An author jumps the shark on evolution

September 5, 2015 • 1:45 pm

Wikipedia describes Perry Marshall like this:

Perry Sink Marshall (born April 10, 1969) is an American online marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and author of several books, most notably the bestsellers Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising. He speaks at conferences and corporate events and runs seminars about Google AdWords and Pay-per-click advertisingaround the world.

Now I’m the last person to totally discredit someone’s opinions about science merely because they don’t have degrees in science, but I have to say that Marshall’s new book, Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design, looks pretty dire. Although I haven’t read it, its description sounds as if the guy really doesn’t have any idea what modern evolutionary biology says. First, he does have a degree in engineering, though, as we know, even if we consider engineers “scientists,” their profession harbors a disturbing number of anti-evolutionists.


Marshall has also described himself as a devout Christian, and has given a talk on his “Eureka moment” when he suddenly realized that evolutionary biology is, in general, bunk. He also feels that Intelligent Design has its problems (i.e. he thinks evolution really happened, though some IDers agree, though his view, as described in the talk, puts him far closer to IDers than to evolutionists.  It also puts him close to quasi-ID scientists like my Chicago colleague Jim Shapiro, who finds fault with evolution based on putative “self-directing” processes of mutation and evolution.

Here’s the Amazon description of Evolution 2.0. Virtually ever statement (indented) is wrong or misleading, and I’ve added my comments (flush left):

150 Years Later, the Debate on Evolution Still Rages. Both Sides Are Half-Right. And Both Are Wrong.

Meet the opponents:
In one corner – Proponents of Intelligent Design like William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and Michael Behe. Many defy scientific consensus, maintaining evolution is a fraud. They challenge decades of data in several branches of science: biology, chemistry, genetics and paleontology.

In the other corner – Devout Neo-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Jerry Coyne, who insist evolution happens by blind random accident. Interestingly, their books omit the latest science, glossing over crucial questions and fascinating details.

 But what if both sides are half-right?

Dan Dennett, while evolution-friendly, is actually a philosopher. But leaving that aside, NONE of us maintain that “evolution happens by blind random accident.” That’s the biggest misunderstanding about evolution, and one zealously promoted by creationists and their city cousins IDers.  Mutations are “blind accidents” but it’s the disposition of those accidental variants by natural selection that leads to adaptive evolution.

Well, at least I’m in good company. Behe, Dembski, and Meyer cannot accept materialistic evolution because they’re sworn to uphold Jesus.

What if both sides are missing something important, clinging on to outdated views, theories, and interpretations?

There is a third way. Evolution 2.0 reveals scientific experiments which prove that, while evolution is not a hoax, neither is it random nor accidental. Changes are targeted, adaptive, and aware.

Of course evolutionary changes are generally adaptive, because the process is largely promoted by natural selection. Deleterious genetic variants don’t survive. But mutations, so far as we know are random—in the sense that the chance a mutation will be useful doesn’t change depending on the environment in which it occurs. As my colleague Paul Sniegowski likes to say, mutations are “indifferent.” And as far as mutations being “aware,” well that’s just Chopra-esque caca de vaca.

You will discover:

-Nearly every cell in your body can edit its own DNA
, negating random destructive copying errors, charting a path for its transformation (page 82)

Yes, that can happen, for cells have an exquisitively evolved mechanism to edit flaws in DNA (that mechanism, of course, got here via natural selection, since those individuals that could correct the largely deleterious errors in DNA would have more fit offspring).  But those mechanisms aren’t 100% effective. In fact, if they were, evolution couldn’t occur! But DNA editing says nothing about the nonrandomness of mutations; it says only that cells can sometimes detect DNA errors and fix them.

-Genes – far from being set in stone – actually change and adapt to the environment.

Yes, that’s called “natural selection.” But if by this Marshall means that genes can adapt to the environment in real time, changing in a way that’s both inherited and permanent, then he’s wrong. The adaptive “epigenetic” changes in DNA methylation that we see are always coded for by other bits of the DNA itself.

-How germs re-engineer their genetic destiny in real time by borrowing DNA from other organisms (page 94) (it’s the reason why your doctor tells you to never stop taking antibiotics halfway through your prescribed course)

This refers to plasmids: free-floating bits of DNA in bacteria that can code for antibiotic resistance (though resistance often resides on the bacterial chromosome itself). When a bacterium happens to absorb a plasmid from another one, and that plasmid contains mutations conferring antibiotic resistance, then that individual leaves more copies of its “plasmid genes,” which, like most DNA, replicates and is passed into offspring. But this is nothing other than garden-variety natural selection, with the selected genes residing on extra-chromosomal but inherited pieces of DNA. To describe this as “germs re-engineering their  genetic destiny in real time” implies some teleological force, or conscious intent, that is deeply misleading.

