Pharyngula

Wells says something stupid again

My animus for Jonathan Wells knows no bounds — he’s an appalling fraud who doesn’t understand the science he criticizes. Case in point: he recently smugly asserted that a recent study to characterize the molecular changes involved in the evolution of one kind of antibiotic resistance involved no necessary consideration of evolution at all. Well, yeah…like the modern concept of “door” requires no knowledge of carpentry or locksmithing for Wells to manage to open one, so Wells could blithely suggest we replace all the carpenters with Unification Church theologians and there would be no change in his daily interactions with doors. So sorry, Mr Wells: that you’re too stupid to see how the concept of evolution might guide research into the evolution of antibiotic resistance doesn’t mean the researchers are.

It helps me maintain my equanimity that Ian Musgrave has already ripped Wells a new one over his amazing demonstration of inanity.


Here’s a wonderful addition: the principal investigator of the paper in question has commented.

As principal investigator of the study under discussion, I’d like to strongly support the view advocated this page. In fact, I was completely amazed to see how our work has been misrepresented by M. Wells.

Actually, we did indeed use darwinian evolution within this work (something unusual in structural biology). In order to obtain an enzyme with increased stability (a critical point for structural studies), we used selective pressure to obtain mutants of the enzyme. We selected for bateria with increased aminiglycoside resistance, by plating them on antibiotic containing medium. It turned out that some bacteria evolved such stabler enzymes variants which made this whole study possible !

Finally, I would not consider myself as a chemist, I got my PhD in molecular microbiology. It seems that M. Wells finds it easier to portray us as non-biologists, and hence implicitly as non-evolutionists

Ow. That has to sting, if anything could ever penetrate the oblivious stupor that fogs Wells’ brain.

Comments

  1. #1 RBH
    March 3, 2008

    Wells says something stupid again

    “Again” is redundant.

  2. #2 RBH
    March 3, 2008

    And note that the PI of the study has weighed in on Ian’s PT thread to affirm Ian’s analysis.

  3. #3 MartinM
    March 3, 2008

    Orac’s covered it nicely it, too.

  4. #4 Lilly de Lure
    March 3, 2008

    You’d think that by now Wells would have at least learned to Google competently – refutations of his “argument” in this crushingly stupid article have been all over the internet for years, he’s just rejigged them a bit to fit this latest bit of research.

    If you’re going to be a lying jackass Wells, at least do it with a little more discretion!

  5. #5 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 3, 2008

    I just got back from the CACMID conference in Vancouver, a major clinical microbiology meeting. The hottest topic was antibiotic resistance. Evolution, natural selection and Darwin were the themes.
    Given his education:
    Wells thinks his audience is stupid.
    Wells has nothing but contempt for them.
    Wells is mendacious.

  6. #6 Dan
    March 3, 2008

    Do these Disco-Institute asshats ever stop? I suppose on the plus side, they’re once again broadcasting their complete lack of honesty and integrity, and I hope I see the day when that comes around to bit them square on their asses.

  7. #7 MartinM
    March 3, 2008

    If you’re going to be a lying jackass Wells, at least do it with a little more discretion!

    Why bother? It’s not as if his readers are renowned for their tendency to research and critically analyse the material presented to them.

  8. #8 Lilly de Lure
    March 3, 2008

    Why bother? It’s not as if his readers are renowned for their tendency to research and critically analyse the material presented to them

    True, but if he’s too obvious eventually their wanderings around the Blogosphere will lead them to accidentally discover just how much even their intelligence is being insulted by his witterings.

    Or so we can hope!

  9. #9 J-Dog
    March 3, 2008

    Yes, Wells is a lier. However, unlike the other IDers, Wells is not Lying For Jesus. He is lying for Father Moon.

    Not sure which is worse.

  10. #10 DrFrank
    March 3, 2008

    Not sure which is worse.
    At least there isn’t any question over Father Moon’s existence.

