Jonathan Wells: Who is He, What is He Doing, and Why?

Recently Jonathan Wells has been brought up as some sort of authority to trust regarding the impossibility of the Cambrian “explosion” without the help hand of his God of Greed. So though I don’t have the time, I couldn’t resist a quick search or two. Verrry interesting, but stupid.


Jonathan Wells: Who is He, What is He Doing, and Why?
By Burt Humburg, March 31, 2007

In 1999-2000, the Kansas State Board of Education was running their PR machine full-bore, trying to convince the public that the central organizing theory of modern biology and biotechnology was a dead idea. Creationist speaker after creationist speaker was flown into town to put on a dog and pony show. If you were a Young-Earth Creationist, you might have seen Duane Gish/Fred Whitehead nondebate. If you liked ID creationism, you might have seen Johnson or Wells. Back then, it was a very big tent.

Well, KCFS wasn’t going to take things lying down, so we thought we’d prepare a few flyers to inform the audience to help them be ready for the creationists when they arrived. One of those flyers, “Jonathan Wells: Who is He, What is He Doing, and Why?” turned out to be pretty important.

Fast forward to Spring 2005, …

Jonathan Wells, who during his testimony claimed that he was not influenced by religion.
Within the span of an hour, KCFS was able to print several copies of our Wells flyer to distribute to interested members of the press. The result was that in the following day’s newspapers, Jonathan Wells testimony and his quotations were seen in juxtaposition to each other, making of his credibility to journalists what those in the know had deemed of it for years.

Find the flyer on the flipside. It’s also available in RTF format. Please note that the DI has since changed their name from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture to simply the Center for Science and Culture. So clearly it’s no longer religious.

<blockquote>CRSC and the Wedge Jonathan Wells is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC), a branch of the Discovery Institute, a privately-funded, conservative think-tank in Seattle. The CRSC believes that science in general, and the theory of evolution in particular, are responsible for a materialistic, atheistic philosophy whose “destructive cultural consequences” in our society must be reversed.

Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, Wells became convinced that evolution was false because it conflicted with his church’s belief that humankind was specifically designed by God. On the urging of Moon, Wells went to Yale to pursue a divinity degree, focusing his work on arguments against evolution. Later, in the early ’90s, he went back to school at Berkeley to get a biology degree to bolster his credentials in fighting evolution. (See “In His Own Words” below). Soon after getting his degree, he began work at the Discovery Institute.

Wells’ new book, “Icons of Evolution,” is characteristic of the “debunking evolution” style common to anti-evolutionists. Like the young-earth creationists who claim scientific evidence for the flood or an eight-thousand year-old earth, Wells selectively looks at inconsistencies, disagreements, or errors in the scientific data. He ignores the vast body of knowledge that supports the topic he is attacking and fails to acknowledge that the scientific community itself has addressed the problems Wells is describing.

The CRSC has a strategy called the Wedge for replacing science as it is currently practiced with “intelligent design”, a theistic science which would allow supernatural causes.</blockquote>

In his own words,
<blockquote>The Words of the Wells Family

Marriage and the Family: the Unification Blessing

by Jonathan Wells - <a href=""></a>

"This is the third and final excerpt from a paper presented in the "Marriage and Family" seminar sponsored by the International Religious Foundation in Seoul, August 1991."
In 1960, after his first wife had turned against him and divorced him, Moon married Hak Ja Han, the present Mrs. Moon. As a spiritual teacher in the Asian context, he was respectfully called Master; but when he came to the West in the mid-1960s, his American followers bestowed on him the title of Reverend. Although there may be members of the Unification Church who do not believe Reverend Moon to be the second coming of Christ, I think it is fair to say that such people must be a small minority; indeed, it is difficult to imagine anyone persevering in the rigorous life of a Unificationist without believing that Sun Myung Moon is to our generation what Jesus was to his.

Although Divine Principle laid the theological groundwork for Unificationism ...</blockquote>
Also see:

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That is not the profile of a serious scientist.

That is a profile of a guy on the make. As they say, a sucker is born every minute.

Ever heard of vetting, Sherlock?

He’s just trying to yank my chain.

But please notice frolly, I mean Holmes, can defend Wells. Instead pick on the messengers.

He refused to explain anything Wells has done that’s of substance. He points to a much derided piece of deliberate denial and lying about the facts.

But play along I can, so one more time - Here’s how Wells describe the 24 hours of evolution - a total Sunday School cartoon version. About as accurate as the Flintstones

... so if we start the clock then our


24-hour clock six hours nothing but


these simple single-celled organisms


appear at the same sort that we saw in


the beginning 12 hours same thing


18 hours same thing 3/4 of the day has


passed and all we have are these simple


single-celled organisms then at about


the 21st hour in the space of about two


minutes boom most of the major animal


forms appear in the form that they


currently have in the present and many


of them persist to the present and we


have them with us today less than two


minutes out of a 24-hour period that’s


how sudden the Cambrian explosion was


The “two minute” is a gross lie off the top - but Dr. Holmes - simply ignores that complain and doubles down by lying that I haven’t ponied up.


This just a fraction who what Wells wants people not to know:

This month to convey the immensity of “Deep Time” I’m scaling down Earth’s 4.6 billion years to 24 hours. A billion years take 5 hours plus change, 3.2 million years tick by every minute. Our human story fits into Earth’s past 4-5 seconds. Imagine that.

Earth was an infant (3-4 minutes) when Theia slammed into her creating our Moon/Earth system. By 3AM baby continents were plowing through the oceans and doing their mountain building; erosion; grinding; pulverizing; redistribution; redigesting; creation drama.

