Thursday, March 06, 2014

Creationist Delusions of Persecution

The creationist website, Uncommon Descent, looks more and more like a parody.

A nontrivial fraction of their postings are currently devoted to imagined persecution of their nutty beliefs. Take this one, for example, where faux journalist Denyse O'Leary discusses the recent discovery of a large virus.

Denyse, as usual, is a bit late to the party. The usual science outlets reported on this three days before Denyse, and other giant viruses have been around for at least ten years. Denyse doesn't do any actual journalism; she just riffs off the work of real journalists.

Denyse uses it as an opportunity to create an imaginary persecution scenario, suggesting that evolutionary biologists would say "None of these creationists should be allowed to hold a job in science". Nobody's said anything even remotely like this; the work was done by non-creationist biologists, was published in a prestigious place to great fanfare, and the discovery merited an article in Nature.

Neither does the giant virus discovery invalidate common descent as a useful theory. (In exactly the same way, relativity doesn't invalidate the usefulness of classical mechanics.) The real state of affairs with regard to common descent is now known, and has been known for a while, to be more complicated than initially thought, with complications arising from horizontal transfer, among other mechanisms. Any honest reporter realizes this.

It's creationists, not evolutionary biologists, who treat Darwin like some sort of demigod that had to be right about everything. The rest of us have known for a long time that Darwin was wrong about many things. When was the last time you heard someone speaking about gemmules as particles of inheritance?

Nobody in the evolutionary biology camp says "believe them and shut up"; Denyse seems to think that biologists are like the Catholic Church. This is just a bizarre creationist persecution fantasy. As for "tenured prof[s]", O'Leary's favorite target, just who exactly do you think discovered the giant virus? Hint: it wasn't Denyse, Steven Meyer, or any other of her non-tenured creationist friends.

You can't make up this kind of stupidity.


Diogenes said...

I wait for them to post something on Twitter, then I tweet them from @diogeneslamp0 -- same content as your post here, but boiled down to 140 characters.

Such as, on the the topic of the giant virus:

@itsdesign After yrs of research, ID scientists discover world's largest virus. O wait that was us #pubjacked!

Denyse O'Leary's tag is @itsdesign. I use the hashtag #pubjacked each time the IDologues hijack evolutionist research claiming it supports their own agenda.

CDP said...

Professor Shallit, I don't understand your analogy between common descent and Newtonian mechanics. Do you really mean to suggest that the Pithovirus sibericum does not share a common ancestor with the rest of the organisms on Earth? The Nature article you cite states: "Only one-third of its proteins bear any similarity to those of other viruses." This means it's a strange virus, but it surely doesn't mean it was an independently originating life form.

Please clarify.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

No, I'm not suggesting anything like that. I only meant that things like horizontal transfer complicate the picture of descent.

Unknown said...

Just came across a delicious little christian crackpot named Louis Savain and his insane ramblings website

Unknown said...

And in the parallel all-comedy universe, an Arizona State Senator (let me guess: not a Socialist, not a Communist, not a Green..let's see.. what other political party do you think he could possibly belong to?) opposes algebra because he thinks it's pornographic.

No, wait. This is not in the parallel all-comedy universe. This is sadly in our universe.