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« Seed gets personal, and asks me to disclose my secrets: Part I | Main | Ann Coulter: the problem with evolution is all them women and biologists »

Ann Coulter: No evidence for evolution?

Category: CreationismKooks
Posted on: June 18, 2006 2:25 PM, by PZ Myers

I've now read all of the science-related (that's applying the term "related" very generously) stuff in Ann Coulter's awful, ghastly, ignorant book, Godless, and it's a bit overwhelming. This far right-wing political pundit with no knowledge of science at all has written a lengthy tract that is wall-to-wall error: To cover it all would require a sentence-by-sentence dissection that would generate another book, ten times longer than Coulter's, all merely to point out that her book is pure garbage. So I'm stumped. I'm not interested in writing such a lengthy rebuttal, and I'm sure this is exactly what Coulter is counting on—tell enough lazy lies, and no one in the world will have time enough to correct them conscientiously. She's a shameless fraud.

What to do? Well, we can't take apart the whole thing, but what we can do is focus on individual claims and show that Coulter is outrageously wrong—that she has written things that indicate an utter lack of knowledge of the subject. Some of us at the Panda's Thumb are going to be doing just that—look there later for more—and what I'm going to do here is address one very broad claim that Coulter has made repeatedly, and that is also common to many creationists.

That claim is that there is no evidence for evolution. I know, to anybody who has even a passing acquaintance with biology, that sounds like a ridiculous statement, like declaring that people can live on nothing but air and sunlight, or that yeti are transdimensional UFO pilots. Yet Coulter baldly makes the absurd claim that "There's no physical evidence for [evolution]", and insists in chapter 8 of her new book that there is "no proof in the scientist's laboratory or the fossil record." This is like standing outside in a drenching rainstorm and declaring that there is no evidence that you are getting wet.

Let me introduce you to PubMed. This is a freely accessible online database of articles published in the biomedically related fields of the life sciences. It indexes over 4800 journals and contains about 12 million articles going back to 1966, and it's growing constantly. It's very good if you are interested in looking up literature in medicine, zoology, biochemistry, etc.; it's rather incomplete if your interests run to botany, paleontology, or geology, other fields that are rich sources of research in evolution. (By the way, another incredibly useful adjunct is HubMed, an alternative interface to PubMed that lets you get search results as an automated RSS feed. I've got a whole stack of automatic HubMed searches in my newsreader; how do you think I find all these cool articles?)

Here's a simple thing you can do: search PubMed for all articles that discuss evolution. It's not a very practical search, because it returns too much; you're also going to get some number of false positives, because "evolution" is a word used in other contexts than evolutionary biology, but at the same time remember that PubMed doesn't address all fields that deal with evolution equally well, and many papers discuss the details and mechanisms of evolution without putting the word in a title or abstract. When I just did that search, it came back with 177,396 articles on the subject, 25,759 of which were review articles…which means that in the somewhat limited PubMed database, there are about 150,000 primary research articles on evolution.


That's a big number, representing a huge amount of work. To narrow the scope a little bit, you can limit the search to the last 30 days; when I did this just now, it returned a list of 697 current articles on evolution. I'd have to read over 20 articles a day just to keep up! I feel like I've been diligent if I read one or two articles in depth during a day, and skim through a handful more—these aren't light reading, after all, but data-rich technical papers loaded with big words and acronyms and referencing tens to hundreds of other papers.

Here's another source of information: the Library of Congress. Go ahead and search for books on evolution, or to be really specific, search for Library of Congress numbers QH35-QH425. You'll be busy for a while. Again, to narrow it down to something more accessible, I searched the University of Minnesota library system to see what they had on hand. 4,445 books. Even restricting myself to just books acquired in the last year, it's about 330 (again, with some false positives for books on stellar evolution, for instance, or evolution of economics). Discounting that number a bit, it still means that to just keep up with the books my library acquires on this one subject, I'd have to read one every other day…on top of the 20 research articles I'd have to be reading every day.

I'm feeling tired already.

My point here is that there is an incredible amount of evidence for evolution, far more than any one person can digest, and that it is a vital field, still growing and still producing new results. All those papers don't get published unless they contain some new observation, a new experiment, a new test of the idea…and evolution has weathered them all.

Perhaps you aren't a scientist yourself, and you really don't want to wade through stacks of technical papers to find out what scientists say about evolution. There's a shortcut, if you're willing to accept the authority of professional organizations of scientists. Scientists often group themselves into societies for the purposes of organizing meetings and publications, and they have meetings and committees and elections in which they establish a representative consensus. In light of the politicization of evolutionary biology in the US, many have asked their members about the importance of evolution, and written formal statements summarizing their position on the subject. The NCSE has a list of statements from scientific societies, all in support of evolution. The vast majority of all biologists, people who have extensive training in the subject and use biology day by day, see that evolution is well supported by the evidence and is a solid foundation for research.

It's not enough to ask people to simply trust scientists' opinions, of course; we also have to make available to everyone the information used to come to those conclusions. Science is a transparent process, and in addition to the raw data in primary research papers being open to all, many organizations provide digests and summaries to help navigate the immensity of the subject. The National Center for Science Education, for instance, has an excellent resources page with links to further information, as does the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Academies, and the Society for the Study of Evolution. There are no secrets in this business.

Maybe you'd just like to get a general overview of the concepts of evolution, and don't really want to invest your whole life trying to get a handle on this huge subject. UC Berkeley has an excellent online tutorial, Understanding Evolution, and in conjunction with their series a few years ago, PBS has an evolution site that introduces you to the basics. For the natural historians among you, the Tree of Life project is a wonderful overview of systematics and the diversity of life on earth. The Talk.Origins Archive isn't so much a tutorial as a place where you can ask questions and get replies to major criticisms of evolutionary theory. In particular, Douglas Theobald's evidence for evolution page is indispensable—it's a thorough overview of the many different lines of evidence that support the theory of evolution. I point all my introductory biology students to it. Another page that everyone ought to bookmark is the Index to Creationist Claims. It contains pithy rebuttals to the most common creationist canards, and it's very easy to use. Coulter should have referred to it: when I looked at the first paragraph of her evolution chapter, her half dozen claims about evolution were all wrong, and were all answered in the Index. All I had to do was link to that page.

The world of blogs is full of information on evolution. In addition to The Panda's Thumb and Pharyngula, there are quite a few blogs out there that discuss the science of and evidence for evolution, and that are often written by highly qualified scientists themselves. Try browsing Aetiology, Afarensis, All-Too-Common Dissent, Ask The Scientician, The Daily Transcript, De Rerum Natura, Evolgen, Evolution 101, EvolutionBlog, Evolving Thoughts, Good Math, Bad Math, The Intersection, Living the Scientific Life, The Loom, Mike the Mad Biologist, The Questionable Authority, Recursivity, The Scientific Activist, Stranger Fruit, Thoughts from Kansas, and Thoughts in a Haystack, just to get you started. The advantage of weblogs is that you can engage the author and other readers, leaving comments and having a conversation about the subject.

If you don't trust web sources, there are plenty of books to help you out. I've made a long list of evolution books suitable for kids and general readers.

Another effect of the rising sludge of creationist nonsense is that more and more people are getting motivated to become activists for science education. Citizens for Science groups are forming all over the country, and you can find organizations in many states, such as Alabama, Colorado, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota (we will soon have a new Minnesota citizen science organization—look for an announcement this fall), Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Follow the link for your state, and sign up: you'll get announcements and news on the web or in your email, you'll connect up with local, knowledgeable people, you'll hear about free seminars and opportunities to meet and talk face to face with biologists.

