WorldNetDaily and the Octopus

Buffoon Award

The Drool-o-tron™ has been silent lately, but suddenly called to us with its sirens and flashing lights. The blinking letters of its wall display said WorldNetDaily (WND). As you know, WND was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus the jolly logo displayed above this post.

The Drool-o-tron™ had locked our computer onto this headline at WND: Are octopuses from another planet? It was written by Joseph Farah, founder, CEO, and editor of WND. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections [that look like this]:

Have you ever looked at octopuses and wondered how such a complex creature unlike any other evolved? You’re not alone. Dyed-in-the-wool evolutionary scientists have the same problem. And when 33 of them got together to come up with a new peer-reviewed scientific study of the mystery, they determined octopuses could just be aliens from outer space.

This is the same thing we wrote about a week ago — see Is the Octopus an Alien Species? WND has had a lot of time to think about it, and now we have the result. Farah says:

That doesn’t mean the idea is being taken altogether seriously by the rest of the scientific community, yet, so far, there’s been no call to ex-communicate the 33 credentialed scholars from the academy. Apparently, that is a distinction reserved only for those who question the dogma of evolution as the only acceptable explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. However, the paper, published in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, has been scoffed at as hair-brained and unscientific – as one might expect.

Your Curmudgeon is one of those scoffers. Farah then spends several paragraphs gushing about the Cambrian explosion, about which he says:

[D]uring this period, virtually all animal kinds appeared simultaneously [Hee hee!] – and they resemble the animal kingdom we are familiar with today. There’s been diversification, of course, but not new animal life forms that cannot be explained through adaptation rather than what we think of as “macro-evolution” – one kind, or species, changing into another kind.

After that creationist clunker, he tells us:

So, this new study actually suggests a kind of wholesale invasion from outer space precipitated the “Cambrian explosion.” The paper, thus, asks whether this event, which saw the rapid emergence of most of the main animal groups that still exist on Earth today, was “terrestrial or cosmic.” Their conclusion is the latter.

Skipping a few paragraphs about the octopus, Farah continues:

Like creationists, the scientists don’t seem to have enough faith in evolution to allow that modern cephalopods could have evolved to their present form. So, the latter propose the possibility that octopuses are the descendants of creatures that arrived on Earth frozen in an icy comet.

Yeah, that explains panspermia — not enough faith in evolution. He ends with this:

Call it yet another “crisis of evolution.” I don’t know about you, but, just saying, I prefer to accept that God created the octopus, like all other life forms.

We don’t think it’s a crisis of evolution. It’s a crisis in peer review.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “WorldNetDaily and the Octopus

  1. If the IDers think octopuses came from another planet, what is their explanation for the large proportion of DNA sequences they share with other mollusks and indeed with other animals on this planet.

  2. Dave Luckett

    abeastwood, quite so. I would point out that when considering an idea, your approach is to refute it by referring, not to the outlandish nature of the idea, but to the evidence against it. That is, to some minds, an unusual and unorthodox procedure – the mind, if you can call it that, of Mr Joseph Farah, for example.

    Or perhaps not. To write articles for WND you either have to be gaudily crazy, or else have your tongue so far in your cheek it’s sticking out of your ear. Poe’s Law says that it’s impossible to know which it is, absent clear textual evidence. I am only going on the feel of his prose – which could, of course, be a well-contrived counterfeit – when I say that my guess is that Mr Farah is actually crazy, rather than one who writes arrant tosh for the lulz of it.

  3. There seems to be some similarity between these articles and the New Yorker article published in 2014 (and recently reposted by BBC Future):
    https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/eating-octopus
    The New Yorker article suggests that you should not eat octopus because it would be similar to eating an alien species.
    I leave it to others to say if there is a connection, I merely point out a coincidence.

  4. Eddie Janssen

    “So, the latter propose the possibility that octopuses are the descendants of creatures that arrived on Earth frozen in an icy comet.”
    Which of course means evolution, albeit somewhere else in the universe.

