Have a querulous Paul Nelson Day!

The new generation of creationists has been doing something rather remarkable. Flaming anti-scientific religious nutcases like Wells and Dembski have been diligently going to real universities, not the usual hokey bible colleges, and working hard to get legitimate degrees in actual fields of science and math to get themselves a superficial veneer of credibility. It's basically nothing but collecting paper credentials, though, since they don't actually learn anything and never do anything with the knowledge they should have acquired, other than use it to razzle-dazzle the rubes.

One other example is Paul Nelson, and today is the anniversary of an infamous interaction. You see, Nelson likes to flaunt the pretense of being knowledgeable about developmental biology. Several years ago, he invented this mysterious metric called "ontogenetic depth" that he claimed to be measuring, and which he claimed to have used as evidence that the Cambrian fauna did not evolve. He even dragged this nonsense to professional meetings where he was ignored, except by vicious anti-creationists. I harshly criticized the entire vacuous notion. (I also expressed sympathy for the poor graduate student Nelson had lured into this waste of effort…it was Marcus Ross, remember him?)

He said he'd write up a technical summary that would explain exactly what ontogenetic depth was and how it was measured. He gave us a whole series of dates by which he'd have this wonderful summary. Every one of those dates sailed by without a word. And ever since we have commemorated Paul Nelson Day on 7 April, one of the dates in 2004 that he promised us an explanation. Here's my anniversary timeline from last year.

I was just reminded that last year at this time I announced an anniversary. In March of 2004, I critiqued this mysterious abstraction called "ontogenetic depth" that Paul Nelson, the ID creationist, proposed as a measure of developmental and evolutionary complexity, and that he was using as a pseudoscientific rationale against evolution. Unfortunately, he never explained how "ontogenetic depth" was calculated or how it was measured (perhaps he was inspired by Dembski's "specified complexity", another magic number that can be farted out by creationists but cannot be calculated). Nelson responded to my criticisms with a promise.

On 29 March 2004, he promised to post an explanation "tomorrow".

On 7 April 2004, he told us "tomorrow".

On 26 April 2004, he told us he was too busy.

On 13 January 2005, he told us to read a paper by R Azevedo instead. I rather doubt that Ricardo supports Intelligent Design creationism, or thinks his work contributes to it.

Ever since, silence.

This year he is apparently off in Brazil, proselytizing his lies and fake science to the people there, so I'm assuming he won't get around to explaining his magic metric tomorrow, either. Isn't it amazing how creationists can make stuff up and get a career speaking at exotic places all around the world?

Oh, and get a day named after them! In his honor, we should all make it a point to ask people "How do you know that?" today, and the ones who actually can explain themselves competently will be complimented by being told that they're no Paul Nelson.

We'll celebrate it again next year, I'm sure.