A polymathic wacko writes in

What a dispiriting week! While fighting off a nasty cold, I’m having to deal with literally dozens of emails and comments from creationists and gun nuts.

Here’s a sample of one of the responses (not published) to my post “Imagine no guns”:  “You people are more dangerous to society than any lunatic with a gun.” There were many more along these lines, as well as from those who argued that since the Santa Barbara killer used a knife and a gun, why not ban knives? But of course knives have peaceable uses, and guns don’t.  Sometimes I wonder if there’s a negative correlation between gun ownership and IQ.

At any rate, a very strange comment arrived this morning from one “Don J. Grundmann”, who wrote in response to my post Right-wing politician gives an expensive dino skeleton (proving Noah’s Flood) to the Creation Museum. The poliitician donating the skeleton was Michael Peroutka, a Confederacy booster and secessionist (aka racist). Apparently, Grundmann is his pal and wanted to defend him, while dissing evolution at the same time:

I am thankful that I know Michael Peroutka; a man of immense integrity and honor who is unflinching in challenging any and all evils which are afflicting this nation and humanity as a whole. I am even more thankful that I read the book ” Science vs Evolution,” found at evolution-facts.org, which totally exposes and shatters the Religion of Evolution. To live in a nation where freedom of speech and religion is allowed is an additional wonderful gift to be thankful for although I do wish that the ” science ” of evolution would be more fully discussed as the religion which it truly is. In this regard I pose a basic question in response to those who will attack my above comments – How ( other than your standard time + dirt + water argument ) did a SINGLE cell ( much less its ability to replicate ); inclusive of nucleus, DNA, nuclear membrane, and outer membrane; develop by RANDOM CHANCE? How do you overturn mathematics which conclusively shows that the mathematical possibility of evolution is ZERO? Answer ( which I already know ) – you ( as the ” scientist ” which you are ) will, as with any other challenge ) simply ignore such inconvienient facts.

I looked up Grundmann, who appears to be a wacko along the lines of Peroutka himself; Grundmann is an anti-gay activist, someone opposed to the government’s imposition of taxes, and a proposed candidate for President in 1968 by the American Independent Party—a descendant of the party that ran George Wallace for President in 1968.  He’s also a Christian chiropractor from California (don’t all these things go together?) who ran on the American Independent ticket for a House seat in 2002.

And, lo and behold, you can see him on YouTube! Here is Grundmann dressed as Satan, showing the evil of public schools:

Would you let Satan adjust your spine?

And here’s Mr. Grundmann protesting gay marriage, which he considers a “mass mental molestation of our children”:

I won’t bother to reply to Grundmann’s standard creationist objections to evolution (“you don’t understand how life started so God did it”) except to say that his total ignorance is belied by the single statement that evolution is equivalent to change by RANDOM CHANCE.

Jebus—so much craziness in one organism!

Feel free to reply. He’s had his say.


  1. francis
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    ….what an ass hole….

  2. compuholio
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    It always amuses me when ignoramuses like Grundmann think they have such a superior grasp on science than the actual scientists. Completely unaware that everytime they open their mouths they advertise their incompetence to the entire world.

    • steve oberski
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

      Proverbs 17:28

      It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

      Mark Twain

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity
        — Harlan Ellison

  3. Dominic
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    As has been said many times, it ain’t random – it’s Natural Selection!

    People like Grundmann are dangerous – we have to fight them at every turn.

  4. Adam Pack
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    About gun-ownership being negatively correlated with intelligence:
    Not sure what the sample size is, or anything, though.

  5. Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Actually, yes, there is a modest negative correlation between verbal ability and gun ownership (-.067) using a measure from the General Social Survey that has been shown to be highly correlated with IQ (.66).

    • Aaron S.
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Really? I just ran WORDSUM vs OWNGUN and got a R^2 of 0.0505. Which is pretty much zero (in fact, looking at the graph, people in the middle of IQs have higher ownership rates than those at the top or bottom).

      • Aaron S.
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        And to clarify for people not familiar with the GSS, WORDSUM is a 10-question vocab test that, as sherkat mentioned, correlates fairly well with IQ. Of the 11 possible scores, all the groups of between 3 and 8 correct had gun ownership rates above 40%, and those who got 0, 1, 2, 9, or 10 correct had gun owership rates below 40%.

      • Adam Pack
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        The link I posted above suggests that this is because people at the lowest intelligence level are also too poor to buy guns. Not sure whether that’s plausible, I don’t know how much guns cost in the US.