Any journalists reading this? Go immediately to the Panda's Thumb media advisors page and copy all of those contacts into your rolodex or PDA. This is a list of people ready and willing to talk to you about evolution and give you the scientific side of the story.

Now look: I've been telling you all about how you, with negligible effort, can find buckets of evidence for evolution. I haven't actually recited any of that evidence yet, and that's because I and many other biologists have been telling everyone about that evidence for years: there comes a point where you have to recognize that the other side has simply put their hands over their ears and are shouting "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA" at the top of their lungs. If you want evidence from the fossil record, here, go read about Tiktaalik, a fossil tetrapod that was predicted by evolutionary theory. If you prefer some of that laboratory evidence that Coulter says doesn't exist, here's a story about selection and evolution of a polyphenism in the laboratory. These are just two of many thousands of published pieces of evidence.

It takes minimal scholarship to discover that there is quite a lot of evidence for evolution. Coulter did not rise to even that level, and worse, she had this tripe vetted by some of the big names of Intelligent Design creationism: Behe, Dembski, and Berlinski. That is shameful. I am at a loss to say in words how abysmally awful this book is.

Like I said, I'm not going to take this trip apart sentence by sentence, even though I could, given enough time and interest. I will suggest instead that if anyone reading this thinks some particular paragraph anywhere in chapters 8-11 is at all competent or accurate in its description of science, send it to me. I couldn't find one. That's where the obligation lies: show me one supportable claim in Coulter's farrago of lies and misleading statements and out-of-context quotes, and we'll discuss it.

(crossposted to The American Street)


(TrackBack URL for this entry: http://scienceblogs.com/cgi-bin/MT/mt-tb.cgi/8332)


For all too many members of the general public, "evidence" for evolution means direct evidence, evidence you can actually see happening right before your eyes -- and given a cartoonish understanding of evolution, this translates into being able to watch a dog turn into a cat, or a bear into a whale.

Presumably people like Dembski and even Coulter know better -- but they seem to trade on this ignorance by their otherwise puzzling use of phrases like "no evidence whatsoever for evolution." As you point out, the worst they ought to be able to say is that the evidence doesn't fit the theory, not that there is "none" at all.

Posted by: Sastra [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 02:43 PM

Sigh... I can feel the value of my Cornell diploma shrinking with every day Ann Coulter remains outside of a coma. :(

It would be really interesting to get inside her head. It would be disgusting, too, but if I can gleefully prod around a fish's half-digested stomach contents I can probably tolerate this. Is she so ignorant that she believes what she writes? If so, which mental illness does she have? Maybe instead she's just an unscrupulous businesswoman who's figured out that there's a LOT of money in intellectually (and otherwise) whoring herself to the far right. I've even wondered if she's a liberal trying to embarrass the far right, like Stephen Colbert but she's the only one in on the joke and she'll write a tell-all from her death bed.

I wonder what her next book will be called. Perhaps "The moon is too made of cheese!" She will condemn liberals for suggesting that a cow did not jump over it.

Posted by: Troutnut [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:02 PM

Why talk about her so much...


Her name shows up 11 times in your post (that's not including the sidebar) Myers shows up twice...and that is including the sidebar.

She doesn't care if she's right or wrong about anything, especially about anything you care about. She's just happy your talking about her. As soon as everyone stops talking about her she'll say something else sensational and get a bunch of free press again.

Someone was complaining to me the other day that 'Carlin should have torn in to her on Leno...'. The best thing he could do was keep his mouth shut, otherwise the story the next day would have been about the big fight on Leno and she would have another day in the news.

Posted by: Avery [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:13 PM

It's no surprise that Ann denies the evidence for evolution. She probably also believes that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.

Posted by: Sexy Sadie [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:13 PM

Could it be that Coulter is actually saying "there is no evidence of life evolving from matter on its own," (i.e., abiogenesis) and that she doesn't know that that's not the same thing as "evolution"? She's drawing on (or puppeting) ID people who themselves allow for some forms of evolution, just not abiogenesis. Not to defend her ignorance, but her statements are so senseless that I wonder....

Posted by: perusio [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:15 PM

Perhaps the only weapon to use against Coulter and her ilk is mockery. What was her grade in Freshman Biology, for example? Or, perhaps we could seek out her opinion on allopatric vs. sympatric speciation? Or simply write a book using her image on the cover, entitled Clueless?

Posted by: frank schmidt [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:31 PM

Don't misunderstand me, I think that Coulter is as crazy as they come. I couldn't stand reading beyond the first two pages in the evolution chapter.

I agree that it seems clear that she is simply parroting what some IDers have fed to her. HOWEVER, I think we can give the IDers the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that they do not believe "there is no physical evidence for evolution", but rather that they believe "there is no physical evidence that evolution is responsible for all the biological design which we see." If this is what they really believe, then 1) that is what they should be claiming, and 2) the post doesn't really speak to their actual beliefs all that much.

Posted by: jeff g [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:45 PM


thanks for plowing through this idiocy. It saves the rest of us a lot of time.

Posted by: Mike the Mad Biologist [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 03:46 PM

I've got a whole stack of automatic HubMed searches in my newsreader; how do you think I find all these cool articles?
I'll bet sometimes your loyal readers e-mail you tips on current evolution-related stuff.

Posted by: quork [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 04:12 PM

I am sure everything PZ wrote is true, but how many of the yahoos who scream their approval of every outrageous remark she makes will ever read any of it, let alone follow up the references?

Coulter appeals to a kind of inverted snobbery or, rather, she has tapped in to a reservoir of resentment against what are perceived to be elite groups - in this case, academic. In principle, the process is little different to the anti-Jewish hysteria whipped up by the Nazis (Godwin's Law exemption claim pending). She gives voice to what her target audience feel whenever a scientist uses words of longer than two syllables, that they are being patronised by some snotty, privileged professor.

Now, I know from personal experience that this is not true; most, if not all scientists, are more than willing to try and explain what they do if asked, although, to be fair, there are some who find it difficult without resorting to the jargon of their discipline. But Coulter trades on the fact that most of those she writes for would not dream of approaching a scientist even if they knew one.

This is why, as has been said many times before, this is a question of public relations not science. If you want to get to Coulter you really only have two options: you either ignore her or tag her with some sort of catchphrase or snappy one-liner that encapsulates what she is actually doing, ie, exactly what she is accusing others of doing.

The best I can come up with is something like either to retitle her book as Clueless: How To Make Big Bucks As a Media Whore By Screwing Your Readers or 'Coulter may not believe in evolution but she certainly knows how to make monkeys out of her readers.'

Maybe there should be a competition for the best one-liner?

Posted by: Ian H Spedding [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 04:38 PM

I hear alot about how Coulter should just be ignored and I can't quite agree. I keep thinking of the city of pacifits and the one killer with a knife. While I do think that ridicule is a good tool for persuading those idiots who only read headlines, I'm not brash enough to assume that all those who read Coulter's (or Savage, or Limbaugh, or O'Reilly etc.) tripe are really that dumb. There are far to many smart people who buy into this because they are ignorant of the facts and swayed by ideology or religion. Not becuase they're drooling morons. They do run the country by the way. Lets not get too arrogant and forget that we are the minority here. Simply stating that we can't believe that anyone could be so dumb as to believe this doesn't change the fact that people do and ignoring them is detrimental to the state of science and the country as a whole. So please ridicule to your hearts content in order to sway the slow, but at the end of the day we need people rebuttling the actual assertions themelves. And not just because some wacko utters them, but because the wacko holds weight and people will follow them. And many of the followers actually buy into the ideas themselves and not just the ridicule that Coulter spews. So to those who say the issue is social I agree. It's not just a scientific problem, it's social as well. But if we're as smart as we like to think we are, then we'll hit back on both fronts.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:11 PM

Coulter may be vile, vicious, hateful and amoral, but she is not stupid.

