Sixteen years ago, Jonathan Wells, now a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute, published an intelligent-design creationist book Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Of course they were a myth to him, but the book was dreadful and a totally misguided attack on evolution. I reviewed it for Nature (free link here), and said this:
Wells’s book rests entirely on a flawed syllogism: textbooks illustrate evolution with examples; these examples are sometimes presented in incorrect or misleading ways; therefore evolution is a fiction. The second premise is not generally true, and even if it were, the conclusion would not follow. To compound the absurdity, Wells concludes that a cabal of evil scientists, “the Darwinian establishment”, uses fraud and distortion to buttress the crumbling edifice of evolution. Wells’s final chapter urges his readers to lobby the US government to eliminate research funding for evolutionary biology.
Wells also got a Ph.D. in biology from Berkeley, but to judge his objectivity about the evidence for evolution, I also added one of his publicly available statements in my review, and put it right at the beginning:
Opposition to evolution is found in many corners of the American religious landscape, including the Unification Church. Church founder Sun Myung Moon has frequently condemned darwinism for giving God no role in the history of life. In 1976, Jonathan Wells, a student in Moon’s seminary, answered his leader’s call. He writes, “Father’s [Moon’s] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a PhD program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.” The University of California supplied Wells with his weapon, a PhD in biology and, with Icons of Evolution, Wells has fired the latest salvo in the eternal religious assault on Charles Darwin.
Wells has also questioned the connections between HIV and AIDS.
In 2006 Wells, continuing his battle against truth, published his second book. It was no better than the first, and on the same topic: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, issued, like the first, by conservative outlet Regnery Publishing.
In 2011 came his The Myth of Junk DNA, and by this time Wells had to go to the Discovery Institute Press, the equivalent of a vanity press for creationists. Sadly, the ID argument that nearly all junk DNA really does stuff—thus supporting an Intelligent Designer who put it in the genome for Reasons—has been largely quashed: there really is useless DNA, and its presence, nature, and location attest to evolution.
And now, ten years later, we have a new book, Zombie Science, also issued by the Discovery Institute Press.
The Amazon link (you can find it yourself) says this about it:
In 2000, biologist Jonathan Wells took the science world by storm with Icons of Evolution, a book showing how biology textbooks routinely promote Darwinism using bogus evidence—icons of evolution like Ernst Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings and peppered moths glued to tree trunks. Critics of the book complained that Wells had merely gathered up a handful of innocent textbook errors and blown them out of proportion. Now, in Zombie Science, Wells asks a simple question: If the icons of evolution were just innocent textbook errors, why do so many of them still persist? Science has enriched our lives and led to countless discoveries. But now, Wells argues, it’s being corrupted. Empirical science is devolving into zombie science, shuffling along unfazed by opposing evidence. Discredited icons of evolution rise from the dead while more icons—equally bogus—join their ranks. Like a B horror movie, they just keep coming! Zombies are make believe, but zombie science is real—and it threatens not just science, but our whole culture. Is there a solution? Wells is sure of it, and points the way.
Who writes these blurbs? Does anybody check them for accuracy?
And my point in the Nature review, which was that even if some textbook examples were out of date or incorrect, evolution is still true, remains. After all, ID books are wrong about every claim they make supporting Intelligent Design (ID). Further, the evidence for ID that its advocates promised was “right around the corner”, simply hasn’t emerged over a decade later. Established science has rejected Intelligent Design because there’s simply no evidence supporting it. Period.
I will be accused of having “reviewed” Wells’s book here without having read it, but this isn’t a review: it’s a notice that a scientifically rejected charlatan has published another book, and has even issued a “teaser trailer” for it. Here it is below. There’s no intellectual content there, but of course the buyers of the book aren’t looking for truth and reason; they’re looking to confirm their own religiously-based biases.
Will I read it? I don’t know, but I’m not going to pay for it. ID books are like theology books: if you haven’t read every single one, their proponents will claim that you haven’t addressed their best arguments. But I’ve read a much higher proportion of all ID books than IDers have for evolution books. I’m sure they’re missing the best arguments! 🙂
It’s kind of pathetic that these people, whose efforts are motivated solely by religion, waste their brainpower attacking a paradigm that’s so well supported by evidence. I wonder if on some level they’ve realized they’re wasting their lives and will have no effect on science; and that that realization simply makes them redouble their efforts.