        • Aaron S.
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          I tried finding a variable that was about opinions rather than ownership. “Should semi-automatic, assault weapons or semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles be sold to the general public or should their sales be limited to the military and police?” This showed no clear pattern at all when compared to vocab scores. Slight negative correlation, but a fairly large percentage of those who scored 10/10 said they should be sold to the general public (though there were only 46 people with perfect scores who answered this gun control question).

          • Posted May 28, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            Aaron S: the problem with questions like these is that they tend to be written by people who are hopelessly (and hoplophobically) ignorant about guns, and it’s hard to analyze “answers” from those who missed the fact that the question itself was complete gibberish. Like this one.

            “…semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles…” Sorry, but that’s an oxymoron. If it doesn’t have a selective fire switch, it may be many things, but an “assault rifle” it isn’t. And such weapons have been illegal to introduce into trade in the U.S. since 1986, limiting transfers to those pre-1986 weapons grandfathered in. This is why you can buy a new AR-15 for $1,000, and a new SKS for half that, whereas their selective-fire equivalents, the M-16 and AK-47, are likely to cost you AT LEAST $15,000.00. (To confuse things, there is also a non-full-auto variant of the AK-47, also called an AK-47.) Assuming that you can pass the licensing requirements, which is not likely. And probably worth remembering that these weapons are almost NEVER used to commit crimes. (2 known homicides since 1934, not counting those committed by police, to be specific.)

            Also, “…be sold to the general public or should their sales be limited to the military and police?”

            I’d call that a false dichotomy. If you want to make an argument for disallowing such weapons to citizens (who do NOT abuse them–see above), then what’s your rationale for allowing the police and military (who DO regularly commit crimes with them) access to such weapons?

            • John Taylor
              Posted May 29, 2014 at 4:42 am | Permalink

              I’m not sure what you are arguing. What about those two guys with fully automatic AK47s that went on a rampage, I think in LA, quite awhile back? Didn’t they kill anyone? Did they “abuse” their weapons? Looked like they had the entire police department pinned down for quite awhile while the whole thing played out on live TV.

              I’m sure all the school shooters, if they had the choice, would opt for fully automatic weapons. It’s probably a good idea that they didn’t have that option.

        • Aaron S.
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Ooh, here’s one though. “Would you favor or oppose a law which would require a person to obtain a police permit before he or she could buy a gun?” Very strong correlation to vocab score, from about 73% yes at score of 0 to 81% yes at score of 10.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

            Well, yes. If the question is “favor or oppose” vs “do not favor or oppose”, I assume the intelligent half would tend to have an articulated response.

          • Posted May 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

            Again…what’s the rationale for allowing the police to determine who gets a permit? In the U.S., restrictive-carry states have generally seen pretty blatant nepotism and political patronage in the awarding of permits, yet permissive-carry states (where grant of the permit is routine ABSENT proof of an affirmative disqualifying factor) don’t see any higher abuse (meaning gun crimes committed by permit-holders) of such permits than do permissive-carry states.

            I understand the argument for restricting civilian access to guns. I disagree with it, but I understand it. What I don’t understand is the seeming assumption that governments should be allowed anywhere near them. Here’s just one list of democides: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM. There are many others, and some disagreement over numbers, but to deny the fact that more people have been killed by their own governments than by all wars and murders combined is some pretty serious denialism.

            And whatever claims might be made for “American exceptionalism,” a concept routinely criticized on this page, the argument that “it couldn’t happen here” is not only wrong–it isn’t even coherent. The ones who say that this isn’t a threat in the U.S. are the very ones who will tell you, in the very next breath, that it’s a silly thing to arm oneself since no civilian resistance would stand a chance, and would just be slaughtered by our military.

            Well…OK–which is it? Why is it that these are the same people who always want to talk about school shootings…but just not about Kent State?

            • John Taylor
              Posted May 29, 2014 at 4:50 am | Permalink

              Here’s a nice link:


              Looks like a good argument for gun control to me. Somehow these two guys didn’t kill anyone but plenty of injuries and mayhem.

              • Posted May 29, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

                “Phillips and Mătăsăreanu carried illegally modified fully automatic Norinco Type 56 S-1s, a Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator, and a HK-91 rifle…”

                Please note the “illegally modified,” and that there were no AK-47s, as mistakenly referenced above. (AK-47 is regularly used as a synonym for “assault rifle,” and without making any distinction between full and semi-auto.)

