Pharyngula

George Gilder, Lord of the Adguacyth

I’m off to the Twin Cities again (third time this week!) for a couple of events. Since I’m a cruel, heartless predator who likes to return to the scene of a kill to gloat, though, I thought I’d repost the vicious savagings I gave George Gilder, in The sanctimonious bombast of George Gilder and Gilder: still wailing over his spanking. Gilder, by the way, was a co-founder of the Discovery Institute, and a professional “techno guru” who led many an investor down the path to bankruptcy when the tech bubble collapsed in the 90s. I think he’s well on his way to historical oblivion at this point.

There were a couple of notable things about those posts. They spawned 50-100 comments, which in those days was simply astonishing (now I know that if I write a blank post I can get that many comments). They first sucked in George Gilder’s daughter to protest my brutality, and then George Gilder himself, who just sunk himself deeper in the morass of his own BS. Gilder is the fellow who pompously announced that he had renamed the object of molecular biologists’ study the “Adguacyth”, apparently for “adenine guanine cytosine thymine”. Try googling for that term, or looking in the technical literature; I guess it didn’t take off, since it’s apparently unique to his comments there. Perhaps people who admit to never even taking a single biology course ought to avoid trying to rename major concepts in the field.

Another thing you may notice is that Gilder babbles a bit about Shannon information theory—as a “techno guru”, that sure sounds sophisticated, even though his comments reveal that he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. What makes it particularly ironic, though, is that nowadays one of the most embarrassingly ignorant mouthpieces for the Discovery Institute is Michael Egnor, who denies the relevance of Shannon information theory. I guess that was another bubble that popped on poor George.

Comments

  1. #1 bigTom
    April 29, 2007

    I remember getting an add for his financial newsletter. Wanted somewhat over $500 a year. But Oh, the size of his ego, and the amount of self praise contained within, woulda been worth the price! His specialty was hyping tech stocks, kind of self fulfilling prophecies. XYZ is gonna kasplode, then the gullible pile on. Those who bought early make big bucks, those who were late to the party paid the bills. I’m sure a lot of people made fortunes, and a lot lost them, in this game of musical fortunes. GG probably did pretty good if he just stuck to pocketing the newletter fees.

    Interesting that Gilder/Egnor don’t cross-check their stories, but then again consistiency was never a strong point of the DI.

  2. #2 Carlie
    April 29, 2007

    How does the whole archiving thing work? The links take one to the current reposting, and searching the archives doesn’t bring up the original. It would be nice to see the previous discussion thread. Then again, I just may be an idiot who can’t search correctly.

  3. #3 Chris Ho-Stuart
    April 29, 2007

    I figured this out just now. When PZ repeats a post from the archives, he puts up a special “repost” icon on the upper right hand side. Click on that to get to the original, where you can also follow the discussion thread. Very entertaining.

  4. #4 Chris
    April 29, 2007

    Does he have some kind of grudge against uracil? Why invent a new term for “nucleic acids” that doesn’t even include all the commonly used ones?

    And if the point of the new term is to make the point that they aren’t confined to the nucleus, doesn’t that make the omission of uracil even more bizarre?

  5. #5 Caledonian
    April 29, 2007

    CHON (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen) would be a much better term, as they’re not only the basic building blocks of all life we know but the most likely ingredients for extraterrestrial life.

    It’s also a hell of a lot easier to say and type.

    Or, we could just be traditional and call it ‘life’.

  6. #6 Bob O'H
    April 29, 2007

    Chris – didn’t you know? Uracil is the nucleic acid of the Devil.

    Bob

  7. #7 The Science Pundit
    April 29, 2007

    Puleeeze!!

    Uracil is unimportant because it’s only used by three kinds of RNA. Duh!

  8. #8 Carlie
    April 29, 2007

    Ah! Thanks, Chris!

    And perhaps he thinks uracil is that dietary supplement marketed to help seniors be more regular.

    His new word for DNA bases reminds me of Big Bird’s alphabet song. Dear lord, it actually has its own Wikipedia entry.