  11. #11 raven
    March 3, 2008

    Wells is close to the Real Jesus Christ. Whose name is Sun Myung Moon.

    wikipedia

    “A number of opponents denounce it as a cult with bizarre features such as Sun Myung Moon’s saying he is the “”Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord”[18]

    The central tenet of the Moonies is that Moon is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Who ever thought the Messiah would turn out to be a Korean wacko?

    Anyone such as Wells who can buy into the Unification cult can buy into anything. In all due seriousness, there is a large piece of a normal person missing from Dr. Wells.

    Guy is living a nightmare whether he knows it or not.

  12. #12 Foggg
    March 3, 2008

    Last weekends’ DI presentation on C-SPAN featured John West at one point paying fawning obeisance to the brilliant Dr. Wells who was in the small audience. The Great Degreed Authority who provides The Science.

  13. #13 N.Wells
    March 3, 2008

    Some of us are extremely grateful for the liberal usage of “Jonathan” in and around such sentences as “Wells says something stupid again”. :)

  14. #14 Glen Davidson
    March 3, 2008

    That’s the Achille’s heel to anti-evolutionism, the fact that these guys have to make themselves stupid to promote ID. Then they can’t even come up with competent disinformation, cause they’d have to understand information to competently twist it.

    I believe that this hinders them across the board, all right, and yet someone like Behe who’s not been an IDiot his whole life does rather better than Wells at producing disinformation. Wells only learned biology as a lie to be destroyed, so that even if his credentials would suggest that he’d make better disinformation than Behe, the sheer dishonesty of his entire life means that that isn’t the case.

    That’s okay, though, Wells. Behe also shows himself to be an ass over and over again thanks to his more recently found pseudoscience. You’re in your own company, a place where each congratulates the other in failing to comprehend or to do any science, which is the best place for you to be. Just be thankful that there are whole groups of people who appreciate both your dishonesty and your incompetence, which are your main output. Imagine if you were in a better educated society–you’d be a homeless beggar.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  15. #15 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 3, 2008

    PZ:

    With all due respect, some of us don’t grok Wells all that, um, well.

    He’s not stupid.

    He’s not misinformed.

    What is he is a professional liar. Remember, he knowingly makes arguments that we all know are bad about high school curriculum, and he does so with no other intent than to drive a wedge between high school teachers and their students. He is the most odious of creationists, because his entire life is a series of lies: he was a stealth theologian in divinity school, changing his name to avoid association with the Moonies; a stealth grad student at Berkeley, whose position was quietly obtained and financed by the DI, and now he’s a stealth biochemist who actually does no real science but uses his sinecure of DI and UC monies to give him leisure time to compose these sorts of polemics.

    In other words, he lied, to lie again, in order to go on lying. He’s in love with his own fictions, and no amount of prevarication, obsfucation or good ol’ fashioned fibbing is too much, because….(drumroll)….as one of Father’s most advanced disciples, JW is serving (ominous brass chord) THE TRUTH.

  16. #16 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 3, 2008

    “Again” is redundant.

    But then so is “something stupid”. “Wells speaks” would have been fully sufficient (with “Jonathan” understood from the context of its being a Pharyngula headline).

    Omit needless! ;-)

  17. #17 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 3, 2008

    “Again” is redundant.

    But then so is “something stupid”. “Wells speaks” would have been fully sufficient (with “Jonathan” understood from the context of its being a Pharyngula headline).

    Omit needless! ;-)

  18. #18 CleveDan
    March 3, 2008

    I love the fact that PZ used the word ‘inanity’ and scott hatfield used the word ‘wedge’ in comment #15

    I think those words should be used in all discussions with and about IDiots…..you know, just to twist the Dover knife a little more

  19. #19 gerald spezio
    March 3, 2008

    One addition to Scott Hatfield’s go for the throat summation.

    He’s not stupid.

    He’s not misinformed.

    What is he is a professional liar.

    And willing and able to frame …

  20. #20 Stephen Wells
    March 3, 2008

    PLEASE include his first name? I feel like collateral damage.

  21. #21 Lilly de Lure
    March 3, 2008

    Stephen Wells said:

    PLEASE include his first name? I feel like collateral damage.

