Pharyngula

It’s been five years, Paul Nelson!

Once upon a time, a creationist invented a brand new pseudo-scientific term, which he even presented at a scientific conference. It was a very, very silly idea called “ontogenetic depth”. I criticized the idea publicly and viciously, pointing out that the concept had no explanation, no methodology, and had produced no results, which prompted the creationist, Paul Nelson, to promise to present us all with a detailed explanation “tomorrow”.

We’ve been waiting for a little while for tomorrow to get here. Paul Nelson promised us an answer tomorrow 5 years ago.

Ever since, we celebrate Paul Nelson day every year on 7 April. Richard Hoppe jumped the gun and announced it last week, which is OK — Nelson did drag out the promises for quite a while, and the 7th was a somewhat arbitrary choice. Last year, I suggested a simple and appropriate way to commemorate the event.

In his honor, we should all make it a point to ask people “How do you know that?” today, and the ones who actually can explain themselves competently will be complimented by being told that they’re no Paul Nelson.

It’s kind of like the folk tradition of chasing away demons on certain days of the year, only what we do is terrify creationists by roaming about demanding that they fork over evidence, at which time they scurry away and hide. Have fun!

By the way, I said something else last year.

We’ll celebrate it again next year, I’m sure.

I’m a prophet. We’ll have another chance next year, too.

Comments

  1. #1 scooter
    April 7, 2009

    Perhaps ‘ontogenetic depth’ is the question to the answer ’42′.

  2. #2 Pikemann Urge
    April 7, 2009

    Well this is, it seems to me, such an understated idea that it won’t gain that much traction. It doesn’t quite grab at the imagination. So nature is safe!

    But then again we have bad ideas (probably fueled with good intent) such as the idea that DNA is a language (see: cosmic fingerprints website). That seems to have some traction and is going to be harder to put in its proper place (it’s an interesting idea though but is polluted with lots of junky thinking).

  3. #3 Auraboy
    April 7, 2009

    What a whang.

    Sorry it still cracks me up.

  4. #4 Africangenesis
    April 7, 2009

    Google returns a hit for the phrase “ontogenetic depth” in a peer review article, but the phrase doesn’t appear in the abstract. I don’t have access to the full text.

    http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S037783980700062X

    Perhaps an “explanation” now exists?

  5. #5 KemaTheAtheist
    April 7, 2009

    That’s almost a good as using the pick-up line “I wish I was DNA helicase so I could unzip your genes.”

  6. #6 The Boz
    April 7, 2009

    PZ, how do you know that you are a prophet? Couldn’t any charlatan predict the occurance of an annual event, and then claim to know the future?

  7. #7 Africangenesis
    April 7, 2009

    The article I previously cited uses compounds the phrase “ontogenetic depth-micration” so perhaps it is referring to a different concept. Here is another article that does not compound the phrase, but may also be refering to a different concept. The phrase is used in the abstract also:

    http://ics.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/2/233

  8. #8 Stephen Wells
    April 7, 2009

    @6: exactly. Consider also the line from Pratchett’s “Small Gods”: … and they built their campfires in the crumbled halls of as the prophet had said. Although admittedly he’d said it twenty minutes earlier when they’d been looking for a place to camp.

  9. #9 Stephen Wells
    April 7, 2009

    @7: your abstract is from a cultural studies journal and (with the refined language stripped) says that we accumulate possessions in order to convince ourselves of our own existence and security. It’s nothing to so with genetics, the field where Nelson supposedly was going to use it as a metric.

  10. #10 John Logan
    April 7, 2009

    #4

    The phrase “ontogenetic depth” is used twice in that article. See below.

    “The apparent absence of any kind of a secondary calcite crust in Cretaceous taxa suggests that these species were not prone to ontogenetic depth migration. Hence, we regard the apparent lack of depth migration in the marginotruncanids as an example of ?non-uniformitarian? behaviour.”

    “The double-keeled marginotruncanids have usually
    been interpreted as deep water dwellers (Caron and
    Homewood, 1983; Leckie, 1987; Leary and Hart, 1989;
    Hart, 1999; Premoli Silva and Sliter, 1999) by analogy
    with the ontogenetic depth migrations observed in some
    modern keeled foraminifera (Bé, 1977; Hemleben et al.,
    1989). In living species depth migration is indicated by a
    shift to heavier ?18O values with increasing growth as
    observed in modern Globorotalia truncatulinoides
    (Fig. 4a).”

    I haven’t read any more of the article nor do I have any knowledge of the subject so if anyone else understands please explain.