  9. #9 Zeno
    April 29, 2007

    I am charmed by the word “adguacyth,” which fills a badly needed gap in the vocabulary of science. I suppose we could modify it to “adguacythur” so as to include thymine’s otherwise neglected RNA counterpart of uracil. Catchy, no? Although it does sound like something that went extinct in the Jurassic period. (Or do I have my eras wrong?)

    Neologisms are the hallmark of the crank or quack. I don’t think the reason is difficult to discern. Cranks and quacks are unable to make any substantive contributions to the field into which they poke their clumsy fingers. Anyone, however, can make up a word and hope it sticks. Useful new words quickly use their novice status and pass into general usage (at least within the discipline for which they were coined). The constructs of the cranks and quacks linger on only in the works of the originator and perhaps some of their equally unqualified devotees.

    Gilder has gone from finance to technology to ID. Perhaps spiritualism is next.

  10. #10 Jim Wynne
    April 29, 2007

    You can see the original post and all of the comments, including those from Gilder and his daughter, here.

  11. #11 Hans
    April 29, 2007

    Didn’t the tech bubble collapse in March 2000? Bit late for calling it the 90’s, no?

    Nitpick ya Us!

  12. #12 natural cynic
    April 29, 2007

    A small correction: the tech bubble was most pronounced in ’99, peaked in Mar ’00 and deflated over the next 18 months. This is observed in the NASDAQ composite index for the last 10 years.

    As for the adguacyth, didn’t it die out in the Oligocene, or maybe I was thinking of the guathcyad

  13. #13 Jim Lippard
    April 29, 2007

    “GG probably did pretty good if he just stuck to pocketing the newletter fees.”

    Nope, he lost a bundle taking his own advice, apparently nearly going bankrupt.

  14. #14 notthedroids
    April 29, 2007

    “You can see the original post and all of the comments, including those from Gilder and his daughter, here.”

    Note to self:
    If wanting to be taken seriously in a scientific or philosophical debate, having 19-year-old daughter defend me or my viewpoints in the blogosphere is counter-productive.

  15. #15 Dustin
    April 29, 2007

    Discovery Institute is Michael Egnor, who denies the relevance of Shannon information theory.

    Well, that’s a turnaround. I guess they finally figured out that the consequences of Information Theory are actually the exact opposites of what creationists, for years, have been quoting as the consequences of Information Theory. In any case, if the Egnoramus denies the relevance of Shannon’s theory, he’s obliged to cease using his computer or the DI’s website to propagate his Egnorance.

  16. #16 fred
    April 29, 2007

    But note that real scientists are getting less and less respect, even in the more liberal sector of the blogosphere:
    http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/5721.html

  17. #17 forsen
    April 29, 2007

    I’ve got to admit I get a certain sadistic, evilutionist pleasure out of these posts. PZ’s at his very best when cruelly shredding some creationist twit to ribbons – especially conceited ones who use fancy words. I cannot help but think of the way chimp flocks hunt and devour smaller apes.

  18. #18 davis
    April 29, 2007

    Fast-talking con men have been around for a long time, perhaps thousands of years. Newt Gingrich is another (he really talks fast!). Gilder is a conservative Christian, but that has nothing to do with his membership with the Discovery Institute? Oh he’s a con man, all right.

    I’m not a scientist, but I spent thirty years in the financial world, and his supply side theory is just as fradulent and idiotic as his scientific ideas, and harmful to the country, since Reagan bought into it, as has the core of the Republican Party.

    I have read enough books on evolution for the layman to know he’s pretty much full of shit there, too. It’s a fascinating subject, especially compared to the crimped, simplistic view that some mysterious supernatural being just willed us into existence. I’ll take modern scientists over Bronze Age shepherds any day.

  19. #19 Dustin
    April 29, 2007

    I’m not a scientist, but I spent thirty years in the financial world, and his supply side theory is just as fradulent and idiotic as his scientific ideas, and harmful to the country, since Reagan bought into it, as has the core of the Republican Party.

    I love you, Davis. Core supporters of supply side are SO belligerent that, even when confronted with the mathematics and statistics suggesting that it isn’t an efficient or sustainable policy, they’ll say something dismissive like:

    Your head is in your ass and your foot’s in the gutter. Economics isn’t about “inverting the matrix”, it’s about people.

