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Why did an evolutionary biology prof imply world-famous chemist James Tour was “stupid”?

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A writer encountered this all-too-common type of behavior recently and was, well, surprised. To see why it feels normal to many of us, it is helpful to understand a bit about Darwinism as a social phenomenon.

Laurence A. Moran

Faithful readers of various vintages will, of course, remember University of Toronto evolutionary biologist Larry Moran, best known publicly through his blog Sandwalk. At his blog Southern Prose, writer John Leonard happened to come across him the other day trashing well-known chemist James Tour. That was back in 2014 but the internet is forever. Tour signed the Discovery Institute statement, “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” (2001), calling for more openness on discussion of evolution: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Moran conceded:

There are many excellent evolutionary biologists who could have signed the statement published by the Discovery Institute. They are not Darwinists and they believe that there is more to evolution than natural selection. Furthermore, all scientists believe that careful examination of evidence is necessary. Larry Moran, “A chemist who doesn’t understand evolution” at Sandwalk

Professor James Tour.jpg

James Tour (CC0)

At the time the Dissent statement was written, media releases quoted Darwin from 150 years ago as if he were Holy Writ. Indeed, it’s only in recent years that some of us have begun to notice a lessening of the nauseous trend, no small thanks to people with an eye on the news and an active gag reflex, some of whom signed the statement. But then Moran goes after Tour for signing the statement and says,

I suppose I’m going to be labeled as one of those evil “Darwinists” who won’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with me about evolution. I’m actually not. I just don’t like stupid people who think they are experts in evolution when they have never bothered to learn about it. Here’s my advice to graduate students in organic chemistry: if you want to know about evolution then take a course or read a textbook. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t understand a subject. Just don’t assume your own ignorance means that all the experts in the subject are wrong too. Larry Moran, “A chemist who doesn’t understand evolution” at Sandwalk

Leonard replied recently by asking why Moran is implying that Tour is stupid, citing Tour’s accomplishments (from Tour’s site):

(Dr.) Tour has over 650 research publications and over 120 patents, with an H-index = 136 (107 by ISI Web of Science) and i10 index = 605 with total citations over 87,000 (Google Scholar). He was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015. Tour was named among “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org in 2014; listed in “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch.com in 2014; and recipient of the Trotter Prize in “Information, Complexity and Inference” in 2014; and was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University, June, 2014. Tour was named “Scientist of the Year” by R&D Magazine, 2013. He was awarded the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, 2012, Rice University; won the ACS Nano Lectureship Award from the American Chemical Society, 2012; was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University, June, 2011 and was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2009. Tour was ranked one of the Top 10 chemists in the world over the past decade, by a Thomson Reuters citations per publication index survey, 2009; won the Distinguished Alumni Award, Purdue University, 2009 and the Houston Technology Center’s Nanotechnology Award in 2009. He won the Feynman Prize in Experimental Nanotechnology in 2008, the NASA Space Act Award in 2008 for his development of carbon nanotube reinforced elastomers and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society for his achievements in organic chemistry in 2007. Tour was the recipient of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 2007. He also won the Small Times magazine’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2006, the Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Innovator Award in 2006, the Alan Berman Research Publication Award, Department of the Navy in 2006, the Southern Chemist of the Year Award from the American Chemical Society in 2005 and The Honda Innovation Award for Nanocars in 2005. Tour’s paper on Nanocars was the most highly accessed journal article of all American Chemical Society articles in 2005, and it was listed by LiveScience as the second most influential paper in all of science in 2005. Tour has won several other national awards including the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award in Polymer Chemistry and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in Polymer Chemistry. John Leonard, “Calling the Wrong Guy Stupid” at Southern Prose

Leonard wonders why Dr. Moran, who has fewer recorded accomplishments, would imply that the eminent Dr. Tour is stupid. Ah, a question we can answer: to isolate people who critique the way things have been done in evolutionary biology for a century and more, no matter what their basis or their background or what the outcome of more candor would be.

Most people of talent who have questions cannot both work productively and deal with dozens of aggrieved mediocrities, to say nothing of the newer problem of trolls with little minds and big platforms.

By analogy, that’s how stagnant systems survive. Life forms that would shake them up prefer healthier conditions. They either cannot tolerate the stagnation and don’t stay or else they stay but don’t do much.

The Darwinians and their protected in-house critics like Larry Moran have the additional advantage of an adoring, incurious, and gladly ignorant media who just want to believe that they are helping “science,” file a story, and go home. Hey, in the ecology of news, their nonsense helps keep Uncommon Descent in business among the ruins.

If that’s not enough explanation, we will gladly provide more. It’s just that not many people ask. Perhaps more people should.

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
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See also: A World-Famous Chemist Tells The Truth: There’s No Scientist Alive Today Who Understands Macroevolution (March 6, 2014) Nearly 375,000 people have visited this post featuring James Tour.

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10 Replies to “Why did an evolutionary biology prof imply world-famous chemist James Tour was “stupid”?

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    So he concedes and tells everybody there are plenty of Darwinist that are willing to look at the evidence differently or examine it more because they believe that there is more evolution in the natural selection.

    And then turns around and calls Tour stupid and he doesn’t understand the subject, so read a textbook on evolution or take a course on evolution and stop being ignorant.

