Pharyngula

A Coulter fan bloviates!

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I knew someone would eventually be brave enough to try and support Coulter’s “science” in Godless…wouldn’t you know, though, that it would be a columnist on the disturbingly unhinged RenewAmerica site, Wes Vernon, the fellow whose disturbingly asymmetric visage you see here. It doesn’t quite do the job, I’m afraid.

About a third of the book deals with well-researched material that punches many holes in the theory of evolution, or Darwinism. But do the liberal media mention any of that? No way.

This is a good point, actually. The media has dealt with the outrageous factual errors in her book very poorly, preferring the “She said WHAT?” school of criticism (although I must admit the media’s attempt to portray her as a pirate is quite fetching). Unfortunately for Wes, though, she doesn’t punch any holes in the theory of evolution—her work consists mainly of poor to nonexistent scholarship as she flails about misrepresenting the science.

Mr Vernon distills her argument against evolution down to three points…rather arbitrarily, I thought, but hey, it’s his column.

1. The entire fossil record shows a very non-Darwinian progression, noticeably lacking the vast number of transitional species we ought to see.

This is not true; if there is a violation of the expected kinds of transitions in history, perhaps Mr Vernon would be so kind as to show me his Cambrian rabbit? We predict that many transitional forms should be lacking, yet we do have many examples of gradations in fossil forms. That Ann Coulter says there aren’t any doesn’t make it true, what it does is make Ann Coulter a liar.

2. The truth about Haeckel’s embryos is that they were a fraud perpetrated by a German eugenicist.

Poor Ernst Haeckel. All he is now is a scapegoat used by creationists.

Haeckel was actually a legitimate and influential embryologist who did a lot of good and interesting work. He did take some shortcuts in printing some of his results, for which he was rightly castigated; he was guilty of an excess of zeal in supporting his idea of a biogenetic law, which has since been discarded; he wrote popular science books that influenced a generation of Germans in the first half of the 20th century, and we all know where that led (although the link from Haeckel to Hitler is tenuous); and he shared in common 19th century racial prejudices.

However, those aren’t “his” embryos. The observation of the similarities in vertebrate embryos was first made by von Baer in the 1830s, who saw in them a property of development from the general to the specific that he used to argue against ideas linking lineages. The observations are valid—they’re backed up accurately and honestly by textbooks, and my developmental biology students will be doing a comparison of embryos in the fall that will also support the similarities—but Haeckel’s interpretation of the observations as indicative of a pattern of progression has been discarded.

Coulter merely stole her story straight from the grossly erroneous book by Jonathan Wells, and now Mr Vernon, who probably has never seen an embryo in his life, has credulously accepted her third-hand interpretation.

3. One by one, so-called “proof” of evolution has melted under honest scrutiny.

Ummm, no.

As I documented at some length, evolutionary biology is a thriving discipline with an increasing volume of support. Coulter dismisses it all because it is done by “women” and “biologists”, but then, I think it’s fair to dismiss her book because she’s an “idiot” and “fraud”. Vernon again simply takes her baseless accusations as valid…they aren’t.

Mr Vernon claims his misrepresentations and delusions are “facts that schoolchildren should be taught.” That’s exactly the problem, though: that the creationist camp thinks the rhetoric of loud poseurs ignorant of biology, like Ann Coulter, constitute “facts,” while the serious research of thousands of biologists, of which they have no knowledge, is not only a matter of mere opinion, but is false. It’s not just backwards, it’s insanely backwards.