apology biologists carbon Chemistry civility Clarivate Analytics Dallas Conference on Science and Faith Discovery Institute Evolution Gary Hurd heteroatoms hydrogen Internet trolls Jack Szostak James Tour jesus Latest Nature (journal) Nobel laureate nucleotide origin of life primary literature Scientific American Scientific Dissent From Darwinism simple sugars stereochemistry synthetic organic chemistry Thomson Reuters

Professor James Tour: A “Liar for Jesus”?

Professor James Tour: A “Liar for Jesus”?

Famend scientist James Tour at Rice College is dealing with the wrath of Internet trolls because of his candid analysis of origin of life analysis in a current public lecture in Dallas. For his frankness, Tour is being vilified by detractors as an attention-grabbing charlatan, an incompetent scientist, and even a “Liar for Jesus”!

Some further background may provide help to better respect the chutzpah of these claims. Dr. Tour is among the world’s prime artificial natural chemists. He has authored 680 scientific publications and holds more than 120 patents (here is a partial record). In 2014, Thomson Reuters named him certainly one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds,” and in 2018 Clarivate Analytics recognized him as one of the world’s most extremely cited researchers.

Tour can also be fearless. He joined more than a thousand different scientists in signing the “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” Extra lately, he has turn out to be a thorn in the aspect of the origin of life research group, offering blunt assessments of the present state of origin of life research. 

Heretical Views

Such heretical views can get you into hassle. In January, Tour delivered a lecture on “The Mystery of the Origin of Life” to an viewers of almost 1,000 at a Discovery Institute convention in Dallas. The lecture has already attracted over 74,000 views on YouTube — for good cause. Tour’s public talks sizzle, and his rollicking Dallas lecture was no exception. 

At one point, Tour received a bit carried away whereas critiquing an article by Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, one of the world’s prime origin of life researchers. Highlighting an inaccurate diagram in Szostak’s article, Tour made a casual remark about Szostak, telling the audience that “he’s lying to you.” It was an uncharitable characterization. To Tour’s credit score, when he was challenged on his use of the time period “lying,” he apologized on to Szostak by telephone, and he adopted up with a press release to someone else, which he approved for launch to the public. Part of Tour’s statement read:  

That was a robust word (“lying”) which I regret saying. I’ve already apologized to Jack Szostak by telephone, and he very graciously accepted the apology. If given a chance, I might likewise apologize to any of those cited in that speak to whom I stated such a factor. My conduct was inappropriate.

Exemplars of Civility?

Tour was right to apologize. At the similar time, his detractors aren’t precisely exemplars of civility, and I think that a few of them have been much more all for smearing Tour than promoting respectful dialogue. Take Gary Hurd, Web atheist, troll extraordinaire, and the Web’s foremost attack canine towards Tour proper now. Hurd’s rhetoric makes Tour’s off-the-cuff swipe at Szostak appear genteel. Hurd is the one who characterizes Tour as a “Liar for Jesus.” He additionally says: “James Tour lies his ass off for money, adulation, and I suppose his hopes for salvation.” Hurd (whose doctorate is in “Social Science,” not chemistry) goes on to accuse Tour of telling “15 lies in under 4 minutes counting repeated lies. That is Trumpian. And, his lies are exposed by undergraduate level chemistry. They are not even sophisticated lies. They are stupid obvious lies.”

I’m wondering how many people who objected to Tour’s comment about Szostak have referred to as on Hurd to apologize for his vicious private slurs towards Tour? 

The Substance of the Assault

Regardless, what concerning the substance of Hurd’s attack? Is Tour actually a serial liar who, in less than 4 minutes, exhibits that he doesn’t understand undergraduate degree chemistry? You be the decide:

1. In accordance with Hurd, Tour was mendacity when he criticized as scientifically inaccurate two figures in Jack Szostak’s article labeled “Simple sugars.” Once I requested Tour about this criticism, he responded that Szostak himself conceded to him that these figures have been inaccurate! Tour wrote me:

As listed, the sugars do not seem like sugars. One needs to have the double bond shown to one of many oxygen atoms or they don’t seem to be sugars. Shown are a diol and a triol. Even Jack, when he and I spoke on the telephone, conceded that time. And he blamed the error on a employees artist from Scientific American, and the error was transcribed when the article was utilized by Nature. I’ve written a number of occasions for the Information and Views section of Nature and Nature collection journals. It is an honor to be so asked. However we’re asked as authors to point out care to ensure accuracy. And the galley proofs are returned to us for our careful examine and documented approval. 

So much for this supposed lie by Tour.

