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« Don't Blame the Game The RantsA Brief Respite »

Harvard: Tired of Creationist Bullshit
2005.08.16 (Tue) 15:58

Just a brief mention about an AP article we stumbled across:

Harvard University is joining the long-running debate over the theory of evolution by launching a research project to study how life began.


"My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard.


Evolution is a fundamental scientific theory that species evolved over millions of years. It has been standard in most public school science texts for decades but recently re-emerged in the spotlight as communities and some states debated whether school children should also be taught about creationism or intelligent design.

The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

Setting aside the fact that this article doesn't mention that the anti-evolution side of the long-standing "debate" about evolution is much like a bunch of monkeys throwing feces across the table, and setting aside the fact that they refer to intelligent design as a "theory" instead of a "crackpot hypothesis with no scientific basis whatsoever," we're always happy to hear that more people are actively joining in the fight against willful ignorance. We look forward to the day when our understanding of the origins of life is such that any logical person can simply laugh at the creationists. Of course, we'll probably still have those masses of illogical people to deal with.

Oh well. One step at a time. Go, Crimson!

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[  Filed under: % Creationism  % Religion  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/202

Comments (20)

Grendel, 2005.08.16 (Tue) 17:20 [Link] »

My major concern is that Harvard University has increasingly become a repository for 'researchers' who are, in their respective fields, crazier than the craziest creationists. At least a creationist bound by blind belief has some measure of excuse for his/her idiocy, having been indoictrinated into a belief system where empirical data means little to nothing.

How to explain a nutjob like recently deceased Harvard professor and chief guru of the alien abduction cult, Dr. John Mack?

Mack is not the only goofball on their faculty.

Unfortunately, once one has attained tenure, there is little a university can or will do to censure totally nonsensical 'science' and 'research'. Temple University and The University Of Arizona are two other prime examples of supposed institutes of higher learning supporting, sponsoring, and endorsing by their silence all sorts of pseudoscientifically silly nonsense.

Neither Harvard, nor any other American uiniversity can any longer be afforded any benefit of doubt on just about any research.

Concerning origin of life, from Harvard you might get a well funded, scientifically sound research effort, or you might get a hack job from some pseudoscientist.


I try to be careful not to fault the subject of a story for a journalist's poor writing, but certainly the prospective Harvard researcher understands that 'evolution' describes speciation, not the actual origin of life?


(Examples of pseudoscientific nonsense at TU & UA available on request).

The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 00:04 [Link] »


Sadly, we understand exactly what you're talking about. It did occur to us that we could end up with a team of Gary Schwartzes explaining that life originated from the Tooth Fairy and homeopathic pond scum. However, from the brief article, it does sound like they are specifically trying to counter the "intelligent design" notion with this program, which would be a good thing if done well. Of course, only time will tell.

Regarding the journalist's use of the term "evolution" to cover the origin of life issue, we could look at it in several ways. We could be kind and say that he was reporting the viewpoint of the creationists, who routinely classify everything from the origin of the universe to the origin of life to speciation under the term "evolution." Or we could assume that he doesn't know any better himself. For our part, we'll just leave it open-ended.

By the way, we know about John Mack and Gary Schwartz. Just for our edification, who's the nutjob you were referring to at Temple?

Rockstar, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 09:19 [Link] »


I'd love to see some of the crackpottery going on in our institutions of higher learning. It'll serve for a good laugh!

Grendel, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 10:12 [Link] »

More later (strapped for time right now), but at Temple, it isn't a single nutjob -they have a whole division of nutjobbery.

You could start with Dr. David Jacobs, Professor of History, which makes him eminently qualified for his work as one of the leading lights of the Alien Abduction phenomenon.

Temple University has set up an entire 'school', in operation sionce the late 1980s, dedicated to 'research' and publications, conferences, training seminars, books, articles, etc. endorsing such wondrous new sciences as dowsing, homeopathy, thought field therapy, pet psychics, ESP, etc., etc. -all the usual suspects.

Check out this brief overview article by Martin Gardner (my one-time fishing buddy and fellow North Carolinian). It frames the issue and provides plenty of hooks for further googling:


Grendel, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 13:50 [Link] »

I'll try to post examples in between my appointments -my apologies for the piecemeal format, lol.


Here's a reference (with operative paragraph c & p-ed below):


"A number of schools offer degrees in psychology, anthropology, or other fields allowing you to do your work with a parapsychological concentration, often under the guidance of a parapsychologist affiliated/on the faculty of the university. Such schools include the University of Virginia, West Georgia College, Antioch University, Saybrook Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire offers some focus on parapsychology within their undergraduate psychology programs, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has a great focus on parapsychology for grad students."