Do not believe for a moment that Coulter is actually a creationist. She knows evolution is real. She's simply pandering.

Rush Limbaugh deliberate lies, knowing his listeners will gobble it up. This is the hallmark of the "philosophy" of these people, if you can call it that - they hold their own supporters in utter contempt. They have two kinds of supporters - those in on the joke and also profiting from it, and those that they are profiting from - those that the joke is on.

That's why I don't take their anti-liberal crap too much to heart. We aren't their true victims, they merely see us as competition, and smearing us is just a tactic. The ones they truly have comtempt for are their own followers.

Ann Coulter isn't stupid, she just thinks her readers are. It's a long con.

Posted by: CCC [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:13 PM

Short of bludgeoning Miss Coulter with a portrait of Mary Anning to the point where she'd need extensive plastic surgery just to look ugly again, I say we kidnap her, shackle her to a bed, and torture her by making her watch a slideshow describing how Hugo De Vries discovered that Oenothera gigas was a polyploid mutant that arose from a patch of O. lamarckiana that he always visited, complete with chromosomal nitty-gritty.

Posted by: Stanton [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:15 PM

If it is any comfort - she is pretty much a US and Canada only phenomenon. I haven't met anyone who has heard of her here in the UK. Godless is not even in print. I am just hope it will stay that way.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:48 PM

Well of course yeti are not UFO pilots. They shed so much you could end up with a clogged ventilation system in less than a day. And yeti sex is ... vigorous. Every time a ship transports a couple, the crew has to take it into the shop afterwards in order to repair stress fatigue damage.

Posted by: mythusmage [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:49 PM

I never, ever thought this would happen, but the more I read the various sincere responses by intelligent people to Coulter's silly provocations, the more I find myself starting to admire her. It is absolutely amazing what this woman is capable of. With minimal effort (it sounds like she could have written her book over a weekend, for all the serious thought and research that apparently went into it) she has made herself the center of the universe.

I'm catching the Coulter fever. You know, it even makes her seem kind of weirdly attractive somehow, and I hadn't thought that possible. I've always been stimulated by powerful women and the games they play, and is there any woman in America today more powerful? I have to admit, it's kind of a turn on.

Posted by: udargo [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 05:51 PM

Please, udargo, seek professional help before it's too late. ;)

Posted by: Steve LaBonne [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:07 PM

Mark Jabo weighs in with evidence for evolution:

... Comparing the two sides of this debate seems to favor evolutionary theory... . First off, Charles Darwin had a beard; a good thing when you want to be taken seriously as a scientist. . And Darwin's beard wasn't some scruffy beard like your grandmother has. Darwin's bushy beard spoke to his stature as a scientist. It was as if he were saying, "If I wasn't an expert in my field, I couldn't walk around looking like the lead singer of ZZ Top, could I?" ...

Posted by: quork [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:22 PM

I used to believe that all the right-wing pundits who said what I thought to be outrageous nonsense had to be in on a con. They couldn't actually believe all this I thought. But then I found the only reason I had for holding that belief, is that I couldn't understand how they thought it was right. It's like the argument from ignorance. I just couldn't understand it so it can't be true. But I never considered how they might see it. Coulter and her ilk don't think they're vile or amoral. (they're christian. they own the morals) Much like Iago in Othello never sees himself as the villian. He's a wronged man who believes his deciet is justified. And while I hesitate to speak on Coulters actual intelligence level, I can say that just because she's smart and what she says looks absurd to us, doesn't mean she doesn't believe it fully. Nor do I think Limbaugh believes he's deliberatly lying. Much like Bush sees the repealing of our rights as good for us. It's not unconstitutional, it's for the safety of the american people. It's not hard to convince oneself of thngs like this. people do it all the time in regards to the "mysteries" of religion. On top of this, I highly doubt that Coulter et al hold their supporters in contempt. They more likely see their supports as their righteous army. Not do I think she does all this for a buck. Just stop and think how many liberal hating neo-conservatives are out there. How many of them wouldn't love to have the chance to rip liberals on the national stage and then find that so many people hate liberals just like they do. Hearing all that support might even encourage you to be even more extreem next time. Then to get paid for it!? Well that's just icing. Really nice icing, but nevertheless icing. If some of her statements sound extreemly over the top, attribute it to the fact that she's given a soap box and she feels emboldened by it. She may at times have a fleeting moment where she thinks she's being over the top but I'm sure the more she twists it around in her mind, the more america hating liberals begin to look to her. Then the more of a duty she has to rip them. Add to this that she probably enjoys it because she gets to rip them on tv, so she'll add some extra gusto. This is just human nature here. And it makes alot more sense than believing that there is this cabal of mustache twisting evil conservatives out there who actually believe they're evil. (Which is by coincidence, just what WE think. Hmm) This also makes their threat more real. They didn't get into politics for the money. It may keep them there and maybe make them more extreem, but it isn't the main reason. They believe theeir agenda and want more people to think likewise, so that they can see the country in their image. The more we blow them off, the easier it is for them. While the problem of how to deal with them is more complicated, there shouldn't be any question as to if we should. The attack is real and there's no reason to believe the attackers don't believe their rhetoric.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:34 PM

The more I read about the silly things Bush wants to do to the bill of rights, the more I admire him. Take away my 4th amendment right? Hahaha lol. He's just silly guys, lets talk about something else. Like how smart I am.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:37 PM

Please, udargo, seek professional help before it's too late. ;)

Professional help, Steve? Or MORE COWBELL?

I used to think she was the Jerry Springer of politics, but I'm starting to realize she's the Andy Kaufman of politics. This has gone beyond the surreal. This is pure, chimp-tripping goodness.

I've got to come clean. I'm in love with Ann Coulter.

Posted by: udargo [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:43 PM

Oh my FSM, it IS too late. [shakes head sadly]

Posted by: Steve LaBonne [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:45 PM

PZ: thanks for an excellent compendium of data sources - this one's a keeper!

Didn't William Dembski state on his salute to Coulter's latest screed that not only had he "advised" her on the anti-evolutionary portions, but that any errors in it considered his responsibility alone?

What an amazing millstone to have hung around his own neck.

Perhaps he thinks his fearless friend will somehow defend him from spending the rest of his life with a reputation as the Baghdad Bob of Biology?

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 06:56 PM

The attack is real and there's no reason to believe the attackers don't believe their rhetoric.

Mike, I've no doubt Coulter is a conservative woman. But her schtick has nothing to do with politics.

When I was in high school, there was this brainy kid who had this thing about nuclear energy. He was convinced it was a really bad way to meet energy needs for various reasons he could elaborate upon at length. He was very sincere and strangely passionate about it. Which made him a primo target.

I was always one of the cool smart kids, as opposed to the geeky smart kids. The difference, I always knew, was that being cool meant you never let anything get you too worked up. It was dangerous to be smart in high school if your only goal in life was to have sex with cheerleaders, so you had to be careful. You never took anything too seriously. As soon as you started doing that, you became a geek. To be a cool kid you just had to stay cool.

And make fun of kids who couldn't. You had to draw the line and show everybody which side you were on.

