when things are as insane as they seem…

March 4, 2011

Science blogging can be a perilous business for your psyche. Sure, when you’re a small fry, you’re very rarely assaulted with pontifications from physics cranks and conspiracy theorists. But when you start getting some more views and a little exposure, the rants begin to appear in your comment sections. And I don’t mean just any old rants either, I mean the kind of rants that demand that you accept some half-baked theory concocted from comic book science by a self-appointed internet luminary, the kind of rants that make you question if you should reply with corrections or just delete the random nonsensical outburst and let the strange man babble to himself elsewhere. And that’s usually my course of action. I get rid of the demanding, impatient nonsense, and try to keep the ongoing comment threads more or less on track. But sometimes, being a blogger in need of content, I catch an asinine screed in my spam trap, sent there because it’s thousands upon thousands of words long, and just can’t help myself from stealing a glance into the abyss of utter Lovecraftian madness.

Now what exactly do I mean by madness? A random creationist’s overzealous attempts to get me to rebuke evolutionary biology and modern cosmology because he said so and threatened me with Hell? Considering how much fun I generally have either dissecting random proselytizing or highlighting it as further evidence for the dire need of sound, scientific education in our schools, not at all. No, I’m talking about madness like that of a certain Dr. William H. Depperman, whose attempt at a contribution to Weird Things was over 28,000 words which managed to turn a scathing ridicule of inflationary cosmology into an argument for a socialist revolution and evidence for deities being a corporate conspiracy of the New World Order. Yes, you read that correctly. No, I did not exaggerate a single word of that description. In fact, feel free to check out the treatise he wanted to submit for yourself if you’re in a particularly masochistic mood and haven’t had your brain viciously assaulted by insanity in a while. Just to be clear, we’re talking about a man who thinks that panspermia, the theory that a great deal of organic compounds necessary for life, if not life itself, first originated in space, is a conspiracy by NASA to discredit the theory of evolution, that General Relativity is somehow being used as a tool of a fascist dictatorship ran by major corporations, and that aliens are here and they’re hostile. If you’re expecting mild but entertaining ramblings, you’re not going to get them. This is certifiable DSM V lunacy in action.

Since this is a science blog after all, I feel compelled to point out that the panspermia hypothesis was actually conceived in an attempt to answer evolutionary questions. At the time that Darwin toyed with the idea, it was thought that the Earth was too young to let life evolve and that it must’ve come from elsewhere if there wasn’t a creator of some sort involved. We now know that our planet isn’t just 20 to 400 million years old but 4.5 billion, but panspermia remains tantalizing because we do see important organic compounds on asteroids, comets, and in nebulae, and know that they do end up on numerous planets during their formative eras. To claim that panspermia would somehow discredit evolution is like saying that fossils are a trick to discredit the notion of very different creatures once roaming the Earth and then going extinct, letting newer species take over. And as if to make matters worse, not only are Depperman’s screeds written as nonsensically as possible, but they’re also given the grand titles and tortured expositions you typically see in post-modernist publications, which are generally feats of packaging astonishing examples of intellectual vacuity as scholarship. In other words, what I’m trying to say here is that our aspiring revolutionary with a thing for ancient astronauts, socialism, and zero scientific knowledge, thinks he’s writing a formal, scholarly work. Too bad for him that it reads as if he foamed at the mouth while he wrote it, jumps from topic to topic between adjacent sentences, and offers no proof for a single assertion being made. It’s completely barking, howling mad to put it mildly.

But hold on, you might say, how do you know he’s not just a troll? Well, I did a little digging and found that he’s really an infamous character in NYC, and spends a good deal of time reposting his screeds across virtually any news site or blog to which he’s attracted for reasons known only to him. Oh and by the way, do check out the link above. It contains one of the most bizarre videos I’ve ever seen embedded in a web page: a madman muttering about revolution and capitalist oppression while being exorcised by a church youth group. Again, as with the rest of this post, I wish I were kidding or exaggerating for comic effect. But with Bill here, things tend to go from sad, to clinically insane, to perversely hilarious, and then back to sad again. I do wonder if he misses his sanity or if he enjoys every moment it’s gone, but nevertheless, I thank him for the entertainment value and an idea for a post that could’ve never come from anywhere else…

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  • That does seem to be quite entertaining, but I think I’ll wait for the movie. ;-)

  • Professor Layman

    Well, that blew all my expectations out the water. It’s like the result of some sort of challenge to unite every single conspiracy theory into one masterpiece.

    Truly insane, and what a shame, because there’s obviously a strong scientific mind there, if it were focused on reality I’m sure it could do some good in the world.

  • Rob Berra

    This is certifiable DSM V lunacy

    . Since I suspect the DSM V doesn’t even use the term “lunacy,” doesn’t that mean that in order to find that level of crazy you’d have to travel to an alternate universe where it does? That’s some serious crazy. On the other hand, if he came here from an alternate universe, that would explain a lot. Perhaps where he comes from, this treatise is just the tip of the iceberg. Hm…

  • Russ Toelke

    Some folks don’t suffer from insanity. They enjoy every minute.

  • Rob Berra

    Oy. OK, just for fun I went and looked (I read your original article on my BlackBerry, and I was a little afraid of what the page might do my poor handheld, so I didn’t follow the link).

    I lost count of errors before the end of the third paragraph. Hawking speaking of “necessarily hostile aliens,” which, of course, he did not. Manned trips to Mars cannot return–utter nonsense, of course. “Asteroid fear campaign…”

    I give up. I’m sure it would be interesting, and I suspect he has some things on which I might agree (some of the social commentary he hints at might resonate with some of my darker thoughts), but I can’t bring myself to wade through it.

  • This is typical of how Depperman is being mischaracterized. You have misquoted him that he says there are hostile aliens–NO, he says that is part of the govt conspiracy and that Hawking said there might be hostile aliens. There may be both, just as people on Earth are all different, why would you expect people on worlds to all think and act alike. I actually read his long, long,long comment on a Scientific American site re a Brian Greene, and I had been thinking exactly the same thing–this group of astrophysicists is leading people astray. The idea you have copies forever each not knowing what’s happening to the other? As Depperman would say, ridiculous? What you think is who you are, not an assemblage of atoms.