Light lifting today at Pharyngula: a quick review of Godzilla, a post about some guy named Randy Rainbow, and – in a first since we’ve been keeping stats – two posts about science!
We won’t get into any of our quibbles about his post on healthy fat hidden in dirt, we’d just like to celebrate this as an example of PZ at his best. He’s sufficiently uncertain – “I think I can argue it’s irrelevant” – shows a modicum of respect for the people he’s criticizing – “OK, that sounds plausible” – and is even complementary of their work – “I think that result sounds reasonable and potentially useful.” And he ties it all together with a cute story about how his wife wants him to help out in the garden.
We just wish he would treat others with the care and respect he treats these researchers.
Since there were no lies today, this gives us a good opportunity to answer a question about our process here at PZWatch:
When will it all end?
We’ve answered that question before in our FAQ – sort of – but realized in the course of preparing this post that we’ve never defined what it would mean for PZ to start telling the truth. One day without a lie – like today – seems insufficient. We don’t think there’s any way in hell PZ would go a week without a lie, but it could happen. Would that be enough?
After much deliberation, we’ve decided to set the PZWatch limit at 30 days. If PZ Myers refrains from telling a verifiable lie for 30 days, on the 31st we’ll shut down the site. We won’t demand he go back and correct all the errors he made to that point – the Vikings will win the Super Bowl well before that ever happens – but our non-scientific feeling is that if he’s able to tell the truth for an entire month, well, perhaps he actually has turned over a new leaf.
One of the reasons we think sustaining a 30-day run will be impossible for PZ is the amount of engagement he sees on Pharyngula for posts related to politics (always prime breeding ground for PZ Myers lies). His post on healthy fat hidden in dirt, for example, has 7 comments as of this writing while his lie about Michael Shermer has 34. The community there prefers it when PZ goes off about politics and none of them – the select few who have shown sufficient enough fealty to PZ to remain as a commenter – dare utter a word in defiance of him.
As a result a positive feedback loop emerges: PZ bans anyone who disagrees with him about politics, and keeps only those who agree. Over time, this PZ-selected sample all agree with each other about everything and praise the Emperor who brought them all together while never noticing he’s wearing no clothes. A situation like this is usually referred to as an echo chamber, but we think the situation at Pharyngula is actually worse than that.
Wikipedia describes an echo chamber as a situation where “beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system.” This absolutely happens at Pharyngula, but there’s something else at work. All of the lies PZ has told over time have distorted reality to the extent where it’s almost impossible to have a rational discussion. Basic facts are impossible to establish.
PZ says Libertarians are bad! Why? Because they promote population control!
Except they don’t. That’s a lie.
PZ made it up because he hates libertarians but doesn’t really understand them and doesn’t want to admit that population control or eugenics were leftist – borderline progressive – ideas.
That’s a big lie. Lying about Michael Shermer, in and of itself, could be seen as a small lie. PZ could argue that it was untrue but accurate. Shermer did speak with Molyneux, and that’s really what he was complaining about. The rest of the facts don’t matter.
Except they do.
When you lie about a fact, and nobody corrects you, then in some sense your reality has shifted. Maybe you know in your heart that you lied, maybe you can convince yourself it was a small thing and therefore unimportant, or maybe it was a lie in the service of a greater good…something like that.
But when you lie about a thousand facts – and we feel confident PZWatch will hit that number in a relatively short amount of time – and you’re not forced to account for any of them while the commenters on your website celebrate you for them, then we believe in a very real sense you’ve distorted the fabric of reality.
And once you’re there, it’s easy to start just making stuff up about your political enemies, like the libertarian example above. For someone in PZ’s situation, it’s and easy place to get to, but not an easy place to come back from.
We hope he does, but we’re not confident in that outcome at all.
Today: 2 Science-related! 1 more post on the new Godzilla movie and 1 random post.
Since 30 May 19: 2 Science-related posts, 10 Non-science posts
Today: 0 PZ Myers Lies!
Since 30 May 19: 4 PZ Myers Lies
Days Since a PZ Myers Lie: 1
Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.