-How bacteria communicate, organize themselves into armies, then stage coordinated attacks on your immune system (page 110)

Yeah, so???

-Brand new species in 18 months, sometimes 24 hours – Through two empirically proven, reliable systems of natural genetic engineering (page 146)

Well, I’d have to see that for myself, but the species are no doubt microbes, and their “speciation” based on adaptation to new habitats.  If Marshall new anything about speciation, he’d realize that the concept of species in largely asexual organisms is dubious, and because of that you can, depending on what you call a species, say that speciation happens almost any time a new mutation occurs.

-How and when cells generate new information and genes that did not exist before (page 150)

Yes, that occurs by either natural selection itself, gene duplication followed by natural selection, or the adoption of genes from other species by “horizontal transmission.” Again, this is no refutation of neo-Darwinism, but simply the recognition that the raw material for natural selection can arise in several ways. The “information” trope is much beloved by IDers and creationists, but the acquisition of new “information,” however you define it, is not even a minor bump in the road for modern evolutionary biology. For decades we’ve known that simple natural selection can create new information.

-Why DNA, which is digital instructions for building proteins, is not merely like code but is code, the same way as the software on your smartphone is (page 38)


-How cells switch genes on and off in response to the environment, then activate new traits that get passed from parents to kids (page 115)

Gene regulation was known since the days of Jacob and Monod, and we have a good idea of how it works, and what environmental cues (sugars, in the case of J&M) can activate genes. Again, gene regulation evolved via natural selection.  As far as passing newly activated genes from parents to offspring, that depends on whether the environmental cue that activates those genes persists from one generation to the next. If it doesn’t, the gene reverts to its quiescent state.

-Many more amazing, scientifically verified facts that not only further technology and medicine, but fuel our sense of wonder at life itself.

I can’t wait to hear them!

You will discover fascinating real-time evolutionary lab experiments by an eminent scientist in the 1940s, whose work was recognized in 1983 by a Nobel prize & US postage stamp, but then… is still rarely mentioned in school science curricula.

This refers to the work of Barbara McClintock, who won the prize for discovering mobile genetic elements (often called “transposons”) in corn. This was a stunning and Nobel-worthy discovery, but again it’s the discovery of an unanticipated way that DNA can change—by moving within a genome. Move along, folks; nothing to see here.

High priests of scientific establishment actively oppose research that threatens antiquated theories, labeling the real data that finds its way into scientific publications a “media fiasco”.

That’s just bunk. Scientists love to debunk each other.

Finally, get a load of the Big Message, and a Big Prize that, of course, nobody can win. Offering prizes for supporting evolution, adjudicated by a panel of evolution critics or denialists, is a tactic familiar to those who deal with creationists. And trying to win it is a mug’s game.

This book explores 70+ years of under-reported evolutionary science. Evolution 2.0 chronicles bestselling author Perry Marshall’s 10-year journey of in-depth research. As an Electrical Engineer, author of an Ethernet book and now world-renowned business consultant, Mr. Marshall connects the dots in a way that is new and refreshing. He tackles some of the biggest questions about evolution with precision and specificity, making it clear when the information is supported by hard data and when it can only be inferred.

This book will open your eyes and transform your thinking about life, evolution, and creation. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for our place in the universe. You’ll the see the world around you as you’ve never seen it before: adaptive, efficient, and incredibly elegant.

$3 Million Technology Prize:Origin of Information is one of the central problems in modern biology. No one knows where the genetic code came from; no one knows how the first cell developed. To solve this, the author has organized a Private Equity Investment group which is offering prize, reminiscent of the X-Prize, for a natural process that produces coded information. The prize amount is $3 million USD as of August 2015. Details in Chapter 23 and Appendix 4.

I was struck by the Amazon reviews, with nine of the 16 five-star reviews posted on August 14, and five of the rest appearing within a few days (the book came out September 1). That’s deeply suspicious, as the writer of the only negative review noted:

Screen shot 2015-09-04 at 6.34.08 PM

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There is one new five-star review that was posted yesterday, with the reviewer lauding the book this way:

“I wanted to thank Perry for this contribution. Whether he knows it or not, his work is very Catholic. It carries the spirit of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition that holds no division or conflict between faith and reason.”

You go, Marshall! In fact, so far the book isn’t going anywhere, resting at spot #103,899 on Amazon.


UPDATE: Reader Barry adds a link and a note:

A podcast with… Perry Marshall!

