Petition to end teaching of evolution in public schools might have been real

December 21, 2016 • 2:30 pm

A few days ago I called attention to a petition (apparently circulated by “Joe Hannon”) asking future Vice-President Mike Pence (ugh!) to ban the teaching of evolution in American public schools (you can see that petition here). It was pretty much over-the top-creationism, but that stuff is already so close to satire that many people thought the petition was a hoax. And others, amused and incensed at the same time, added funny (if sometimes juvenile) names to the screed.

Well, was it a hoax? The Discovery Institute certainly thought so, as evidence by David Klinghoffer’s sneering piece at Evolution News & Views saying that evolutionists like me, Dan Arel, and P. Z. Myers had fallen for a hoax—that phony petition.

But there seems every reason to doubt that “Joe Hannon” is a real person or that this petition is meant in earnest. In other words, these atheist evangelists appear to have have fallen for some pretty transparent fake news.

According to Myers, the email to him accompanying the link to the petition begins:

“Howdie. I thought you might be interested to read a fresh online petition which is directed at VP-elect Mike Pence calling on the incoming Trump Adminstration to impose an immediate,unconditional and indefinite nationwide moratorium on the teaching of evolution in public schools, including the threat of crippling financial sanctions on those schools that do not fully comply with this proposed executive action.”Now that, like much of the petition itself, reads like a parody to me. So does the conclusion:

“Merry Christmas to y’all,Joe Hannon
Republicans Abroad (Make America Great Again)”

Klinghoffer adds this:

Hannon” or whoever writes under his name might well be a resident of the UK or Canada, however, since he spells “fervor” the British way, “fervour.” Yet that doesn’t quite fit with the phony/folksy Americanisms, “Howdie,” “Merry Christmas to y’all.” Denyse O’Leary at Uncommon Descent suggests that the writer may be “trolling” a “prolific American anti-Trump activist living in Canada,” Joseph Huff-Hannon. Who knows?

But why would a fire-breathing creationist in search of signatures direct his anti-evolution petition to evolutionist P.Z. Myers and the presumably like-minded “lots of biologists and scientists” known to Jerry Coyne? Did “Hannon” send his petition to any evolution skeptics? A quick, admittedly unscientific survey of my email contacts in that category produces zero positive responses. It makes no sense, unless the writer was more interested in generating blog posts like those supplied by the credulous Coyne, Myers, and Arel.

Well, that’s speculation, but Klinghoffer, who’s obsessed with people like me, couldn’t resist a sneer.

Unfortunately, he might be hoist with his own petard, for, over at Panda’s Thumb, Matt Young and his commenters adduce evidence that Joe Hannon is not a hoaxer, but what one commenter called a “delusional fanatic,” and, at any rate, Hannon told Young that he has concrete plans to lobby congress to ban teaching evolution.

I’m still not 100% sure that that petition is real (and some of the names are funny), but it might well be, and, if so Klinghoffer himself has been taken in. But that’s  what happens when you spend all your time sneering at evolutionists instead of adducing The Data That Are Just Around the Corner Showing That Intelligent Design is Correct. What happened with that, Klinghoffer? Why don’t you stop mocking evolutionary biologists and just SHOW US THE MONEY?


h/t: Matt

20 thoughts on “Petition to end teaching of evolution in public schools might have been real

  1. Klinghoffer’s got nothing in the way of evidence, that’s why he just provides personal insults (much like the homeopathy defenders in the earlier post).

  2. That linked Panda’s Thumb post is incredibly unconvincing. Selections from an email prove nothing. Selections from the petition, in isolation, look serious. Leave out the tells and it looks legit. That’s how sly poes work. I’d need to see the entire letter, together with this “good company” distribution list (which might itself be a tell), to form an opinion.

    1. Regarding the distribution list: It has no bearing on the validity of the petition, and I have no intention of revealing the names of the people Mr. Hannon decided to communicate with. These people get enough junk e-mail without my spreading their names around.

      I am sorry you think I quote-mined Mr. Hannon’s letters. I reported what he said accurately, and I generally see no need to reproduce any document in its entirety when a summary or a quotation will suffice. I am not a stenographer.

  3. It’s all part of Hannon/Borzorghmehr/atheistoclast’s elaborate and ongoing troll of the broad evolutionary biology community. I mentioned the background to this guy, for those not familiar, in this comment below:

    I think it’s an open question as to whether he believes what (or how much of what) he says. Regardless of this, it’s definitely classic trolling.

  4. It may well be genuine; however, I’ve read many of the signatories’ comments over the past several days and I’d wager that an overwhelming number of them are spoofing the petition (as did my comment). Even most of the names are spoofs, so I don’t see that sending it to Pence will be an inducement to him to take up the cause; he might well think it’s a Poe. However, sadly, I don’t think he’d need any petition to try to ban teaching evolution in schools; just let him and Betsy DeVos put their heads together.

  5. Can we tell the difference between anything that’s real and a hoax if it even remotely relates to the Trump campaign? The last year and a half has been one continuous and never-ending application of Poe’s Law

  6. It’s been posted to the atheism subreddit at reddit. That’s the death knell of any serious attempt to do something stupid.

  7. I really doubt ‘hannon’ would live in non religious UK

    From: Why Evolution Is True To: Sent: Wednesday, 21 December 2016, 20:30 Subject: [New post] Petition to end teaching of evolution in public schools was real #yiv8641725650 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8641725650 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8641725650 a.yiv8641725650primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8641725650 a.yiv8641725650primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8641725650 a.yiv8641725650primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8641725650 a.yiv8641725650primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8641725650 | whyevolutionistrue posted: “A few days ago I called attention to a petition (apparently circulated by “Joe Hannon”) asking future Vice-President Mike Pence (ugh!) to ban the teaching of evolution in American public schools (you can see that petition here). It was pretty much over-th” | |

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