Nathaniel Jeanson’s Replacing Darwin  could be called pseudoscientific, but arguably this may be unfair. Pseudo comes from the Greek pseudēs for ‘false’ and pseudos for ‘falsehood’. Labeling Replacing Darwin as pseudoscience suggests the participation in a deliberate lie and at the moment I’m unwilling to offer that suggestion. I am happy to grant Jeanson his sincerity. Because the bulk of the errors in Replacing Darwin are errors of omission I lean towards describing it as quasiscientific. Quasi is Latin for ‘as if’ and it is indeed as if what you are reading in Replacing Darwin is science. It is in fact only partially and ostensibly science.
I am also willing to be generous and accept that the majority of these omissions are simply due to an author with no actual expertise in the field he is writing about. The subject of Finding Darwin is rooted in population genetics, biogeography, ecology, phylogeography, speciation, molecular evolution and systematics, none of which are fields where Jeanson possesses any professional expertise.
I am also unaware of Jeanson ever having someone with any actual expertise in these fields reviewing either his book or any of his articles published on the Answers in Genesis website. As far as I know he’s only had his fellow like-minded creationists chime in on his work or at best someone with some molecular biology background who he has described as a friend and theistic evolutionist. His only attempts at outside reviewers are high-profile popularizers of evolution like Richard Dawkins or P. Z. Myers. With the exception of Jerry Coyne he apparently never solicited a review from anyone with active research in the fields the book covers, despite the fact there are thousands of working population geneticists and systematists out there.
Isaac Newton famously said if he’s seen any further it’s because he stands on the shoulders of giants, meaning in science we build from the findings of others. The entire book has the feel of someone who has abandoned Newton’s maxim and replaced it with “I’ll make it up as I go along.” Steven Pinker in his book Better Angels of our Nature said, “No one is smart enough to figure out anything worthwhile from scratch” and yet that seems to be exactly what Jeanson attempts to do. Read More
Definitions are important. A prerequisite of virtually any rational discussion is agreement on a common terminology. Without common terms there may be little meaningful dialogue. Changing or obscuring definitions however is a time-honored tactic used by creationists to wriggle out of an intellectual position they find undesirable.
Georgia Purdom, PhD, of the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis promotes erroneous definitions of evolution so that she may accept obvious examples of natural selection without having to also accept that natural selection is a mechanism of biological evolution. The tactic is not of her own invention but one employed by generations of hardcore creationists unwilling to concede the reality of evolution even in the smallest of doses. In some circles, one’s creationist bona fides are apparently tarnished by the admission that natural selection is indeed a mechanism underlying even the slightest evolutionary change.
When faced with undeniable, empirical examples of natural selection in action the dedicated creationist’s only escape is to change the definitions of natural selection or evolution or both. Purdom has done this in videos, public lectures, in print and in blog posts and while I’m uncertain as to whether these misrepresentations are borne out of deliberation or ignorance the effect is the same, namely to confuse her audience and make scientists appear to be the ones who are equivocating and inventing sliding definitions. In fact they are not. The real definitions of both natural selection and evolution are entirely unequivocal. Read More
Birders have long maintained highly effective communication networks. A sighting of a rare bird will rapidly spread among hardcore birders and scores of onlookers will flock, pun intended, to the best finds. Nearly universal access to the Internet has kicked these networks into overdrive. Now, within minutes of a rare find georeferenced coordinates and digital photos will be disseminated to websites, listservs, cell phones, twitter feeds and Facebook pages. This is the practice known as “chasing” birds brought into the 21st century.
Now, I don’t usually chase birds. It isn’t because I don’t want to necessarily, but more so because I never seem to be afforded the time. But, when I heard of a Hooded Crane (Grus monacha) found with wintering Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) and Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee I decided maybe it was worth the chase. I’ve seen Japanese or Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) in Japan and Taiwan and many Sandhill Cranes but I’ve never seen a Whooping Crane or a Hooded Crane so there was the chance for hitting a double on this trip. Plus, with the holiday break I had a nature-obsessed 6-year old boy out of school and in need of a little adventure. So, a 5 hour drive south on I-75 and we are at Hiwassee, and the trip didn’t disappoint; eagles, turkey, bluebirds, kingfishers, waterfowl, and many, many cranes, almost ridiculous numbers of cranes. Hiwassee is home to thousands of Sandhill Cranes whiling away the winter on a steady diet of East Tennessee corn. The Sandhills are typically accompanied by a couple of Whooping Cranes every year and, as of December 13th of this year, one very disorientated Hooded Crane, who should be spending the winter in Japan or China and returning to breeding ground in the Russian Far East in the spring. Needless to say this Hooded Crane was more than a little off course!
Three species of crane at Hiwassee Refuge; Sandhill (grey), Whooping (white) and Hooded (black with white neck) Read More