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Evolutionists Defend Scaremongering on Fake News “Petition”

David Klinghoffer


In recent days, a series of posts by Darwin’s atheists (Jerry Coyne, P.Z. Myers, Dan Arel) brandished a “petition” to ban teaching evolution in the U.S. The petition, which read like a parody to me, was addressed to VP-elect Pence. They presented this as evidence of what we can anticipate from the “Christian Right” under a Trump-Pence Administration.

“And so it begins,” intoned Emeritus Professor Coyne of the University of Chicago ominously. “This is the kind of activism we can expect for the next four years,” wrote Mr. Arel over at Patheos. “Mike Pence will eat it up,” Dr. Myers told his readers, adding that he received a link to the petition accompanied by an email concluding “Merry Christmas to y’all,” from “Joe Hannon, Republicans Abroad (Make America Great Again).”

Everything about this was dubious, including the fact that “Hannon” sent his petition, ostensibly in search of anti-evolution signatures, to a group of atheists and Darwinists. If a legion of “activists” were likely to take up and run with such a (stupid) idea, why not direct your petition to them? The question doesn’t seem to have occurred to Coyne or the others. The fact that the signatures it in fact garnered were almost all joke names contributed to the impression that there was no extrapolation here to what we can expect under Trump.

I called out the Darwin activists who were promoting this “news,” including Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project. Well, they’re back and defending themselves and each other.

P.Z. Myers now agrees with me that “Joe Hannon” is a fake name — used, he informs us, by an often-banned Internet troll from Manchester, England, who haunts blog comments sections under a variety of pseudonyms. Myers cites University of Toronto’s Larry Moran, saying that “Hannon” is “a holocaust denier. He used to run a business ‘selling components — just nuts and bolts — to the Iranian nuclear and missile industries’ but it was shut down because of sanctions. Now he rants against British conspiracies.” Oh. So he’s not with “Republicans Abroad,” after all? Why didn’t Professor Myers say so to begin with? Perhaps because that would have deflated the post he wanted to write.

P.Z. chides me. “Uh, it’s a real petition. You can sign it and everything.” Another Darwinist, Matt Young at Panda’s Thumb, concurs.

The petition is not phony, at least not in the sense that Mr. Klinghoffer means it. I have received 3 e-mail messages directly from Joseph Hannon. The first of these was sent to approximately 30 other people, and all I can tell you is that I must travel in very good company.

Professor Coyne chimes in on this. He thinks I’m “hoist with [my] own petard”: “Matt Young and his commenters adduce evidence that Joe Hannon is not a hoaxer, but what one commenter called a ‘delusional fanatic.'” Ah, so Coyne and his friends were promoting, as significant and worrisome, a product not of deception but of mere delusion. Got it.

Michael Zimmerman is also upset with me, writing once again at the Huffington Post:

Interestingly, in a Catch 22 sort of way, one piece of “evidence” presented for this false flag conspiracy is the fact that I didn’t ignore the petition entirely. And, by responding, I’m accused of initiating my own publicity stunt by “propagandizing for [my] organization.”

I don’t believe in conspiracies, and there’s no need for one to explain what happened here.

Those who want to try to plumb the psychology of the masquerading “Joe Hannon” are welcome to do so on their own time. If Moran and Myers are right about this person’s genuine identity, then they’ve confirmed that this was fake news, pushed by Darwinists for their own reasons. Whether a random Brit would sincerely shut down evolution instruction in the U.S. if he could is of no importance. It is not in the least noteworthy. To pretend otherwise was silly at best, dishonest at worst.

The person behind “Hannon,” whatever his legal name might be, is real. The petition was not computer-generated. The rest of this — the scaremongering about Republicans and American Christians, the bootstrapping from a handful of joke names on an online petition to an advertisement for your pro-evolution group on the Huffington Post — is phony.

Update: As I was about to hit the Publish button on this post, I received an email from “Joseph Hannon.” I don’t correspond with pseudonyms, but for what it may be worth, this “Hannon,” if it’s the real one, now says the petition was “only semi-serious,” a “tongue-in-cheek wind-up,” “parodic.” OK, enough of this.

Image: © delbars — stock.adobe.com.

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David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.