    Sorry Stephen:

    If you’re going to be a lying jackass Jonathan Wells, at least do it with a little more discretion!

  22. #22 Ron Britton
    March 3, 2008

    It’s ironic that Wells would portray Frederic Dardel as a chemist, thus implying that he’s a non-biologist, and hence implicitly a non-“Darwinist”. The Discovery Institute keeps trumpeting their list of 700 scientists who doubt Darwinism. Almost nobody on that list is a biologist. I guess they’re admitting that most of the people who signed it aren’t qualified to make the statement.

  23. #23 Carlie
    March 3, 2008

    PLEASE include his first name? I feel like collateral damage.

    Does anyone know his middle name? We could start referring to him by all 3 the way they do with serial killers.

  24. #24 PZ Myers
    March 3, 2008

    His full name is John Corrigan Wells. I don’t know where the “Jonathan” comes from; he must have just felt his name needed embiggening.

  25. #25 MAJeff, OM
    March 3, 2008

    His full name is John Corrigan Wells.

    I’m picturing a yippy dog.

  26. #26 Glen Davidson
    March 3, 2008

    Speaking of liars for their gods, Luskin’s getting all misty-eyed over the fact that, rather than relying simply on intelligent design with its limitations, scientists are turning to what natural selection has produced:

    Intelligent design does not necessarily mean optimal design. Yet the realm of human technology is a realm of intelligently designed objects, many of which strive to optimize energetic efficiency. It is therefore intriguing that designers of human technology would find solutions to technological needs from the biosphere–a realm which neo-Darwinian scientists tell us is the result of blind, random processes. I recently discussed how biologists are turning to natural flagellar biochemical pathways to help improve biomedical technology. A new article in Business Week confirms that this is a common trend in industry, observing that engineers are increasingly turning to nature for guidance and inspiration in producing human technology:

    Spot the common theme: a bullet train with a distinctly bird-like nose; massive wind turbines whose form was inspired by the shape of whales’ fins; ultra-strong, biodegradable glues developed by analyzing how mussels cling to rocks under water. The creators of each product used nature as their guide.

    ( Using Nature as a Design Guide, Business Week, Feb. 11, 2008)

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/03/engineers_improve_human_techno.html

    Yeah, anyway a recent issue of Science has a rather better discussion of these issues.

    Back to Luskin’s IDiocy, though. What do you think, dolt, that genetic algorithms are used by humans in order to think God’s thoughts?

    And anyhow, if intelligence is so very good at working through complexities of material and formation of structure, why aren’t scientists simply thinking up “nature’s solutions”? According to you, that’s all that’s necessary to make life, just some good hard thinking. So why would any intelligent being turn to biology for solutions to hard problems?

    Plus, anyone who actually follows scientific mimicry of biological materials knows that the eventual hope is that humans will best what they’re mimicking. Why? Not because evolution has failed in using the materials that life has at its disposal, rather because life is very limited in the inorganic materials that it can use (and it has never evolved carbon nanotubes or Kevlar, either (by definition, carbon nanotubes are actually inorganic, yet one supposes that it’s just possible that life could have evolved to make them, but missed that chance)).

    The fact is that abalone shells and other amazingly strong materials are considered to be “amazingly strong” in part because the starting materials are so unpromising. Not the organic part so much, but the calcium carbonate is nothing that any intelligent designer would think of using. Rational designers would begin with much better materials than would the highly constrained evolutionary processes. Millions of years of evolution does result in near-optimization of biological polymers plus calcium carbonate, but you still end up with a much weaker shell than an intelligent designer would produce using the same “design”.

    Again, it’s the idiot savant designer. These buffoons want us to believe that intricately structured bio-materials had to be produced by a designer, when any intelligent designer would start with strong (and brittle) materials like aluminum oxide, instead of weak, brittle, calcium carbonate.