If you want a laugh (or a groan), jump to 3:20, where McCarthy [Ken McCarthy, the deeply ignorant host][ mentions the lunacy of a “hot bath of chemicals” that gave us giraffes. I can’t bring myself to listen to the entire thing.

 [JAC: Marshall is the recipient of the 2015 Ornette Coleman Memorial Prize for Original Thinking in Science. Although I don’t know what the great saxophonist had to do with science, but if he knew anything about evolution, he’d be rolling in his grave.]


91 thoughts on “An author jumps the shark on evolution

  1. There’s a certain style of thinking which I’ve labeled “political ” though it need not relate to politics and could just as well I guess be considered a manifestation of the marketing mindset. It’s when people approach factual matters as if they were trying to resolve conflicts between people, focusing on harmony and compromise and coming up with a solution which everyone can be happy with — or at least, everyone who isn’t some sort of ideological closed-minded extremist, that is.

    So is it evolution or creationism? Hey, I know– let’s make it a bit of both! Like a mommy at a birthday party coaxing then little ones to resolve a disagreement on whether to have pizza or beef stroganoff by offering lasagne, the political thinker thinks about what’s going to work the greatest good for the greatest number. What’s going to sell?

    And then comes the mental slip, where it seems as if this sort of consensus building leads to truth. Or better yet, Truth.

    This book sounds to me like it’s coming out of this political mindset and seeking and confirming a Golden Middle fallacy. It only needs a bit of science for that purpose.

    1. Claiming that the better answer is its a little bit of both is a new wrinkle in the olde Xkcd line ‘well the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both’.

  2. It is interesting to look at the reviews on Amazon of books on controversial topics. It’s one thing if a book is also very popular, and has hundreds of reviews. I’ve noticed, though, that a spate of five star or one star reviews often comes from people who have never reviewed anything before (or perhaps only a pair of headphones or a rice cooker). This is clear a case of the usual suspects got out to talk up or down a book, and glancing at the reviewers information, it seems to hold true here.

    1. I agree – the author has got a few friends and family to write reviews. Or more likely, he wrote the reviews for them to add to the site.

      I agree with Sastra (above) too.

      However, at the end of the day, I think this guy’s only real interest is in making money and knows that in the US, buying into the evolution vs creationism debate is a way of getting it. He probably has fantasies of being a sought after speaker on the subject. Imo, he’s a version of Karen Armstrong for a slightly different field.

      1. You can pay for reviews I’ve heard. Since this person has the background in getting lots of clicks and marketing, he probably knows how to go about getting a bunch of phoney reviews for a few bucks.

  3. ” But those mechanisms aren’t 100% effective. In fact, if they were, evolution couldn’t occur! ”

    Does natural selection select for imperfect replication mechanisms?

    1. There would be no need to, I think, if the imperfect mechanism is good enough. And a perfect mechanism may not be physically possible.

      1. An imperfect mechanism is only good enough if no better one exists. If perfect copying provided a survival advantage, then a less perfect one wouldn’t be “good enough”.

        I’m thinking there is a sweet spot for copying error frequency.

        We know perfect copying (or pretty close) is possible because we copy information today with near perfect accuracy. Error-correcting codes and all that.

        1. Cellular machinery is good at pattern-matching, search-and-replace, and that sort of thing, but error-correcting codes require actual arithmetic. Where in the cell is there a computer capable of that level of calculation?

          1. I didn’t say it existed, I said it was possible. The comment I was responding to suggested that it wasn’t physically possible.

            Many of the chemical-based processes that do exist are, in effect, algorithms.

            1. Yes, but it does not follow that any given algorithm must necessarily be achievable by incremental improvement of existing cellular machinery. There may be algorithms that are within the grasp of purposeful human design but beyond the reach of natural selection, and error-correcting codes may be among them.

              1. Maybe we can’t know. That’s my point. Knowledge about what’s possible for us does not equal knowledge about what’s possible for natural selection.

          2. All error correction comes down to is multiple copies of the data; a method of comparing the copies; and a means of reconciling any differences in the copies. There’re some fancy mathematical tricks you can do to minimize the duplication of data or to speed up the comparisons or the like — and especially in cases where errors are rare and absolute perfection isn’t required. And you can tune all that to be a best fit for the particular application.

            If I remember my DNA mechanics right, we already have examples of that sort of thing going on. There are sequences that differ by one base that encode for either the same protein or two different proteins that function similarly enough as to be interchangeable. There are other sequences that will be completely non-functional with even a single change; that sort of all-or-nothing functionality can be used to protect especially critical sequences.