    That’s a more or less direct quote from an economist to me when I tried to explain to him that he was mistaken. Clearly, if the statistics and mathematics don’t support your wasteful policy, then they must be dismissed out of hand.

    Thanks again for cheering me up.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2007

    I think he’s well on his way to historical oblivion at this point.

    one can only hope.

    unfortunately, these folks are like cockroaches; just when you think the traps have worked, you end finding them in the weirdest places.

  21. #21 Dustin
    April 29, 2007

    these folks are like cockroaches

    True. There are lots and lots of them, they can survive for long periods of time without functioning heads, and would probably survive radioactive fallout.

  22. #22 natural cynic
    April 29, 2007

    18:…and his [Gilder’s] supply side theory is just as fradulent and idiotic as his scientific ideas, and harmful to the country, since Reagan bought into it, as has the core of the Republican Party.

    Smartest thing GHWB ever said was in calling supply side “voodoo economics”. Then he was seduced by the Dark Side. Junior didn’t have to be seduced.

    The reason that the cockroaches hang around is because there are a lot of very rich people that keep them as pets.

  23. #23 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2007

    The reason that the cockroaches hang around is because there are a lot of very rich people that keep them as pets.

    That prompted a disturbing image of Dr. Evil with Mr. Biggles, now a pet cockroach the size of a cat.

    *shudder*

    substitute Karl Rove for Dr. Evil, and “mini me” would now be the cockroach, and GW would be the “pet”.

    ok… that’s enough of that! time for more coffee, I think.

  24. #24 Dustin
    April 29, 2007

    time for more coffee, I think.

    That is not the conclusion that I arrived at after reading your post.

  25. #25 Milo Johnson
    April 29, 2007

    Adguacyth? Isn’t that another Lovecraft character?

  26. #26 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2007

    BTW, gilder says in the news article:

    “I’m sorry my daughter got dragged into this,”

    un, didn’t his daughter jump into this all on her own?

    she didn’t get “dragged” into this; she volunteered.

    no doubt he wants to play his daughter off as a victim, and has already set the stage to do so. So WHO is dragging who into this, George?

    I swear these people are all the same; like bad magicians using hand-tricks to draw attention away from their primary arguments.

    It’s so consistent a debating tactic with them that one might conclude it related to some fundamental flaw in their psychology, or is there some hidden class where they all learn underhanded debate tactics?

  27. #27 forsen
    April 29, 2007

    Milo, it sure sounds like it… right up there with
    Shub-Niggurath and Nyarlathotep. Gilder’s true identity has thus been revealed. He’s not just any sneaky ID-ist – he is High Priest of the most high Elder Gods! The Designer he proposes is not Yahweh, but Cthulhu. Thus, we should not belittle him… successfully invoking one of the Old Ones is indeed a most remarkable feat. All hail Adguacyth!

  28. #28 cyan
    April 29, 2007

    forsen:

    Your statement:
    “I cannot help but think of the way chimp flocks hunt and devour smaller apes.”

    I am aware that chimps have often been observed hunting & eating monkeys; but, what are the smaller APES that a “flock” of chimps devours? 😉

  29. #29 forsen
    April 29, 2007

    cyan: lol, my bad… english ain’t my first language. I won’t miss that one again though =)

  30. #30 karen marie
    April 29, 2007

    this is too hilarious — while reading the lengthy comments on the original post, i was searching the internets for george’s now, presumably, 29-year-old daughter’s book on “the history of the theory of quantum entanglement,” which could not be found under the pre-publication title which he cited or by searching the borzoi (knopf) website or amazon on the subject of “quantum entanglement.” there are plenty of books on that subject when you search amazon but none under the name “gilder.” either it did not get published or she has a different last name.

    but where the hilarity ensued for me was when i googled “materialist superstition.” i got a hit on george’s “Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution In Economics And Technology” (of which there are “114 available used and from $.01”), none of the people who “bought this book” bought anything other than the rest of george’s books — good for him! amazone provides a lengthy list of amusing and stupefying “Statistically Improbable Phrases” (amazon says “SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!” — he’s hell-bent on the road less traveled and making it up as he goes along).