  11. #11 wasd
    April 7, 2009

    It’s kind of like the folk tradition of chasing away demons on certain days of the year, only what we do is terrify creationists by roaming about demanding that they fork over evidence, at which time they scurry away and hide. Have fun!

    So… whats special about that?

    Maybe we should terrify creationists by demanding they fork over evidence… whilst wearing a funny hat, or something. You know, just to mark the special occasion?

  12. #12 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 7, 2009

    So Alan, RogerS and derender

    “How do you know that?”

  13. #13 Stephen Wells
    April 7, 2009

    @10: That article is using “ontogeny” in the simple sense of “getting older” and the relevant phrase is “ontogenetic depth migration” which means “getting deeper as it gets older”. They’re talking about sea-dwelling tiny creatures, forams, which live at different depths depending on their age.

  14. #14 Sili
    April 7, 2009

    Poor Nelson. He’s obviously been sidetracked by a little with no parents named Annie.

    Tomo-orrow! Tomo-orrow! I love you, Tomo-orrow. You’re only-y a day-y-y-y away-y-y-y.

  15. #15 Masks of Eris
    April 7, 2009

    But what’s the name of this special day? Ontogenic Depth Day? Howdjaknowthat? The Ontogenic Seventh? Nelsonia? April Paul’s Day?

    Wait, ‘roaming about demanding that they fork over evidence’?

    That’s it. Let us celebrate… the Forkover!

  16. #16 Eidolon
    April 7, 2009

    OT but this just in from AFA:

    The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 17. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day-even during instructional time…
    You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

    How can they allow students to remain silent? We must force them to talk. Fucking christ on a stick.

  17. #17 IST
    April 7, 2009

    John Logan, AG, et al> Ontogeny is development… more or less. That article is discussing the vertical migration (in the water column) of a family of forams with development. Presumably the larvae (or whatever the better term is for forams, phytoplankton aren’t my thing) are surface dwellers, since it states that the adults live in deep water.

  18. #18 Lotharloo
    April 7, 2009

    Well, Paul Nelson is wrong but at least I admire his courage to do actual science.

    Do you think it is safe to conclude that Paul Nelson is the misguided type of creationist rather than a deliberate fraud? Because I can easily buy the fact that Bembski is a fraud.

  19. #19 Lotharloo
    April 7, 2009

    Okay, I got a typo in my post but fortunately not somebody important.

  20. #20 Flynn
    April 7, 2009

    @ Sili No 14

    Actually, from the evidence, I think he’s more inspired by Kirsty MacColl…

    I look to the future and see
    A thousand setting suns
    But tomorrow never comes

  21. #21 Paul Nelson (not)
    April 7, 2009

    Stop bugging me! I said it’s in the mail!

  22. #22 Gluecypher
    April 7, 2009

    Hey PZ, I do not know why you’re bitching about a measly five year delay. Nelson just imitates HIM. You know in this silly li’l book it says somewhere: “For HIM a thousand years is like a day” or somesuch. So expect your answer in 3004. What’s the deal? Are you really THAT impatient?

  23. #23 Stanton
    April 7, 2009

    Well, Paul Nelson is wrong but at least I admire his courage to do actual science.

    If he is attempting to do actual science, then how come he isn’t attempting to show his progress or even attempting to make an excuse about his progress?

  24. #24 RBH
    April 7, 2009

    PZ is clearly an Aprilist schismatic. We traditional Marchists are the keepers of the true faith, and we say “Fie!” upon the Aprilist heretics. If we could find their cephalopodist churches sunk in the ontogenetic depths of the water column we’d burn them, except they won’t burn, being as they’re sunk in the depths of the water column. I guess we’ll just defriend them on Facebook instead. That’ll teach ‘em!

  25. #25 Carlie
    April 7, 2009

    How can they allow students to remain silent? We must force them to talk. Fucking christ on a stick..

    No kidding, especially since the only thing they usually seem to want is for everyone else to shut up. Give it to them, and they complain about that too!

  26. #26 conelrad
    April 7, 2009

    ‘Sociology recapitulates proctology.’

  27. #27 Andy Groves
    April 7, 2009

    I think Paul is still tied up finishing off his monograph “On Common Descent”…….. which is due to come out sometime in the next 20 years

  28. #28 Glen Davidson
    April 7, 2009

    They’re all just staging it, you know.

    By delaying all of their great ideas and evidences, pretending to be idiots, the entry of their masterpieces will be overwhelmingly dramatic. Dembski even said something to that effect once on UD.

