Pharyngula

Another review of Pivar’s Lifecode

Denyse O’Leary finds another review of Lifecode … and reveals again her own lack of discrimination. It’s by Jerry Bergman, a deranged young earth creationist who works for the Institute of Creation Research. Why??? This is a man with disreputable credentials afflicted with a ridiculous position on science — it’s like writing down the ramblings of some addled wino, and has just as much credibility.

It’s a tepid review that does not endorse Pivar’s work at all (not good enough for Jerry Bergman—that’s got to sting.) But mainly what we learn is that Bergman doesn’t know any biology.

All cells and embryos assume the toroidal shape. How they respond to this initial shape determines their adult morphology. The details of how this shape guides development and morphogenesis in general were, in my opinion, not very well defended in this work. This theory may explain certain aspects of the external morphology of a life form, but how much else does it explain?

No, Pivar’s theory explains nothing, because cells and embryos do not assume this hypothetical toroidal shape. The reason the work fails is that it ignores and contradicts basic observations of developmental processes — the kind of stuff undergraduates can routinely observe.

Bergman also whines a little bit; I can understand why he’d sympathize with crackpottery, since he’s one himself. But this claim is bogus:

In the meantime, the comments on Amazon and various Web sites leave me wondering why there is such an emotional and vociferous reaction to a new theory of evolution. Part of the reaction is that any theory that proposes to replace Darwinism produces a knee-jerk reaction of uncalled-for invective. This attitude hardly encourages new ideas.

You can read my reviews of Lifecode and it’s second version. My gripes were that it was fantasy, not science, and that it ignored the evidence.

There is no “knee-jerk”. There is a recognition that people like Pivar and Bergman are unqualified kooks who make stuff up, and act as if they’re knowledgeable. It is well-considered, measured, and deserved invective.

Comments

  1. #1 Callandor
    September 27, 2007

    Of course all reactions that are negative in anyway are “knee jerk” ones. The same way anyone objecting to material presented automatically makes the presenter right, and the next Galileo.

  2. #2 Rich
    September 27, 2007

    Denyse “buy my book” O’Leary can’t help it. She doesn’t know any real scientists.

    Or what science is.

    Or how to write good like me.

  3. #3 Rey Fox
    September 27, 2007

    You know, if they’d just use the time they spend whining about how mean we are to actually do RESEARCH…oh, who am I kidding? Wankers, the lot of ‘em.

  4. #4 Pinko Punko
    September 27, 2007

    Please tell me you are just using comic sans for blockquotes from chumps, because that font has GOT to go.

  5. #5 Bob O'H
    September 27, 2007

    Since when did Pharyngula become the Unofficial Uncommonly Dense Discussion Thread? Aren’t we good enough for you?

    Bob

  6. #6 catofmanyfaces
    September 27, 2007

    “it’s like writing down the ramblings of some addled wino, and has just as much credibility.”

    You know, I see this as a good representation of alot of these sort of weird crazy persons…

    http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=76
    http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=115

    tell me these don’t seem just like some “visionaries” of the ID/cretinism movement…

  7. #7 Djur
    September 27, 2007

    Yeah, PP, it’s just for creationist quotes. Probably the only decent purpose the font could ever be employed for.

  8. #8 Pinko Punko
    September 27, 2007

    Well, then that makes it the funniest thing I’ve seen this week. Just the right amount of meta.

    Comic sans is of course OK for comics. And 9 year old legacy protocols in the notebook. Nothing else, yet its power is mysteriously growing stronger everyday.

  9. #9 tacitus
    September 27, 2007

    The (not-so-glowing) reviews are also coming in for Denyse’s new book “The Spiritual Brain” (two stars on Amazon). Even the fundamentalist Christian who read it gave it a tepid review.

    What’s funny, though, is that Denyse herself posted a glowing review of her book on Amazon. She said it had been written by an anonymous friend of hers who, for some unexplained reason, could not post it himself.