So Atomic Boy was an effective tool for establishing our cool credentials. Those of us who wanted to be cool would engage him in arguments about nuclear energy, in which we made deliberately stupid, dishonest arguments designed to provoke him, so everybody could watch him lose his cool while we maintained ours behind a smug smile. I remember reading a book on nuclear energy just for the purpose of constructing some arguments sure to upset him. I didn't give a shit about nuclear energy. Nobody in high school did but Atomic Boy. We all knew he knew more than us about it and we all assumed he was probably right in what he was arguing. But that was beside the point. The point was to entertain and flatter ourselves and our fellows by methodically provoking him. And he never had a clue. The little fool would fall for it every time. For whatever reason, he cared about nuclear energy as a political and environmental issue, and he never realized that none of us did and that none of our conversations were really about nuclear energy. We just liked watching him get worked up about it. It proved we were superior to him and smarter than him in our minds and presumably in the minds of cheerleaders.

And this is what Ann Coulter does for a living. She rips you out of your adult environment, extracts you from whatever context of accomplishment and credentials you might have built, and takes you back to high school where she mocks you relentlessly while her fellows laugh heartily at your cluelessness. And the more you construct elaborate, carefully reasoned, eminently logical arguments in response to her provocations, the more comical you become.

And she has the power, apparently, to do this to almost anybody. Admit it, she's amazing.

I'll bet she was a cheerleader.

Posted by: udargo [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 07:16 PM

Aha: here's the money quote, from http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1071:

April 26, 2006 ... I'm happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism -- indeed, I take all responsibility for any errors in those chapters. :-)

Does that smileyface constitute a disclaimer?

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 07:30 PM

Ann Coulter: Lizardoid alien freak, or just one of their minions? Discuss.

(IMO the only way to deal with these people is with merciless mockery, rude derision, and rotten fruit.)

Posted by: Graculus [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 07:35 PM

For the poorly-informed, science-phobic, time-starved, average American, without a dog in the Evo/ID fight, this is an excellent introduction to the state of evolutionary science and why the attack on it is malarkey. Good job and good approach!

I've always thought sheer quantity of research was a profitable lever for moving these minds, because the public hasn't any sense of the amount. Those figures are bound to be impressive, easily remembered, and, once in minds, to belie the false-witness of creationists who insist the tide is turning in their favor. Without a way to conceptualize how much is known and how it's known, it's hard for average American to know there is no tide to turn, just one giant ocean of data all for one side. It can also provide, for people who will never attempt to comprehend the science, a means to defend the science. [I hope that's clear.] You'd make an excellent teacher.

As you mentioned your figures are very rough thumbnails. Perhaps if a good quantitative summary exists of the amount of research and numbers of researchers, current and over time, someone might point the way to them in the comments here. It's the type of information than can be turned into effective psychomarketing memes.

And a note tangential to this and other posts on her new book, with regards to discussions how to counter this type of crap from right-wing media mouthpieces. I've yet to see the most obvious vulnerability of these types mentioned at all -- their relationship with their audience. Guaranteed there are ideas/memes/stories that would quickly alienate these audiences. Not true ones, mind you, but obviously in this arena truth carries little weight. The nature of such myths could be determined by an insightful, professional psycho-socio analysis of the audiences themselves. Without an audience, they are nothing [except, by now, wealthy].

So to ignoring her, ridiculing her, and rebutting her, we need to add science-based, Machiavellian, covert personal destruction by political operatives. Just to throw that into the discussion.

P.S. A second note on many other comments here and on many other postings. Coulter is not ignorant nor mentally ill nor misguided nor lazy nor delusional, etc., etc. She's a very bright and competent person and fully understands she's a dishonest hack. Most, perhaps all, of the far right's leadership understands this about themselves. I remain perplexed by those who continue to question this. It's no different than parents having to, on occasion, perpetrate small falsehoods on their young children. The radical right sees themselves as parents and everyone else as children. That's how they rationalize what they do day in and day out -- producing one giant, ongoing "farrago of lies" as PZ said, which I had to look up.

Put more directly, Coulter and her ilk are professional liars.

Posted by: SkookumPlanet [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 08:01 PM

The vitriol that pours from people such as Coulter indicates to me imbalance. Whether or not Ann believes half of what she says isn't the issue. In fact, I don't even think politics is the issue. I think the issue is one of mental/emotional health.

Posted by: Sexy Sadie [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 08:23 PM

Well, I may not have cable TV at the moment to watch Fox and Friends on, but that
hasn't stopped me from sending a link to your article to their medical guy "Dr. Danny"
Alvarez asking that he pass your challenge on to others there. If the various "friends"
and hosts there at Fox can be given some insight into just how stupid Coulter's book is,
it might go some way to getting honest comments about it into the media there.
That is her home away from home, right? So it's a good place to start my efforts in
finding someone to accept your challenge - or at least to have Ms. Coulter answer to
them about why her understanding of biology is all wrong.
(signed) marc

Posted by: marcbuhler [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 08:37 PM

Undargo, I and everyone else who posts here is aware of Coulters tactics. All you've done is restate the problem in terms of you ridiculing some kid in highschool. And while Coulter may also be prodding you to get you to slip, it doesn't mean she isn't out to win. Thankfully you and your friends didn't control all three branches of government. But Ann's friends DO. And this is not highschool.
The book by the way is a BESTSELLER. Millions of books don't buy themselves. People read, are persuaded and act accordingly. To then see this and not respond only allows it to continue.
Furthermore, you offer no answer as to how to deal with this other than saying Coulter wins and that's just the way it is. ack up your text books boys were going home. This doesn't make sense.
Nor does it apparently make sense to PZ, and the Panda's Thumb.
While I wouldn't suggest anyone go on tv with her, I wholeheartedly support the destruction of her ideas because millions of americans share them. I'm not here to show Coulter the light either. I'm here to show her audience, who votes in policy that affects science, why she's wrong. And to simply sit back and laugh at all the stupid people, isn't going to get us anywhere. Do something. Or all that intelligence I'm sure you have is wasted.

In the end this may not effect your opinion. But if some of us choose to answer the nonsense that is running rampant, either help out or be quiet. And good luck to all of you who try to stem the non-thinking.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 08:43 PM

Pondering something, maybe a biologist can help me here: could devil facial tumour disease be considered an example of speciation?

For those unfamiliar with it, DFTD is an infectious disease that spreads between Tasmanian Devils by biting, sharing food, or mating. Colonies of the infectious agent (made up of cells descended from those that infected previous animals) grow on the animal's face to the point where it starves to death because it can no longer eat; it's a very serious threat to the devil population.

The catch is that the infectious agent is a contagious cancer. Not in the same way as cervical cancer, where a communicable agent causes cancer; in DFTD, the cancer cells themselves are the infectious agent. An infected devil's tumour cells are descended not from its own healthy cells, but from another animal's tumour cells (researchers found a devil whose native cells had a chromosomal abnormality that was not present in its tumour cells).

This probably isn't a rhetorically useful example of speciation, since the idea of a mammal 'degenerating' into a disease probably won't convince creationists that creatures can become 'more evolved', but it's an interesting example of just how far a life-form can change by a single mutation and still remain viable (at least, until it runs out of hosts).

Posted by: Geoffrey Brent [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 09:05 PM

So Coulter (like many) doesn't see evolution before her eyes - well, it is actually a population phenomenon after all, so for evidence one turns to surveys such as John Endler's NATURAL SELECTION IN THE WILD.