            I’m sure there’re geneticists here who could give a much better explanation.


            1. I’m just now reading Matthew Cobb’s Life’s Greatest Secret. Back in the 40’s there was a major effort by mathematicians and other theorists to analyze the encoding in DNA as a mathematical code. As the code was uncovered it was found to consist of 3-base words with lots of redundancy, the numeric attempts were found to be worthless. The code, established ad hoc, had been evolved over billions of years and did not respond to math at all.

              1. The mistake was assuming optimality, rather than the “mathematical” modelling per se. (And the fact that they did it with so little data – one needs domain knowledge too. Newton couldn’t have written Principia if he didn’t know any physics.)

              2. That’s right. In the early days even Crick pondered mightily to see if he could figure out what the encoding was. Everyone was looking for optimality which came naturally to mind for mathematicians. Crick soon suggested that there was redundancy which helped to explain why it was such a hard problem. At that time the idea of transfer RNA had not been discovered, which didn’t help the effort either.

    2. Sure, why not?

      It “selects,” of course, for nothing but increased fitness. To the extent that variation-generation in a given environment is more fit that stasis, then yes.

    3. Every time natural selection favors the new beneficial mutation on the block, for whatever trait it might be, it is also selecting for the imperfect copy mechanism that allowed that mutation to appear.

      At the same time, if the imperfect copy rate gets too high, it will produce too many detrimental mutations, and natural selection will select against that.

      So it seems to me that natural selection will be constantly dialing in on just the right level of nearly-but-not-perfect copying.

      1. That was my reasoning.

        A friend of mine had observed that we were “lucky” that the earth had the right amount of cosmic radiation to provide the right mutation rate for life to evolve.

        I commented that 1) background radiation is only a minor contributor to the mutation rate and 2) even if it weren’t, evolution would ensure that the optimal mutation rate would arise, so there wasn’t as much luck involved as it might seem.

    4. Another side of this is that selection for perfect replication would mean selection for slow replication. And the fast but slightly sloppier replicators would win the competition for limited space and other resources.

      1. I would think that there would be several factors that would affect the optimal mutation rate. For instance, a rapidly changing environment would put a premium on lots of mutations, but it would also depend on how rapidly the population tended to grow.

    5. Natural selection selects for good enough replication mechanisms, not perfect or imperfect ones. Seemingly perfect traits, are tomorrows imperfect ones.

  4. Thankfully, Amazon seems to have at least filed the book under theology and unlike the DI, the author didn’t find a way to sneak in a science ISBN.

    1. I’ve noticed that most eolutionary biologists who try to reconcile science and faith tend to deal with evolution only to convince the reader that it happened, confining their apologetics to areas outside of their expertise like cosmology, morality, or — look! A waterfall! They know damn well that the standards in their field are high and anything they come up with invites scrutiny from skeptical peers.

      But people who come at it the other way around — not “I’m a scientist who believes in God” but “I believe in God; now watch me tackle science!” — clearly realize they labor under a much looser standard of scrutiny from the peerage of the faithful. Pretty much anything goes, since theology not only allows but positively encourages one to dismiss the picky picky complaints of non believers on the suspicion that they’re perverse.

  5. [2nd try, I think the reference link was stopped by the spam filter. (Chopak-esque magazine name. Blame Simons Foundation.) I’m sure you can find the reference from googling snippets of the text:]

    “No one knows where the genetic code came from; no one knows how the first cell developed.”

    I can’t agree with the latter, we have at least two rival theories. To deny their existence would be like claiming that no one knows what the two best 100 m runners are.

    And the first is too little, too late. Marshall can give his 3 million USD (really?) to Greg Fournier. Fournier has managed to test that the hypothesis that the genetic code evolved is correct, and what the last code addition was:

    “Fournier’s work delves further back than any other previous efforts. To do so, he had to move beyond the standard application of comparative genomics, which analyzes the differences between branches on the tree of life. “By definition, anything pre-LUCA lies beyond the deepest split in the tree,” he said.

    Fournier started with two related proteins, TrpRS (tryptophanyl tRNA synthetase) and TyrRS (tyrosyl tRNA synthetase), which help decode RNA letters into the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. TrpRS and TyrRS are more closely related to each other than to any other protein, indicating that they evolved from the same ancestor protein. Sometime before LUCA, that parent protein mutated slightly to produce these two new proteins with distinct functions. Fournier used computational techniques to decipher what that ancestral protein must look like.

    He found that the ancestral protein has all the amino acids but tryptophan, suggesting that its addition was the finishing touch to the genetic code. “It shows convincingly that tryptophan was the last amino acid added, as has been speculated before but not really nailed as has been done here,” said Nigel Goldenfeld, a physicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the study.”