                Now look at all of the people murdered by police since this one event was used (as your article notes) to kick-start the movement that gave every police department, right down to campus police and park rangers, their very own SWAT teams, with armored personnel carriers, etc.

                Of course, we can’t really say “murdered,” because that’s a legal conclusion, and almost all of the roughly 400 kills per year by non-military police are ruled “justified.”

      • Posted May 29, 2014 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        Owngun runs from 1 (yes) (2) No, and (3) refused. You have to recode it to a binary on yes.

    • Draken
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Perhaps, but: what is the correlation between gun ownership and dick size? And does the size of the gun relate to it?

      • Posted May 29, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        I don’t have any measures of dick size, unfortunately.

  6. Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Interesting selection of ideas – he has no problem believing that cells (of which he has never seen a single example with his own eyes) contain DNA, which he also has never seen and must accept on the testimony of scientists, and yet denies what science has learned in between these two discoveries that he accepts.

  7. Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Has anyone proven a correlation between gun ownership and libertarian (selfishness dressed up as metaphysics) ideology?

  8. Ian Hewitson
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne,

    I’ve been enjoying your website for a while but when you post your weekly roundup of the messages received from the unrelenting stream of lunatics and fuckwits I really do wonder why you bother. I’ve stopped visiting some sites because the torrent of ignorance, stupidity, unpleasantness, abuse and hate had started to have a real affect on me (and I’m taiking about some national newspaper sites here in the UK, not some small time fringe sites). After all, there’s only so much bullshit and arseholery a person can take. I admire your seemingly unending capacity to rise above it – but it ain’t good for you!

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it” – Voltaire.

      The only way to keep these people away from us would be to never speak against them or the harmful ideas they desperately hold to. I am very grateful that he does take it and share it with us. It makes me study harder and more broadly and there is a bit of humour in just allowing these people to express their own opinions, laugh and vomit, no other refutation is necessary.

    • Ken Elliott
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Personally, I enjoy the weekly tribute to the insane. It’s a source of humor and incredulity, on a par with the never ending entertainment that is my mother-in-law. Because it’s a very small part of what Dr. Coyne posts to the website it’s simple enough to not affect the overall intent of WEIT, or what I perceive to be its intent anyway.

      • Ian Hewitson
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        I wasn’t really thinking about the entertaining snippets he chooses to disclose to readers of the site but rather the tsunami of abuse I imagine he has to wade through that we don’t see. It must grind you down a bit.

        • William George
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          The guy has “Dr.” in front of his name. He’s had to defend his dissertation, have his papers go through peer review, and get funding for his research.

          There’s no weapon these guys have that can cut through that much scar tissue.

          • Ian Hewitson
            Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            Mmm, I never though of it like that. Somehow I don’t think applying for research funding or having you peers pick apart the finer points of your professional work is quite the same as a torrent of personnal abuse from people who wish you were dead and think you’re deservedly going to burn in hell for eternity!

            • John Scanlon, FCD
              Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

              The distinction between ‘peers’ and ‘random idiots on the internet’ is important. When the reviewers of your papers and grant proposals wish you were dead and think you’re deservedly going to burn in hell, it can be a mite stressful.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      I can certainly understand why you would not want to look at the comments in the various large sites like newspaper sites. I too feel depressed when looking that them. But here, the exposure to brutish stupidity is just an occasional thing, and here you are among like-minded folks so it is somehow more palatable. Like a small dish of anchovies among friends.

  9. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    His message in the first video can be boiled down to “your kids are welcome to a decent education, just as long as you can afford to pay for it.” Elitist, white supremacist drivel.

    Did anyone else notice that, at 0.15, when he mentions “the Devil”, he looks up, rather than down?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Didn’t watch, but I’d guess he was gesturing at his own hat rather than The Man Upstairs.

      • Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

        There may be a man upstairs, but there’s a cat in the ceiling. Maybe he was worried about getting pounced on.

  10. docbill1351
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    If you ran this crackpot through a compiler you’d get the following error message:


  11. Patrick
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    “But of course knives have peaceable uses, and guns don’t.”

    Self-defense is a peaceable use.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      Arguably, hunting for food, and euthanasia of domestic livestock can be considered peaceful uses (though I do not claim so for the purpose of the present discussion); but self-defense with a weapon is an escalation of violence and is very far from peaceable.

      • Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        Mr. Scanlon–first please enlighten me about “FCD.” I don’t see anything obvious here: http://www.acronymattic.com/FCD.html, and I’m assuming that you’re not from the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. 😉

        Without getting into the well-known philosophical arguments differentiating the initiation of violence from responding to violence with violence, one can certainly understand your argument for the correct meaning of the word “peaceable.”

        But am I to understand that if your family was under criminal attack, you would dial 911 and ask them to send a response team without guns? Perhaps your first thought might be to make the standard “Only Ones” response. (I note that no one on this site, in the wake of the latest multiple murder, has fundamentally questioned the right of the police, let alone the government, to weapons.) If so, you might want to compare stats for responsible gun usage between police and CCP holders. (Darn–another Soviet acronym creeps in!)

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

          1) “Friend of Charles Darwin

          2) Nowhere did I claim that ‘peace’ always overrides personal safety or other causes. I’m not an ethical absolutist on such questions (except for a short phase in my late teens), but oppose such abuse of language as that to which I responded.

          3) If one dials 911 in the country where I live, nothing happens. (Reportedly, this is also common in the US. And there, if they do come, the cops might shoot you through the door.)

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          (link to http://friendsofdarwin.com/ didn’t work)

          • Posted May 28, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Thanks for the link. Eminently good company!

        • Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Here in South Africa, there’s a fair number of people who own handguns, and some criminals even have AK47’s, from the days of the anti-apartheid struggle. Many of the guns in the hands of criminals are apparently stolen from the police, and many policemen and women have been murdered for their guns.
          More and more people are erecting electric fences around their homes, and live in security estates – though that may have helped Oscar Pistorius, it certainly didn’t help Reeva Steenkamp.
          Personally I depend on a stun gun, pepper spray and an armed response unit for any personal protection I might need.

  12. Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    There seems to be some correlation between “radical” creationism and dentists and chiropractors. My guess is that you get relatively high IQ people who suffer from cognitive dissonance when confronted with modern biology… they find that they struggle in hard sciences as a result of religious indoctrination… and thus, they fail to be accepted to medical school.

    They then seek allied health professions where hard science is less utilized but income is still high. For the rest of their lives, they harbor a grudge about the educational system that forced them into cognitive dissonance over their childhood religious beliefs.

    Chiropractic has all sorts of weird religious beliefs on its own. Reading D.D. Palmer’s descriptions of “Innate Intelligence” reveals the bizarre spiritual basis for back-cracking. He apparently thought of “subluxations” in a sense that the religious might use “sin”, blocking access of the “Universal Intelligence”.

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Interesting hypothesis, c0nc0rdance. It would explain some of the things posted in threads on another site by a colleague, a Catholic chiro. He’s one of the more “reasonable” ones, to the extent that that isn’t oxymoronic, but can’t resist passing on every anti-scientific medicine thing he can find, including the latest “John Hopkins” (a typo, but not my typo) fraud referenced here: http://m.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/news_events/featured/cancer_update_email_it_is_a_hoax.html.

      But discussions with him have led to posts by other chiros, including many who claim to have cured many cases of childhood asthma, cancer, etc. Frightening stuff.

    • tubby
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard of similar connections between dentists and chiropractors and Scientology. Some of it may have to do with what you’re suggesting, but another aspect may be the nature of Scientology recruitment where they focus on wealthy professionals who are (usually) respected in the community (even if only by their profession).

    • Hypatias Daughter
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      When reading Numbers “The Creationists”, I realized that many xtian universities offer degrees in applied fields, like medicine and engineering, but don’t offer higher degrees in highly theoretical fields, like astronomy and physics. And it is the PhD’s who cannot avoid wrestling with the theoretical side in any field of science.

      These universities may be the source of that surprising oxymoron – creationist biologists, who would have their religious beliefs seriously challenged if they tried to get a PhD in a regular university. With a BA or MSc, they can teach the applications of a science in xtian medical or engineering school, while avoiding its theoretical basis.

  13. Vaal
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    I am even more thankful that I read the book ” Science vs Evolution,”


    How ( other than your standard time + dirt + water argument ) did a SINGLE cell ( much less its ability to replicate ); inclusive of nucleus, DNA, nuclear membrane, and outer membrane; develop by RANDOM CHANCE?

    ….tells you all you need to know about the “science” in that book (as if the title weren’t obvious enough).

    As for those videos, they radiate crazy of the type that makes nervous people on transit systems change their seat.