But this is a fundamentally statistical view. And it's the conservatives who have rejected the importance of population-level surveys - in social sciences generally and notoriously even in exit polls. It takes a wise person to see significance - and/or natural selection - in statistics. Most everyone else understands and relies on story-telling.

Posted by: thwaite [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 09:21 PM

"I'll bet she was a cheerleader. "

..."Was"? She still is.


Actually, it's a pretty good metaphor, since the American political environment has devolved into something resembling a high school football game. ...Or perhaps the American public itself. ...Sadly, the educated intellectual will more often than not be seen as the nerd, forever uncool in our increasingly fast-paced, entertainment-driven society. Time to consult a makeover specialist?

Another analogy might be that she is akin to an internet troll. I have a few things to say about that in my own blog; I'll post the link when I add the entry.

Posted by: Ann Homily [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 11:45 PM

"I'll bet she was a cheerleader. "

..."Was"? She still is.


Actually, it's a pretty good metaphor, since the American political environment has devolved into something resembling a high school football game. ...Or perhaps the American public itself. ...Sadly, the educated intellectual will more often than not be seen as the nerd, forever uncool in our increasingly fast-paced, entertainment-driven society. Time to consult a makeover specialist?

Another analogy might be that she is akin to an internet troll. I have a few things to say about that in my own blog; I'll post the link when I add the entry.

Posted by: Ann Homily [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 11:47 PM

(P.S. Sorry about the browser hiccup.)

Posted by: Ann Homily [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2006 11:50 PM

After reading that Guardian interview with her, I am convinced that Ann Coulter believes every dingle-ass thing that she says in that waste of molecules that she calls a book. She is stupid, CCC--she is highly intelligent and stupid at the same time. She really doesn't believe in evolution--she's a creationist who swallows every little spider that Dembski feeds her. (Small wonder he's so amused by the Coulter phenom.) She's a flipping lunatic, and like our George W. Bushie, she's a puppet of flipping lunatics.

Posted by: Kristine [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 12:05 AM

Furthermore, you offer no answer as to how to deal with this other than saying Coulter wins and that's just the way it is. ack up your text books boys were going home. This doesn't make sense.

Mike, my point is that Coulter wins when you work to advance her agenda, and that arguing with her does just that. You keep acting like her agenda is to win some argument, which is demonstrably nonsense. Her agenda is to promote Ann Coulter.

I can understand someone like Dr. Myers conflating Coulter with the kind of people he often argues with for good reason. He's demonstrated repeatedly that people like William Dembski and Michael Behe employ foolish and dishonest arguments, so Coulter's approach probably seems like more of the same. Now Coulter has written a book about things like godlessness and evolution, and she's apparently used Dembski as a source... how could he resist responding to her? If nothing else, I'm sure he's having a good time.

But there's a cost. And the cost is that this blog, like many other liberal forums on the internet, has become a tool to advance Coulter's agenda. Dr. Myers - whatever else he's accomplishing in terms of entertaining himself or his readers - has been working very hard for Ann Coulter all day, free of charge. He's joined her army of publicists, eagerly advancing her only agenda.

Dembski and Behe are men working to advance a very specific public policy agenda. They can advance this agenda by winning arguments. Their failure to win the argument in Dover, PA last year was a serious and very real setback for them and their agenda. It makes sense to challenge the arguments these people make.

Coulter's only agenda is promoting Ann Coulter. There is nothing else she's ever accomplished or ever will. She does not need to win arguments to advance this agenda, she only needs to be the focus of attention.

Every post in every liberal blog dealing with Ann Coulter is a win for Ann Coulter. When you argue with her, you're not fighting her, you're fueling her. And the side effect of your support for her agenda is the debasement of public discourse by conflating it with contemporary trends in caustic, mean-spirited entertainment. That's the real cost of all the fun we're having.

Posted by: udargo [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 01:17 AM

I believe our main point of opposition is the motives of Ann Coulter. My take is that when we simplify her into nothing more than a media whore who lives off of our dissent then we miss the real damage she can do. While I do admire that you are solid in your views I can't agree with them. I believe you assume too much about her motives and wants without any real evidence outside your own opinions. I simply feel that no matter what her motives she's still dangerous if left unchecked and her self serving manner doesn't stop people from reading and agreeing with her. People of her type, while they may love to hear the opposition squeal, also love the cheers of their followers. Every person that rallies in support of Coulter and her ilk, fuel her just as much if not more than our opposition does. We're giving ourselves too much credit if we believe that she wants only to fight with us. She just wants to win. And if we simply roll over than she can just yell all the louder "See? They can't even deal with me anymore!" This enlarges her fame just as much. For example, Limbaugh is still kicking and he hasn't been a topic on this page ever. He energizes his base. And his base fuels him. Coulter does the same. If we let it go unchecked then we allow it to grow. And it has grown. Whether you think she's crazy, or money hungry, or self absorbed, she still influences large masses of people. And she influences politics because her influential ravings are about poilitics. And we live by our laws. And her followers vote.
I would never encourage anyone to get into a spitting match with her, or to answer in emotional anger no matter how angry they must be. But answer we must. Her fans won't let her go away.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 01:42 AM

All the knowledge in the books and papers and websites cited by PZ is a thing of BEAUTY and a testament to the ingenuity, creativity, and intelligence of generations of scientists. All that knowledge, and Ann manages to create an incurious and truly insignificant book that slimes people and ideas she does not like or even understand because her behavior is dictated by a mean-spirited, ruthless, black-and-white political outlook that does nothing but breed ignorance and intolerance.

Posted by: George [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 01:51 AM

Coulter has her fans, but it isn't her arguments they support, it's her perceived effect on liberals. I'm totally semi-serious when I say I'm starting to understand this better and beginning to experience admiration for her. She's proving that she can grab liberal America by the balls and lead us around wherever she wants us to go. At least for a little while. You've got to respect that.

What proof do I have with regard to my assessment of her motives? Her own "arguments," which are clearly not arguments at all but simply adolescent taunts.

I know neither of us is going to convert the other here, but just think about this one quote from her book concerning the 9/11 widows:

By the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies?

Now think about Coulter penning these words. Coulter's not a 12-year-old. She's college educated and has a degree in law. Do you really think she believes this is valid speculation, much less a cogent argument? Do you really think anybody who takes politics seriously, no matter their faction, will see this as valid speculation or a cogent argument? Can there be any doubt these words were carefully tailored for the one purpose at which they succeed: being as offensive as possible? Can there be any doubt Coulter wrote these words precisely because she knew they were intensely stupid, petty, hateful and provocative?

If you see that, and then extrapolate from that to arrive at her motives, I think you have to come to the same assessment I have.

But you won't, I know. I've already made my best arguments, here and elsewhere, and I'm obviously not influencing anybody. So I guess I ride it out and dread the release of her next book, PEDERASTY: WHAT LIBERALS WANT WITH YOUR KIDS.

Posted by: udargo [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 02:23 AM

udargo, not only have you hit the nail on the head, but Coulter has explicitly stated that this is exactly what she's doing.

But this is about much, much more than just her. We need to understand that we're experiencing the slow birth of a fascist government. Coulter is just Goebbels. We really need to worry about Heydrich and Eichmann.

Posted by: Dan [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 03:10 AM

perusio: Of course, that would be false too, since there is evidence in favour of abiogenesis as well.

I for one don't care if she believes the crap or not. I do care if others use it to enact policy or otherwise take action. Bad ideas do have consequences, and so making sure they are challenged is important. Is it necessary to refute them as PZ does? Yes, I think so. Is it sufficient? Probably not, as many have already noted followers do not respond to evidence and reason. But the importance is with the fence sitters or the 'should I say anything? it seems so odd, but my [father|cousin|sister|coworker ...] seems to want to act on it' crowd ...