    So my anticipation is simply heightened every year that Paul fails to provide us with anything, every decade that ID fails to make a sound argument. The denouement of scientific ID will be the greatest triumph ever, by appearing to be a failure today.

    Anyone want to buy stock in an ID publishing house? In just a few years you’ll make a killing…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  29. #29 pough
    April 7, 2009

    Nelson just imitates HIM.

    Roughly 1976 years and counting…

    Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom

  30. #30 NewEnglandBob
    April 7, 2009

    Five years is a long time to keep him in a half Nelson, PZ.

    Here is the explanation of “ontogenetic depth”:

    “Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

    although the modern version uses eye of Newt Gingrich.

  31. #31 CatBallou
    April 7, 2009

    I…I have nothing to add to that.

  32. #32 Blake Stacey
    April 7, 2009

    Hey, if Paul Nelson views all metazoans as developments of the Oval of Infinite Potential (per second link in first paragraph), maybe we should refer him to Stuart Pivar, world-renowned expert in balloon animal morphology!

  33. #33 Kagehi
    April 7, 2009

    They’re talking about sea-dwelling tiny creatures, forams, which live at different depths depending on their age.

    Ah. That explains it.. So… like dinosaurs are found under ground because “as they got older” they lived deepe… Heh, wait a second!! Someone is pulling my leg! lol

    Guessing though that this is the sort of idiot argument they want to make about “some” parts of the fossil history. Though, how they plan to get 6,000 or even 10,000 years out of it is beyond me… :p

  34. #34 dreikin
    April 7, 2009

    Ah. That explains it.. So… like dinosaurs are found under ground because “as they got older” they lived deepe… Heh, wait a second!! Someone is pulling my leg! lol

    Maybe god had turned on the ‘no-clipping’ setting while the dinosaurs were around

  35. #35 dreikin re
    April 7, 2009

    raivo pommer-www.google.ee
    raimo1@hot.ee

    Royal Bank of Scotland

    streicht 9000 Stellen
    Die Hälfte der Jobs soll in Großbritannien wegfallen: Die weitgehend verstaatlichte Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will in den kommenden zwei Jahren weitere 9000 Stellen abbauen. 2008 hatte die Bank mit 24,1 Milliarden Pfund den größten Verlust in der britischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte geschrieben.
    Ein Schutzmann vor einer Filiale der Royal Bank of Scotland in London: Während der G20-Proteste vergangene Woche richtete sich die Wut auch gegen die verstaatlichte Bank.

    Beratungen mit den Gewerkschaften hätten bereits begonnen, teilte die Bank am Dienstag mit. Die Hälfte der Jobs soll in Großbritannien wegfallen.

    Bereits in den vergangenen Monaten hatte die britische Großbank den Abbau von 2700 Jobs angekündigt. Weltweit beschäftigt RBS rund 180.000 Menschen.

    Wegen der Finanzkrise war die RBS in eine extreme Schieflage geraten und hatte im vergangenen Jahr mit 24,1 Milliarden Pfund (26,6 Mrd Euro) den größten Verlust in der britischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte verzeichnet.

  36. #36 frog
    April 7, 2009

    Am I understanding correctly — Nelson has been working on the operational equation for his idea for five years, putatively?

    Can’t he at least hire someone to put an equation together matching his “idea”?? That’s all that definition from your older post is — the vague outline of a metric, which means it’s just some kind of polynomial or exponential of some measurements.

    Gahd, that’s the kind of thing you do at a restaurant on a napkin after three beers.

  37. #37 windy
    April 7, 2009

    How long has Ray Martinez been working on his paper?

  38. #38 Stanton
    April 7, 2009

    How long has Ray Martinez been working on his paper?

    About 20 years since never ever.

  39. #39 scooter
    April 7, 2009

    frog @ 36

    My guess

    No beers were harmed in the formulation of that hypothesis

  40. #40 mrg
    April 8, 2009

    I suggest that, for the sake of convenience, “Paul Nelson Day” (7 April) be expanded to mark another year when the imminent collapse of DARWINIZM hasn’t actually occurred. So now we are at PN 5 and counting. If this was a job we could consider it job security.

  41. #41 mayhempix
    April 8, 2009

    PZ… you are no Paul Nelson.

  42. #42 Peter
    April 18, 2009

    “Perhaps ‘ontogenetic depth’ is the question to the answer ’42′.”
    Yeah, like what’s the maximum number of brain cells someone can have and still believe in ontogenetic depth?

  43. #43 Robert Thille
    April 30, 2009

    I have to agree with myhempix @ #41,

    PZ You’re no Paul Nelson.

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