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      I wonder if this guy uses mass transit, it’s partially funded by taxes and we shouldn’t pay those you know…or is it only other people should pay them?

  14. Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    He doesn’t think we should pay taxes? I wonder what his proposal is to maintain all roads he uses to drive around on and spew ignorance.

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I’m betting he is invested in libertarian economic philosophy. Carried to its (il)logical extreme, this philosophy says road construction and maintenance is to be derived solely from use fees collected each motorist passage, as in tolls.

      If this is ever actually placed into universal practice, necessities that are not paid for by direct fee/per use (e.g. fire/police/health protection, utility construction & maintenance, sidewalks/streetlights) are the individual’s responsibility via insurance coverage. Fire protection of this sort already is in place (google for info).

      Public parks, libraries, or anything else that fits into the category of a “commons?” Fuck you, not if it means tax collected from a libertarian is necessary to fund it, by god. Their money pays for nothing utilized by others; that would mean takers are getting over on somebody else’s sweat. This of course includes public schools.

      The Koch brother’s, bad as they are, do not subscribe to the most extreme of libertarian economic philosophy, which is basically a balance sheet where one receives only what one can afford: a just rewards/just desserts laissez faire, anything goes, law of the jungle Spencerian “social Darwinism” that proposes all ills of human nature will … cease to exist instantly, one guesses adherents presume.

      Or meet with their own fair and reasonable just desserts for misbehavior, like selling faulty merchandise. Food items containing dangerous substances not detected by a USDA that will not exist any longer. Market administered justice, like going out of business after screwing customers for some indeterminate period, will be of questionable solace to victims along the way, I should hazard.

      Did I mention a principal feature of Austrian (libertarian) economics – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caveat_emptor

      Tax receipts will not provide the sort of justice system available presently (one greatly diminished over the previous four decades, as we all know), so just desserts in a libertarian utopia may revert to eye-for-eye vengeance.

      Adherents believe in their libertarian utopia in identical fashion to beliefs held by goddist’s, in my opinion. There is an enormous emotional investment in faith in this idea. I feel better for this rant.

  15. Achrachno
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Grundman illustrates the phenomenon of crazy ideas often coming in packets. Even though not logically related they often live in the same heads.

    What is the relationship between chiropractic and being a member of a racist political party, for example? Is it just that poorly functioning brains accumulate a lot of junk? But why the same junk over and over? The pattern is pretty familiar to anyone in the US. His set of beliefs is not at all unfamiliar, even if fringe.

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      I suspect the main driving factor is simply a culture which doesn’t condone independent thinking. A few ideas take hold and are repeated. A culture that centered around authority will naturally hone in on the same bad ideas when doing differently will result in being an outcast.

      Michael Shermer goes much more in depth with some of these ideas in his book Why People Believe Weird Things. He talks about the Salem Witch Trials and similar thinking that still goes on today including the phenomenon of “repressed memories” about two decades ago. The patterns of irrationality actually follow very predictable trends from start to finish.

  16. Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    ‘since the Santa Barbara killer used a knife and a gun, why not ban knives?’

    Here in Scotland, because of an unfortunate culture of young men carrying knives in the recent past which led to a spate of stabbings and slashings, it is illegal to carry a knife in public. Unless you have a good reason for having one, you are looking at jail time.
    I haven’t heard anyone complain about an infringement of their freedoms.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Sounds wonderful. Wish we had that law!

    • Chris
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      I think that it’s the same across the rest of the UK. Most cities have had massive problems with knife crime, mainly adolescents.

      As a note to USAers, over here we have a tiny number of gun-related deaths. Homicides tend to be more as a result of battering or stabbing.

      • Adam Pack
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        I’m in Wales and bought a knife recently for pruning. The shop had to wrap it up to comply with the law about carrying weapons (I think it was about a 6-inch blade).

    • Marella
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      You can’t just wander around carrying a knife in Australia either.

      • Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Is that why Crocodile Dundee came to New York?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          🙂 I totally resisted the “That’s a knife!” joke. Good one!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, there are rules. That reminds me of the series of books, “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, etc. by Stieg Larsson. The heroine carries a hammer in her purse. She said that you’d be surprised how good a hammer can be in a fight. She has a point; it works for Thor, after all.

  17. eric
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    since the Santa Barbara killer used a knife and a gun, why not ban knives?

    Because guns make killing easier. It’s that simple, and that should be a fairly uncontroversial statement. If, after all, it was easier to kill someone with a knife, then people would purchase knives for home defense and the primary weapon used by our police and soldiers would be knives.