    and it just gets funnier from there. the “spotlight review” lets us know that “When you read this you will find out the following[:] 1) There is a lot of technical jargon in it. Most should be able to learn what he is saying but it isn’t like reading a trashy, romance novel. You have to think.” then he goes on to say “We are in the knowledge economy folks and microprocessors and PCs are enabling us to be more productive, begin new careers and experience a quality of life that very few predicted 40 years ago.” Dan Ross @ BetterBizBooks.com, who wrote the above, also posted three other “customer review[s]” under the nom de plume of “a reader” — perhaps he has a warehouse full of them he’s trying to unload … or 114 anyway?

    wow. i certainly agree that 40 years ago none of us would have predicted the dark state of insanity that has descended on the world!

    since i have no life and nothing better to do than delve further into the windbaggery that is george, i clicked through on amazon to see how many of the 114 can be bought for a penny, turns out quite a few — 89 are available for a penny, 29 for 80 cents and one is “collectible” at $24.71. of course, that’s the paperback edition. there is only one hardcover available, in “acceptable” condition, for $10.

    thank you george for an evening of entertainment. it’s the least you can do considering the damage you have insisted on inflicting upon the world on a regular basis.

  31. #31 Dustin
    April 29, 2007

    The Designer he proposes is not Yahweh, but Cthulhu.

    Cthulhu never designed anything but the demise of simple man. Azathoth, on the other hand, is:

    Outside the ordered universe — that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity–the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.

    It makes sense that the Intelligent Designer is actually The Blind Idiot God Whose Name We Dare Not Speak Aloud.

  32. #32 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2007

    I am aware that chimps have often been observed hunting & eating monkeys; but, what are the smaller APES that a “flock” of chimps devours?

    actually, they will canabalize members of competing chimpanzee troups as well.

    so while not a “smaller” ape, they do in fact eat apes.

  33. #33 Zorbane
    April 29, 2007

    It is very cruel of you all to mock
    George Gilder’s in-asthguacy so.

  34. #34 Zorbane
    April 29, 2007

    Oops!

    Of course, I meant you are all so
    very cruel, to mock George Gilder’s
    in-adguathcy in this way …

    I shall try to be on guaad against
    cyth typographical errors in future.

    (Those d@mn mutations! They crop up
    _everywhere_ I tell ya!)

  35. #35 Numad
    April 29, 2007

    “what are the smaller APES that a “flock” of chimps devours? ;)”

    You wouldn’t find it so funny if you’d have seen the documentary The Wizard of Oz!

  36. #36 Chris
    April 29, 2007

    Note to self:
    If wanting to be taken seriously in a scientific or philosophical debate, having 19-year-old daughter defend me or my viewpoints in the blogosphere is counter-productive.

    Depends on the daughter, I think. There’s no reason a 19-year-old can’t be just as intelligent, perceptive and articulate as a 30- or 40-year-old – and on the Internet they’re far less likely to be dismissed before they open their mouths, the way they would be face-to-face.

    If the father and daughter are alike in ignorance, though, it tends to show rather quickly and embarrassingly.

  37. #37 cyan
    April 29, 2007

    Numad,
    The Wizard may have created what looked like flying monkeys in Oz, but instead they must have been of our “kind”: they were angels!:
    http://www.landoverbaptist.org/news0703/creationscienceperversions.html

    This is speaking as a biologist who has taken just one statistics course and no information theory courses, but I just know.

    Also, my son will defend me with his opinion that I am earnest, nice, and have a great work ethic.

  38. #38 Atomic Dog
    April 30, 2007

    Though the daughter’s defense boiled down to saying that he’s a sincere loon rather than a witting con artist. The fact that he went down with his own stock picks would seem to bear that out. What you have is a combination of total self-confidence and unbelievably bad judgment. Plus a craving for attention.

    The Boston Globe article, if you read between the lines, is pretty funny.