As for the vast numbers of papers and books on evolution as an argument: I have several comments. One is that PZ is of course correct. There is a lot of evidence in favour of evolution, too much to read in one life. Two, though, is that this is not going to be taken as such by the ignorant. After all, it is at least not self contradictory to suppose that all those books and papers rehashes or even makes its claims up. That is why to make use of the stacks of writings as an argument one also has to include some fragments of their content - I am not saying PZ hasn't done this, but it is important not to slide too easily into merely gesturing at the stacks. After all, there are hundreds of works of theology, racism, what passes for parts of the science of economics and other unsupported crap that fill shelves too.

Posted by: Keith Douglas [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 09:17 AM

Geoffrey says:

"[devil facial tumour disease] probably isn't a rhetorically useful example of speciation, since the idea of a mammal 'degenerating' into a disease probably won't convince creationists that creatures can become 'more evolved', but it's an interesting example"

For some reason I hadn't thought of it as an example of speciation, but of course it looks like it. Thank you!

Posted by: Torbjörn Larsson [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 10:07 AM

udargo needs to get a blow-up doll and tape a picture of Coulter's head to it. Hopefully then his hormonal rage will subside.

Posted by: jujuquisp [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 10:11 AM

That's like saying, "There's no evidence for the automobile. And when you look at the medical evidence for evolution of disease-causing organisms, it's like saying "There's no evidence for the automobile" while standing on an expressway. "

Posted by: Monado [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 10:19 AM

That's like saying, "There's no evidence for the automobile." And when you look at the medical evidence for evolution of disease-causing organisms, it's like saying "There's no evidence for the automobile" while standing on an expressway. "

Posted by: Monado [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 10:20 AM

This is FREAKING hilarious.

Ann Coulter writes: "there is no evidence for evolution" and you geniuses waste a whole page full of otherwise very useful bits and bytes and, reading through all your screeds, you prove her right.

Just provide ONE piece of evidence that PROVES evolution.

Just one...

Big Daddy

Ps Don't refer me to some other website, or tell me to read some other person's book. Just GIVE ME SOME PROOF.
Your silence makes her argument all the more compelling...

Posted by: BigDaddy [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 11:14 AM

I think we ought to take advantage of the role of Dembski, Behe, and Berlinski as enablers, because this seems to offer the most opportunity for changing public perception. Here's my reasoning.

First, there's not a big win in showing Coulter's latest opus to be as chock full of lies as every other one. It's something you have to do, like cleaning the graffiti off your windows, but I'm not sure if it'll help much. The gangs will keep marking "their" territory and Coulter will keep spreading her hate just like clockwork.

But take somebody like Behe. He's wrong about nearly everything, but he projects an amiable public facade. I'd like to know if he endorses Coulter's work, given that he supposedly served as advisor (actually, did he or was it just Dembski?). No matter which way he answers, it's useful. If he disavows Coulter and claims he was misrepresented, then we have a supposedly staid conservative voice agreeing that Coulter is a demagogue. If he refuses to disavow Coulter, then everything Coulter has written can be labeled "endorsed by Behe"; we can pick the worst howlers and note under each that Behe agrees with it.

Behe has his name attached directly to enough foolishness that you might not think it would matter, but I'm assuming (based on her track record) that Coulter's interpretation is a couple of notches worse, and seething with hate. So--at least hypothetically--either IDers can be made to serve the useful role of conservatives against Coulter, or Coulter can be made into an albatross around the neck of IDers.

I suppose I'm too optimistic. People can refuse to answer or else wriggle out any number of ways. I mentioned Behe only because Dembski (who can rationalize an embarrassing goof or blatant lie as "street theater") is almost a kindred spirit of Coulter already. I think Behe might at least be a little conflicted about it.

Posted by: PaulC [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 11:56 AM

Sure, 'BigDaddy' -

The pattern of synapomorphic mutations in the DNA of Primates.

By the way PZ - Bill "the Fred Phelps of Information Theory" Dembski has gotten his panties all in a bunch about this post re: Coulter....

Posted by: slpage [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 02:35 PM

slpage, you probably went over BigDaddy's head. Try this, my heart contains 2 pig valves, aortic & mitral. A pig saved my life. Theory of evolution made this possible.
I am really glad someone believes in evolution.

Posted by: richCares [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 03:50 PM

Well "BigDaddy" (aka BigTroll?):

Proof? What could suffice? This isn't mathematics, and the enormity of the living world isn't going to be persuasively pinned by a few paragraphs. Darwin was considerate enough to give several hundred pages of closely reasoned and copiously documented (with examples) argument (and he called this the "abstract" of his total argument).

A few messages up-thread I mentioned John Endler's book 1986 NATURAL SELECTION IN THE WILD which even then could list about 100 examples in its survey. (Such examples are expensive and tedious to study well enough for credibility!) Below I describe a particularly persuasive class of examples.

There aren't "hopeful monsters" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hopeful_Monster) which is what I'll guess you're hoping for (or not). The process of divergence into new species happens to populations, not to individuals.

Since divergence of populations mostly happens over generations, we don't often observe it directly. But in some cases it happens over space as well as over time, and these can leave the original non-diverged forms visible - this seems particularly persuasive. These are called "ring species":
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species. This wikipedia article cites a classic study of gulls but the most reliable and detailed example it cites is David Wake's research on Ensatina salamanders. Starting in Oregon ( (and still present there), this growing population has migrated into southern California by two paths, the coast route and the Sierra foothills. These varying ecologies have changed the two groups of migrants. They've diverged so much that on overlapping again near Los Angeles, the two migrant groups are no longer able to interbreed - and that's the criterion for saying new species have formed. Even though in this case, each southern population (coastal & foothill) is very similar to (and breeds with) its immediately northern neighbor and so on all the way back to the original population in Oregon, the southern-most populations are new species, having definitively diverged due to adaptations to their differing ecologies.
Salamander summary: www.santarosa.edu/lifesciences2/ensatina2.htm

Posted by: thwaite [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 04:08 PM

late addition -- thwaite, nice. I've seen a press report on a study of a bird species that migrated around both sides of the Tibetan plateau, south to north, as India slammed into Asia. Researchers sampled DNA throughout the bird's circumtibetan habitat and it showed an incremental shift northward, until, voila, the two prongs met north of Tibet and could not breed.
MizCee isn't Goebbels -- whomever that is/will be is a behind-the-scenes player, more like Murdoch. She's just a hack.

No one cares if MizCee is linked to Badski, HeeHee, and Dumpster. No one knows who they are.

BigDaddy. Read it again, BigBoy. This isn't a post discussing the evidence for evolution. Get your moronic, lazy ass off to one of the many links PZ provides above where people talk about that topic. You're wasting alphanumerics here. Duh.

Numbers of papers and researchers would only be part of any argumentation. There must be several hundred thousand peer-reviewed papers dealing with evolution, so along with that figure one would spend several minutes evoking the process of writing-reviewing-publishing such material. The public is ignorant about this.

Great comparison between the beauty of scientific endeavor and the ugliness of MizCee, but the "mean-spirited, ruthless, black-and-white political outlook that does nothing but breed ignorance and intolerance." left out the most important thing it breeds -- POWER -- the reason they do it.