2. In line with Hurd, Tour was lying when he questioned the scientific accuracy of two figures in Szostak’s article labeled “Cyanide derivatives.” Not so, says Tour, who responded to me:

Either we fill in the hydrogen atoms or we show the pi bonds. However we can’t omit both. Furthermore, the conference is that each one heteroatoms should bear the hydrogen atoms. Solely carbon might be devoid of hydrogen in the convention. However that’s only to fill the valance states. So one must see the pi bonds if we’re omitting the hydrogen atoms. Subsequently, as drawn, the natural beginning materials are glycerol (1,2,Three-propanetriol or glycerin), ethylene glycol (1,2-ethanediol), diaminomethane (methanediamine), and 1-aminopropane. The latter two are troubling in mild of the textual content which mentions iron cyanide. Iron(III) cyanide complexes are extremely secure; there’s little free cyanide expected to be in the answer, so perhaps Szostak is speaking of something else. 

Once once more, the charge that Tour was mendacity or incompetent disintegrates.

One other Charge Evaporates

Three. In line with Hurd, Tour was mendacity as nicely when he claimed that the diagram labeled “RNA nucelotide” in Szostak’s article was inaccurate. Tour’s response to me: “it is not a nucleotide since it is devoid of any stereochemistry.” Again, the cost that Tour doesn’t understand primary chemistry seems to evaporate.

Tour went on to elucidate that the errors he discovered within the drawings pale in comparison to the most important drawback with Szostak’s Nature article: 

…all the above is minor compared to Szostak’s displaying that in a single step, warmth and lightweight can make a compound that resembles a dehydrated nucleotide (although it isn’t a nucleotide since it is devoid of any stereochemistry) from “simple sugars” and “cyanide derivatives.” …The key problem is that warmth and lightweight can’t afford that conversion from ethylene glycol, glycerol, or the sugar products derived thereupon after their oxidation to the aldehydes. To current that heat and UV mild can act on these compounds (even when we’re to make use of these 2 and 3 carbon easy sugars slightly than glycerol and ethylene glycol, and to use any easy cyanide by-product) to afford something just like the listed “RNA nucleotide” (albeit not a nucleotide because it exhibits no stereochemistry) is wrong and deceptive. There are so many steps involved in such a change. But to a biologists, like Szostak, explaining to the non-expert, he feels the small print usually are not important for him to point out. But the details are every little thing

four. Hurd further accuses Tour of lying because Tour declared that Szostak’s article was revealed by the journal Nature. Hurd argues that the article solely appeared in a particular part of Nature described by the journal as “an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties.” Hurd appears to be implying that Nature wasn’t actually editorially accountable for the article. But in the event you comply with the “About this content” link offered by Nature itself, you discover an expanded rationalization that makes clear Szostak’s article was vetted and permitted by Nature’s common editorial employees. “Editorially independent” means not that Szostak’s article was unbiased from Nature, however that it was unbiased from the influence of funders. The content was “already deemed worthy of coverage by our editorial departments… The ultimate approval of any story rests with the editorial department.” So the article in question was undoubtedly revealed by Nature — identical to Tour stated. Again, no error, and positively no lie. 

The Main Literature

5. Hurd chastises Tour for introducing this section of his lecture by saying he was going to take a look at the “primary literature” and then immediately speaking about Szostak’s article, which was a popular-level abstract relatively than a bit of main unique analysis. Finally, a good point (type of), which Tour concedes in his letter to me. However this can be a quibble. Whether a well-liked piece or unique analysis, the article in question was revealed with the backing of one of the world’s most prestigious science journals and written by one of the world’s leading authorities on origin of life analysis. That undoubtedly makes the article truthful recreation for Tour and others to criticize. It must be added that Tour went on in his speak to critique other articles that unquestionably are part of the “primary literature,” identical to he promised, and he does this even more in his letter to me and in an earlier essay. So this specific grievance is far ado about nothing. 

Finally, Hurd dismisses Tour’s lecture as an entire by asserting: “There are too many falsehoods, and misrepresentations to review in detail.” But when there really have been so many falsehoods in Tour’s speak, you’d assume Hurd would select to refute those that have been probably the most central to Tour’s hour-long critique. As an alternative, Hurd obsesses about four minutes the place Tour criticizes one brief article. I’ve seen Hurd’s critique handled online as if it have been a devastating takedown of Tour’s views. However anyone who watches Tour’s complete lecture can simply see that each one Hurd provides is (at greatest) a skirmish on the edges. 

Is that as a result of he and others haven’t any critical response to supply to Tour’s foremost critique? Decide for yourself by watching Tour’s complete speak or studying his full response to his critics.

Photograph: James Tour talking at the 2019 Dallas Convention on Science and Faith, by way of Discovery Institute.

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