A true bit of oddness is that the University Of California at Berkely awarded exactly ONE degree in Parapsychology, to a Jeffrey Mishlove, in 1982. (I wonder who he paid off?)


PEAR at Princeton University (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research):


From the laughably unscientific PEAR's own website:

" Two decades of intense experimentation and complementary theoretical modeling leave little doubt that the anomalous physical phenomena appearing in these PEAR studies are significantly correlated with subjective human processes, akin to such ineffable experiences as joy, wonder, creativity, and love. Yet, contemporary scientific rigor leaves little room for subjective correlates in its mechanistic representation of reality.
It follows, therefore, that science as we know it either must exclude itself from study of such phenomena, even when they precipitate objectively observable physical effects, or broaden its methodology and conceptual vocabulary to embrace subjective experience in some systematic way. It is to the proposition, development, and utilization of such a "Science of the Subjective" that much of the future empirical and analytical efforts of the PEAR laboratory will be dedicated."

(In other words, since we cannot establish our beliefs scientifically, science needs to change to accomodate them).


Gary Schwartz and the University of Arizona:


(Schwartz never found a psychic he wouldn't endorse, and reading the protocols for his 'scientific testing' was absolutely hilarious -mindbogglingly inept work. Alas, only the protocols for a few of his earlier works are available -he wisely learned not to publish them anymore, which sets him apart from genuine scientists. Peer review of scientific work routinely includes review of testing and/or research protocols to look for errors that might explain anomalous data or other findings.)


Dr. Andrew Weill is director of the Program in Integrative Medicine and clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Arizona, and a veritable fountainhead of pseudoscientific nonsense on heal, nutrition, healing, etc., and also chimes in on many othoer woo-woo topics. He has merited an entry at Quackwatch:



Western Michigan University has Dr. Michael Swords, who teaches natural science and human biology at WMU, but also teaches UFOs, and assorted parapsychological phenomena as genuine, scientifically proved topics:


Swords is also 'scientific' director of the UFO advocacy group CUFOS.


There are literally dozens and dozens of university professors in American universities who (purportedly) do not teach their respective pseudosciences and paranormal beliefs in their university courses, but many reports from former students indicate it all seeps through one way or another. One classic example, now retied, was Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle of the University of Wyoming, one of the first alien abduction gurus who (mis)used hypnosis and regressions to study alien abductions.


A couple 'almosts':

Florida State University came very close to establishing a school of chiropractic recently. Here's a link to a St. Petersburg Times article about vehement faculty opposition to the idea (be sure to read the map drawn up by one FSU professsor that parodies sucha school):


A similar defeated effort to establish a chiropractic school at York University:



Lemme know if more is sought......

MBains, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 14:01 [Link] »

While I understand AND appreciate the distinction between abiogenesis and evolution, I've found myself less insulted when supposedly informed folks misuse the latter in place of the former.

The fact is that abiogenesis is an evolutionary event. It is a synergistic event and, since it did not take place in a vacuum as the creationists believe, I am now less concerned with making this distinction. Afterall, we use the term evolved for geologic and societal and meteorological process all the time. The concept is not limited to living things.

It is still immensely important but it may possibly be a tic on the scale scientists (and those of us who respect the scientific method) can use to elucidate the not-so-nutjobbery believers.

As always, if I'm missing something, please to be letting me know. L8

Rockstar, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 14:49 [Link] »

Thanks Grendel. I'm familiar w/ the PEAR folks from reading Randi's site. Good stuff. Frightening, though...

Chris, 2005.08.22 (Mon) 12:44 [Link] »

I'd like to add to the crackpot list... when I was at the University of Georgia, there was (and still is) a quantum chemistry professor named Henry Schaefer. He was often noted as one of the "most cited" scientists in the country, and he had an impressive publication list. On the other hand, he hosted occasional "why evolution is B.S." and "why creationism is true" seminars at the university. Usually these were at least entertaining, occasionally culminating in an implicit suggestion to attend follow-up meetings at a local church. Schaefer also was a big enough name to get other well-known crackpots into the school to give lectures -- Phillip Johnson of "Darwin on Trial" fame was one. Unfortunately, most of these seminars were literally preaching to the choir so there was little debate to be had.