    In fact one of the main conservative arguments for gun ownership depends on the acknowledgement that guns make killing easier than practically any other personal weapon. That argument goes: people need to be able to defend themselves against government forces, if the government goes bad. Now look, that argument only supports gun ownership if you first assume that guns are one of the most effective weapons against government force. You can’t claim people are just as effective killing machines without guns while at the same time claim guns are necessary for an effective defense. That’s contradictory. You can assert one of those things or the other, but they are mutually exclusive…and the argument for gun ownership only works if you assert the latter, that guns make killing easier.

    • SA Gould
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Easier, faster, and… from a distance.

  18. TnkAgn
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Not to nitpick too much – but in your last paragraph of this post, I think you meant something like “underscored” rather than “belied,” no?

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re right. His meaning is clear from the context, though.

  19. pangurbanthecat
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Why is it that the largest number of graves sporting the last words of the deceased reading

    “Hey, watch me do this!”

    appear in the states of the former confederacy and in a number of western states?

    Is this, perhaps, a coincidence?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Are you familiar with the term ‘amok’?
      It’s not a localized phenomenon (indeed may belong on a list of ‘human universals’) but seems to be related to ‘honor’-based patriarchal attitudes in the affected individual, whether or not those attitudes are predominant in their society.
      The more guns and ammo, the more deaths.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A possible nitpick:

    But of course knives have peaceable uses, and guns don’t.

    I believe hunting is “peaceable” if not without killing. Around here, where we have the world’s 3d highest gun density, most guns are used for that. (And licensed thusly.)

    A small portion is used for games, mostly light caliber guns and air guns though, as showcased in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games.

    I would say that knives have unique useful functions, while gun use in hunting and gaming could be substituted. (For industrial food production respectively other games.)

    [Disclaimer: I’m not a gun user, so I may have forgotten or misunderstood uses.]

  21. Latverian Diplomat
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink


    FWIW, your first 1968 should be a 2008, I think.

  22. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “…a man of immense integrity and honor…”

    Except for, you know, that whole Treason in Defense of Slavery thing.

  23. Garnetstar
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Chemistry is not RANDOM.

    When creationists learn enough to think up some argument against that, they can give me a call. My answering machine is waiting (though, not holding its breath).

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    …the Religion of Evolution… In this regard I pose a basic question in response to those who will attack my above comments – How ( other than your standard time + dirt + water argument ) did a SINGLE cell ( much less its ability to replicate ); inclusive of nucleus, DNA, nuclear membrane, and outer membrane; develop by RANDOM CHANCE? How do you overturn mathematics which conclusively shows that the mathematical possibility of evolution is ZERO? Answer ( which I already know ) – you ( as the ” scientist ” which you are ) will, as with any other challenge ) simply ignore such inconvienient facts.

    What an ignorant ‘polymathic’ loon! Even a preschooler can look that up these days:

    – Evolution is not a religion. “Biologists agree that descent with modification is one of the most reliably established facts in science.[8]”. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution ]

    – Evolution is not asked to predict the process that ends in the first living population, it is asked to predict how a living population changes into another living population (differential reproduction.

    This is no different from that you don’t ask general relativity to predict how masses appears in the first place but how spacetime and its set of masses changes into future spacetime and its set of masses. Or ask quantum electrodynamic field theory how its fields appears in the first place but how they and its set of particles changes into future fields and its set of particles.

    “Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution ]

    – If you want to ask how life emerged, you ask astrobiology.

    “Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe: extraterrestrial life and life on Earth.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrobiology ]

    The response will be: by chemical evolution. Note the middle man here: “Scientific hypotheses about the origins of life can be divided into three main stages: the geophysical, the chemical and the biological.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis ]

    – Evolution doesn’t proceed by chance, neither the chemical evolution that has seeded the universe with PAH everywhere and proceeded to living populations, nor the biological evolution of living populations (see below).

    “… theory of evolution by natural selection …”. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution ]

    – The possibility of evolution locally on Earth is exactly 1, as long as the entire biosphere doesn’t go extinct. Indeed, it hasn’t, during more than 4 billion years.