    Now I’m quite prepared to believe that the review was genuine and that she was simply posting it as a favor to her friend, and at least she didn’t try to hide the fact that the she’d posted it, unlike another ID apologist we know of.

    But all the same, authors should not be posting other people’s reviews of their own books, even if they explain what they’re doing. Do you think that she would agree to post a negative review if she was asked to?

    So I reported the review to Amazon last week and when I looked today it had been taken down.

    Pointless? Petty? Eh, perhaps, but it took all of 10 seconds to do, and she deserves it :)

    Word of warning though. I noticed that in her blog she’s just about to have two children’s “science books” published. There’s no other information on them yet, but the very thought of schoolchildren attempting to learn science from this scientifically illiterate woman makes me queasy.

  10. #10 Sam
    September 27, 2007

    As an addled wino with a cursory understanding of science, biology and evolution, I am deeply, deeply insulted. I’d write more, but the chardonnay is calling.

  11. #11 Stephen
    September 27, 2007

    Chardonnay? You have sunk low indeed my friend.

  12. #12 rubberband
    September 27, 2007

    Ah, well do I recall studying that classic doughnut shape of the cell. And the wonderful stars, moons, clovers, golden horseshoes and red balloons that comprise the various organelles.
    Good times.

  13. #13 jpf
    September 27, 2007

    (Vaguely on topic in a people-who-have-wronged-PZ-ish sort of way…)

    New article in New York Times about Expelled: Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin

    I like how it doesn’t mince words:

    There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth.

    That’s from the article itself, not some mamby-pamby balance quote.

  14. #14 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    September 27, 2007

    Denyse O’Leary finds another review of Lifecode … and reveals again her own lack of discrimination. It’s by Jerry Bergman, a deranged young earth creationist who works for the Institute of Creation Research.

    Hey! Sure it was cheesy, but it featured space vampires and massive amounts of nudity! What more co- oh, LifeCODE. Never mind.

  15. #15 Felicia Gilljam
    September 27, 2007

    In his review PZ stated that the book must be about the evolution of balloon animals. The question is, can it be demonstrated that all balloon animals really do go through a toroidal stage at some point in their development?

  16. #16 katie
    September 27, 2007

    I..uh…engaged Denise O’Leary once in a comment on her blog. She actually devoted a whole blog post to me. http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2007/03/response-to-student-darwinian.html
    (I was preparing a presentation on ID at the time…I couldn’t help it!).

    Anyway, all I got out of it was that evolution is materialist. Materialism is bad. Not any actual…response…

    It reminded me of this philosophy of science class I had to take. Maybe I just don’t have enough patience (or aren’t “open-minded” enough), but hearing things like “How do you know what you see through a microscope isn’t just an artifact of the process?” and the resulting debate drives me a little batty.

    You really gotta wonder if these anti-materialists go to the doctor. I mean, they fix people based on material science too…

  17. #17 BobApril
    September 27, 2007

    I think you all are being FAR too harsh with Mr. Bergman. I KNOW he’s right about all cells being toroidal – that’s how they were pictured in my 7th grade science book!

    What? Whaddaya mean, that was only an illustration? Are you arguing with Mrs. Johnson? She’ll make you stay back and clean the blackboard!

  18. #18 Marcus RaMarcus Ranum
    September 27, 2007

    She said it had been written by an anonymous friend of hers who, for some unexplained reason, could not post it himself.

    It was probably written by God. He moves in mysterious ways and can’t type. But he has a long history of dictating his thoughts to (usually illiterates like Mohammed and Smith for some reason) people for transcription.

  19. #19 Stephen Wells
    September 27, 2007

    Leaving aside the question of whether anti-materialists go to the doctor- do they eat and breathe? Every so often I encounter people who will, on the one hand, claim that nothing empirical is knowable, and yet five minutes later claim to have a favourite restaurant. The hypocrisy is baffling.