Grendel, 2005.08.26 (Fri) 09:32 [Link] »

Another university crackpot is Dr. Courtney Brown of Emory University. His schtick is 'remote viewing', the latest pseudoscientific label for what has been known historically as clairvoyance. Brown takes the concept waaaaaaaay out there -literally. Via remote viewing, Brown claims to have attended intergalactic 'congress' meetings of a sort, some of which were attended by no less than Jesus and Buddha!

Brown teaches courses in 'remote viewing' through his Farsight Institute (Academy? University? I don't recall...), if you're interested.

Brown is a constant embarrassment to his university, his students, and his fellow faculty, and has flat refused to be tested by the many Emory schools of science faculty who've offered to test his 'abilities'. Emory University administrators refuse to intercede, citing Brown's freedom of speech.

I was reminded of him by this week's James Randi Commentary.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.08.26 (Fri) 12:02 [Link] »

Hmm — do you actually have to go to Farsight to take "remote viewing" classes, or can you just remote view them from the comfort of your living room?

Shawn, 2005.08.26 (Fri) 13:54 [Link] »

Of course you can't remote view a remote viewing class. When you do the exercises, you'd either have to "dual screen" remote view, which I'm sure you know is impossible for anyone lacking lobe seperation. Or, you would have to remote view a remote viewing.... and we all know what happens when you make a copy of a copy.

It's well a known fact, that I'm an expert on all bullsh.. um, alternative practices.

Grendel, 2005.08.26 (Fri) 16:58 [Link] »

I took the RV course. Shawn posts naked.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.06 (Tue) 13:53 [Link] »

By the way, thanks, Grendel, for providing that cornucopia of pseudoscientific academia. You've given us plenty to get angry about. We knew about PEAR, and John Mack, and we'd written about both Gary Schwartz and the near-disaster concerning the proposed FSU Chiropractic school, but many of the others were new to us.

As a note, we have had past dealings with the Rhine Center in Durham, NC (formerly associated with Duke University before the University severed all ties). Back in the mid-90s, the Rhine folks had been pretty honest in telling us that they had no compelling evidence whatsoever for any form of paranormal event, but when we checked back in with them earlier this year, they seemed to have tied themselves to, among other kooks, Gary Schwartz. Maybe our earlier experience with them was an isolated incident specific to only a few members of their staff, but to us it seemed that their honest approach to investigating the paranormal had gone by the wayside in recent times.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.06 (Tue) 14:33 [Link] »

Whoops, thanks to Chris as well — Professor Schaefer from the University of Georgia was new to us as well.

Buhlah, 2005.09.22 (Thu) 10:28 [Link] »


Have you ever observed anything evolve? If not, and you still believe in evolution, you have a religious type of faith. Your faith is not scientific.

Have you ever seen anything created? If so, you believe in creation. You are scientific.

Mankind is getting close to creating life. When it does, it will have proven creation.

Mankind will never evolve anything. As a result, evolution will always be a faith. How convenient is that for evolutionists?

The debate over evolution and creation is not about science. It is about how members of society can and cannot behave.

This is evident by observing that conservatives believe in creation while liberals believe in anyhing but creation.

Evolution is a religion that must be overthrown if progress is to be made. A new generation of scientists with more scientific theories of life will eventually replace the old farts of evolution who have closed minds and who are intellectual lazy.

Archeological finds by young scientists are being disgegarded and better theories are being dismissed by the status quo.

Scientists should never settle on any particular theory. If they do, they become obstacles to progress. They need to be open to all ideas.

It seems that science is just like any other establishment. It tends to built fortresses in order to defend itself, grow and kill off challengers.

Scienists are just as corrupt as members of any other group of people. They are just as ignorant, closed minded and self serving.

Rockstar, 2005.09.22 (Thu) 12:56 [Link] »

*contorts face*

*grimaces with desire to tear last comment apart*

*can't, it's not my blog*

Can I say one thing though? Bulah (did anyone ever tell you your screen name sounds like a puking noise?), please don't proselytize on something you are completely igonrant of.

The definition of biological evolution in layman's terms for moronic blog trolls: A change in the gene pool of a population.

This has been observed a million times over. Even your Creationist buddies at the Discovery Institute have agreed.

So, start at talkorigins.org, learn about what evolution is, then come back for intelligent conversation.

Until then, go fuck yourself. Have a nice day.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.22 (Thu) 15:26 [Link] »


Quite frankly, we don't have the energy to point out all of the incorrect statements and outright misinformation in your comment above. They are the same tired and thoroughly debunked arguments against evolution that we've been reading for years.