Suggestively the earliest simple celled organisms show up shortly after that. Toughing it out in a very hostile world of raw unfiltered Sun’s rays and energetic-particle bombardment along with Earth’s toxic atmosphere and oceans.

To the rescue – plate tectonics started a cascade of processes – that by around 5 AM induced Earth’s iron core to turn into a dynamo that built a magnetic force field around Earth, thus deflecting those deadly particles. This allowed the slow seepage of geochemically produced oxygen to interact with the sun’s rays, this in turn allowed ozone to form and accumulate, absorbing ever more of those harmful rays.

As Earth’s shielding developed, life figured out how to utilize the tamed sunlight to split water’s H2O bond, using the hydrogen atoms to build sugars while discarding the oxygen. Thus photosynthesis, a potent source of oxygen was born and Earth’s ozone shielding got reinforcing.

Still, the global ocean and atmosphere was a brew of toxins. Though geology and biology was busy cleaning that up, albeit at a glacial pace.

Geology acts very slowly. How slow is slow, you ask? Consider taking a trip around the world moving as fast as your fingernails grow. Worse, upon your arrival you collide and are sent reeling right back across the globe, again and again.

One result was that shallow seas and massive tidal pools existed for immense periods of time, coming and going. While continents were creeping along, archaic microorganisms within those oceans were reproducing every day, when not in hours and minutes.

By afternoon, some simple cells expanded, sequestering their command and control within a reinforced fortress, the nucleus, creating new structures and pathways within the much larger fortified cell membranes.

These cells even took on outside microbes to help with the increasing work load and differentiating duties. Thus Earth’s first Eukaryotes appeared.

In learning about this scientists made a fundamental realization: cell biology and organisms, their development and evolution, cannot be considered without also understanding the environment within which they exist, and to which they must constantly adjust in order to thrive.

So it was, by 3 PM eukaryotes were firmly established, pushing Life’s potential as far as the environment allowed. Then back to biding time, waiting for what came next. Earth continued going through its great geochemical and geophysical convulsions, including continent grinding global ice ages.

By 7 PM ocean chemistry was moderating while free oxygen levels achieved concentrations that allowed those complex eukaryotes to evolve into coordinated communities and then into Earth’s first animals in short order.

But, it was a rough few hours. When communities of critters had a chance to develop and reproduce enough to make a difference, they made a difference alright. They were too bountiful and sucked free oxygen right back out of their environments. Suffocating themselves into extinction, until stromatolites could pump out enough oxygen for another go. One day at a time.

Apparently, living in moderation never was part of Earth’s natural order. Of course, the consequences of this tendency towards excess has always been collapse.

Then around 9 PM and after some 17 hours worth of stage prep; developing various genetic widgets and gadgets, like a Lego set; a few rehearsals; then finally timing lined up and Life took off like unchaperoned teenagers at a springtime full moon dance.

First the Ediacaran “Explosion” lasting around 12 minutes before an extinction event handed Life’s baton over to about 7 minutes worth of the Cambrian “Explosion”. During this third of an hour most to Life’s fundamental body plans appeared, filling every available niche.

The event was even a dilemma for Charles Darwin, since this sudden fossil proliferation was already recognized way back then. Today we understand it as an “eye of the beholder” problem. Looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

160 years of collecting and processing evidence resolves a time span of 60 to 90 millions years worth of biological adventurism. Geologically, it’s shockingly short. Biologically not so much.

Why was the Cambrian radiation so exuberant? Short answer, Earth was ripe and Life was ready. There were no precedents. No competition. No rules. No constraints. Endless amounts of microbial mats on sea floors. Generations ticking away in geologic milliseconds.

As primal animals consumed all those microbial mats and things got grime, competition was born. Then hunting, then ecology evolved and life settled down for the long haul. Well, except for periodic massive catastrophic tectonic upheavals, or the occasional asteroid impact knocking the pins out from under Earth’s biosphere.

When Life has to scramble with new geophysical realities it returns to its ancient genetic toolkit. As the dust settles and critters figured out how to adapt, there were always sudden bursts of amazingly fast (geologically speaking) evolutionary radiation.

Life would then repurpose its genetic heritage into body plans that adapted, survived and thrived in their brave new world. Some say the last couple hours in Earth’s story has only been variations on a theme. But, those must wait for another day.


Now Dr. Holmes, why can’t you acknowledge that ?

Slow clap for CC. The Wells version reminds of the ape meeting the human in Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael. He asks the guy for his origin story. First he tells the Adam and Eve myth, but the ape says he knows that’s not true. So he tells evolution, but he tells it in a way that ignores most of the history of the universe and focuses on the part where humans showed up. The ape points out how that influences our worldview. To Wells, most of the history of the universe is “not much happening”.

If Wells said “Pi is not a rational number” would you consider that false on the basis of what others say about Wells? Clearly the veracity of some assertion does not depend upon who makes the assertion."
Poor analogy. Pi is not determined by evidence collected and analyzed by scientists, it's mathematical. So the opinion of a fringe "Pi denying" mathematician is not worth the same as the opinion of almost every other mathematician.

The only reason Wells can exist is because no amount of evidence constitutes absolute proof. This means he can stand on the sidelines and spout any sense or nonsense he wants, and no one can “prove” him wrong.

I have favorite scientists and writers, but I always reserve the right to disagree with them when I think they’re wrong (I love S. J. Gould and Christopher Hitchens, but think they’re out to lunch on some things). Sherlock is smart and literate, I hope he chooses to apply those features to Wells.