    [Note of interest: “Fournier now plans to use tryptophan as a marker to date other major pre-LUCA events such as the evolution of metabolism, cells and cell division, and the mechanisms of inheritance.”

    We are now digging down before the first known lineage split!]

    1. That is interesting. Some years ago I had read several articles about evidence for evolution of the genetic code. It was fascinating to learn that the code, which at first seems pretty random, is really arranged in a pretty optimal way to reduce the deleterious effects of many base changes and translation errors.

    1. “Changes are targeted, adaptive, and aware.”

      The least we should expect from the author of Evolution 2.0, that he understands natural selection. Marshall clearly doesn’t.

      If I’m confronted by these amazing discoveries which turns science upside down, written by a person without professional or specialized knowledge, I know for sure the book doesn’t add to my knowledge and reading it would be a complete waste of my time.

  6. I notice one of the editorial reviews is from This organisation is dedicated to teaching Christian apologetics. A recent blog post concluded Intelligent Design was definitely science. Nuff zed.

  7. There is a pretty good lesson for the average person in reading this posting. That would be to pay little attention to reviews by people you have never heard of or of books by people who are not from the field being covered.

    Perry Marshall writing a book on evolution would be a good example. Any of Bill O’Reilly’s history books would be another. There is a lot of junk out there and life is too short. What was that book that Behe wrote a few years back? Holy crap…

  8. But, but, but … this book has been totally endorsed by Stuart Pivar – so how could it even conceivably ever be wrong?

    “A remarkable and useful resume of the state-of-the-art of this great problem of science.”
    —Stuart Pivar, author, Lifecode and On The Origin of Form, and cofounder, New York Academy of Art

  9. Very interesting and thoughtful review of this electrical engineer’s (I am mechanical engineer so I’m comfortable being sarcastic here) magnum opus on evolution.
    One must praise the herculean effort that creationists and IDers alike make, in order to make reality, mainly the reality of biological evolution, align closely with their nonsensical worldview.
    On the Amazon suspect reviews: as Gordon Hill sort of suggested here, should this article be submitted there? If would be a great test of their censorship rules…

  10. and author of several books, most notably the bestsellers Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising

    The dude’s claim to fame is that he’s the type of spammer who teaches effective spamming techniques to other spammers — just like a self-made millionaire who got rich by selling self-help financial books. I’m not at all surprised he doesn’t know much about biology.


    1. So many jobs want one to be able to be versed in the ways of getting search engines to find them. There should just be a program to do it.

      As an aside, I first read his name as “Penny Marshall” so you can imagine my disappointment and confusion!

      1. Everybody’s competing for attention, and doing so by trying to shout the loudest so as to drown out all the rest. The only winning move is to not play — which is why, if you value your sanity, you will have an ad blocker installed on your computer.


          1. Honestly, I don’t think advertising is a viable means to support much of anything over the long term. It’s not a mutual tradeoff…a film, for example, is visibly cheapened by inclusion of product placement, and the advertisers just make themselves appear to be pimps whoring out the filmmakers.

            I suspect the future will look much like the past, and the present will become an anomaly. Artists will be left to find patrons who will commission new works, and those works will instantly pass into the public domain. The pre-corporate public broadcasting model is a sustainable one, I think, done right.


        1. I know there are ad-blocking browsers available for iOS devices, but I understand the “cure” is not that much better than the “disease”, ie, they block content you want to see, etc.

          Point is, I know what an ad-heavy site looks like and it makes me wonder how on earth those advertising tactics can be successful. Often, you’ll be redirected to a specific app in the app store. That’s a great way to get me *not* to buy your app. Another tactic is that advertisers deliberately place ads on top of functional “buttons” that do various things at the site. These buttons are displayed for a fraction of a second and then turn into an ad, so you’re very likely to click on the ad rather than the button for whatever it is you wanted to do. This seems so disgusting to me. Do these insanely aggressive, site-destroying tactics really work? Are enough people out there really accidentally clicking on an ad and then saying, “hey, now that I’m here, I suppose I could refinance for the 10th time!”

          1. I don’t tend to surf very much at all on iOS. What you’re describing is truly utterly foreign to me; I’ve literally never seen anything like that. Probably because it’s been years since I’ve used a Web browser that doesn’t have AdBlock and ClickToFlash installed.

            I really had no idea things have gotten as bad as you’re describing.