    The fact is that biological materials are like the other aspects of life, intricately evolved to be complex and well-adapted, without there being a single bit of evidence that there was the least bit of foresight involved. Evolution can tweak “design” using countless individuals through innumerable generations, all facilitated by a process which exists primarily in order to enhance evolutionary capacity, sex. But no intelligence ever told the abalone to start with a better material than calcium carbonate. The abalone utilized calcium carbonate simply because it already could handle both calcium and carbonate ions (likewise, our bones are made of minerals we needed to store as freshwater fishes, they are not at all what one would come up with to maximize bone strength).

    Always we end up with evidence for a great deal of evolution, never any for the “intelligent designer.” Liars like Luskin and Wells simply try to claim the impressive results of evolution as having to have been “designed,” while they totally ignore the fact that any actual intelligent designer would have made stronger structures by using quite different materials. More like our own, that is, as we both copy what evolution has wrought, and add in what any intelligent designer would do, yet which is always absent from non-engineered life.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  27. #27 Janine
    March 3, 2008

    Yeah, but I am sure Ein would be more useful.

    Damn, I am really showing off my geek infested roots.

  28. #28 Efogoto
    March 3, 2008

    I’m remembering Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorceror and the character John Wellington Wells:

    Then, if you plan it, he changes organity
    With an urbanity full of Satanity
    Vexing humanity with an inanity
    Fatal to vanity
    Driving your foes to the verge of insanity
    But in tautology on demonology
    ‘Lectro biology, mystic nosology
    Spirit philology, high class astrology
    Such is his knowledge, he
    Isn’t the man to require an authority

  29. #29 Elf M. Sternberg
    March 3, 2008

    Trouble is, the IDers are winning. I work about six blocks from the Disco Institute, and they have their fingers not just in ID but in other political activities, including traffic management activism for Seattle and the Greater Puget Sound Region. I got into a discussion with someone this weekend over traffic, and he mentioned the DI in passing. “C’mon,” I said. “Those are the people who pump tons of cash into the Intelligent Design movement. They’ve got nothing.”

    “Yeah, but neither do the Darwinists,” my conversant said automatically. I decided not to pursue the conversation further, but I was so disappointed to see how deep the memetic infection goes.

  30. #30 HP
    March 3, 2008

    Efogoto: Great minds and all that; I was working this pastiche out while you posted:

    My name is John Corrington Wells,
    I’m a dealer in magic and spells,
    With misinformation
    And specious mentation
    About evolution in cells.

    (No doubt Cuttlefish is writing something brilliant at this very minute.)

  31. #31 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 3, 2008

    Elf, the only way I would have pursued that conversation would have been to say: “Man, that is just stupid.”
    Can’t blame you for not doing it.

  32. #32 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 3, 2008

    I don’t know where the “Jonathan” comes from; he must have just felt his name needed embiggening.

    Well, good that he made distinction from this perfectly intelligent and honest John Wells easier!

  33. #33 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 3, 2008

    I don’t know where the “Jonathan” comes from; he must have just felt his name needed embiggening.

    Well, good that he made distinction from this perfectly intelligent and honest John Wells easier!

  34. #34 J-Dog
    March 3, 2008

    In a perfect world, the next time Wells spoke, the entire audience would stand up turn around and drop trou, thus giving him a Perfect Moon.

    Of course in a REAL perfect world, there would be no John Corrigan Wells.

  35. #35 Hap
    March 3, 2008

    “Yeah, neither do the Darwinists.”

    You mean other than modern medicine and pharmacy? And a passing acquaintance with logic? Yeah, I guess the Darwinists got nothing.

    If Seattle lets these morons design traffic flow, they deserve what they get, though they may starve in traffic waiting for it.

  36. #36 Epikt
    March 3, 2008

    Carlie :
    Does anyone know his middle name? We could start referring to him by all 3 the way they do with serial killers.

    PZ:
    His full name is John Corrigan Wells.

    Crap. I was hoping for “Hussein,” just so I could enjoy the smell of burning gear lube from the conflicted little brains of his fan club. We could always start a rumor…

  37. #37 Emmet Caulfield
    March 3, 2008

    If it’s true that “you are what you eat”, Wells must have eaten a surfeit of mendacious assholes.