    “All life on Earth is descended from a last universal ancestor that lived approximately 3.8 billion years ago.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution ]

    Note that this figure is decidedly increasing. The latest dated archaean phylogeny places the archaean split from the UCA lineage to (IIRC) 4013 +/- 200 Ma bp @ 1 SD. “Nevertheless, several studies suggest that life on Earth may have started even earlier,[13] as early as 4.25 billion years ago according to one study,[14] and even earlier yet, 4.4 billion years ago, according to another study.[15]” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis ]

    Today’s response to “polymaths”: Please google before you open mouth and reveal you are too incompetent to do even that!

  25. SA Gould
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Regarding Devil Guy Don’s costume: is he a “Furrie” or a “Plushies”? It would make a difference.

  26. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I would never let Satan adjust my spine!

  27. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Most of the loon’s squawkings aren’t worth bothering with (his demand for explanation about abiogenesis for example is so hopelessly far from what anyone serious has claimed about actual paths to abiogenesis as to deserve a Wheelerian “Not even wrong”. But I did get confused by this of ProfCC :

    [running for] President in 1968 by the American Independent Party—a descendant of the party that ran George Wallace for President in 1968

    I get that there is an implicit phylogeny of whackjob right wing political parties interbreeding and evolving under the harsh artificial selection of the polls … but enough Buzzword Bingo. It almost sounds like there’s an interesting, or at least amusing, bit of American history there but I think one or several dates mush have got slipped. Possibly by a century, or an inversion of two digits?
    I’m having an amusing daydream involving this dolt, one medium-size knife (a Bowie, why not?), our British political wunderkind, Farage, and a pit. Throw everything else into the pit and see which one comes out alive.
    Actually, since I’m the one setting the rules in this deathmatch arena, I’d fill it in once I’d thrown everything in and recovered the knife – no reason to waste a good knife.

  28. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Since I’m trying to integrate the latest advances on emergence of life anyway, I can perhaps profitably for all continue the theme from last “Weekly Weird Comments” into this “Whackaloon Comments” thread.

    We know reasonably well that life started out as submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence in the Hadean, from the many shared traits with modern cells making a tentative phylogeny: marine element ratios, cellular compartments, membranes, redox chemistry, same pH differential, root metabolic chain, electron bifurcating thermodynamic engine driving metabolism. That root metabolism takes CO2 from the atmosphere and CH4 from the vents and delivers 2C acetyl groups. [“Beating the acetyl coenzyme A-pathway to the origin of life”, Nitschke and Russell, Phil Trans R Soc B 2013]

    We now know that the UCA glycolysis and pentose phosphate pathways is likely a result of non-enzymatic Fe(II) anoxic catalysis in the 70+ degC heated marine zone around hydrothermal vents. This spontaneous (but not random) glycolysis pathway takes 6C sugars to 3C pyruvate. [“Non-enzymatic glycolysis and pentose phosphate pathway-like reactions in a plausible Archean ocean”, Keller et al, Mol. Sys. Biol. 2014]

    The companion News and Views article notes that separating products from catalyst could reverse these steps, which would make the ubiquitous gluconeogenesis pathway from 3C to 6C. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluconeogenesis ] That could happen in the semipermeable membrane protocells of the vents.

    The above phosphate helped glycolysis/pentose pathway is today generating triphosphate compounds for energy, and since the vents would provide such [N&R above] we are set to evolve that. The earlier missing pentose synthesis would open up for the nucleoside synthesis leading to the ATP/CoA/NAD energy cofactors and as triphosphate nucleotides eventually to RNA. The nucleoside ribose sugar is one of 5 conformations pentose flips between, and similarly to the gluconeogenesis pathway, a metal catalysis pathway leads from there to the nucleoside purines. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purine_metabolism ] The modern Mg2+ cofactor is suspected to have been replacing Fe2+ latest during Earth oxygenation. [ https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/reports/annual-reports/2013/gatech/ironing-out-the-rna-world/ ]

    The 2C/3C gap could have been fortuitous. Pyruvate is a key metabolite, and its generation would push the metabolic pathways but also be a leaking sink to the ocean. Today the acetyl-pyruvate bottleneck is straddled in many ways, directly by regulated enzymes that could evolve in the RNA world or by the similarly regulated citric acid cycle.

