Sleazy PZ Myers is caught quote mining
Some time ago, I wrote a review of Sleazy PZ Myers' review of the 3rd chapter of Jonathan Wells' recent book, "A Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design." I did not have my own copy of the book and was entirely dependent on Sleazy PZ's erroneous description of Chapter 3, resulting in some serious errors in my review. Now it is apparent that Sleazy PZ misrepresented Chapter 3 by quote mining a so-called "call-out" statement in a box on page 35 while deliberately ignoring text on pages 30-31 clarifying the call-out statement.
The "call-out," which includes quotations of biologist William Ballard, says,
It is "only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence," by "bending the facts of nature," that one can argue that the early embryo stages of vertebrates "are more alike than their adults." -- William Ballard, Bioscience, 1976 (emphasis added)
The text on pages 30-31 says,
Dartmouth College biologist William Ballard wrote in 1976 that it is "only by semantic tricks and subjective selection of evidence," by "bending the facts of nature," that one can argue that the cleavage and gastrulation stages of vertebrates "are more alike than their adults."(emphasis added)
Images of page 35 and pages 30-31 are on PZ's Pharyngula blog.
The distinction between the above terms "early emrbryo stages" and "cleavage and gastrulation stages" was central to one of PZ's criticisms of the book -- PZ claimed that the term "early" falsely implied that the statement applied to the pharyngula stage as well as earlier stages. A discussion between PZ and "forthekids" shows that PZ has been aware for a long time of the difference between the page 35 "call-out" and the text on pages 30-31 -- see this, this, this, and this. Conveniently, PZ chose to make a big deal about the "call-out" statement on page 35 because of its prominence and chose to ignore what the text actually says on pages 30-31. IMO, that call-out statement should not even have been a call-out in the first place because to most people that statement has significance only in the context of the text. The only reason why PZ noticed that the call-out statement is ambiguous and possibly misleading is that he is a specialist in the field of evolutionary development biology.
Near the end of PZ's original review of the 3rd chapter of Wells book, he says:
I keep looking for a word to summarize this book, and I keep coming back to “dishonest”; devious, unethical, deceitful, underhanded, shifty, false, and untrustworthy would also fit.
Actually, that sounds like a pretty good description of PZ's review.
Here are two excerpts of my review of PZ's original review of Chapter 3:
. . . .because the structures of the adult forms and early embryo forms of organisms are radically different, statements that the early embryos of two species are "more alike than their parents" or "less alike than their parents" are often meaningless. I assert that Ballard created tremendous confusion here by speaking in those terms.
. . .according to Wikipedia, the main deciding factor in development at this stage is the amount of yolk in the egg and not -- as Ballard claimed -- the taxonomic class of the species.
Here are suggestions for further reading:
Myers' original review of the 3rd chapter of Wells' new book is posted here and here (the main article should be the same in both locations but the comments are of course different).
My review of Myers' original review (my review has some serious errors that are attributable to Myers' review).
Myers' rebuttal to charges that he misrepresented the book.
Jonathan Wells' response to the controversy.
This blog thread has a discussion of the controversy (the controversy is not the topic of the main article -- discussion of the controversy starts a few comments down in the thread).
Uncommon Descent has discussions here and here.
Labels: PZ Myers