  38. #38 Jake
    March 3, 2008

    PZ: Wells (like other creationists) claims he doesn’t need to understand evolution in order to comment on it. You have, however, made a seemingly parallel claim that you don’t need to delve into the details of the bible in order to refute its basic premises. While I fully agree and understand why this parallel is apparent but NOT in fact substantive, I think this is a point that could be easily exploited by the professional liars/idiots pushing creationish. Could you do us all a favor: expound on this point to make it clear why thinking people do not, in fact, need to read the bible to reject it, even while it remains the case that the Faithful DO in fact suffer in their attempts to criticize evolutionary theory because they have NOT taken the time to understand evolution? (obviously this only applies to that large portion of the Faithful who disbelieve evolution because they are told to and don’t know better, and not to those deliberate liars who fully understand why their lies are lies) They’re going to point out the seeming hypocracy on this issue (or they do already), we might as well be prepared. Thanks as always for being a voice of reason.

  39. #39 Sastra
    March 3, 2008

    Many years ago, a biologist I know was in a debate on evolution with Jonathon Wells. In his opening speech, Wells went on and on about how he’s a degreed biologist who started out “believing in” evolution, till the weight of the arguments against it simply crushed his former convictions.

    In rebuttal, the biologist brought up the evidence that no, Wells had not “started out” as an evolutionist — there was the quote from Wells himself, explaining that he had gone in to study biology at the request of Reverend Moon, so that he could show the world that evolution was false. As he read the quote, my friend heard the mostly Christian audience gasp in shock.

    Wells was furious, and went on and on about how he was being “personally attacked” in an ad hominem argument, this had nothing to do with it, etc.

    Later on, talking to the audience, the biologist found out why the audience had gasped and turned on Wells. He had thought it was because he had caught Wells in a blatant lie, and everyone caught on that it wasn’t evidence which changed his mind after all!

    No. It was because Wells was a Moonie. Being from Italy, he hadn’t realized that the “Rev” Moon Unification Church was considered rank heresy by the fundamentalists who made up most of the people in the auditorium. To him, Christian was Christian. Not to them. The evolutionist’s “reveal” crushed his opponent.

    But for the wrong reason.

  40. #40 Derek Huby
    March 3, 2008

    From Wells’ Evolution News and View page: “The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. ”

    How true.

  41. #41 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2008

    if anything could ever penetrate the oblivious stupor that fogs Wells’ brain.

    *ahem*

    Wells is a MOONEY.

    wait, let me repeat that:

    a MOONEY.

    He was doomed to intractability and unconscious lying long before you ever even heard of him, PZ.

    He was a bit of projectile vomit even in grad school (yes, I knew him).

    In fact, the “good” reverend Moon actually paid for his time at Berkeley.

    Imagine the Church of Scientology sending Tom Cruise to get a PhD in Molecular Biology, and, minus the star notoriety, it would be entirely similar.

    To tell the truth, I actually pitied the man as a grad student.

    There is little use for pity any more, though.

  42. #42 Robert M.
    March 3, 2008

    “Yeah, neither do the Darwinists.”

    You should have reminded him that just because _he_ is unaware of the evidence for evolution doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Or as I usually say, do not confuse absence of evidence with your ignorance of existing evidence.

    I’m tired of those mindless people who assume that if they don’t know about something, then nobody else does.

    Robert M.

  43. #43 Carlie
    March 3, 2008

    I’m picturing a snotty George M. Cohan.

    C, O, double-R, I, G, A, N spells Corrigan
    Proud of all the stupid thought that’s in me
    Evil’ ution it never will convince me
    C, O, double-R, I, G, A, N you see
    Is a name that a shame always will be connected with
    Corrigan, that’s me!

  44. #44 Rick T.
    March 3, 2008

    Could you do us all a favor: expound on this point to make it clear why thinking people do not, in fact, need to read the bible to reject it, even while it remains the case that the Faithful DO in fact suffer in their attempts to criticize evolutionary theory because they have NOT taken the time to understand evolution?

    Sometimes you cat tell something is stupid by saying it out loud. For example, I am going to roll up these leaves, stick it in my mouth and light it on fire. Then I’m going to inhale the smoke from the fire. Sounds kinda stupid when said out loud.