  20. #20 Timcol
    September 27, 2007

    What’s funny, though, is that Denyse herself posted a glowing review of her book on Amazon. She said it had been written by an anonymous friend of hers who, for some unexplained reason, could not post it himself.

    Amazon has now removed the review. I personally reported it as inappropriate to Amazon. I agree that it may have been genuine, but is fascinating to realize that O’Leary obviously didn’t see any conflict of interest in posting it in the first place…

  21. #21 Bob L
    September 27, 2007

    This is one of those moments when I read something from a funddieloony and I don’t believe I just read it; A Young Earth Creationist is upset at other people’s resistance to new ideas. The irony meter just pegged a solid “10” here. Wow, that is just hilarious and mind numbing all at the same time.

  22. #22 Kseniya
    September 27, 2007

    and yet five minutes later claim to have a favourite restaurant. The hypocrisy is baffling

    Baffling, perhaps, but we must expect it from people whose greatest pleasure in life is being told to “please speak directly into the clown.”

    but is fascinating to realize that O’Leary obviously didn’t see any conflict of interest in posting it in the first place…

    Fascinating, perhaps, but we must expect it from people whose greatest pleasure in life is being told to “please speak directly into the clown.”

  23. #23 Kseniya
    September 27, 2007

    Oh, did I double-post? I’m sorry! *snicker*

    Seriously, though, it’s not exactly a stunner coming, as it does, from this denizen of UhDuh who admits to seeing no untoward implications in the claim that Peter Irons defends the civil liberties of “Jews” as a cover for his Materialist agenda. What do we expect? Scruples?

  24. #24 Stephen Wells
    September 27, 2007

    “Please speak directly into the clown?” Ah buh guh wuh da hell does that mean? Or am I better off not knowing?

  25. #25 stogoe
    September 27, 2007

    Chardonnay? You have sunk low indeed my friend.

    “I am not drinking fucking Merlot!”

    But seriously, folks, chardonnay is the Miller Lite of wine. Go for an inexpensive riesling, or pinot grigio, at least.

  26. #26 Rieux
    September 27, 2007

    Bergman also whines a little bit; I can understand why he’d sympathize with crackpottery, since he’s one himself.

    On that note, didn’t I hear somewhere that Stuart Pivar is a classic crackpot?

  27. #27 noncarborundum
    September 27, 2007

    golden horseshoes and red balloons

    Horseshoes and balloons? I did a pretty thorough survey of marshmallular morphology about 40 years ago, and none of the (sweet and crunchy) samples contained either of these forms. And they say new structures can’t evolve!

  28. #28 John Marley
    September 27, 2007

    “Please speak directly into the clown?” Ah buh guh wuh da hell does that mean? Or am I better off not knowing?

    Haven’t you ever been to a fast food drive-thru?

  29. #29 Chris
    September 27, 2007

    All cells and embryos assume the toroidal shape.

    Ah, another graduate of the Homer Simpson School of Cytology.

    (Mmm, donuts.)

  30. #30 Kimpatsu
    September 27, 2007

    You can read my reviews of Lifecode and it’s second version.
    Hey, PZ, what does “…and IT IS second version” mean, anyway…?

  31. #31 Carlie
    September 27, 2007

    Sadly, the knowledge of the clown may be an age-based cultural reference. The mundane fast food of today bear little resemblance to the frolicking eclectic weirdness of the fast food of yore. Even the few Jack in the Box restaurants that are left don’t have a cute little clown over the drive-through any more. Pity.

  32. #32 Kseniya
    September 28, 2007

    Carlie, yes! The sad truth is that I have never actually seen a Jack-in-the-Box. The “speak directly into the clown” line is sort of an old family in-joke rooted in stories of my dad’s college-days experiences working nights at a JitB that stayed open til 3:00 a.m. — in a neighborhood that had several bars which all closed at 2:00.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.