            1. It’s ridiculous.

              If you have an iPhone try visiting a Patheos site (mobile view) like Friendly Atheist. Not only are the tactics underhanded and aggressive, but there’s so much clutter. Way more ad space than content space. It makes the site nearly unnavigable. I don’t understand why this scheme seems to be successful.

              1. Hmm…just did. Too much space devoted to ads, but none of them tried to hijack anything.

                Then again, the iPhone screen is much too small for serious reading — at least not without the reading glasses in the other room, and not really even then….


              2. Also, the home page is ok, but if you click through to an individual article you get ads up the wazoo, as if they think you’re Acari e audience: “he really wants to read this; no way he’s navigating away from my ad!” And the cynic in me can’t help but conclude that the ads are so large in order to capitalize on the touchscreen. Sometimes if you want to scroll down you have to touch their ad; then you’re screwed.

                I’m going to start recording all the products I see advertised in this way and they are going on my “do not buy” list. Harrumph!!!

      2. Yeah, this dude has been going so downhill ever since he quit cross-dressing as Laverne DeFazio and got divorced from Rob Reiner.

  11. I used to follow Perry Marshall for his business teachings – which were pretty good. When he drank the Kool-Aid of fundamentalism and endorsed Ann Rice books as history, I questioned him, he defended her as a legitimate scholar (!) and I quit his lists. Pretty sad that someone that’s a good thinker in their area of business can’t bring that skill into other areas.

  12. This appears to be the 1st such Coleman award in honor of the musicians personal interest in science. The awarders appear to be jazz historians.
    Now DaVinci was an artist AND a scientist so an award after him makes a tad bit of sense, as would an Isaac Asimov award. But.i don’t und understand.naming an award after someone with.a layman’s interest in science.

    I remain baffled by the ID community’s obsession with the advent of “new information”.

    1. When I saw “Ornette Coleman” award, I nearly cracked myself up blue. As much as I appreciate Ornette’s music, it is definitely a kind of controlled chaos — practically a celebration of disordered thinking. Example: set up 3 bands on stage, each playing in different tempos and time signatures, sit back, close your eyes, and see what happens. Let the dissonance and chaos proliferate, and revel in it.

      Yeah, nothing says “science” quite as well as that approach to music.

      It’s kind of like creating a Salvadore Dali Award for logic and reason. The whole point of Dali’s art was the illogic and unreason of dream states.

    2. Not only is this the first Ornette Coleman Memorial “prize,” it was given about 2 months after Mr. Coleman’s death. The “Jazz on the Tube” website (apparently the award’s sponsor) gives no information on how or by whom the award was decided, but it does include a large picture of the cover of Mr. Marshall’s book with their announcement.

      Jazz on the Tube was founded in 2008 by Ken McCarthy, “an internet marketing professional” with a passion for jazz. (NCPR News).

  13. Perhaps operating within the field of engineering gives a strong disposition toward the design mindset, due to the nature of the discipline. It was certainly the case for my father and my mother (both engineers).

    1. On the other hand you might expect an engineer to recognize that nature’s designs are often inexcusably kludgy — such as the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the innervation of the middle ear, or the embryological development of the kidneys. Nobody in his or her right mind would have designed them that way.

      1. Those are excellent examples of dumb design. Also, parts of our maxillary sinuses hang below the opening that drains them (not a problem in quadrupeds), and lets not forget our retinas.

        1. As a man, don’t forget the reason for the “turn your head and cough” part of the physical examination. Chances are excellent that, if you haven’t already had some plastic mesh surgically implanted in your abdomen, you will some day….


  14. Scientists love to debunk each other.

    Perhaps we should organise boxing rounds.
    Los Alamos could, I am sure, supply Stephen Hawkins with a robot with a killer (literally) punch. But the undermining tool would leave the arena with sandpits full of baseless challengers.

  15. I have several Perry Marsall citations in my #TIP project references, where I categorize him as an ID advocate. His website is enamored of fine tuning anthropic arguments (a big deal for IDers). He’s too new a player on the antievolutionist scene to tell what part he’ll play in their apologetics, but does reflect the long tradition of engineers and businessmen traipsing into areas they understand only by virtue of repeating arguments siphoned from others who don’t know any more about it than they do. (95% of antievolutionist writers don’t bother with primary source science citation at all, relying on a very small core of a few dozen fact claimants for their arguments.)

    I’ll be adding Jerry’s comment post on Marshall to my #TIP references, and those interested in a source methods approach to the antievolutionist mindset may see the various #TIP postings.

