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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sleazy PZ Myers is caught quote mining

Update (11-07-06): Here is another PZ response to Wells

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:

5 Comments:

Blogger Boo said...

Wells has used the same deceptive wording in other forums, minus the call-out box format:

http://www.trueorigin.org/unseatng.asp

He also misrepresents Ballard on pp 30-31 by claiming that Ballard agrees with Sedgwick that embryos differ throughout all stages of development (which would include the pharyngula). PZ posted page captures of pp 30-31 and it's right there for all to see.

Basically, Wells misrepresents Ballard on p 35 and doesn't mention the gastrula, while Wells mentions the gastrula on pp 30-31 but still misrepresents Ballard in the same way. You're trying to disprove a misrepresentation by citing another misrepresentation.

Monday, November 06, 2006 6:49:00 AM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

>>>(my review has some serious errors that are attributable to Myers' review)<<<

No, your review has some serious errors that are attributable to your inability to understand Myers, Ballard, Wikipedia, and even Wells.

Monday, November 06, 2006 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Boo said...

>>>>>Wells has used the same deceptive wording in other forums, minus the call-out box format:

http://www.trueorigin.org/unseatng.asp<<<<<

The text in that article clarifies what Wells meant by "early embryo stages."

>>>>>> He also misrepresents Ballard on pp 30-31 by claiming that Ballard agrees with Sedgwick that embryos differ throughout all stages of development (which would include the pharyngula). <<<<<

That has nothing to do with the fact that PZ Myers failed to note that the text on pages 30-31 clarified what Wells meant by "early embryo stages" in the call-out on page 35.

Anyway, in answer to the issue that you raised, it is not clear that Ballard completely disagreed with Sedgwick on this issue. So far as I can see, Ballard only claimed that the vertebrate embryos at the pharyngula stage are similar and not that they are indistinguishable. Anyway, Wells point seems to be that the dissimilarity of the embryos at the cleavage and gastrula stages is a contradiction of "recapitulation theory" -- see
http://www.trueorigin.org/unseatng.asp

>>>>> You're trying to disprove a misrepresentation by citing another misrepresentation. <<<<<

To me, the primary issue here is that PZ misrepresented Chapter 3 of Wells' book, and not whether or not Wells is right on pages 30-31.

W. Kevin Vicklund said...

>>>>> No, your review has some serious errors that are attributable to your inability to understand Myers, Ballard, Wikipedia, and even Wells. <<<<<

Kevin, you are just a bag of hot air.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 1:21:00 AM  
Blogger Boo said...

That has nothing to do with the fact that PZ Myers failed to note that the text on pages 30-31 clarified what Wells meant by "early embryo stages" in the call-out on page 35.

Um... that has everything to do with it, you silly goose. Wells made the same misrepresentation, just in a slightly more blatant fashion. It means that to the extent PZ was wrong it was actually in underestimating Wells' dishonesty. But Wells still looks slightly dishonest to me to substitute the generic "early stages" for two specific stages, especially when on pp 30-31 he dishonestly said this applied to all stages of development, so I can't see how PZ was wrong to call him on it for p 35. His intent was clearly to misrepresent Ballard by claiming his quote applied to all stages of development.

So far as I can see, Ballard only claimed that the vertebrate embryos at the pharyngula stage are similar and not that they are indistinguishable.

I'm not a developmental biologist, but so far as I can determine neither PZ nor anyone else ever said they were identical.

Anyway, Wells point seems to be that the dissimilarity of the embryos at the cleavage and gastrula stages is a contradiction of "recapitulation theory" -- see
http://www.trueorigin.org/unseatng.asp


Recapitulation theory also seems to be a viewpoint no one holds, so Wells is dishonest to set it up as the strawman position of modern evolutionary biology. And sorry, but he clearly put forth the view on pp 30-31 that the differences ballard noted at two specific early stages applied to all stages, which viewpoint Ballard specifically rejects in his paper by noting similarity in the pharyngula.

To me, the primary issue here is that PZ misrepresented Chapter 3 of Wells' book, and not whether or not Wells is right on pages 30-31.

I can understand why IDers would want to change the subject from Wells blatant dishonesty. Let's just be clear here: your issue with PZ is that he called out Wells for his lie on p 35 while not calling him out for his slightly different lie on pp 30-31. To the charge of quote mining Ballard, Wells is clearly guilty. To the charge of dishonesty, Wells is clearly guilty. But you want to focus on whether PZ was right to point out that Wells stripped out the word gastrula to misrepresent the pharyngula stage on p 35 because Wells left gastrula in when he misrepresented the pharyngula stage on pp 30-31. So, you would prefer PZ had called attention to both lies and made Wells look even worse. Is that what you're saying?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 4:23:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Boo said,
>>>>> So, you would prefer PZ had called attention to both lies and made Wells look even worse. Is that what you're saying? <<<<<

That is not exactly what I am saying, but that is sort of what I am saying. I am saying that PZ should have told the whole story about chapter 3 and then let readers decide for themselves what appears to be a misrepresentation and what does not.

Also, the suggestion that PZ was trying to be easy on Wells by not exposing the 2nd alleged misrepresentation is absurd. PZ was definitely not trying to be easy on Wells. PZ's review called Wells a "disreputable scoundrel" and said,

I keep looking for a word to summarize this book, and I keep coming back to "dishonest"; devious, unethical, deceitful, underhanded, shifty, false, unethical, and untrustworthy would also fit. I predict that in the coming reviews of other chapters in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by my colleagues at the Panda's Thumb, they're all going to be using permutations of that concept of contemptible fraudulence to express their feelings about Wells. It's the kind of book that makes knowledgeable people want to wash their hands obsessively.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 1:35:00 PM  

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