Everyone who advocates pressure/complaint/boycott/threat, etc., being brought to bear on media outlets is living in a world that disappeared three decades ago. Media outlets crave, and need, controversy like she brings. If they thought it was doable, they'd be happy to pay MizCee to appear on their broadcasts.

udargo is basically correct, liberal outrage at her is a tool to advance MizCee's agenda. No doubt. Do a SciBlog search on her name. She's leveraging pre-existing systems just like terrorists do, i.e. using box cutters to morph the airline industry into a weapon and, for a few days, ground it. PEDERASTY was already in my mind [see below], but not coming from her. But why not? Only it will be entitled Pervert: Why Liberals' Want Your Kids. The book after that? How about, Prison: Rehabilitating Liberals and Should They Be Let Back Out. And after that, Lynch'em: Liberals....
Now, if one wanted to fundamentally neutralize the negative effects of MizCee, here's an impromptu sketch, an illustration, of how these things get done. [It's not an actual suggestion.]

1) Manufacture an audio tape of her egregious slurs on the gullibility, stupidity, and masculinity of her fans. Have her go after her fans favorite other rightwing mouthpieces that shows her dishing [false] humiliating dirt on them big time. This will quickly unenamor audiences and mouthpieces with her.

Not just a tape. Individual projects work synergistically with others as part of a larger disinformation campaign [see President Clinton, Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Impeachment...]

2) So one also needs to find some actors and put together a story about her serial pedophilia, with girls, and the horrendous emotional scars she's producing in others by forcing everyone to be quiet about it.

3) Create many equivalents of this anecdote about MizCee from Jason last week. Only rather than complimentary, turn her into a primadonna with a stereotypical celebrity's disrespectfulness to the powerless and those who serve her. Use the same attitude and phraseology she exhibits in books and on screen, but directing it to any and everybody she can bully.

4) Get some of this mythology covered as stories in supermarket tabloids. Venue placement alone helps rebrand MizCee from political pundit to tawdry, unclean, spoiled, rich celebrity. You know, a secret follower of "Hollywood Values." A hypocrite.

5) Pay a playa to compose a rap song about all of the above then get it distributed around the net and on the streets. All covertly, of course. Covering her pedophilia etc., in explicit lyrics. Put in the lyrics a guy who finds her young girls, call him "pedopimp".

The more she struggles against this, the worse she looks. Nobody, ever takes credit for this. A successful campaign never goes on a resume of CV.

In a phrase, you cut her balls off.

Revolting, huh? This is what the other side would do, the nature of their struggle. It obviously takes organization and money to carry off. They're playing for all the marbles, permanently, keepers, and will do whatever they think they can get away with. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Posted by: SkookumPlanet [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 05:35 PM

In the end I have to agree with keith. One who influences others and encourages them to go out and convert the fence sitters to utter nonsense is a danger and must be met. With both a rebuttal of the arguments set forth that the fence sitters will undoubtably hear, and then with a fuller explanation of the evidence for evolution as a whole. After that, move on to the entrenced believers. Peoples behavior is controlled mainly by their attitude toward a certain subject. To stay silent offers one no strong positive reason to change their attitude towards an acceptance of science and naturalistic evolution, while our opposition is going all out to do so and can just as easily use our silence as a scape goat. Might as well stand up and prove them wrong. We have to speak up or one day we may look at the appaling numbers of those who accept science as golden era compared to where it's headed now. Speak up. The articulate should never sit back quietly and watch.

Posted by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 06:04 PM

Skookum's "circumtibetan" - heh, such a neologism.

Those birds would be the "greenish warbler", Phylloscopus trochiloides, whose speciation is described with great graphics & details here:
It got the BBC interested:
-- too bad we no longer can also count on parsons imbued with the theological potential of Natural Theology (sensu Richard Hooker 1594) to seek out and document such specifics of Natural History. Nowadays the Christian theologians seem to see a focus on the natural world as tending to paganism. Meanwhile the world keeps spinning and the species keep propagating...

There's a similar ring-species divergence found in mice following the path of human farms out of the middle east into Europe at the beginning of the historical era. As the settlements proceeded northwest they were split by the Alps - and on again meeting in the Low Countries the divergent populations no longer interbred.

And PBS has a link on the Ensatina salamanders with an excellent map including their color morphs:

Posted by: thwaite [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 07:00 PM

Just so you know, PZ, not everyone has their hands over their ears. Despite my being a two-time attendee of Bill Jack's Worldview Academy, product of a creationist high-school education using books like A Beka's "Biology: God's Living Creation", and (until recently) Ann Coulter fan, your blog was pretty much all it took for me to discover the evidence for evolution and scrub all the BS out of my brain.

Just over a year ago, I would have said with a straight face that the earth was 6000 years old, there were no transitional forms, and evolution was just a theory. Your blog did a fine job of setting me straight. Keep it up.

Posted by: numerophile [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 08:40 PM

As I've waited 6 weeks for the subject to appear concurrently on Pharyngula, Dispatches, and Intersection, where I yakked the most, you'd think I'd instantly recognize MizCee provided the opportunity. Nah. Took me days to realize it. The cover note's a tad behind my situation but the subject following is, shall we say, timeless....

PZ and gang
I've returned to my pre-blog life, and will only lurk and post a bit from now on. It's fun hanging with smart, frustrating, funny people. For being so patient with my "psychomarketing seminar" [hope some noggin neurons got jostled], let me offer you this. May it be as fun to read as it was to write.
Inspired by reality always,
Call Me Irreducible
Simple Non-irreducibility of Complexly Reducible Complexity in Apparent* Simplicity

My "Theory of Simple Non-irreducibility of Complexly Reducible Complexity in Apparent Simplicity" proposes that when things get complex it's difficult to reduce them to simple things. This should be clear to anyone who thinks for a moment.

For those who can't or simply prefer not to, let me explain.

If we have a system that is complex, but appears to be reducible, then we can postulate the apparent complexity is actually complex and thus we derive apparent simplicity, but only if the non-irreducibility is of the simple type. This is an important point. If the non-irreducibility is of the non-simple [i.e., complex] type, then that changes everything. Not to mention the question of the reducibility of the complexity being simply reducible rather than complexly reducible as currently hypothesized.

And so, of course, both these questions need an entirely different theoretical framework, which I'm presently developing. But that's the subject for another whole book, my next one, which I'll be publishing as soon as my theoretical work on Non-Simple Non-irreducibility of Complexly and Simply... etc., as soon as that manuscript reaches 350 pages in length.

To summarize the rather verbose nature of my explanation of the "Theory of Simple Non-irreducibility of Complexly Reducible Complexity in Apparent Simplicity" above [wordiness, I'm afraid, is unavoidable here because, one must remember [so that one doesn't forget [in the future [at some point in time [or another] ] ] that ], addressing complexity simply isn't as simple as it looks!]... now, where was I? Oh yes, a summary may be made of my "Theory of Simple...", well, the entirety of it. You need only remember three words -- God did it !**

See! That wasn't so hard. It's easy when you let someone else do your thinking for you, isn't it?. Here at Don't-think, Inc. [TM] we call that outsourcing your brain.
Don't even think about it --- outsource! . . . . . . . . with Don't-think. Inc.
[SM] Don't-think, Inc.
Another quality assembly-line idea from Don't-think, Inc. "Nothing but consistent."[SM]
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Posted by: SkookumPlanet [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 19, 2006 11:47 PM

Coulter is a racist, bigoted, cowardly, opportunistic, lying, misogynistic (i.e. self hating woman), charlatan. What she says and writes is largely for effect, there is no real foundation to her beliefs or actions, morally, spiritually or politically. She functions essentially as a lightening rod for the right wing - she fields the most outrageous ideas most of them lack the balls to be able to say (publicly) themselves - much of what she says is even inherently self contradictory but it doesn't matter to her - the effect is that these ideas are now in the public domain - and she can get away with saying these things because, hey, she's Anne Coulter - thats what she does, and yes, she's a woman and no doubt in the febrile imaginations of some of these desperate right wingers a "dammed attractive one!" to boot.