Our advice: before you waste your time (and more importantly, our time and our readers' time) on comments like this, please take the time to educate yourself. It really isn't that hard. We'll even give you some links to places where you can do so.

Since you start your diatribe with the well-worn misconception that evolution has never been observed, we'll start by calling bullshit on that statement. Please read the Talk.Origins piece entitled "Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution" to set yourself straight. In fact, the first misconception on their list is the old zinger that "evolution has never been observed." The article does a fine job of calling bullshit. It reads, in part:

Biologists define evolution as a change in the gene pool of a population over time. One example is insects developing a resistance to pesticides over the period of a few years. Even most Creationists recognize that evolution at this level is a fact. What they don't appreciate is that this rate of evolution is all that is required to produce the diversity of all living things from a common ancestor.


Even without these direct observations, it would be wrong to say that evolution hasn't been observed. Evidence isn't limited to seeing something happen before your eyes. Evolution makes predictions about what we would expect to see in the fossil record, comparative anatomy, genetic sequences, geographical distribution of species, etc., and these predictions have been verified many times over. The number of observations supporting evolution is overwhelming.

Just in case you intend to move on to one or more of the other misconceptions, we'll list them out here. Please do not argue any of these points unless you have read and can intelligently counter the Talk.Origins responses to them. Here is the list, copied and pasted, from Talk.Origins:

All of these moronic arguments are dealt with over on Talk.Origins. Go, read, learn.

In short, evolution (and by extension, science) is not a religion. We can only assume that the reason you believe this is because you don't know enough about science to make the distinction. As such, it seems to you like a leap of faith. Well, your ignorance of science doesn't in any way change the fact that science is not based on faith.

For more information on why you are dead wrong, please check out the following links:

Until you educate yourself, please keep quiet. You're giving us a headache.


To everyone else: This is one of the biggest problems in this country today — not only are people misinformed and uneducated, they are too stupid to understand that they are wrong. Buhlah clearly lacks even a basic understanding of evolution, and of science in general, and yet he/she is publicly spouting off about how science is flawed. If people like this at least understood their basic ignorance, we'd be on the right track to fixing it. But when they can't even see that simple fact, what hope do we have?


Rockstar: As a note, you are more than welcome to rip apart comments like this on our blog. Not that you need our "permission" to do so, but you have it anyway.

Rockstar, 2005.09.22 (Thu) 15:57 [Link] »

Thanks guys, don't mind if I do.

Archeological finds by young scientists are being disgegarded and better theories are being dismissed by the status quo.

What finds? What theories? If there is a better theory for the origin of species than evolution, I'd like to hear it. Chances are you are referring to Creationism/ID. That's not a theory. It's a belief. Faith based belief.

They need to be open to all ideas.

Here's the thing with "open-mindedness": We've examined your moronic Creationism story. Were we closed-minded, we'd have dismissed your claim without reviewing it. Since you have no evidence, it's tough to review your claim. We did. It's bullshit.

It seems that science is just like any other establishment. It tends to built fortresses in order to defend itself, grow and kill off challengers.

Sounds like a great description of ID/Creationism.

Well Blugahaha, what's your answer?

Matan Shelomi, 2005.12.05 (Mon) 21:12 [Link] »

As a current Harvard student in David Liu's new Life Sciences class, as well as other biology classes, I can tell you that the efforts to reinforce the FACT of evolution are very strong. Each week at least one lecture involves a statement showing a fatal flaw in creationism, and nearly all lectures prove the existence of evolution (example: if we are learning about RNA polymerase, we also learn how it evolved, because it's a very complex molecule and if the professors don't immediately explain how it DID evolve, morons like Bulhah might say "aha! jesus walks!" or whatever it is they say).

Even the Harvard conservatives (an unfortunately loud minority) tend not to support creationists. This is still an institute of learning: creationists are welcome in Harvard Divinity School, but not in the Science Center!

The Two Percent Company, 2005.12.05 (Mon) 23:03 [Link] »

Sadly, creationism has become an issue that simply can't be ignored in this country. It would be wonderful if scientists and people of reason didn't have to waste time debunking such nonsense, but that just isn't in the cards right now. We're glad to hear that Harvard is tackling this head-on by proactively taking aim at creationism. Thanks for the first-hand information, Matan.

Oh, and the default creationist refrain is: "Why are there still monkeys?!" Every time we hear that one trotted out, it makes us want a stiff drink. Or several.

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