  16. “As an Electrical Engineer”
    I think as a Computer Scientist, I’m going to write a book that goes halfway between Big Bang and the Genesis account. Both are half-right, both are wrong. 😉

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  18. Yes, he is naive and wrong at just about every point. Saying for example that cells can edit their DNA and so chart their own path for transformation is just weird and wrong, at least in terms of evolution of populations.
    Damaged DNA and errors in replication to DNA are usually corrected perfectly, and since these errors are then not ‘passed on’, they are not counted as mutations. Mutations are changes in DNA that are inherited.
    Organisms can edit the DNA in certain cells. Some tissues develop cells that are polyploid, but these are not deliberately passed to the germ line. Antibody producing cells edit their antibody genes, but again these somatic DNA changes are not passed on to the next generation of individuals.
    So, wow, he reads something esoteric about genetics, and seems to get it all scrambled in his brain before he writes about it.
    Yep, that is ID-iot thinking right there.

  19. “Perry Marshall’s 10-year journey of in-depth research. As an Electrical Engineer, author of an Ethernet book and now world-renowned business consultant..”
    I normally do not pull the credentials card, but, wow, with credentials like that how can he be even wrong?

  20. If anyone wants to see how absolutely misguided this fellow is in his arguments, go to his cosmicfingerprints website and view his Origin of Life video. He makes many logical errors and technical mistakes that are laughable, yet seems proud of this presentation.

  21. “…Marshall (born April 10, 1969) is an American online marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and …”
    That’s all I have to know to want to first puke my guts out, hold my nose, then ignore this manipulative fraud. He’s obviously done a market analysis for his ridiculous thesis and found the fields are fertile with the uneducated an gullible. Next step, cash in. It is good that his book has not done well.

  22. Regarding ordinary citizens engaged in scientific research: One thing I think those of us in academia fail to realize is that we are entering the era of anti-college and anti-university. Funding for our scientific work (i.e. survival) is going to be increasingly difficult to obtain. Two forces are creating the perfect storm: (1) the rising costs of tuition are causing high schools to counsel their students that college isn’t for everyone and (2) just like news organizations and magazines are going bankrupt due to the rise of information available on the internet to citizen journalists, we are (albeit at a slower rate) are subject to encroachment of, and slow undoing of, our “ivory tower” by citizen scientists. Only the fittest of us will survive. I’m not sure the solution to this because like a glacial age, I think it is very slow, long-term trend that may be irreversible. But to fight to be the fittest, I think we can survive if (a) we more distinctly differentiate our assumptions from our facts and cope with the reality that both of them will constantly be questioned–and even citizen scientists are going to make legitimate discoveries useful to the scientific community and (b) we put continual focus in our schools and universities on teaching the best practices and best methodology for scientific research.

  23. …as we know, even if we consider engineers “scientists,” their profession harbors a disturbing number of anti-evolutionists.

    Do we in fact know this? To me it seems to have the status of urban myth, something “everybody knows” but nobody has bothered to fact-check.

    If someone can provide actual evidence (not anecdote) that a disproportionate number of engineers are anti-evolutionists, I’d like to see it. But in the absence of such evidence, maybe we ought to stop repeating this factoid as if it were true. As skeptics and rationalists, we’re supposed to be better than that.

    1. I agree.

      I would find > 50% disturbing, but at least here in Europe, anti-evolutionist-engineers seem to be an endangered species.

      1. A Google search on “Salem hypothesis” turns up a lot of bloggers talking about it as if it were true, but precious little evidence that it actually is true. Indeed, its Wikipedia entry was deleted five years ago for lack of supporting evidence.

        Moreover, the hypothesis as articulated by Bruce Salem does not say that engineers are more likely to be creationists. What it says is that if someone is a creationist, and claims to have scientific credentials, chances are their credentials are actually in engineering. In other words, it’s about the frequency with which creationist engineers misrepresent themselves, not the frequency of creationists among engineers.

  24. At the risk of posting something slightly off-topic; Yesterday I happened to catch (on the radio, at home in New Zealand) some speculation on evolution that was enlightening and life-enhancing rather than embarrassing and cringeworthy. That might not sound particularly relevant until you hear it was an interview with friend-of-WEIT Matthew Cobb on his new book and the real story behind trying to understand the origins of life.

    Check it out here (second story down)

    Full audio is available.

  25. It’s said that when people age they get nutrition or religion and the worst get both. Same goes for engineers and religion. I fully agree with PCC that we don’t judge science on credentials but I work with a lot of really smart engineers and they see the world through a binary lens. Things are either broke/working or on/off. It’s a gross generalization but the fuzziness – the interconnected complexity – of biology and evolution irritates them. How science works and how to calculate load factors are two very different things. Then they get religion and they just get more goofy and no one corrects them. I will almost guarantee you that if you read about the ‘crisis in evolution’ based on thermodynamics the writer will be an engineer or a chiropractor. Go figure.