  5. Eddie Janssen

    Sorry, that does not necessarily follow. It could mean evolution somewhere else in the universe

  6. “one kind, or species, changing into another kind”
    Aha. According to creacrap “kind” means “species”, unless of course an athiest materialist evilutionist nazicommie like me provides examples of observed speciation (ie one species changing into other species).

    “the scientists don’t seem to have enough faith in evolution”
    At least the octopus from outer space is a natural explanation. Creacrap isn’t.

    “I prefer to accept that God created the octopus,”
    I prefer to reject both. Also I like to point out that creacrap is even worse than an octopus from outer space.

  7. Karl Goldsmith (@KarlGoldsmith)

    Dr Steele got so upset with PZMyers take on the paper that he spam emailed every member of the science & math division at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/05/19/i-just-had-an-idea-for-a-movie-squidnado/

  8. Since the Cambrian explosion ‘There’s been diversification, of course, but not new animal life forms that cannot be explained through adaptation rather than what we think of as “macro-evolution” ‘

    So notochords to grizzly bears is only micro-evolution. Good to know.

  9. Eric Lipps

    [D]uring this period, virtually all animal kinds appeared simultaneously [Hee hee!] – and they resemble the animal kingdom we are familiar with today. There’s been diversification, of course, but not new animal life forms that cannot be explained through adaptation rather than what we think of as “macro-evolution” – one kind, or species, changing into another kind.

    Wow, old Joe certainly defines “kind” broadly when it comes to the Cambrian explosion and the subsequent history of life on Earth, calling it mere “adaptation” (another term creationists like him misuse to avoid admitting that “macro-evolution” is real). This is in marked contrast to the way “kind” is used when it comes to human beings.

    And in fact Farah contradicts himself, by equating “kind” with “species” at one point despite his sprawling application of the word elsewhere. That’s consistent with the selective application of creationists’ selective definition of the notion and demonstrates that “kind” is a meaningless classification made up to plaster over huge holes in “intelligent design.”

  10. BTW, the Hebrew word “min” (” kind”) is never used in the Bible in reference to humans.
    I think that the creationist use of the word was to save the capacity of Noah’s Ark from the problem of species. Of course, there is no hint in the Bible about a scope of evolution – all the creationist talk, positive or negative. Is so much blather.

  11. New life forms popping in from outer space from time to time can’t be distinguished from the periodic intrusion of the hypothetical intelligent designer. Neither hypothesis has the support of solid evidence required by such extraordinary claims. One can only speculate that the Steele et al. paper sparking this discussion appeared as the result of a sympathetic editor with a misplaced sense of “fair play”. It’s highly unusual for a paper, like Steele et al., to include rebuttals of the reviewers.

  12. I haven’t read the paper, so I don’t have any idea about what kind of mechanism is compatible with popping out of space. I recall that Hoyle did propose a continuous creation.
    But I do know that design alone is not enough to produce something. Moreover, design means taking account of the laws of nature, and therefore it is not going to explain a violation of those laws.

  13. Scientist says: “New life forms popping in from outer space from time to time can’t be distinguished from the periodic intrusion of the hypothetical intelligent designer.”

    Except that we know there are other planets, and organic compounds are found in meteorites. That’s not much to go on, but it’s strongly different from the intelligent designer, which is outside of the universe and utterly un-observable.

  14. SC, I take partial exception while acknowledging my glibness likely is misleading. The primary claim in the Steele et al paper is that retroviruses (HIV is one example) periodically arrive from space thereby affecting evolution, particularly explaining the Cambrian explosion. But they also don’t dismiss the possibility that octopus eggs arrived in a comet, and they support the idea that plant seeds also may have arrived from space. Here’s a cherry-picked quote: “Thus the possibility that cryopreserved Squid and/or Octopus eggs, arrived in icy bolides several hundred million years ago should not be discounted (below) as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth ca. 270 million years ago. Indeed this principle applies to the sudden appearance in the fossil record of pretty well all major life forms, covered in the prescient concept of “punctuated equilibrium” by Eldridge and Gould advanced in the early 1970s (1972, 1977)…” I read this and other sections of their paper as meaning that comets may have periodically delivered (hence “popped in”) various life forms to earth, all apparently from the same source, given their similar genetics.

