Intellectual property theft worked out better for Stanley Miller than it has for Cooks Source

by CynthiaYockey on November 8, 2010

Dear Little Miss Attila has been ALL OVER the story of Judith Griggs, managing editor of Cooks Source, which publishes online, on Facebook, and on paper, using an article on how apple pies were prepared in medieval England without the permission of the author, Monica Gaudio. When a friend tipped Ms. Gaudio off to the theft, Ms. Griggs refused to pay and added insult to injury by claiming that she had improved the piece by editing it and correcting spelling errors — that is, she changed the Middle English/Early Modern English spellings to Modern English, even though Ms. Gaudio had included the translations. This is all bad enough. But I suspect what has brought the wrath of the blogosphere down on Ms. Griggs’ head is that she ripped off Ms. Gaudio’s copyrighted BLOG post and claimed that everything published on the Web is public domain. Which it’s not. Which is why Ms. Griggs is now immortalized in a “Downfall” parody.

Dear Moe Lane also covers the story, with additional observations (go to his place for the links on “ensue”):

Alas for Cooks Source, the author is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Which means that she is fully plugged into the geek community. Which means that this story got picked up all over the Internet (because geeks and members of the SCA can be found EVERYWHERE*).

Hi-jinks ensue. And ensue. Oh, how do they ever ensue.


I wish my father, Hubert P. Yockey, one of the pioneers of the application of information theory to molecular biology, had been able to get the scientific community nearly as worked up about the theft of the work of German scientist, Walther Loeb, by American scientist, Stanley Miller. Miller is credited with being the first to use a spark discharge in a solution of chemicals to create amino acids, which is supposed to be a scenario for the origin of life (although my father shows why it isn’t). However, Miller lifted the experiment from Walther Loeb, which my father learned by reading all the works Miller cited in his graduate thesis, published in 1953, in which Miller claims priority for the discovery. In fact, because my father obtained it through an inter-library loan, I saw the copy of the book Miller read that explained Loeb’s experiment — the library card had Miller’s name on it, dated the time he was researching his thesis.

My father shows in his book, Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life, which is advertised on this page, that Miller essentially duplicated the set-up Loeb showed in an illustration in a paper published in 1906. My father writes on p. 125 of his book, “Loeb’s priority in the electro-chemistry of the silent electrical discharge and exploration of any function it may have had in ‘prebiotic chemistry’ must be recognized (Mojzsis et al., 1999; Yockey, 1997, 2002b).

Oh, and another thing — if you read the Wikipedia (shut up!) article I link about Stanley Miller, it credits Oparin and Haldane with being the first to come up with the scenario for the origin of life that chemicals under the right conditions would form into amino acids and proteins and spring to life. Hah! This speculation appeared in 1853 in William Whewell’s book, Of the Plurality of Worlds, now available in facsimile. My father knew these ideas pre-dated Oparin and Haldane because of the line in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” in my postscript below.

I told Dad about Whewell in the mid-1990’s after reading the following from Anthony Trollope’s novel, Barchester Towers published in 1857:

“Are you a Whewellite or a Brewsterite, or a t’othermanite, Mrs. Bold?” said Charlotte, who knew a little about everything, and had read about a third of each of the books to which she alluded.

“Oh!” said Eleanor; “I have not read any of the books, but I feel sure that there is one man in the moon at least, if not more.”

“You don’t believe in the pulpy gelatinous matter?” said Bertie.

“I heard about that,” said Eleanor, “and I really think it’s almost wicked to talk in such a manner. How can we argue about God’s power in the other stars from the laws which he has given for our rule in this one?”

“How indeed!” said Bertie. “Why shouldn’t there he a race of salamanders in Venus? And even if there be nothing but fish in Jupiter, why shouldn’t the fish there he as wide awake as the men and women here?”

“That would be saying very little for them,” said Charlotte. “I am for Dr. Whewell myself, for I do not think that men and women are worth being repeated in such countless worlds. There may be souls in other stars, but I doubt their having any bodies attached to them.

But come, Mrs. Bold, let us put our bonnets on and walk round the close. If we are to discuss sidereal questions, we shall do so much better under the towers of the cathedral than stuck in this narrow window.”


The earliest quote my father was aware of showing that others had thought of chemicals combining to create life before Oparin and Haldane is from “The Mikado.” When I Googled for the quote, I happened upon the following from “Mind the Gap!,” a scientific article by Antonio Lazcano, who apparently believes in the life-from-chemicals origin-of-life scenario:

In 1835, the French naturalist Felix Dujardin started crushing ciliates under the microscope and observed that the tiny cells exuded a jellylike, water-insoluble substance, which he described as a “gelée vivante” and which was eventually christened “protoplasm” by the physician Johann E. Purkinje and the botanist Hugo von Mohl. Fifty years after Dujardin’s observations, the possibility that living organisms were the evolutionary outcome of the gradual transformation of lifeless gel-like matter into protoplasm was so widespread that it found its way into musical comedies. In 1885, the self-important Pooh-Bah, Lord Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado that “I am in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule.”

What my father, Hubert P. Yockey, demonstrated in his publications is that the origin of life is unknowable, as Darwin predicted, and must be accepted as an axiom of biology, just as the existence of matter is accepted as an axiom of physics and chemistry.

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Lori Heine November 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Intellectual property — like all forms of property — must be protected. And those who labor are entitled to the fruits of that labor. No one will continue to produce for the benefit of others if that cannot be at least reasonably guaranteed. Nor can civil society continue if everybody’s property is up for grabs.

The notion that everything belongs to everybody is the rationale of thieves. We need, as a society, to think long and hard about what we are going to do to protect writers and others who create from seeing their work stolen from them. Our public discourse is already sinking to new lows. Without crediting good ideas to those who express them, we will drain away their incentive to bother.

Paul Castran November 9, 2010 at 12:43 am

Nice Information and really helpful. I have also subscribed the RSS of the website to get regular updates, Looking more information on the same.

CynthiaYockey November 9, 2010 at 1:22 am


I use CommentLuv, which automatically includes the link to your last blog post, so you don’t have to promote your blog/business within your comment.


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