    Weird, though – I held this book in my hand just yesterday and Barnes and Noble. It’s an obvious creationist/ID book. The frontpiece talks about how old school dolts like Dawkins (and putatively PCC) hold on for dear life to relics of science while pioneering brave geniuses like Marshal trudge on toward truth. Ugh.

  26. My undergraduate degree was in Electrical Engineering (with a Computer Engineering slant; CE was only just becoming recognized as a separate field). I worked for two decades in the field. I’ve worked with, and supervised, a lot of EEs. 80% of them are ordinary people. The other 20% are completely taken with their own thought processes and brilliance, and when they’re wrong it is very difficult to get them back on the right track. They are extraordinarily difficult to lead, and they can waste enormous amounts of time proving that they’re right in the face of reality. Getting out of that field had many advantages, and one of them was not having to deal with so *many* self-absorbed people.

    As I read this article, all I could think of was “this guy’s clone worked with me or for me at some point”. And raised my blood pressure and shortened my life expectancy.

    1. LOL! Great post. I contrast this with Matthew Cobb’s recent TV interview posted here on WEIT where he peppers his talk with ‘we’re not quite sure…’ or ‘we don’t know…’ How the hell are all these people who have read one or two books so damned sure of themselves when people who study their entire life aren’t? But still – we measure the argument by the evidence and not the credentials.

    2. I think many of us have dealt with those 20%. I’ve worked with engineers who are a complete delight but I’ve also dealt with the ones you describe (as have the engineers I think are delightful).

  27. First Peter Noble, physiologist; now Perry Marshall, electrical engineer. Both beating drums for James Shapiro, microbiologist and would-be evolution-revolutionary. When will real live evolutionary biologists get it? They just don’t get the revolution going on in their own subject.

  28. My problem with the idea of intelligent design is based on my experience and knowledge of engineering design which is a process of trial and outcome (not error, the view of which is born of perception, not fact).

    For example, one of the great engineers of all time, Charles Kettering, likes to say he didn’t design anything, he just created different configurations and let the device tell him whether it was better.

    Sounds like what happens with DNA, if my pedestrian knowledge has it right… “Half Mom, half Dad with a few mutations as the Kettering design effort.”

    The point is that there doesn’t have to be a creating designer, only a process where new alternatives are introduced and Mama Nature does that. If she’s real, we have a goddess.

  29. I think the publishing of this book is a good thing, as it’s a further symptom of the ongoing death of creationism and Intelligent Design as viable belief systems: when the original, “The Babble says it, so ah believes it” theme or the creationists didn’t hold up (intellectually as well as legally), it was entirely predictable that a “theory” using the trappings of their arch-enemy, science (which was doing all too well against their beliefs) would emerge (I thought about using the term, “aping” science, but decided against it as that would be disrespectful to apes). The danger for them in this is that now, venturing to tread on the grounds of the scientific method, they find that their arguments are now even MORE opposable by the findings of the scientific method- not good!

    Their reflexive response to this problem is to dwell, increasingly, on, “minutiae” (since all their major, “scientific” objections to ET have been thoroughly refuted); tiny, seeming “paradoxes” and “anomalies” at the cellular level that they hope, at the very least, will create enough doubt about evolutionary theory to allow them to hang onto their followers- at the best, they’re still seeking that, “magic bullet” which will cause the whole edifice of ET to come crashing down(a pretty absurd proposition). As I said, this puts their arguments into a “technical” forum, and Jerry is excellent at demolishing them. They’re doomed; they just don’t know it yet, and the beast will continue to thrash for a long time.

    As Dr. Robert D. Morris put it, in his book, “The Blue Death”:
    “The death of an old idea, however, is a prolonged and ungainly thing.”

  30. Is it too much to ask you to read the book, before you give a review of it?

    It’s apparent that you have a fixed mindset and you’ve made many assumptions about the book from reading the summary on Amazon. However, if you regard yourself as a true professional scientist, perhaps you should fully review his research before you make unwarranted claims.

    1. I didn’t review the book; I reacted, as was clear, to the Amazon summary of the book, which certainly doesn’t make me want to read it. My claims, based on the Amazon summary, are fully warranted. And you, as a rude person, have violated the Roolz.

    2. If Perry Marshall wants to be taken seriously, he can submit his work to the peer review process. In the mean time, when a crank rants and raves incoherently about the Sun rising in the West over a flat Earth…why waste one’s time with a careful review of the “research”?


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