    How about this. God created the world in 6 days and got so tired that he had to rest (and has been resting ever since as far as I know). Adam and Eve ate an apple and he cursed them so they couldn’t product Vit C and were forced to eat the very apples that God didn’t want them to eat in the first place. He was tempted to destroy the whole of his creation because everyone was pissing him off by having anal sex but decided that it would be better to father himself and be murdered so that he would appease his own anger. He says he will come again to get all those who believe this story and leave the rest to fry forever. But he has changed his mind so many times it’s hard to believe him anymore. He’s turned into kind of a flake.
    Sounds stupid when said aloud.

    Also, on a more serious note, you only have to read as far as it takes to find nonsense that can’t possibly be true. How about the first few verses where he creates light before he creates sources of light like the sun. Or when he creates the firmament to separate the waters above from the waters below. WTF? That’s about all you need to see to conclude the obvious. It’s a bronze age myth.

  45. #45 Glen Davidson
    March 3, 2008
    Wells says something stupid again

    “Again” is redundant.

    Actually, I’m more inclined to think that “stupid” is the major redundancy in Wells’ case. For those of us who know him, any public statement by him is expected to be stupid in some manner or other.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  46. #46 natural cynic
    March 4, 2008

    I’m waiting for the Great Father Moon to summon J.C. Wells to inform him that he has consistantly failed. Wells’ foolishness will no longer be tolerated, so then the Great Father makes his his ‘splode. Just like evil overlords are s’posed to do to failing minions.

  47. #47 Stephen Wells
    March 4, 2008

    For Jake: I think you’ll find that a lot of people who argue seriously against taking the Bible as literal, truthful or accurate do so because they have, in fact, read the Bible rather more carefully than most fundamentalists. Try it.

  48. #48 Ravilyn Sanders
    March 4, 2008

    PZMyers comment #23: His full name is John Corrigan Wells.

    So even his name is a lie!

  49. #49 Jake
    March 4, 2008

    For Stephen Wells at #45:
    The people you refer to have reached a conclusion I already agree with. Their reading of the bible undoubtedly results in more detailed reasons why believing it is nutty, but the point is I don’t really have to read it to learn whether it’s correct. Conversely, many people DO have to read/learn more evolutionary theory in order to understand whether it’s correct.

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 4, 2008

    Could you do us all a favor: expound on this point to make it clear why thinking people do not, in fact, need to read the bible to reject it

    Wait a little. Many of the readers here, and AFAIK also PZ himself, have in fact read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation.

    Are you perchance a concern troll? If so, you just scored an own goal.

  51. #51 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 4, 2008

    Could you do us all a favor: expound on this point to make it clear why thinking people do not, in fact, need to read the bible to reject it

    Wait a little. Many of the readers here, and AFAIK also PZ himself, have in fact read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation.

    Are you perchance a concern troll? If so, you just scored an own goal.

  52. #52 Andreas Johansson
    March 4, 2008

    ObNitpick: Genesis is not a “bronze age myth”. It features motifs known from Bronze Age texts, but it the form we know it it’s a product of the Iron Age.

  53. #53 Stanton
    March 4, 2008

    Could you do us all a favor: expound on this point to make it clear why thinking people do not, in fact, need to read the bible to reject it, even while it remains the case that the Faithful DO in fact suffer in their attempts to criticize evolutionary theory because they have NOT taken the time to understand evolution?

    The “Faithful” suffer so in their so-called criticisms is because they refuse to undertake even the most minimal efforts to understand Evolutionary Biology, and have had the unmitigated gall to assume that they know best because God is apparently on their side.

    Conversely, many people DO have to read/learn more evolutionary theory in order to understand whether it’s correct.

    The Theory of Evolution has been demonstrated to be correct irregardless of whether or not “The Faithful” care to understand it or not.

  54. #54 PZ Myers
    March 4, 2008

    Also, some of us, including me myself, recommend reading the Bible as a good first step on the path to atheism.

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