    So, while I agree that meteorites and a designer are two different mechanisms, I maintain that it’s hard, if not impossible, to tell whether the Cambrian explosion (I should use quotes), was due to the fortuitous arrival (popping) of a virus in a meteorite or the work of a designer, who, as I understand it, periodically interferes with evolution to produce a desired end. Both sound awfully magical to me.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I hope to live long enough to see life discovered on other planets. While I expect it to be carbon/water based, I’d be surprised if it used the same amino acids and genetic dictionary as life on Earth, if indeed, it used proteins and possessed DNA.

  15. I don’t recall the details, but Hoyle and Wickramasinghe suggested that new diseases arrived from space, for example the 1918 flu pandemic. I don’t know how that was conected with the idea of continuous creation – with life having an infinite existence anyting is possible?

    And I point out that “design” is not a mechanism.

  16. @Scientist doesn’t see clearly: “New life forms popping in from outer space from time to time can’t be distinguished from the periodic intrusion of the hypothetical intelligent designer.”
    Not yet.

    “Neither hypothesis has the support of solid evidence required by such extraordinary claims.”
    However it’s conceivable that solid evidence for space octopuses will pop up somewhere in the future, even if it looks incredibly far fetched to us right now. At the other hand I have simply no idea how empirical evidence (by definition natural) a periodic intrusion (with natural consequences) of the hypothetical (really? – see next remark) intelligent designer (by definition a supernatural entity) would look like. IDiots (and also other apologists) with no exception are totally unhelpful in this respect. They prefer to issue a decree like “this looks Designed to me hence a Grand Old Designer” (“and I don’t care about the procedures and the means” – FrankB) . As long as that’s the case I don’t think we should use the word “hypothesis”. The product of collectively sucking thumbs seems more accurate to me.

  17. evidence of a periodic intrusion.

    “I’d be surprised if it used the same amino acids and genetic dictionary as life on Earth, if indeed, it used proteins and possessed DNA.”
    Which means that the hypothesis “the space octopus originates from planet X” (planet X being the planet where such life is found) is falsifiable. Grand Old Designers (blessed be Them) have nothing comparable and that’s quite a distinction.

    @TomS: “And I point out that “design” is not a mechanism.”
    Which is crucial. We can obtain for instance a pretty good understanding of the mechanisms (and the means) architects use to design houses. It has been rumoured that there are institutes where these mechanisms are taught. So I wonder what education the Grand Old Designer received?! Or is He/She/It an autodidact?

  18. docbill1351

    My shrift gets quite short when people ignore the chemistry. Something about being a chemist, I guess. Don’t get me started about “non-living chemicals.” To the Moon, Alice!

    That said, I would go out on a limb and state categorically that life (as we sort of define it) elsewhere in the Universe will not be based on the same biochemistry as here on Earth, i.e. DNA, RNA, proteins, etc. I know, scientist, never say never, knowledge is provisional, right, I don’t need the lecture. I’ll put all my money on red for this spin, anyway.

    That said, I think it was Dawkins who mused that regardless of the chemistry, he thought that diversity would be directed by a “Darwinian” process. I won’t argue about that, other to say that I don’t know of a provision that would so constrain a process.

  19. If you have reproduction, mutation (inevitable above a certain complexity because of imperfect copying), and a tendency for populations to increase until their niche is full, you will inevitably get Darwinian selection and evolution. (Although most evolution, according to what I have read, is actually neutral drift)