Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Richard Harter 1935 - 2012

I just heard from Dave Greig that Richard Harter died over a month ago [Richard Harter 1935 - 2012]. He was a long time contributor to talk.origins having been there since it was called net.origins in the early 1980s. Richard was a staunch defender of science and evolution and a vocal opponent of stupidity (aka creationism). Here's how he describes the phenomenon that is talk.origns [Evolution, Creationism, and Crackpots].
I discovered the usenet news groups circa 1983. In those days there was no big 8 hierarchy; everything was net.this and net.that. One of the hot groups was net.origins, now talk.origins, the designated dumping grounds for creationism/evolution flame fests.

Some usenet newsgroups are models of decorum, where specialists in sundry topics urbanely discuss their specialties. Some are havens of nattering wherein recipes and small talk are exchanged. Such newsgroups represent usenet at its best as a civilized expression of the electronic personal free press. How boring.

There are newsgroups which are open cockpits wherein all and sundry engage in electonic eye-gouging, leaving bodies scattered about the floor, bodies which miraculously arise to gouge and rabbit punch in return. Much more entertaining. Unfortunately such entertainments pall after a while. The same things are said by the same people endlessly. When one flamer departs he or she is replaced by a clone, another mindless dweeb screaming invective into the electronic night air. There is no content, merely an exchange of prejudices and emotion.

The talk.origins group is, to my taste, a happy combination of meat and sauce. To be sure there are no end of flames. However there is much content also. It all has to do with the subject matter. Talk.origins is supposed to be the arena where creationism and evolution are debated. That happens. However it is a happy hunting grounds for cranks and crackpots who come to be told that they are idiots. They revel in it for, finally, someone is listening to them.

The nifty thing about talk.origins is that you can get a real education by reading the group -- the crackpots are not only told that they are idiots, people cite chapter and verse to show where they are in error. Biologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, and the like post there. There is also a good deal of offbeat humor. For your delectation I have prepared a potpourri of essays and materials drawn from talk.origins.

Richard was born in South Dakota and he moved back there in 2000. He never stopped reminding us that South Dakota actually exists and people actually live there. He died of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) [Why couldn't I have something simple, like pneumonia].

There's lots more where that came from. Check out Richard Harter's World while it's still active. I especially like his detailed analysis of one of the most difficult problems in all of science: The Seat Stays Up. His summary of everything related to Piltdown Man is a classic.1

The motto on his web page is appropriate ...
I don't worry about dying.
It's not going to happen in my lifetime.

UPDATE: talk.origins remembers Richard Harter

UPDATE: I'm told that Richard's website will be preserved at Richard Harter's World.


1. I hope someone copies it before it disappears.

11 comments:

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  2. He was one of my absolute favourite contributors in talk.origins. His web pages are a delight.

    Thanks, Richard. You lived well.

    Thanks for the heads up Larry.

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  3. Well, damn. Now I haz a sad.

    And that is the single best description of talk.origins ever written, bar none.

    (Also: sucks that the funeral home obit page has to have a cross in the background. To the best of my recollection, Richard was not at all religious.)

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    1. On the top right of the homepage for funeral home is a floating American flag with God Bless written under it.

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  4. I admired and enjoyed Richard's posts on talk.origins, and learned a lot from them. He will be missed.

    William Hyde

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  5. I remember Mr. Harter from talk.origins, a funny, smart, affable person, sad to hear that he has died. Wasn't he recently married also? My sympathies to his whole family.

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  6. Richard was a remarkable man. Behind his dry wit and unpretentious manner there lurked a powerful intellect. I will miss him.

    Robert Parson

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  7. I just stumbled upon your fascinating blog by accident. I am a novice genealogy addict and enjoy studying the migrations of people groups. My condolences to the family and associates of Mr. Harter. I will be adding your blog to my "Follow" list.
    Peace.

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  8. The t.o tribute thread a reminder why I quit those shores some years ago. There is sweetcorn a-plenty, but one has to pick through an awful lot of ... well, y'know. Presumably these people reckon themselves already Saved, and hence can drop all the Love-Thy-Neighbour, Judge-Not pretence when someone with the temerity to disbelieve, or, worse, favour evolutionary explanations (the bastard!) passes.

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  9. Note that the new website is now active.

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