  39. #39 Tatarize
    April 30, 2007

    If anybody ever doubted that the ID movement is just creationism wrapped up in a cheesy two dollar suit, which in turn was theology in a one dollar suit, just take a look at the Egnor’s argument. He says that “These assertions are the whole issue in the ID/Darwin debate.” Well, this “natural functional biological complexity” needing to arise by “teleological means” equates the entire argument directly to the teleological argument. Such a ‘thing’ to add this information would need to be more complex (contain more information) than the information added to the system (it needs to possess the added information and the information of how to add it). So how do we explain this force? We need an even more complex information-giver to explain this IDD, and then we need an IDDD to explain that one, and then we need an IDDDD to explain that. Moreover, if we hold that evolution and ID contribute information to the system rather than completely one or the other, we must find a point such that the evolution/ID mix reaches 100% evolution and 0% ID in order to terminate the series (or multiple series trees if we allow for more than one ID). Which, we have for certain cases, such as a computer. A computer is intelligently designed by a large number of very talented people over the years but these designers or their designers (etc) must be completely evolved (or some other similarly converging theory) as we look backwards in time. All intelligence must arise ultimately from a converging process such as evolution (converging as we go backwards in time).

  40. #40 Disinterested Observer
    April 30, 2007

    The only Gilder book I have read was “Wealth and Poverty”(Basic Books, 1981). It was apparently influential in the views of Ronald Reagan on welfare reform.

    Like much of what has already been quoted it is replete with insights that can only be described as idiosyncratic – and he also approaches the social sciences with the same attitude that he brings to biology.

    For example, on page 136, he says “Because of the difficulty female-headed families face in disciplining boys, black women are several times more likely to have high IQs than black men …” – No, I don’t follow it either.

    He also argues that women get lower pay than men because locational preferences lead to lower mobility for women (they tend not to move away from where their husbands live), and because “Everyone seems to want indoor work with no heavy lifting, but only women nearly always get it, thus driving down their pay” (page 130). Yes – it’s all those well-paid, outdoor jobs with heavy lifting that men benefit from.

    It also builds up to heights of rhetorical verbosity, perhaps influenced by early Star War movies. On page 263 he states that “the human mind is not necessarily autonomous or limited to the individual brain. The mind has access to a higher consciousness…”, so that we should reject the rationalistic errors of the welfare state and merge our minds “with the living consciousness that is the ulterior stuff of the cosmos”.

    So fraud or fruit loop, or both? I think that Gilder is one of those happy (for themselves) examples of a person who can get very well paid for sincerely believing extremely silly things.

  41. #41 David Marjanovi?
    April 30, 2007

    He also argues that women get lower pay than men because locational preferences lead to lower mobility for women (they tend not to move away from where their husbands live)

    Because only in the USA do women get paid less than men. Aha. Good to know.

    So fraud or fruit loop, or both?

    I vote for both. Remember that Kung Woo Master who got knocked out of the ring on Youtube?

  42. #42 David Marjanovi?
    April 30, 2007

    He also argues that women get lower pay than men because locational preferences lead to lower mobility for women (they tend not to move away from where their husbands live)

    Because only in the USA do women get paid less than men. Aha. Good to know.

    So fraud or fruit loop, or both?

    I vote for both. Remember that Kung Woo Master who got knocked out of the ring on Youtube?

  43. #43 xebecs
    April 30, 2007

    That giddiest guru, George Gilder,
    ideates bizarrely off kilter.
    He touts information
    that posits creation
    was born when Supply-Side God willed ‘er.

    *** Exegesis ***

    1. Alliteration in first line establishes mocking tone.
    2. guru Reference to GG’s high self-esteem.
    3. ideates Read as “ID-ates” (Intelligent Design)
    4. touts Reference to GG’s stock touting
    5. Supply-Side Reference to GG’s voodoo economics

    *** Pro Forma Apology ***

    Sorry for the awkward rhymes — Gilder isn’t easy.

  44. #44 Virge
    April 30, 2007

    There once was a Gilder of words
    Who had crashed by investing in nerds…

    Bye George. (He’s lost it)

  45. #45 A Hermit
    April 30, 2007

    No more blank posts please! I have a Fear of a Blank Planet

  46. #46 Azkyroth
    May 3, 2007

    If the father and daughter are alike in ignorance, though, it tends to show rather quickly and embarrassingly.

    Specifically, if a daughter defends her father on the grounds that he is her father, rather than establishing the actual defensibility of his *arguments*, she’s a fucking moron. I’m going to make sure mine grows up realizing that. :/

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