The real question to me is should she be given the oxygen of publicity by us or is it better to allow her to asphyxiate (humanely) - hey she's a publicity hag, she wants us to get all "but she said THAT!!!!..." and wave handbags etc. At the end of the day she's far more likely to bite any hand that touches her anyway - DI and Dembski better watch out, people might want to judge them by the nasty company they keep. Doesn't help them when they side so conspicuously with racists and scoundrels. Aren't they supposed to be the "nice" folks?

Posted by: Monad [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 04:19 AM

Numerophile - That's wonderful. It takes a lot to break out of training like that; I am an evolutionary biologist, and it took years of higher education and then some before it all truly sank in. But don't just take PZ's word for it - there's a whole world of beautiful evolution out there. (Try some of the other scienceblogs too; Carl Zimmer's is especially readable for general uses.)

Posted by: Carlie [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 06:24 AM

Oh, don't worry, I haven't just taken PZ's word for it. I've spent a lot of time on other scienceblogs and especially on talk.origins. However, PZ's is the first I stumbled across, and the reason I know about the existence of those others, so he gets the credit.

Thanks for the recommendation though! I'll make sure to check out Zimmer's blog.

Posted by: numerophile [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 11:26 AM

I'm no scientist, and must concede almost entirely to your preparation, excellent as it likely is. I have no degree; something that in a professor's eyes normally causes contempt or dread. Don't worry, I can't touch you, and later you can decontaminate this rectangle I'm writing in.

It's a good bet Ann Coulter has no clue when it comes to the subject of evolution. I do know she hasn't logged onto the intelligent design/creationist folderol you're used to disparaging. Her irreverence is limited to jokes about your science, without apologies. Because this is a free country.

In my own heart, I value the Creator first, the literal interpretation of Genesis not very well. I believe it must be true if not accurate. Something about it must be metaphorical, since it has for its author no One quite ''educated'' as you understand the word. Yet, He got the main message across. We have all descended from one man and one woman. (Is she a rib? Can't say for sure. But dust is a good guess.)

Well; what have I to say about evolution science? Not much. It's a Dilly of a task to pinpoint exactly; though you and other great men say we have reams and rafts of good evidence. Then why do people resist?

I maintain you have evidence of ourselves purportedly the apogee of this world's animal evolution; and little else positively sure about our prehistoric origins. (Or of what further evolution is ahead.) Yes, some hominoid fragments of bone; and it seems to suggest an ape once walked on hind legs, and developed into --what? The rest is theory. I think her name is Lucy, and the DNA all traces back to her, both of chimps and human beings. Of course, that's marvelous.

I doubt if she knew that name, and I doubt she's human. You may not doubt it, alright; the textbooks give you every benefit of the doubt. Texts don't worry about what I think. However, since I was born, (1937) to date; the word ''theory'' has been less and less encouraged in text books. They sell an evolutionary theory as the accomplished fact or truth. We are then to just assume it must be so, apes are the original men and women. Naked apes. I suppose they painted pictures of deer, bison and mammoths on cave-ceilings; and a cro-magnon man had nothing to do with it.

Damn, what we would give for a cro-magnon self-portrait, in some cave interior! Or a missing link's portrait. That's the trouble with theory. The scientist is forced to extrapolate as if there were never any gaps. They say he/she must publish or perish.

Well, congratulations for not perishing; and for this fine blogsite. It's neat; I may come back from time to time. Ciao!

Posted by: tumbler [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 04:37 PM

This is FREAKING hilarious.

Big asks for evidence when PZ has given him references to 150,000 articles and nearly 5,000 books. It would be enough to drown a normal man. But Big doesn't get it.


Your commentary reads like a textbook of creationist propaganda.

"We have all descended from one man and one woman."

The bible isn't literal. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH102.html )

"Well; what have I to say about evolution science? Not much."

Actually, you say that it is wrong. Above, for example.

"ourselves purportedly the apogee of this world's animal evolution"

Evolution has no longterm goal. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB951.html )

"and little else positively sure about our prehistoric origins"

There are over 4,000 individual fossils. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC030.html )

"(Or of what further evolution is ahead.)"

Evolution has no longterm goal. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB951.html )

"Yes, some hominoid fragments of bone"

There are over 4,000 individual fossils. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC030.html )

"I think her name is Lucy, and the DNA all traces back to her, both of chimps and human beings."

Australopithecus afarensis wasn't the common ancestor. We haven't DNA that far back. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC080.html )

"I doubt she's human"

Australopithecus afarensis wasn't an ape and it wasn't human. (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC080.html )

"the word ''theory'' has been less and less encouraged in text books."

The word theory, in the context of science, does not imply uncertainty. Evolution is both a scientific theory and a fact of common descent with modification as observed in fossils. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA201.html )

"apes are the original men and women"

Australopithecus afarensis wasn't an ape and it wasn't human. (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC080.html )

Humans and other apes are descended from a common ancestor. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC150.html )

"The scientist is forced to extrapolate as if there were never any gaps."

Gradual change (phyletic gradualism) isn't always the case. Evolutionary theory works well anyway. ( http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC201.html )

Posted by: Torbjörn Larsson [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 06:28 PM

Torbjörn was faster, with more info.
I've never heard PZ disparage anyone for lack of "degrees" or education and doubt he ever has. After all, he's a teacher. He educates the undereducated. But he can be acidic to political, religious, and other types of charlatans who play fast and loose with the truth.

Somewhere you've picked up a mishmash of misinformation that apparently informs your opinions, which of course you're entitled to express. So that this isn't abstract, I'll point to just one example with several of these -- "Lucy." Virtually no scientist posits she was human, virtually no one says chimp and human DNA trace back to her, the right "fragments" of bone can be uniquely diagnostic of behavior [here of bipedalism], and virtually no scientist says "an ape once walked on hind legs". There was an entire radiation, an "explosion", of first bipedal apes, then of the Homo genus, in response to radical shifts in the habitat of east Africa. Maybe dozens of species. [see Extinct Humans by Ian Tattersall and Jeffery Schwartz]

OK, a second example you might find more interesting. We do have that self-portrait you say doesn't exist. If not specifically cro-magnon, an analog, from Europe. A complete, 3-D, bearded male head carved in ivory, broken off perhaps a staff. I've no time to chase down an image; maybe someone else will direct you.

My point is that being uneducated isn't pejorative, nor is being opinionated [my god, look at PZ], but willfully doing both simultaneously is a different matter. Perhaps you might consider reading a few up-to-date books about what the science actually is and what scientists actually say, and after that forming your opinions about those. I'm certain those opinions would then be taken more seriously by those who's entire working lives have been devoted to these fields.

I'm no scientist, nor formally educated in science either, but my interest drives me read it and the knowledge gained from that I get to share here with those that know in great depth. And, of course, learn even more in the process. It's a lot of fun.

Posted by: SkookumPlanet [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 20, 2006 07:21 PM

I love it when the creationists talk about evolution being only a "theory" as their "reasoning" that it can't be "proven."

Gravity is a "theory," too, but I don't think too many of them argue about its validity.

Posted by: Aquaria [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 21, 2006 09:36 PM

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