Thursday, October 3, 2019

#2248: Lisa Shiel

Lisa Shiel first made (sort of) a name for herself as a frequent commenter on various science-related blogs, committing the most beautiful illustrations of fractal ignorance and misunderstandings you can imagine. In 2009, she channeled her efforts into an apparently self-published book, The Evolution Conspiracy vol. 1: Exposing the Inexplicable Origins of Life and the Cult of Darwin. Shiel has a masters degree in library science. She does not understand evolution. According to the blurb (we won’t pretend to have read the actual book), Shiel’s work is ostensibly novel in that she sets her religious beliefs aside: “Instead of criticizing evolution in an effort to promote her personal beliefs, she’s chosen to examine evolutionary theories and the evidence attached to them through a secular lens.” That may be the case, but is hardly a guard against deranged nonsense. As Shiel sees it, “[t]he theory of evolution involves numerous complicated and confounding strands,” which is somewhat contradicting her claim, on the blurb for the book, that evolution is “deceptive in its simplicity” and that “anyone can understand evolution”. How many strands? “almost as many strands, I dare say, as DNA itself” (so: two; dare we suspect that Shiel’s knowledge base on DNA is somewhat shaky?). For instance, scientists are now talking about genetic driftas a major driver of evolution – clearly this must be bollocks; it is apparently also unscientific since “no one has ever reproduced the creation of a species via either natural selection or genetic drift,” which is, needless to say, not quite how testingworks in science. Moreover, “toss into this mess the recent discovery that some species ‘evolve’ genetically while remaining unchanged anatomically,” and “the recent discovery that cryptic species can fool us too – two creatures look identical, but their DNA identifies them as different species.” At this point it is only right and proper to toss up your hands and declare conspiracy. At least she is refreshingly straightforward about her contempt for science; young-earth creationists tend to try to talk their way around that part.

Indeed, Shiel is currently promoting herself as an “author of paranormal adventure fiction and nonfiction,” and her most popular work may not be her confused anti-evolution rants, but her books Backyard Bigfoot and Forbidden Bigfoot: Exposing the Controversial Truth about Sasquatch, Stick Signs, UFOs, Human Origins, and the Strange Phenomena in Our Own Backyards, in which she not only criticizes the mainstream position that “Bigfoot are nothing more than large, bipedal apes” and argues that this is “merely disinformation”, but, according to an Amazon reviewer, “gives her arguments on why she believes Sasquatch has metaphysical properties.” Apparently the book lays out her views on fairies and crop circles, too. She has written several novels as well. Probably more than she thinks. 

Diagnosis: Exceptionally confused, but probably harmless.

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