Friday, March 17, 2017

#1809: Rhawn Joseph

Joseph and the Mars rock
Rhawn Joseph is a (real) neuropsychologist and (genuine) pseudoscientist most famous for his, uh, controversial views on the origin of life on Earth and the origin of the universe. He is associated with the fringe “journal” Journal of Cosmology (which is more of a vanity website for Joseph’s crackpottery; among their more, uh, celebrated publications is this one), and the author of Astrobiology: The Origins of Life and the Death of Darwinism, which asserts that “[c]ontrary to Darwinism ... the evidence now clearly indicates, that the evolution of life had been genetically predetermined and precoded ...” based on roughly the same kind of evidence your run-of-the-mill young-earth creationist would use. Joseph does not appear to have any qualifications in any areas relevant to evolution.

Joseph isn’t your standard creationist, however. Instead he is an advocate of an intelligent-design version of the panspermia idea: life did not originate on Earth but was planted here by “cosmic seeds” encased in space debris some billion years ago. The seeds contained the genetic instructions for the metamorphosis of all life, including human beings, which then arose through what he calls a “pre-determined evolutionary metamorphosis”. Like the crank he is, Joseph argues that mainstream  scientific ideas, such as abiogenesis and the Big Bang, are religious doctrines masquerading as science; Big Bang is just a modern version of the Biblical Genesis and is, also according to him, unsupported by evidence. Several of his papers (published in his own questionable journal) are coauthored with Rudolph Schild.

In 2012 Joseph gained some notoriety for filing a lawsuit against NASA since they, as he saw it, failed to investigate whether a rock seen on Mars is in fact an alien lifeform. The background was a martian rock that suddenly appeared on a picture from Mars but had not been there the day before – because it had been dislodged and moved by the Opportunity rover. Joseph immediately published an article in his journal (yeah, its peer review process seems to be rather flimsy) in which he concluded that the rock was a living organism resembling Apothecia, a large fungus (it really doesn’t). 10 days later he filed a writ of mandamus in San Francisco Federal Court, demanding that NASA examine the rock more closely. NASA, of course, had already examined the rock and confirmed it was a rock with a high sulphur, manganese, and magnesium content (they also had pictures of the rock from before it was dislodged).

Here’s a discussion of another of his articles, also published in his own journal. Here is an example of the journal’s professional response to critics.

Diagnosis: Serious crackpot with a vanity journal. Sometimes he manages to get uninformed journalists to pick up one of his ideas, and he has, as far as we can tell, some followers. Still, he’s probably mostly harmless.


  1. Wow this dude has obviously watched the episode "The Chase" from Star Trek:TNG waaaay too many times.

  2. Damn Win... mentioned it before I could!!!