    Just like every other butt hurt Darwinist.
    I guess he’s not one of those Darwinist that’s willing to look at the evidence for what it is, instead he goes to mocking or insinuating the other party is stupid.

    Maybe, Just maybe I might stop being a hypocrite, maybe more people might take Moran more seriously. Possibly people will stop thinking of Moran as that evil Darwinist to.

    I apologize for the immaturity of my comment but what an ass seriously does he not think before he starts posting stuff like that.

    Darwinist aren’t evil and are open minded about the subject. Btw I’m a Darwinist, and your a dumb dumb for questioning my subject!

    Thanks Moran classy real classy

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    Did Moran, Also stop and think that maybe this world class chemist, as I have a little bit of a chemistry background, might of had to of taken a course in evolution maybe a couple of courses in biological evolution? I know when I was going through school I Kinda had to and that was just for minor stuff. Did Moran also possibly think that Tour Might have just read a book or two on evolution as well?

    I mean you don’t even have to go into comparing both of their backgrounds which I know tour has a much much greater professional background in chemistry and in science then Moran does.

    Obviously Moran does not know anything about our education system because he assumed that Tour, is apparently somehow ignorant in the subject. I guess he’s one of those discriminated Darwinist that is blind to the fact that every school system browbeats you with evolution from grade school all the way into College. That has been my experience with the school systems. They were teaching me evolution when I was 10 that was 30 years ago. It is mandatory in every single bio chemistry class and every biology class that I ever took, that they have to teach some form of evolution

    Again I apologize for the rant but oh my God, the fact that he tried to call out Tour as ignorant to the subject of evolution really angers me

  3. 3
    ET says:

    What Larry Moran is willfully ignorant of is that no one argues for genetic drift’s ability to produce anything worthy of the argument “is it intelligently designed?”. Meaning no one has ever tried to make the case that, for example, any bacterial flagellum evolved by means of genetic drift. And no one is saying that genetic drift is not important when it comes to genomic variations within a population. I am sure the even YECs accept that not only do members of the population differ genetically but that variation could in part be due to genetic accidents, errors or mistakes.

    The point being is that Larry says that he is not a Darwinist because he knows that the majority of evolution comes from genetic drift. He dismisses that a Darwinist is OK with genetic drift cuz Darwin barely mentioned neutral changes nd changes by means other than NS in his book. That is because Darwin was only interested in any process that could allegedly have produced the appearance of design.

    Larry will have none of that, though. He is a special case, indeed.

  4. 4
    bill cole says:

    What Larry Moran is willfully ignorant of is that no one argues for genetic drift’s ability to produce anything worthy of the argument “is it intelligently designed?”.

    This is exactly right. Natural selection gives the promise of fixing a sequence that improves fitness where neutral theory does not. Neither is a viable source of functional information critical for new features.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    Correct. Improving the fitness of a population by merely eliminating the weak and sick (the unfit) is not a mechanism that can produce new body plans.

  6. 6
    AaronS1978 says:

    It’s almost like there needs to be an awareness of the need for the new feature before it comes into existence and there has been a lot of interesting hint, That life seems to be able to become aware of what’s needed and then produce it. Intelligently

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    Why did an evolutionary biology prof imply world-famous chemist James Tour was “stupid”?

    Because he’s too cowardly to say it outright?

    These seems to be a favored tactic over at ‘”Peaceful Science” too.

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Peaceful Science- where you can say just about anything as long as it goes against Intelligent Design. Just look at this bit of lying trope:

    Behe’s claims about IC have already been disproven. See the work of molecular biologist Joe Thornton in resurrecting ancient proteins. IC structures have been empirically shown to evolve through indirect pathways, using co-option and molecular scaffolding. Thornton’s work caused Behe to now claim IC systems can’t evolve through direct Darwinian pathways which is a pretty lame claim since they still evolve.

    And this Is Dr. Behe’s response which the poster knew about:

    The study by Bridgham et al (2006) published in the April 7 issue of Science is the lamest attempt yet ? and perhaps the lamest attempt that?s even possible ? to deflect the problem that irreducible complexity poses for Darwinism.

    Dr. Behe then goes on to completely eviscerate the argument. Does Joshua even care? No, because he is willfully ignorant and apparently proud of it.

  9. 9
    jrefwycliff says:

    The put-downs will never end since “People of the Lie” are psychologically comfortable in their ivory towers collecting their paychecks. We should not be ashamed to acknowledge and understand the spiritual component of all their “strong delusion’ viz. “The whole world lieth in wickedness”. This is very easy to test empirically and historically. “A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.” The society that they are erecting upon “science, falsely so-called” is collapsing on their head and unless the days be shortened, no flesh should escape.

  10. 10
    jawa says:

    I think Professor Moran has the right to look down at other scientists, no matter their credentials, because none of them, including Professor Tour, can claim what the distinguished Canadian scientist claimed a few years ago: knowing exactly how morphogenetic signaling profiles are made.

    I’m sure Dr Tour would like to have that kind of absolute knowledge at least for a day. But he openly confessed that he doesn’t.

    Next time you want to criticize Dr Moran, remember that he knows important biology things that Dr Tour has no clue about.

    🙂

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