    But before that? The ketogenesis pathway may offer a clue. Instead of having the later CoA sulfur bond, the protocell membrane FeS centers could allow a similar acetyl polymerization if the surface rotations are permissible enough. (Wächtershäuser surface metabolism theory.)
    That takes us from by 2-3 2C acetyles to 4C acetoacetate, which is released and then spontaneously break down to 3C acetone. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenesis ]

    Oxygenations akin to today’s metabolism taking acetone to pyruvate would be key steps. A strong oxidizer like the volcanic produced Hadean NO2- already involved in the acetyl metabolism can presumably take acetone to propylene glycol akin to how such observably takes propylene glycol to pyruvate. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyruvate ]

    So there we have it. The chemically evolved almost-life protocells of SAH vents seems able to ‘exaptate’ of sorts a chemically evolved metabolic core, whether or not my suggested bottleneck passage is the correct pathway or not.

    From previous carbon fixation protocells could use the metabolic core to produce glucose and perhaps cofactors for later evolution of energy use on one hand and perhaps nucleotides for later evolution of hereditary use on the other. That pushes the advent of darwinian evolution and its reliance on hereditary material (as opposed to inherited pathways) closer to the UCA cell. It blurs the boundary between almost-life and life further. And none of it looks random, but analogous to today’s mundane evolutionary exaptation.

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Torbjörn: thanks so much for posting this. I won’t pretend to understand it all, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that for anyone who REALLY wants to know what the current state of inquiry is, this is a resource I can point to and say: if you want to know, here is a path you can look down. And very nicely supplied with links as well.

      Now…imagine Grundmann reading your brief description, let alone the underlying resources. Imagine him even trying to understand it. And then imagine trying to have a reasonable conversation with him about it…

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 29, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        Thanks, I’m glad its of some use!

        It is compressed I know, like deciphering stenography. But Jerry is explicit about that he doesn’t want people to take over threads and post special interests, which astrobiology is. (Guest posts is the suitable format for that, but then again you better be a scientist in the topic.) It fits the context here, so I thought I wouldn’t be the whackaloon posting some shorthand on the subject.

        My suggested bottleneck passage is not the official current state of inquiry of course, but we can’t exclude it may be part of it either. If I’m doing it not too rong, as the cat people around here use to say.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 29, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      “Instead of having the later CoA sulfur bond, the protocell membrane FeS centers could allow a similar acetyl polymerization if the surface rotations are permissible enough. (Wächtershäuser surface metabolism theory.)”

      Here I forgot a likelier pathway, which is not dependent on rotational degree of freedom, thiol chemistry. The CoA S binding could be mimicked by the HS- ions that makes the FeS in the alkaline vents in the first place, and Russell et al mention them exactly here when they study CoA evolution. “The laboratory synthesis of methylsulphide (CH3SH) from H2S and CO2 using only FeS as the catalyst has been shown[24].” [ http://www.cicum.cup.uni-muenchen.de/ac/kluefers/homepage/L/biominerals/fes1.pdf ]

  29. cremnomaniac
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    JC, I voted against posting the quacko messages you receive, now I understand more fully why. Each and ever time you post comments from nut-jobs like this, I get very uncomfortable. It’s a feeling of frustration, disappointment, and despondence when I think that I live in a country that such profound ignorance is alive and well.

    It does give me hope that there are more speaking out against it, but we have a very long row to hoe.

    • Achrachno
      Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      I think it helps up to keep the magnitude of the problem in mind, as long as we don’t get discouraged. Seeing the task can give motivation.

  30. Rob
    Posted May 29, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    It would be disheartening to think that people would attend this conference expecting to learn legitimate science, but instead be exposed to endless woo. (What an absolute waste of every minute spent on such nonsense.)

    Thank you Professor Coyne for sticking to your ethics and not being a draw for Chopra’s nonsense.

  31. Brian Jeffs
    Posted May 30, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    JC-“But of course knives have peaceable uses, and guns don’t. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a negative correlation between gun ownership and IQ.”

    Guns have “peaceful” uses.
    And dead is dead, whether by steel or lead.
    It’s not the tool, it’s the tool user.

    Even Maya Angelou was pro-gun (Interview with Diane Rehm Show) http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-05-29/maya-angelou-mom-me-mom-rebroadcast

  32. Posted May 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    “It’s not the tool, it’s the tool user.” And, of course, society’s commonsense restrictions on who and in what manner people may use those tools. Cars can kill, so we don’t let children drive them. Or drunks.

    • Brian Jeffs
      Posted May 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      But kids do drive cars and drunks as well, so laws only punish and seldom prevent.

      • Posted May 30, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Are you then suggesting there should be no laws because people break them? Or that it’d be a worthwhile social experiment to make it legal for 9 year olds to drive since once in awhile a kid takes a joy ride, so hey why bother?

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