opposed to evolution. In this chapter and chapter fifteen, “Darwinism’s War on Traditional Christianity”, we find many references to “Darwinism”. Assuming that even creationist words have meaning, let us set those invocations in series while adjusting the language only to merge them syntactically. Presumably there is consistency of meaning, and this will hopefully help us gain a greater understanding of what this nasty Darwinism thing is.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Read the entire series.

Jonathan Wells is one of the most notorious activists of the political ad campaign known as “intelligent design”. He is most well known for his attacks on modern biology, specifically his 2000 book, Icons of Evolution, which was panned by the scientific community for its fraudulent presentation of modern biology.

Does Jonathan Wells, aiming once again at the popular market, restore his scientific and academic reputation with his latest book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, or is it just old trash in a new bag? To find out, you will need to read our multi-part review, which begins tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, Jonathan Wells is too modest. His recently published, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, is not only politically incorrect but incorrect in most other ways as well: scientifically, logically, historically, legally, academically, and morally.

Jonathan Wells (2006) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.Amazon

Synopsis: One thing is for sure, Jonathan Wells is too modest. His recently published, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, is not only politically incorrect but incorrect in most other ways as well: scientifically, logically, historically, legally, academically, and morally.

IntroductionChapter 1 — Chapter 2 — Chapter 3 — Chapter 4 — Chapter 5 — Chapter 6 — Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10 — Chapter 11 — Chapter 12 — Chapter 13 — Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16 — Chapter 17 — OhioLegal

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Reviews will be posted as they become available.

Reviews are written by members of the Thumb, and the series is edited by Reed A. Cartwright.

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