28 Aug – Does PZ Myers Care About Freedom?

PZ spends a lot of time discussing freedom in the pages of Pharyngula, but you can never really be sure where he stands on the issue because it depends entirely upon his definition of the word, and that definition is nebulous. He likes abortion freedoms, of course, but he hates the freedom to own guns. He likes the fact that gay people have the freedom to marry, but he hates the fact that rich people can spend money the way they choose.

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

The system is broken. When we’re dependent on the generosity of billionaires to get any science done, that skews the outcome — your funding is no longer coupled to any measure of merit, but on your skill at schmoozing and pandering to fat cats, and on your association with over-hyped organizations like Harvard. Taking money away from scientists does not fix the system. What we need to do is take that power away from the billionaires, and nothing in this solution is going to discomfit the unearned prestige and influence of the criminally wealthy.



PZ makes a specific claim here, that the “system” of science funding is “dependent on the generosity of billionaires to get any science done.” Is it true?


Data from ongoing surveys by the National Science Foundation (NSF) show that federal agencies provided only 44% of the $86 billion spent on basic research in 2015. The federal share, which topped 70% throughout the 1960s and ’70s, stood at 61% as recently as 2004 before falling below 50% in 2013.

The sharp drop in recent years is the result of two contrasting trends—a flattening of federal spending on basic research over the past decade and a significant rise in corporate funding of fundamental science since 2012. 


$37.8 billion is not a small amount of money, and that is what public, government sources spent, according to this source, on just basic research in 2015. This article from 2013, from Scienceogram UK, an organisation which claims to make sense of science spending, goes into more depth about the funding sources of science. And assuming we’ve read their data correctly (we think we have), only a minuscule amount of science funding comes from billionaires like Jeffrey Epstein, making this another PZ Myers lie.


We will admit to being a bit dumbfounded as to why PZ Myers thinks the way he does about this issue. So Harvard accepted millions of dollars from someone who was later convicted of sex crimes? So what?

We’re not sure we see the issue with Epstein donating money to science projects even after his conviction. Are convicted pedophiles to be completely shunned from all society? Are they not allowed to spend money how they wish? To the extend his donations to science-related projects bought “influence,” we don’t think it amounted to any more influence than a normal billionaire would have (although Epstein wasn’t quite worth a billion, in the end).

Our view is we should let pedophile billionaires give all the money they want to science, and whatever organisations they fund should be laughing all the way to the bank.

PZ Myers Lie #2 [in bold]:

That’s just weird. I thought Southern conservatives were all about states rights and opposing federalism, but here they are, trying to interfere in another state’s politics. OK then. Can Minnesota urge the immediate expulsion of Moscow Mitch from the Senate? I wouldn’t mind that at all.
I could also mention this bizarre move by Boris Johnson to suspend parliament in order to prevent anyone from stopping by democratic means his grand plan to sunder Britain from the EU.



Two lies in this snippet. The first is PZ’s use of the term “federalism.” Conservatives in general support the idea of “federalism,” that states are sovereign and serve as a check on the power of the federal government. Progressives like PZ Myers oppose federalism because they prefer more centralised government power to solve problems. We’ll give that one to PZ, because it feels like a typo (one he won’t fix, nonetheless).

The other lie is more egregious. He claims Boris Johnson is suspending Parliament in order to “prevent anyone from stopping by democratic means his grand plan to sunder Britain from the EU.”

PZ has this exactly backwards.

Britain had a democratic referendum on the question of Brexit, and the Leave side came out victorious. The Remainers have been trying almost any means at their disposal to overturn the outcome of that referendum. Johnson, over three years after the referendum, plans to make good on the democratic choice Britain made to leave the EU. The people have voted. Johnson has vowed to honour that vote. It’s people like PZ Myers who want to use anti-democratic means to force Britain to remain.


Things like this serve to illustrate how shameless PZ is about his lies. He knows about the Brexit referendum, of course, he blogged about it at the time and has made it quite clear in the years since that he doesn’t approve of the outcome. But, to claim that leaving the EU is Boris Johnson’s plan alone and not the result of a fair, democratic referendum is frankly amazing.

He does it, we think, because he knows the commenters on his website will let him get away with it. If you cross PZ Myers by, say, correcting his lies, he gets cross and bans you from the site. As a result, he’s created a sycophantic echo chamber where even lies as fantastical as this are allowed to stand.

But they won’t stand here as long as we’re standing and still have the stomach to read PZ Myers every day.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 90 science-related posts, 295 non-science posts.

23% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 2 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 102 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

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